Poetry of the Riddah Wars: Its Literary, Political, and Religious Aspects
Author: MUHAMMAD IZHAR UL-HAQ Date: 1998 Institution: INDIANA UNIVERSITY Subject:Literature
Abstract: The poetry of the Riddah Wars developed during 632-634 A.D., just after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (632 A.D.). This poetry is the product of the religious and political conflict between the Muslims and the murtaddun (apostates). A large number of the Arab tribes who apostatized either rejected the authority of Abu Bakr, the newly elected Caliph, or refused to pay zakat to the Islamic government. This situation led both parties into a series of battles, which produced various genres of poetry. In this study various genres of this poetry, such as boasting (fakhr), invective (hija'), elegy and instigation (ritha' and tahrid) and excuse and regret (i'tidhar), are analyzed in the light of pre-Islamic (Jahili) poetry. The study concludes that, on the one hand the Riddah poetry, in general, is similar in themes and genres to Jahili poetry; but on the other, there is religious influence and Islamic terms and ideas incorporated into it.
The murtaddun boast of their apostasy, their tribal loyalties, fighting with and killing the Muslims, and withholding zakat. The Muslims are proud of their victories, and their loyalty, obedience, and commitment to Islam. Invective also revolves around loyalty and disloyalty to religion or tribe, flight from the battlefield, false claims of prophecy and personal attacks. Elegy is composed for those apostates who were slain by Muslims in the Riddah Wars. A poet laments his kinsmen, recalls their virtues and sheds tears for them. Riddah elegy follows the Jahili pattern, but without the theme of tahrid, instigation to vengeance. However, tahrid which contains an emotional appeal under the influence of religion and tribalism is composed separately. In the last type discussed, i'tidhar, a poet presents his regrets, repents his apostasy and submits to Islam and the authority of the Caliph, thereby joining the mainstream Muslim community. This poetry revolves around the issues of zakat and the political authority of Abu Bakr, Quraysh (the tribe of the Prophet), or Islam. Over all, the Riddah wars poetry is a showcase for all the competing tribal, religious and political loyalties of the period.