Ancient tales retold-3

Al Zuba’a was a queen of the Levant and the area between the Euphrates and Tigris. Many sources claim her to be of an Arab origin, while others of being a Roman who spoke Arabic. But all agree on her beauty and power that made many princes around Arabia seek her hand in marriage.

One of them was Juthaima Al-Abrash, a known Arab prince that she didn’t like and considered a threat to her kingdom. She decided to get rid of him by faking her agreement to his marriage proposal and inviting him to visit her.

Juthaima gathered his councils and asked for their advice. Many found her offer agreeable except for Qaseer, his friend who asked him to write her back and ask her to visit him instead. If she was true, then she’d come at once. Jutahima — who couldn’t believe his luck in getting the queen’s approval —  decided to ignore his friend’s advice and ride to her. Being a loyal friend, Qaseer accompanied him.

When they reached Al Zuba’a city they were surrounded by her soldiers and Qaseer managed to escape. Juthaima was taken to Al Zuba’a who mocked him before slashing the vein of his left leg and watching him die slowly while gathering his blood in a golden bowl. Qaseer reached home and went straight to Amr ibn Abdul-Jinn, Juthaima’s cousin in Iraq asking for vengeance.

Amr refused instantly fearing Al Zuba’a’s revenge. Qaseer went then to Juthaima’s maternal uncle Amr ibn Adey with the same request, to which he responded: “how could we when she’s impossible to reach like an eagle in the sky?”

Determined to commence his plot by earning her trust, Qaseer cut off his ear and nose. His action gave birth to the saying: “For a reason, Qaseer cut off his nose”. He then went to Al Zuba’a claiming that Juthaima’s uncle had maimed him as a punishment for leaving his nephew behind. He pledged his allegiance to her and offered to work as a trader, something he excelled in.

To gain her trust even further, he started providing her with false revenues that were in fact money paid by Amr ibn Adey in secret. Al Zuba’a fell for Qaseer’s charms and false honesty and started trusting him. One day he asked her about the rumour of secret escape tunnels that all kings and queens seem to have in their palaces.

The queen confessed of having one dug under the Euphrates, that connected her bedchamber to her sister’s. With this valuable information in hand, Qaseer went straight to Amr ibn Adey and drew a plan for an attack. They mounted one thousand soldiers in huge barrels that were carried by camels. He then went to Al-Zuba’a and asked her to go up the roof of her palace to watch the procession of the riches he’d made from this trip. The procession took so long that one of her soldiers- out of sheer boredom- stabbed one of the barrels with his sword to hear a human cry.

That was the moment when Amr’s soldiers jumped out of the barrels and attacked Al Zuba’a’s city. Witnessing the change of tides, Al Zuba’a ran to her escape tunnel to be met with Qaseer – sword in hand- standing there blocking the entrance. She tried to backtrack to be met with Amr ibn Adey preparing to kill her.

Being trapped between the two enemies, Al-Zuba’a shouted: “By my hands not by the hands of Amr!” before sucking a poison off her ring and dying instantly. Her last words became a proverb that is still in use among Arabs to this day.