translating the woman’s “NO to War”
The story translated below is part of the information Isfahani offers about the acclaimed pre-Islamic poet Zuhair bin Abi Sulma. One of the latter’s most beautiful and best-known poems – and indeed one of the most famous exemplars of the early Arabic qasida (metrical ode ) – praises the generosity of Harith bin ‘Auf and Harim bin Sinan of the Bani Dhubyan tribe. The two undertook to pay a large sum of blood money as compensation for the deaths of members of a rival tribe, thereby putting an end to a bloody war of four years, which had originally broken out between the two tribes because of a horse race.
The story translated here from “The Book of Songs” is not about Harim bin Sinan – the philanthropist who joins up with the protagonist of the story, Harith bin ‘Auf – but rather about his brother, Harija bin Sinan. In any case, the following translation is dedicated to the woman in the story, Bahisa, who in her own way resisted stubbornly and said no to war.
— Ilana Hammerman
Let me start this post with a spoiler alert. Here is the way the story ends, the story of the peace-making Bahisa. First, you’ll read the final lines in Zuhayr‘s Arabic, where Bahisa speaks that mother tongue. Next, you’ll find the same in Ilana Hammerman‘s Hebrew translation of that. Finally, you’ll read how the story ends in Vivian Eden‘s English translation of Hammerman’s Hebrew. Below all of that, you will have the links to pages where you may read the entire story;
Hammerman suggests that the woman’s story, Bahisa’s story, is a source of the beginning of peace.
“A woman after my own heart: A saga of tribal war, blood money and a rebellious woman – a translation of one of the most beautiful works of the acclaimed pre-Islamic poet Zuhair bin Abi Sulma.”
By Ilana Hammerman (with Vivian Eden’s English translation of Hammerman’s Hebrew translation of Zuhayr’s and Bahisa’s Arabic)