Tarafa bin al-Abd | His Life and Poetic Career


Tarafa bin al-Abd | His Life and Poetic Career

Tarafa bin al-Abd | His Life and Poetic Career

Tarafa bin al-Abd | His Life and Poetic Career

Tarafa bin al-Abd | His Life and Poetic Career

Brief Life Sketch: Tarafa bin al-Abd was one of the leading poets of the pre-Islamic period. He is best known, in the history of Arabic poetry, as a satirical poet. The exact date of his birth is unknown, although he is thought to have been born in the second decade of the sixth century in the famous ‘Bakar’ tribe of Arabia. His father’s name was Al-Abd. At a young age, he lost his parents and was taken care of by his uncle. But the uncle tried to deprive him of his father’s property by showing indifference towards him. As a result, Tarafa was deprived of good education and became corrupt, oppressive, and addicted to alcohol.

In his early teens, he fell in love with a young woman named ‘Khawla’ of the Tamim tribe. Although Tarafa loved her so much, she did not respond to Tarafa’s calling. Failing in love, he left home, wandered around, and began to practice poetry as a medium of expressing sorrow and grief.

Tarafa, being deprived of his father’s property, once went to the court of Amor, the king of Heera to alleviate his financial misery. Mutalammis, one of his elder cousins, had already been a royal poet of the king of Heera. There Tarafa composed a poem and the king was satisfied with him. Then the king appointed him as an assistant poet of Mutalammis.

Tarafa was an independent thinker and was adept at composing satirical poems centering on any one of his opponents. He wrote satirical poems about the court members and even about the king. One day Tarafa was drinking with King Amr at the palace. Then suddenly his eyes fell on one of the beautiful sisters of the king. No sooner had he seen her than he composed the following lines of poetry-

”A silvern deer wearing golden anklets 

Has appeared before me

Had the king not been with me

I would have grabbed her lips on my lips.”

After hearing this piece of poetry, the king became very angry with Tarafa and intended to execute Tarafa and his cousin Mutalammis very cleverly. But the king planned to kill them in two different states, thinking that the people might revolt if the two poets were killed in their own state. With this in mind, the king ordered Mutalammis and Tarafa to go home on leave. While they were leaving the court, the king gave each one a royal letter to send to the governors of Bahrain and Oman respectively.

They started their journey back home carrying the royal letters. Mutalammis and Tarafa were both illiterate poets. They did not know how to read and write.

On the way, Mutalamis, being curious about what was written inside the letter, let a literate young man read the letter. Reading the letter, it was found that the letter had ordered him to be buried alive.

Mutalammis then threw the letter into the river and asked Tarafa to open the letter in his hand and read it. But Tarafa did not like to disobey the king’s order and delivered the letter to the governor of Bahrain. The governor did not kill Tarafa but captured him and sent him to the King of Heera. There Tarafa was killed in 564 AD.

Poetic Career: Tarafa bin al-Abd is known as a satirical poet, although he wrote poems on love, war, heroism, and generosity. He composed many poems, though only 250 of them are still available today. Among his compositions, the Muwallaka poem is the most famous. This poem summarizes many aspects of his personal life. At first, he gives an account of the injustice done to him by his uncle and cousins, then he describes the camel he used as a vehicle in twenty-eight lines. In his description of the camel, he used highly fertile imageries, similar to that of his contemporary poet Imraul Qays. In his description of the camel, he was detailed and portrayed the pictures of a camel’s manner of walking, her back, thighs, head, neck, height, chest, shoulders, buttocks, etc.

After giving a detailed description of his camel in his Muwallaka poem, the poet turns to the theme of love and describes his love affair with his beloved Khawla. In between these descriptions he also talks about war, war tactics, courage, heroism, etc.

The language of Tarafa’s poetry is simple but amusing. His satirical poems criticize the social injustice and faults of his opponents.

It is worth mentioning that Tarafa bin Al Abd was an adventurous poet of the pre-Islamic era who wrote satirical poems even criticizing his patrons. 0 0 0.

Tarafa bin al-Abd | His Life and Poetic Career

Read More: A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Early Islamic Period (622 AD-661 AD)

Tarafa bin al-Abd | His Life and Poetic Career

N.B. This article ‘Tarafa bin al-Abd | His Life and Poetic Career’ originally belongs to the book entitled ‘A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Pre-Islamic Period (500 AD-622 AD) by Menonim Menonimus. Tarafa bin al-Abd | His Life and Poetic Career

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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