Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Hind of Hinds

From Mary Beard's Woman as Force in History: A Study in traditions and Realities (1946).

The work she cited is Woman and the State on the Eve of Islam (1941), by Nabia Abbott (1897-1981), the first woman invited to the staff at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago in 1933, where she worked for the next 30 years until her retirement in 1963:

The love of power and strife that motivated Zenobia likewise characterized women of Arabia in the Islamic age. With a fury that may fairly be described as tigerish, women waged holy wars for and against the faith proclaimed by Mohammed. While the Prophet was still alive, one of his fiercest foes was a woman of a great clan called Hind, Hind al-Hunud, “the Hind of Hinds.” [I seriously doubt any of these women "loved" power and strife so much that it was their primary motivation in life!  This sounds to me like a woman brain-washed by the overwhelming sexist rubbish of the time, just after WWII, a massive exercise in testerone that resulted in the deaths of 50 million (or more) people world wide.]

According to Nabia Abbott, in an article on “Woman and the State on the Eve of Islam,” Hind al-Hunud lived in the kingdom of Kindah, founded in the fifth century A.D. She sprang from a people known as the Quraish, who had long been dominant at Mecca, the great city of the Prophet.

Tradition depicts her “as a woman holding to the heathen practices of Arabia, a wife whose virtue was not above suspicion, a mind that was quick to decisive actions.”

One of the heathen traditions to which she adhered was the cult of the Lady of Victory. Its function was to incite patriotism and lash patriots into ferocious fighting. The Lady of Victory was a woman of high social standing about whom the feminine cult members, likewise of high rank, gathered in the pavilion sacred to the local or tribal deity, within sight of the warriors whom they stirred to martial fervor by their war songs which they accompanied on their lutes. Around the Lady of Victory and her retinue the battle raged until it was lost or won.

In an armed contest between the Quraish and the forces of Mohammed, several of Hind al-Hunud’s relatives were engaged. That battle occurred at Badr. Her father, her uncle, and a brother were slain. But her husband, Abu Sifyan, survived and, with him, she prepared to wreak vengeance. When the time for the assault was ready, she as the Lady of Victory took her position in a sacred pavilion with fourteen or fifteen aristocratic women at her side. In the presence of these women the men were expected to fight, win or die. This time the Quraish were victors. The story then runs to the effect that, standing on a rock, among the corpses of the foe, the Hind of Hinds “exultantly flaunted in the face of the fallen enemy the general victory and her personal revenge, in spontaneous satirical verse which drew answer from the women of Mohammed’s party and later from Hassan ibn Thabit.”
Despite this triumph, the Hind of Hind’s husband afterward surrendered the city of Makkah to Mohammed. For that offense she wanted to kill her mate. But her husband defended himself by appealing to his people with the cry: “O people, become Moslems and be saved!” It was not long until Hind al-Hunud had to accept the Prophet’s religion herself. And her step-daughter, Ramlah bint Abi Sufyan, married Mohammed, as did other women, to forward their political designs or his, at least in part.


You can find Beard's Woman as Force in History transcribed in full here.  Make what you wish of the Marxist line, which I believe is pure bullshit, but thanks to their organization's volunteer(s) for transcribing this book for publication online. See also: Distinguished Women of Past and Present Nubian Queens in the Nile Valley and Afro-Asiatic Cultural History, Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban (page 6, under "Lady of Victory Cult")

See The Hind of Hinds, February 29, 2008, Goddesschess blog. 

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