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The Basus (or Basous) War (often written al-Basus War; Arabic: حرب البسوس ḥarb al-basūs) was a conflict for 40 years between two cousin tribes in Arabia of Late Antiquity which started by the killing a camel owned by a man named "ٍSaad Bin Shams", a refugee under the protection of a Woman named "Al-Basus". Al-Basus, like any other Arab at that time, considered this as great insult to her honor which started a chain of events that lead to the war. The Taghlib and Bakr tribes fought for roughly forty years (from 494-534 CE), locked in a perpetual cycle of vengeance. In parts of the Arab world today, the Basus War has been incorporated into an aphorism warning people against vendettas.
The story happened long before the Islamic era in Arabia, the start of the 40-year war was when a woman called Al-Basous, went to visit her niece, Jalila bint Murrah, along with her nephew, Jassas ibn Murrah, all of them belonged to the tribe of Bakr.
Jalila was married to the leader of Taghleb tribe, his name was Kulayb, known to be extremely protective of his property and land. He saw a strange camel in his territory, and shot it with an arrow. The camel belonged to Al-Basous, who got furious and exaggeratingly complained to her nephew that she was humiliated and insulted by this act. Jassas, enraged by his aunt’s words went to the leader of Taghleb, his brother in-law, and killed him.
This triggered the war between the two tribes. One of Bakr’s allies, a tribe leader called Al-Harith ibn Abbad, thought that he would not drag himself into this silly battle, over and above, he took an initiative to stop the blood-shed by sending his son, Ojayr, to now leader of Taghleb and brother of the late Kulayb, Al-Mohalhal , for truce. It was a tradition at that time to send someone of great significance to sacrifice himself for the killing of someone, and it was expected that he would then be forgiven to start peace. But unexpectedly, and away from traditions and ethics, Al-Mohalhal killed Ojayr! The mourning father said a poem of 40 verses, stating that he is now part of it (the war). He ordered his men to shave their heads, and he cut his horse’s mane and tail hair, which became a tradition since then among the Arabs as a sign of grief until revenge. The war almost ended the last few of Taghleb, and Al-Harith said his famous word, I will not talk to Taghleb until earth talks to me, i.e never!
When Taghleb thought it was the end, they dug a trench along the road where Al-Harith ibn Abbad passes by, a man from Taghleb hid there and sang a poem asking for forgiveness, and fulfilling the condition of (earth talking to Al-Harith) . At the time he had avenged his son’s death, and didn’t have to back on his said word (I will not talk to Taghleb until earth talks to me). The 40 years war had ended!
- ^ ثمار القلوب في المضاف والمنسوب الثعالبي ص 95
- The Detailed History of Arabs Prior to Islam by Jawad Ali, Baghdad University 1993
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