'Antarah Ibn Shaddad al-'Absi was a pre-Islamic Arabian hero and poet (525-608) famous both for his poetry and his adventurous life. What many consider his best or chief poem is contained in the Mu'allaqat. The account of his life forms the basis of a long and extravagant romance.
Antarah was born in Najd (northern Saudi Arabia). He was the son of Shaddad, a well-respected member of the Arabian tribe of Banu Abs, his mother was named Zabibah, an Ethiopian woman, whom Shaddad had enslaved after a tribal war. The tribe neglected Antara at first, and he grew up in servitude. Although it was fairly obvious that Shaddad was his father. He was considered one of the "Arab crows" (Al-aghribah Al-'Arab) because of his jet black complexion. Antara gained attention and respect for himself by his remarkable personal qualities and courage in battle, excelling as an accomplished poet and a mighty warrior. He earned his freedom after one tribe invaded Banu Abs, so his father said to Him: "Antara fight with the warriors". Then he looked at his father in resentment and said: "The slave doesn't know how to invade or how to defend, but the slave is only good for milking goats and serving his masters". Then his father said: "Defend your tribe and you are free", then Antarah fought and expelled the invading tribes. The way Antarah responded to his father in Arabian culture does not mean that he was afraid of fighting, rather that when Antarah's father did not acknowledge him for all those years, Antarah was aiming to get his freedom and to be acknowledged by his society, and he earned that.
Antarah fell in love with his cousin Abla, and sought to marry her despite his status as a slave. To secure allowance to marry, Antarah had to face challenges including getting a special kind of camel from the northern Arabian kingdom of al-No'man Ibn al-Munthir Ibn Ma' al-Sama'.
Antarah took part in the great war between the related tribes of Abs and Dhubyan, which began over a contest of horses and was named after them the war of Dahis and Ghabra. He died in a fight against the tribe of Tai.
Antarah's poetry is well preserved, and often talks of chivalrous values, courage and heroism in battle, as well as his love for Abla. It was immortalized when one of his poems was included in the Hanged Poems. The poetry's historical and cultural importance stems from its detailed descriptions of battles, armour, weapons, horses, desert and other themes from his time.
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