Love and poetry of Banu `Udhra
more  >>

Udhri poetry emerges in the same early Umayyad period as Hijazi poetry and in the same northwestern Arabian province, but is named after Bani Udhra, the tribe of Jamil ibn Ma’mar, a poet of Medina (d. 82 AH/ 701CE).

Jamil is famous as a lover of the lady Buthayna from a neighboring tribe.  The story of their romance is that Buthayna’s people turn down Jamil’s marriage proposal because they feel Jamil’s verses praising their love have compromised her honor—merely saying that a woman loved a man was considered a blot on her honor in ancient Arab tribal society (and in some sectors of modern Arab societies, for that matter). Buthayna is forcibly married off to another man, but she and Jamil continue to be in love with each other, although they never consummate their love. Jamil continues to visit her and to complain in verse of his longing.:

My bosom friend, in your whole life,
have you ever seen a slain man
weep for love of his slayer, as I do?
(from Farrukh, Vol. 1, p. 482)

Indeed, Jamil ibn Ma’mar was the first to come up with the notion, which became a staple of Arabic love poetry ever after, that to die in love is martyrdom, as in these verses:

They say, go out in jihad, Jamil, do battle
But what jihad do I want beside woman?
For every conversation with women is joy,
and he who is slain while among them is a martyr
(from Farrukh, Vol. 1, p. 481)

The classic Udhri lovers are Laila and Majnun, a star-crossed pair whose story is set, as Udhri romances tend to be set, in the desert rather than the city landscape of Hijazi love poetry. The real ‘Majnun’ is said to be the poet Qais Ibn al-Mulawwah. The real ‘Laila’ is Laila bint Sa’d al-Amiriya (d. 688CE). Also a poet, she wrote:

I have been through what Majnun went through,
But he declaimed his love
And I treasured mine,
Until it melted me down
(Udhari, p. 76)

[Ecerpted from:]

Ibn Khalikan's biographical entry on

Jamil Buthayna

Abu Amr Jamil, the celebrated poet and the lover of Buthaina, was son of Abd Allah Ibn Mamar Ibn Subah Ibn Zabyan Ibn Hunn Ibn   Rabia Ibn Haram lbn Dubba Ibn Abd Ibn Kathir Ibn Ozra Ibn Saad Ibn Hudaim Ibn   Zaid Ibn Laith Ibn Sud Ibn Aslam Ibn Alhaf Ibn Kudaa. Jamil was one of the   famous Arabian lovers: his passion for Buthaina commenced when he was a boy;   on attaining manhood he sought her hand in marriage, but met with a refusal.   He then composed verses in her honor and visited her secretly at Wadi ‘l-Kura,   where she resided. His poetical compositions are so well known, that it is   needless to quote any of them.

       Ibn Asakir relates, in his history of Damascus, that a person said to Jamil: “If you read the Koran, it would be more profitable for you than   composing poetry;” to which Jamil replied: “There is Aris Ibn Malik   who tells me that the Blessed Prophet said: ‘Wisdom comes certainly from   some poetry.’”

       Jamil and Buthaina, who was surnamed Omm Abd al-Malik, both belonged to   the tribe of Ozra; beauty and true love abounded in that tribe: it was said to   an Arab of the Desert, a member of the tribe of Ozra: “What is the   matter with your hearts? They are as the hearts of birds, and dissolve away   like salt in water. Why have you not more firmness?” To this the other   replied: “We see eyes of which you do not see the like.” Another   Arab being asked to what family he belonged, made this answer: “I am of a   people who, when they are in love, die.” A girl, who heard him say this, exclaimed: “By the Lord of the Kaaba! This man belongs to the Tribe of Ozra.”

       The following lines are by Jamil:

My friends you told me that when summer comes
Taima would be where my loved one lived.
But now the summer months are gone;
Why is my love still far from me?
Buthaina, you bind   me in state of torment,
The turtle-dove   would sympathize were I
To accompany its   complaints with mine
In the ardor of my   passion.
The jealousy of   gossips merely fires my love,
And prohibitions   simply make me persevere.
Distance has not   crushed my feeling,
In weary nights I’ve   not renounced you,
You whose lips are   my sweet source.
Do you not grasp   that I grow weak with thirst
On days I do not   see your face?
Often I fear death   will catch me unawares
While my soul   needs you, as still it does.

       Kuthaiyr, the lover of Azza, related the following anecdote:
       “Would you like me to go,” I said, “to the camp of her tribe and recite as if by chance some verses in which I may hint at this circumstance, in case I find it impossible to speak to her in private?”
       “Yes,” replied Jamil, “ that is a good plan.”
        I then set out and made my camel kneel down in their   camp, and her father said to me:
        “ Son of my brother, what brings you back ?”
       “There are some verses,” I replied, “which I have just happened   to compose, and I wish to tell them to you.”—
        “ Let us have them,”   he said.
        I then recited these verses in Buthaina’s   hearing:

I said to her: “O Azza! I send   my friend to you—
And he is a trusty messenger—
So that you may fix a place   where we may meet,
So that you tell me what I am to   do.
The last time I met you was in   Wadi ‘d-Daum,
When clothes were being washed.”

    “Then Buthaina struck the curtain behind which she stood, and said: “Go away! go away!”
       “What is the matter, Buthaina?” said her father.
       “It is a dog,” she replied, “which has come to me from behind the hill, now that the people are asleep.”
       She then said to her girl: “Let us go to the palm-trees  and gather wood to cook a sheep for Kuthaiyr.”
       “No,” I said, “I am in too much of a hurry to wait.” I then   rode back to Jamil and told him what had happened, and he said: “The place   of meeting is at the palm-trees.”
       Then Buthaina went out with her women friends to the palm-trees, and I   went to them with Jamil: the lovers did not separate till morning dawned, and   I never saw a more virtuous meeting, nor two persons who knew so well what passed   in each other’s hearts; I do not know which of the two was the more   discerning.


Adapted   from Ibn Khallikan’s Biographical Dictionary, translated by Bn Mac Guckin de Slane, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland,  London, 1842-1871. Reprinted, 1961, Johnson reprint Corporation, New   York. 4 volumes. Adaptation and selection Copyright © Rex Pay 2000 

Isnad of Jamil Buthayna

© Kultursällskapet Damas 2006