Saturday, September 23, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 7, 1445 H
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The story of blue-eyed woman of Yamama!


Tassam and Jadees were Arab cousin tribes who inhibited the area north of Yemen called Al Yamama between 110 BC – 525 AD. They had a great civilisation that ended by the hands of king Hassan Al Himyari of Yemen. But what’s the story behind their brutal massacre and how is it linked to the woman with the sharpest vision known at that time?

Both tribes were ruled by a king called Imleeq (in other sources: Imlooq. Both are derivative of Al Amaleeq, an Arab tribe that lived in the Levant and were descendants of Prophet Noah). Imleeq was a tyrant who had an evil vice: violating brides on their wedding night. His action brought dishonour to the tribes who felt helpless towards their king’s whim and didn’t see a way out. Till it was the wedding night of Al Shumoos, a famous poetess whose brother Al Aswad ibn Affar was a nobleman from Jadees. Coming out from Imleeq’s bedchamber in tatters and covered in blood, Al Shumoos went back to her tribe and tore her shirt in lamentation while versing: “Degradation befell Jadees, is this a way to treat a bride? What freeman would accept that after paying her dowry? The husband would rather die than face her!”

Her heart-rending words reached her brother who came to her aid at once before going back to his tribe to plot his vengeance. His plan was to invite the king and his court — that also included men from their cousin tribe Tassam in high positions — for dinner and take off their weapons at the tent’s door.

Everyman from his tribe would sit next to someone from the king’s company — including Al Aswad who’d sit next to Imleeq — while hiding their swords under the sand.

The minute the company starts reaching for food is the time when every man in their tribe would pull out his sword and stab them to death. With Imleeq gone, Al Aswad would then become the new king.

The plan succeeded but a few men of Tassam managed to escape the massacre and head south to king Hassan in Yemen asking to avenge their dead. King Hassan seized the opportunity as it was always his wish to expand his kingdom northwards to include Al Yamama.

On their way, a man called Riyah ibn Murrah approached the king to share an interesting inside information. His sister Zarqa’a was married from the tribe Jadees and was known as Zarqa’a Al Yamama.

She had a rare gift: the sharpest vision that made her distinguish grey hair in white milk and spot travellers a day and night away. Darkness enhanced her vision even further.

Riyah, the utterly loving brother, was afraid that she’d spot them and forewarn her people. He suggested to cut the trees in their surrounding area and that every soldier carry a branch in front of him while heading towards Al Yamama.

Meanwhile, Zarqa’a spotted the proceeding branches and warned her people of Himyar (Yemen) approaching with men in moving trees. Nobody paid her heed which resulted in an attack in the early morning that left death and devastation in the tribe.

King Al Aswad managed to escape to the mountains near Yemen and survived for a while before being killed by a bandit who recognised him.

As for Zarqa’a, her eyes were gouged out before being crucified. It’s said that the veins of her eye were black from using Al Athmad, a type of Kohl that is known to improve vision, and she was the first to use it.

Arabs still buy it from local markets for the same reason. They also still say: as sharp as Zarqa’a’s sight.

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