Feminine Wit | Poems by Arab Women from the Jahiliyya (pre-Islamic) to the Andalusian period


Henri Matisse, Odalisque on a Turkish Sofa, 1928

I see people riding on shrieking horses
Steering clouds of sparkbelching fires
On their way to flame life out of you

Mahd al-Aadiyya

Lay off, you can’t turn me on with a cuddle, a kiss or scent.
Only a thrust rocks out my strains until the ring on my toe falls on
my sleeve . . .

Dahna bint Mas-hal, c.7- 8 CE 

I have a lover who thinks the world of himself, and when he sees me off
he cocks up: ‘You couldn’t have had a better man.’
And I throw back: ‘Do you know of a better woman?’

Hafsa bint Hamdun, 10th CE 

I am the wonder of the world, the ravisher of hearts and minds.
Once you’ve seen my stunning looks, you’re a fallen man.

Safiyya al-Baghdadiyya, 12th CE 

Why are you raving mad, husband, just because I love another man?
Go on, whip me, every scar on my body will show the pain I cause you.

Bint al-Hubab

I urge you to come faster than the wind to mount my breast and firmly dig
and plough my body, and don’t let go until you’ve flushed
me thrice.

I’timad Arrumaikiyya, 11th CE 

If I keep you in my eyes until the world blows up I’d still want you more . . .
I know too well those marvellous lips.
By Allah, I’m not lying if I say I love sipping their finer than wine
delicious dew . . .
When you break at noon you’ll need a drink and you’ll find my mouth
a bubbling spring and my hair a refugeshade.

Hafsa bint al-Hajj Arrakuniyya, 12th CE 

I put You in my heart to keep me company and leave my body to
whoever wants to sit with me . . .
. . . I love You passionately and I love You for Yourself . . .

Raabi’a al-Adwiyya, 714-801 

Classical poems by Arab women. 2001
edit / translation Abdullah Y. al-Udhari

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