1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Khansā

KHANSĀ (Tumāḍir bint ‛Amr, known as al-Khansā) (d. c. 645), Arabian poetess of the tribe Sulaim, a branch of Qais, was born in the later years of the 6th century and brought up in such wealth and luxury as the desert could give. Refusing the offer of Duraid ibn uṣ-Ṣimma, a poet and prince, she married Mirdās and had by him three sons. Afterwards she married again. Before the time of Islam she lost her brothers Ṣakhr and Moawiya in battle. Her elegies written on these brothers and on her father made her the most famous poetess of her time. At the fair of ‘Ukāz Nābigha Dhubyāni is said to have placed A‘sha first among the poets then present and Khansā second above Hassān ibn Thābit. Khansā with her tribe accepted Islam somewhat late, but persisted in wearing the heathen sign of mourning, against the precepts of Islam. Her four sons fought in the armies of Islam and were slain in the battle of Kadisīya. Omar wrote her a letter congratulating her on their heroic end and assigned her a pension. She died in her tent c. 645. Her daughter ‘Amra also wrote poetry. Opinion was divided among later critics as to whether Khansā or Laila (see Arabic Literature: § Poetry) was the greater.

Her diwan has been edited by L. Cheikho (Beirut, 1895) and translated into French by De Coppier (Beirut, 1889). Cf. T. Nöldeke’s Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Poesie der alten Araber (Hanover, 1864). Stories of her life are contained in the Kitāb ul-Aghāni, xiii. 136–147.  (G. W. T.)