Antarah bin Shaddad Al-Absee - Slavery and Bravery
Arabian Knights - Volume 1

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Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…

Where a healthy baby boy was born to a midnight-skinned slave woman named Zabeebah, and a sun-darkened Bedouin man named Shaddad Al-Absee. At the time, there was no hard and fast rule as to the status of a child born to a slave woman, so the boy’s father simply didn’t acknowledge the baby as his own. As a result, the newborn, Antarah, and his mother remained in his father's household as slaves.

As the years passed, Antarah watched with envy as his half-brothers grew in both wealth and importance while he remained a lowly slave, performing menial tasks and watching over his father's cattle. Then one day, a neighboring tribe raided Antarah’s people and a desperate battle ensued.

As the fighting raged on, Antarah stood impassively by and watched while his father and half-brothers desperately fought to protect their cattle and possessions from the raiders. Why, Antarah thought bitterly, should I fight to protect men who care nothing for me, and defend possessions that will never be mine?

Before long, Antarah's stillness caught his father’s eye. Shaddad called angrily to his unacknowledged son, “Fight, Antarah!”

Antarah gave his father a cool look and replied serenely, “A slave does not fight well. He is only good for herding and serving.”

Infuriated by his son’s pat reply, Shaddad barked, “Fight, Antarah!!”

Antarah, thoroughly unmoved by his father’s commands, replied in a calm voice, “A slave does not fight well. He is only good for herding and serving.”

Fearing the raiders would win the battle and ruthlessly loot his tribe and enslave its people, Antarah's father made a quick decision and called out, “Kur wa anta hur (Fight and you're free)!”

With a grim smile, Antarah indicated his acceptance of his father’s terms by leaping suddenly into action. He bolted forward, swooped down and snatched up a sword from a fallen warrior. Like an energetic reaper briskly leveling a field of wheat, Antarah gracefully swung the sword around himself in great gleaming arcs, easily cutting down any raiders who came within range.

Antarah’s phenomenal strength and deadly skill quickly turned the tides of battle. The raiders all retreated fearfully from the grim young warrior with the blazing eyes who so easily slew anyone who dared face him. Meanwhile, the defenders redoubled their efforts sensing that victory was at hand now that Antarah had joined the fray. After trading a few wide-eyed looks, the raiders decided they had had enough and they all turned tail and fled, leaving the Absee tribe proud and victorious and still in possession of their cattle.

That night, the members of the Absee tribe gathered to celebrate their victory over the raiders. During the boisterous festivities, Shaddad proudly claimed the hero of the hour, Antarah, as his son. He also declared Antarah to be a free man from that day forward.

Little did Shaddad know that his newly recognized son, Antarah, would bring great fame and fortune to the Absee tribe. Over the course of his life, Antarah became a renowned warrior and a celebrated poet. And the story of Antarah's undying love for his beautiful cousin, Abla, became one of the most famous romance stories of all time.

*Written by © 2011. Care to read or leave Comments?

Notes:
  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Abla: عبلة.
    • Antarah bin Shaddad Al-Absee: عنترة بن شداد بن معاوية بن قراد العبسي.
    • Shaddad Al-Absee: شداد بن معاوية بن قرادالعبسي
    • Zabeebah: زبيبة

Sources:
  1. Al-Tabrizi, A. (2009 AD, 1430 H). شرح ديوان عنترة [Explaining Antarah's (Poetry) Collection]. Beirut: Dar Al-Kutub Al-Arabi. Page 8.

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