Histories & Culture
Bani Asad

Bani Asad, a prominent Adnaniyah tribe from Iraq, are descended from Asad bin Khuzayma bin Mudarika bin Ilyas bin Madir bin Nizar. Among his children were Dudan, Kahil, Amru and Saab, though most of the prominent sub-groups of the Asad descend from Dudan. The two main branches of his family are the Thaliba (further divided into the Harith, Malik and Saad) and the Ghanam (with the Kabeer, Aamir and Malik sub-divisions).


The homeland of the Asad qabilah in the pre-Islamic period ranged from the highlands west of al-Qaseem and east of the twin peaks of the Tayy, 'Aja and Salma. They were neighbored by the Tayy, Ghitafan, Hawazin and Kanaahah qabilahs.  Their water sources included Sumayra', al-Ras, and al-Rasees, while they controlled the mountains of al-Qanah, al-Qanan and Aban al-Aswad.


The Asad tribe was involved in a number of battles in the pre-Islamic period, one of the most famous being Day of the Jablah People. This took place between the Tamim, the Zabyan and the Asad on one side against an alliance of the Abbas and Amir tribes that eventually proved victorious. On another occasion, the Day of the Salt Cedar, the Asad qabilah and their allies the Tayy’ won out against the Saleem tribe and other qabilahs.


Another famous conflict took the life of their king, Hajar ibn al-Harith al-Kindi, father of the poet Imru’ al-Qais. He had overstepped the boundaries of his power, and treated the Asad badly. One year, when they challenged his power, he proceeded to berate them and beat them with his stick, leading them to be called “slaves of the stick”. He threw them out of their encampments, only allowing them to return after being deeply moved by a qasida of their poet Ubayd bin al-Abras.


When Hajar’s father died, the Asad hoped to break free of his control over them, and so they stormed his encampment and killed him. When word of his death reached his son Imru’ al-Qais – he had been thrown out of his father’s camp, sent to occupy his time with diversions and the company of women – Imru' al-Qais advanced upon the Asad with many prominent members of the Arab qabilahs, killing many of the Asad. 


During the pre-Islamic period, the Asad were pagans who worshiped the planet Mercury by walking around his shrine naked, because they did not want to approach wearing clothes defiled by their disobedience. They were also known for the practice of Ayafa (العيافة), or telling the future by following the movements of birds and animals and the sounds they made.


The Asad embraced Islam upon sending a delegation to the Prophet Mumammad in 9AH (629 AD). While the delegation was in Medina he received the holy verse: “They consider it a favor to you that they have accepted Islam. Say, "Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. Rather, Allah has conferred favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if you should be truthful."[1]  (al-Hujurat, 49:17). They informed the Prophet that they had come to him before he had sent a messenger to them., but it appears that their commitment to Islam was weak, for as word spread of the Prophet’s illness after Hujjat al-wida’ (Farewell pilgrimage), Talha al-Asadi (a leader in the Riddah Wars) rescinded his faith and sought refuge in Asad lands. The Asad and Tayyi’ tribes joined him, as did the Ghotfan, except for a few of strong character from the Abbas and Zubyan tribes.


Khalid ibn al-Waleed, however, defeated Talha at the battle of Buzakha Well in Asad land. The remnants of the Asad, Salim and Tayy tribes joined Umm Zamal Salma, daughter of Malak bin Hadhifa bin Badr.  


After the conclusion of the Ridda Wars (Wars of Apostasy), during the Caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khatab, 3000 members of the Hazn branch of the Asad took part in the Battle of Qadisiyyah. They took part alongside Saad ibn Abi Waqqas, and gave good accounting of themselves, particularly on the 1st and 3rd days (The Day of Disorder and The Night of Rumbling Noises, in Muslim chronicles). Afterwards the Asad tribe settled in Kufa, and were on good terms with the Ghotfan, Muharib, Nimr and Dubay’ia tribes.


In the year 656AD/36H groups of the Asad joined the side of Ali ibn Abi Talib in the Battle of the Camel, and the Asad were one of a group of qabilahs that swore allegiance to Muslim ibn Aqeel, who had been sent by Hussein ibn Ali as an envoy to Kufa. In 686AD/67H members of the Asad joined the army of Ibrahim ibn al-Ashtar, a commander under al-Mukhtar ibn ‘Ubayd Allah al-Thaqafi, in order to kill ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad. Abi al-Hassan ‘Ali ibn Mazeed had succeeded in creating a dynasty in al-Hillah by 1012AD/403H, and what was known as the Ibn Mazeed Dynasty would last until 1150AD/545H. On the death of Ali the Second the Zankyun took possession of al-Hillah. 


The Asad are one of the main sources of the Arabic language as studied by the ‘Ulama (Arabic scholars). Abu al-Nasir al-Farabi said, “Those who have spread Arabic, and those whose speech we take as a model and guide, owe their language to the Arab qabilahs: the Qays, the Tameem, and the Asad.” Some of the most famous poets of the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods appeared from among the Asad qabilah, leading Yunis ibn Habib to say “There is nobody in the Asad tribe who is not an orator or a poet or a preacher or a horseman.” Among the pre-Islamic poets is Bashr ibn Abi Khazim, an ancient poet who witnessed the war between the Asad and the Tayy, and likewise witnessed with his son Nawfal the alliance between the two. Another, ‘Ubayd  ibn al-Abras ibn Jeshm al-Asadi, was one of the contributors to the Mu’allaqat, one of the oldest collections of Arabic poetry, along with being an orator. Yet another, Alba’ ibn Haritha, who killed Hajar, father of Imru’ al-Qais. 


Among the poets of the Islamic period were al-Kameet ibn Zayd  (Shi’a poet and author of the famous Hashemiyat qasidas), al-Kameet ibn Thalba, Ayman ibn Khuraym, al-Aqishr al-Asdi (whose real name was al-Mughayra ibn Abdullah), Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr, al-Marrar ibn Said al-Faqa’si. Among their orators were Qabisa bin Naim, Rabi’a bin Durar, and Taliha bin Khuwaylid.


Source أسد
Translated from the Arabic by Andrew Leber,
Brown University, Class of 2012.



[1]  Sahih International, http://quran.com/49