Kumayt’s Panegyric

Translated by Br. Muhammed Jaffer.

Al-Kumayt ibn Zayd al-Asadi (may God be pleased with him) was among the staunchest in his love for the Ahlulbayt and wrote an entire diwaan, the Hashimiyyaat, in praise for them. He was also a hafidh of the Qur’an, a faqih, a philanthropist, and an archer. He was martyred by Banu Umayyah on account of his poetry. Al-Imam Al-Baqir (as) is narrated to have said about him, “May the Holy Spirit be with you as long as you defend us.” Below is one of his poems regarding the Ahlulbayt, which he recited in front of the renowned Arab poet al-Farazdaq. Upon hearing it, the latter remarked, “You are the most poetic of all Arabs, past and present.”

Although this qasidah is quite long, numbering over 100 lines, we have restricted ourselves to only these most famous lines of al-Kumayt (may Allah be pleased with him).

طربت وما شوقا إلى البيض أطرب

ولا لعبا مني أذو الشيب يلعب

ولم تلهني دار ولا رسم منزل

ولم يتطربني بنان مخضب

ولا انا ممن يزجر الطير همه

أصاح غراب أم تعرض ثعلب

ولا السانحات البارحات عشية

أمر سليم القرن أم مر أعضب

ولكن إلى أهل الفضائل والنهى

وخير بنى حواء والخير يطلب

إلى النفر البيض الذين بحبهم

إلى الله فيما نالني أتقرب

بنى هاشم رهط النبي فإنني

بهم ولهم أرضى مرارا وأغضب

خفضت لهم منى جناحي مودة

إلى كنف عطفاه أهل ومرحب

وكنت لهم من هؤلاء وهؤلاء

مجنا على انى أذم واقصب

وأرمى وأرمي بالعداوة أهلها

وإني لأوذى فيهم وأؤنب

‎بأي كتاب أم بأية سنة

‎ترى حبهم عارا على وتحسب

‎فمالي إلا آل احمد شيعة

‎ومالي الا مذهب الحق مذهب

‎ومن غيرهم أرضى لنفسي شيعة

‎ومن بعدهم لا من أجل وأرجب

‎يعيرني جهال قومي بحبهم

‎وبغضائهم أدنى لعار وأعطب

إليكم ذوي آل النبي تطلعت

نوازع من قلبي ظميا وألبب

فإني عن الأمر الذي تكرهونه

بقولي وفعلي ما استطعت لأجنب

وإني لمن شايعتم لمشايع

وإنني فيمن سبكم لمسبب

‎يشيرون بالأيدي إليّ وقولهم

‎ألا خاب هذا والمشيرون أخيب

‎فطائفة قد كفرتني بحبكم

‎وطائفة قالوا مسيء ومذنب

‎فما سائني تكفير هاتيك منهم

‎ولا عيب هاتيك التي هي أعيب

‎يعيبونني من خبهم وضلالهم

‎على حبكم بل يسخرون وأعجب

‎وقالوا ترابيّ هواه ورأيه

‎بذلك أدعى فيهم وألقب

على ذاك إجرياي فيكم ضريبتي

ولو جمعوا طرا علي وأجلبوا

وأحمل أحقاد الأقارب فيكم

وينصب لي في الأبعدين فأنصب

بخاتمكم غصبا تجوز أمورهم

فلم أر غصبا مثله يتغصب

فيا موقدا نارا لغيرك ضوئها

ويا حاطبا في غير حبلك تحطب

ألم ترني من حب آل محمد

أروح وأغدو خائفا أترقب

على أي جرم أم بأية سيرة

أعنف في تقريظهم وأؤنب

أناس بهم عزت قريش فأصبحت

وفيهم خباء المكرمات المطنب

خضمون اشراف لهاميم سادة

مطاعيم أيسار إذ الناس أجدبوا

Bedazzled am I, not by maidens fair;

Nor out of folly, don’t you see my white hair?!

And by the home of a mistress I tarry not;

Nor delighted am I by hands of henna, fraught;[1]

And I don’t relent to the birds of omen;

Should a fox trot by or should croak a raven!

And by reindeers of night I do not augur:

Should they pass by horned or bereft an antler![2]

Nay—I yearn for people of merit and honor

The best of Eve’s children, the most sought after:

For the pristine folk whose love through which

With all that I earn I do seek God’s niche:[3]

To the clan of Hashim, the Prophet’s tribe

For whom I’m oft angered and satisfied![4]

I lower to them the wings of affection

To a shade that welcomes them under its flection[5]

Between these and those, for them I do stand

Like a shield in the face of all reprimand;[6]

Detracted am I, but their foes I detract,

For their sake afflicted, for them I’m attacked!

By which Divine writ or by which creed

Do you deem this my love an uncomely deed?![7]

For I do not follow but Ahmad’s posterity

Belonging not but to the sect of verity![8]

Yes to whom other should I hearken to follow

While after them there is none that I hallow?!

On account of my love, the foolish folk chide

But in only their hate does perdition preside[9]

Unto you, oh the Prophet’s kin, does project

Pangs of thirst from my heart and from my intellect

Yes indeed! All of that which you do disdain

In my words and my deeds I attempt to abstain

And of those you approve, with them I traverse;

While those who curse you by me are accursed![10]

Towards me they beckon, and shout in uproar:

“How wretched is he!”—while they are yet more!

For my love some declare me an apostate,

While another ilk calls me a profligate;

By the former’s attack, I‘m surely not grieved

Nor by blame of the latter, more worthy received[11]

Their censure is wrought by delusions malicious—

Lampooning your love, and yet more seditious![12]

They say “He’s Turabi in view and vexation”

By this I am mocked and procure appellation![13]

Yes my instincts are bred on this born inclination

Should they even converge to suppress my persuasion

I bear for your sake my kinsfolk’s scorn

And distant relations with hatred adorn[14]

They use your seal to approve legislation

Unprecedented being their usurpation[15]

Lo! Oh kindler of fire that isn’t yours

And collector of wood meant for others’ cords![16]

Don’t you see me cast by Aal Muhammad’s love

To roam to and fro, in fright thereof?[17]

Tell me for which crime or by which tradition

Do you render against me their praise as derision?[18]

For a people through whom Quraysh did awaken

With a tress of virtues, well-braided and brazen:[19]

Oceans reputed, magnanimous, venerable

Gracious and liberal while people are miserable![20]



[1] Arabic poetry traditionally always starts with a tahsbeeb (rhapsody), usually about an estranged beloved or nostalgia about the remnants of her dwelling. However, al-Kumayt leaves his listeners stunned by elevating his rhapsody beyond any of these vanities or mundane objects of infatuation. Instead, he negates them one by one. It is reported that when al-Farazdaq heard these lines he was heard awestruck wondering: then who is it that bedazzles you?

[2] Superstition was a common trope in pre-Islamic Arabic culture o the extent that one’s resolve would often be crushed by omens that generally portended bad luck, among these the croaking of a raven or the sight of a fox. In these lines al-Kumayt makes it clear that he is not an individual inclined to this level of affectation and superficiality. Rather his infatuation is indeed unshakeable.

[3] These lines are an explicit endorsement of the doctrine of tawassul, whereby al-Kumayt identifies his love of the Ahlulbayt as the means by which he seeks proximity to God.

[4] In these lines, al-Kumayt makes the object of his bedazzlement finally known. The Arabic of the second stanza in the couplet is difficult to render in English verse. Al-Kumayt says that he shares in the Ahlulbayt’s anger and pleasure (this meaning is rendered by the prepositional phrase “bihim”) and is pleased and angered for their sake (this meaning is rendered by the prepositional phrase “lahum”). He brings these prepositional phrases in front of the verbs (at-taqdeem) for extra emphasis and to express the sincerity of his affection.

[5] There is a clear intertextual usage (al-iqtibaas) employed here, namely from Surah Israa’ verse 24: “And lower the wing of humility to them (your parents) out of mercy.” In using this phraseology, al-Kumayt is emphasizing his undying loyalty and obedience to the Ahlulbayt.

[6] The reference of “these and those” is specifically alluding to the Khawaarij and the Murji’ah, who expressed hatred for Imam ‘Ali (as). As for the former group, they said that Imam ‘Ali (as) made a mistake when he went for arbitration; they raised the slogan of “there is no sovereignty except unto God.” They openly excommunicated Imam Ali (as). As for the latter group, they put a question mark on the virtue of Imam ‘Ali (as) and identified him as a sinner; they refused to acknowledge he was a believer and relegated his judgement to God.

[7] These are among the most famous lines of this poem, whereby al-Kumayt challenges those with rancor towards the Ahlulbayt to prove their hatred has any religious basis. In the midst of the Umayyad atmosphere of cursing the Banu Hashim, these lines were indeed extremely powerful and daring.

[8] In these lines, al-Kumayt clearly identifies himself as a Shi’a of the Ahlulbayt and makes clear the extent of his loyalty to hem, stating that after them there is none left to hold in esteem.

[9] Al-Kumayt reflects on the irony of the fact that he is reprimanded for his love of the Ahlulbayt while his opponents’ hatred of them is what is truly reprehensible.

[10] In these lines, al-Kumayt clarifies the main reason for his love of the Ahlulbayt: they fill the void of both his heart and his mind. He also clearly identies the doctrines of tawalli (loving those who love the Ahlulbayt) and tabarri (hating and disassociating oneself from those who hate them).

[11] These lines make it clear that accusations of excommunication (takfeer) and heresy (bid’ah) against the Shi’a are indeed nothing new. Al-Kumayt also dealt with the same ridicule from his contemporaries and brushed it off gracefully.

[12] Meaning that they not only hate Imam ‘Ali (as) out of their own misguidance and wretchedness, but they also seek to ridicule those who love the Ahlulbayt and cast them as heretics.

[13] This is of course an allusion to the title of Imam ‘Ali (as) as Abu Turaab, turaabi being an attributive noun referring to one who stands and supports Ameerul Mu’mineen.

[14] In these lines, al-Kumayt elaborates on the extent of his loyalty to the Ahlulbayt, holding them even more dear than his own family and relatives.

[15] The seal that was usurped mentioned in these lines is the seal of Caliphate, which al-Kumayt identifies as rightfully belonging to the Ahlulbayt.

[16] Al-Kumayt addresses those who have stolen the Caliphate, comparing their usurpation to one who tries to preserve the heat of a fire which he has no right to commandeer in the first place.

[17] This is an implicit endorsement of the doctrine of dissimulation (taqiyyah). Al-Kumayt is forced to live in suppression and fear because of his belief in the right of the Ahlulbayt.

[18] Yet again, al-Kumayt challenges and rhetorically questions his opponents to substantiate the basis for their hate of the Ahlulbayt and their oppression against those who support them.

[19] For the sake of rhyme and meter, this line was approximated in meaning. More literally, al-Kumayt is exclaiming here his astonishment that he is being ridiculed for his love of the very people through whom Quraysh became honorable. Al-khibaa’ more literally means “a shade” or “a tent.” Thus al-Kumayt is remarking that it is only due to Banu Hashim that Quraysh rose to prominence in the shade of a plethora of virtues.

[20] In this final line that we have translated, al-Kumayt employs a rhetorical device used in Arabic known as “I’tilaaf al-lafdh ma’a al-lafdh” (harmony in words). That is to say, he matches the extent of his astonishment by using words that are extremely rare (ghareeb) in Arabic such as lahameem and khidammoon.