Samaw'al ibn 'Adiya

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As-Samaw’al bin ‘Ādiyā’ (Arabic: السموأل بن عادياء‎ / Hebrew: שמואל בן עדיה‎) was an Arabian poet and warrior, esteemed by the Arabs for his loyalty, which was commemorated by an Arabic idiom: "awfá min as-Samaw’al" (أوفى من السموأل / more loyal than al-Samaw'al) from the tribe of Banu Harith.

He lived in the first half of the 6th century. His clan converted to Judaism when they were in south arabia . Later, they moved to northern Arabia where al-Samw'al was born and lived his life. Some sources state that his clan were members of the Cohanim and moved from Israel to northern Arabia during the Roman invasion of Israel.

Background[edit]

His mother was of the royal tribe of Ghassan, while his father was from the clan of Banu Alrayan who belonged to the tribe of Banu Harith bin Ka'b from Qahtan. He was one of the most famous poets of his time thanks to the famous poem that he wrote after a princess tried to degrade his people since they were few in number. In this poem, he brags about the history of his clan, Banu Alrayan, and how they ascended to the lordship of their tribe. Before moving out of Yemen, his clan were the kings in Najran, and at one point they had supremacy over Yemen before some of them, including the poet's father, converted to Judaism and moved to northern Arabia. In this poem, Al-Samaw'al also trace his genealogy to Banu Aldayan. Al-Samuel owned a castle near Taima (eight hours north of Medina), built by his grandfather 'Adiya and called, from its mixed color, al-Ablaq. It was situated on a high hill and was a stopping-place for travelers to and from Syria.

Fidelity[edit]

More than for his poetic talents al-Samaw'al is famous for his connection with the warrior-poet and prince Imru' al-Qais, which won for him the epithet "faithful," and gave rise to the Arabic saying "more faithful than al-Samaw'al." This came about in the following manner: Amru al-Qais, being abandoned by his followers in his fight with the Banu Asad to avenge the death of his father, and being pursued by Al-Nu'man Ibn al-Mundhir Ibn Ma' al-Sama', wandered about from tribe to tribe seeking protection as well as support in his endeavor to regain his inheritance. When he came to the Banu Fazarah their chief advised him to seek out Samaw'al ibn 'Adiya' in his castle al-Ablaq, saying that although he had seen the emperor of the Greeks and visited the Lakhmid kingdom of Hira, he had never found a place better fitted for assuring safety to those in need, nor known a more faithful protector than its owner. Amru al-Qais, who was accompanied by his daughter Hind, and his cousin, and had with him five suits of chainmail besides other weapons, immediately set out for the castle, and on the way he and his guide composed a poem in praise of their prospective host. Samaw'al received the poet hospitably, erected a tent of skins for Hind, and received the men into his own hall. After they had been there "as long as God willed," Amru al-Qais, wishing to secure the assistance of the emperor Justinian I, asked Samaw'al to give him a letter to the Ghassanid prince Harith ibn Abi Shamir, who might further him on his way. The poet then departed, leaving Hind, his cousin, and his armor in Samaw'al's keeping, and he never came to reclaim them. According to Arabian tradition, while on his homeward journey from Constantinople, he was poisoned by order of Justinian, who had listened to treacherous accusations against him.

After Amru al-Qais had left Al-Ablaq, Prince al-Munthir —it is not known whether before or after Amru's death— sent Harith to Samuel ordering him to deliver up the articles deposited with him. Samuel refusing to do so, Harith laid siege to the castle. The besiegers met with no success until one day Harith captured Samuel's son, who, according to the story in the Kitab al-Aghani, was returning from the chase. Harith then called upon the father to choose between giving up the property and witnessing his son's death. Samuel answered that his son had brothers, but that his honor once lost could not be recovered. Harith at once struck off the boy's head before the unhappy father's eyes and then withdrew, perceiving that he could accomplish nothing in the face of such steadfastness. There are a few verses handed down by different Arabian writers in which Samaw'al ibn 'Adiya refers to this deed.

A description of the castle al-Ablaq is given by the poet A'sha (Yaqut, i.96), who confuses it with Solomon's Temple. It is related of this poet that, being captured together with other Arabs, he was taken as a prisoner to the castle at Taima, at that time belonging to Samuel's son Shuraih ibn Samaw'al, without his captor's knowing that he was in the company. Waiting until Shuraih was within hearing, A'sha began to recite a poem extolling the deed of his father, and calling on the son to emulate his example by rescuing him (A'sha). Shuraih procured the poet's release, and allowed him to depart, first presenting him with a swift camel. Shuraih himself, his brother Jarid, and Samuel's grandson Sa'ba were all poets.

Sources[edit]

  • Caussin de Perceval, Essai sur l'Histoire des Arabes Avant l'Islamisme, ii. 319 et seq., Paris, 1847;
  • Franz Delitzsch, Jüdisch-Arabische Poesien aus Vormuhammedischer Zeit, Leipsic, 1874;
  • Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., v. 83-86;
  • Ḥamasa, ed. Freytag, pp. 49 et seq.;
  • Kitab al-Aghani, Index;
  • Nöldeke, Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Poesie der Alten Araber, pp. 57-72, Hanover, 1864;
  • Rasmusen, Additamenta ad Historiam Arabum (from Ibn Nubata), p. 14;
  • R. E. J. vii. 176;
  • Baron MacGuckin de Slane, Diwan des Amru'l Kais, Introduction.J. M. W. M.

External links[edit]

Article references[edit]

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.