Tribal Poetics in Early Arabic Poetry: The Case of Ashʿār Banī Hudhayl


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations


The poetry of the Hudhayl tribe, dating to around 550-700 CE, is the only complete collection of tribal Arabic poetry from the period. Hudhayl lived near Mecca, and their increased poetic production in the mid-sixth century coincided with the rise of Quraysh, the Prophet Muhammad’s tribe. This full-length study of Hudhayl’s corpus examines their poetic imagery of trade, rain, and nomadic migration, arguing that they display a marked sense of western Arabian (Hijazi) regionalism, several features of which were shared with Quraysh. It further argues that in their poetic boasts, Hudhayl’s leaders deployed images of rule and prestigious stylistic devices adapted from older, more powerful tribes of the eastern peninsula, Najd, where Arab tribes had long interacted with Persian court culture. Ultimately, in carefully reconstructing Hudhayl’s world, it begins to map the bewilderingly plural models of tribal identity visible in pre- and early-Islamic poetry.