Banu Abs

Last updated
Banu Abs
(Arabic: بنو عبس)
Ghatafan, Qays, Adnanite
Antarah ibn Shaddad & Abla.jpg
Nisba Al-ʿAbsī
Location Saudi Arabia, Oman, Sudan, Eritrea, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Arab world, Malaysia, Europe, United States, Canada, Brazil
Descended fromAbs ibn Baghid ibn Rayth ibn Ghatafan
Populationest. 2,000,000
Branches Banu Rasheed, Banu Rawaha, certain branches of the Mahas peoples
Religion Sunni Islam (Primarily), Christianity (Minority)

The Banu Abs (Arabic : بنو عبس, lit. "sons of ʿAbs") are an ancient Bedouin tribe that originated in central Arabia. They form a branch of the powerful and numerous Ghatafan tribes. They still inhabit the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa but have spread to many other regions of the world, as well. Their descendants today include the large Bani Rasheed tribe located in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Eritrea, and Jordan, and the Banu Rawaha located mostly in Oman and the UAE. Parts of the Mahas tribe of the Butana region in Sudan are also linked by blood to the Banu Abs due to intermarriage between the Sudanese Rashaida tribe and the Mahas peoples. One of the earliest stories concerning this tribe was the famous classical love and war story of Antar and Abla.



The Banu Abs are of the Northern Arabized Arabs, meaning they descend from Adnan. The Banu Abs line of patrilineal descent, from Abs all the way back to Adnan, is as follows: Abs ibn Baghid ibn Rayth ibn Ghatafan ibn Sa'd ibn Qays ibn Mudar ibn Nizar ibn Ma'ad ibn Adnan. [1] They are related to numerous other Arabian tribes, being distant cousins of the powerful Quraysh, the Banu Tamim, and the Banu Kinanah. The Banu Dhubyan and the Mutayr are also descendants of the Ghatafan tribe, and are thus cousins of the Banu Abs. The Banu Abs are distant cousins to Muhammad, the final prophet of Islam, due to his direct descent from Adnan. The large and prestigious Rashaida people tribe is directly descended from the Banu Abs.


The Banu Abs originated almost 2,000 years ago, branching from the Ghatafan clan, and inhabiting the outskirts of Medinah in modern Hejaz, an area called today Hurrat Bani Rasheed.

The tribe is known for its independence and bravery, as it had been called one of the Jamarat of the Arabs, or the most powerful tribes that took no allegiance to anyone but themselves. The earliest stories regard tales of war and chivalry before Islam, in the famous war of al-Dahhas wal Ghabra, between them and their brother tribe, the Banu Dhubyan, which had lasted almost 40 years. The war had ended when Zuhayr ibn Jadhima of the Banu Abs had called for an end to the bloodshed, asking the wealthy merchants of both tribes to pay the losses caused by the war. Their traditions further recall 3000 of them repelling a Sasanian attack of 20000.

Absi traditions tell of their prophet Khalid ibn Sinan ibn Ghayth ibn Murayta ibn Makhzum ibn Malik ibn Ghalib ibn Qutayya ibn Abs who taught them Biblical monotheism, and the worship of God as "al-ahad al-samad", prior to Muhammad. [2] It was told that Khalid saved his tribe (accounts differ on how) and that most men of the Abs rejected this prophet at the time. [3]

During the Arab conquests some Absis remembered their prophet Khalid again; others, like Ubayy ibn Amara ibn Malik, accepted Muhammad as Prophet and are now ranked as Companions. [4] Some Absis settled at Manbij in Syria, [5] others at the Nile. In North Africa one Ka'b, a close relative of Khalid (some say the son of his daughter), adopted some Berbers as clients, and spread the word of Khalid amongst them alongside that of Muhammad. [6]

As Muslims the Abs (and some Berbers) insisted on their veneration for Khalid; some have claimed that Khalid prophesied the 'last' prophet after him, who in Islam is Muhammad. [7] Another tradition has it that King Zuhayr had predicted Muhammad, but Zuhayr is not called prophet for that.

On Khalid's status, the Muslims have historically been divided. Other Arab tribes had either suffered false prophets, as the Asad suffered Tulayha; or, like the 'Ad and the Thamud, they received the preachings of their Prophets, disbelieved, and were destroyed [8] (although some living tribes have claimed a rebirth from those dead tribes' surviving prophets, as Yemenis claim of Hud). Also if the bedouin Khalid were accepted as a prophet between Jesus and Muhammad this is constrained by Q. 12:109, which insists that Apostles must come from the towns. [9]

Antarah ibn Shaddad

Antarah ibn Shaddad al-Absi (c.525–615), or 'Antar al-Absi, was one of the seven great pre-Islamic Arab poets and the protagonist of the great story Antar and Abla. Throughout this non-fiction story, he displayed chivalry, bravery, and eloquence in the Arabic language. This earned him the name among all of the Arabs of the Peninsula as the "Complete Knight". Furthermore, he was the author of the Divan and he was a warrior. His father was a leader of the Banu ʿAbs tribe named Shaddad and his mother was Zabiba, an African Abyssinian princess-turned-slave who was originally captured during a battle between the invading Banu Abs tribe and the ancient Abyssinian army (specifically the Kingdom of Aksum).

This most famous member of the Banu Abs tribe has had a cultural impact beyond Arabia and even into the modern era. A number of modern cultural artistic works are inspired by the warrior-poet 'Antar. These include Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Symphony No. 2, which is based on the legend of ʿAntar, as well as the first Palestinian opera composed in 1988 by Mustapha al-Kurd, of which Antarah ibn Shaddad was the primary subject.

Role in Umayyad and Abbasid Syria

The Banu Abs gained significant wealth and property in Syria and influence in the Umayyad caliphal court mainly through the marriage of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705) to the Absi noblewoman Wallada, the daughter of al-Abbas ibn al-Jaz ibn al-Harith, a great-grandson of Zuhayr ibn Jadhima. [10] Wallada mothered Abd al-Malik's sons and successors al-Walid I (r. 705–715) and Sulayman (r. 715–717). [11] Abd al-Malik granted estates to Wallada's father al-Abbas and her first cousin al-Qa'qa ibn Khulayd ibn al-Jaz, including the massive estate which developed into the town of Hiyar Bani Qa'qa or Hiyar Bani Abs in northwestern Syria near Manbij where the family established itself. [11] [12] Al-Walid I granted further estates to al-Qa'qa near Damascus and Manbij and made him his katib (scribe or secretary). [11] The caliph appointed another member of the tribe, Khalid ibn Barz ibn Kamil ibn Barz, governor of Jund Dimashq (military district of Damascus). [13] Al-Qa'qa backed the abortive efforts by al-Walid I to replace Sulayman with his son Abd al-Aziz ibn al-Walid as caliphal successor. [12] Al-Qa'qa's uncle Abd Allah ibn al-Jaz was a prominent dignitary in Syria and al-Qa'qa's brother Husayn was a companion of Caliph Sulayman. [11]

Al-Qa'qa's sons al-Walid and Abd al-Malik, both named after their Umayyad kinsmen, [14] served as the governors of the junds (military districts) of Qinnasrin and Homs under Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (r. 724–743). [11] Al-Walid and Abd al-Malik (al-Qa'qa's sons) played a role in the unsuccessful attempt to install Hisham's son Maslama as his successor over his nephew, the appointed successor al-Walid II (r. 743–744). [15] As a result, they were both tortured to death by al-Walid II's governor of Qinnasrin, Yusuf, the son of Umar ibn Hubayra al-Fazari. [16] Al-Walid ibn Qa'qa's son Thumama later served as a commander under the Abbasids, who toppled the Umayyads in 750, and led summer expeditions against the Byzantine Empire. [14] His son Uthman became a semi-autonomous local leader in Jund Qinnasrin in the aftermath of the Fourth Muslim Civil War (813–819). [14]

As late as the 10th and 11th centuries, the Banu Abs continued to occupy Hiyar Bani Qa'qa and the neighboring Wadi Butnan valley, as well as Hadhir Qinnasrin south of Aleppo. The tribe, like other old-established tribes in Jund Qinnasrin, had become largely sedentarized while maintaining their tribal structure and customs. [17]

The 1890 work of Guy Le Strange is a source of information on the regions once controlled or governed by the Banu 'Abs. Titled "Palestine Under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A. D. 650 To 1500", it was originally published in 1890 and includes translations from the works of medieval Arab geographers. As a collection of historical and geographical Islamic writings on Syria and Palestine, it makes mention of the lands of the Bani 'Abs (also referred to as Bani Qa'qa, or Bani Ka'ka, due to the descendance of the local Banu 'Abs from al-Qa'qa al-Absi). Hiyar is mentioned as being "a district in the lands of the Bani Ka'ka, lying a days' march from Halab (Aleppo), in the country near the desert of Kinassrin (Qinnasrin), and 2 days' journey also from the town of Kinnasrin" (sourced from Palestine Under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A. D. 650 To 1500 by Guy Le Strange, p. 455). In later centuries, at least some of the old Bani 'Abs strongholds were abandoned and left to waste. For example, a district called Kurah al Hiyar, as described by Abu-l Fida and translated by Guy Le Strange, is mentioned: ""Kurah al Hiyar," says Abu'l Fida, "is the name of one of the districts of Aleppo. At the present time (1321) its lands are desert, and only wild animals live here. But it is mentioned in books. It took its name from Hiyar ibn al Ka'ka. There camp the 'Abs, the Fazarah and other tribes of the Arabs"" (sourced from Palestine Under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A. D. 650 To 1500 by Guy Le Strange, p. 455).

Modern era

The modern Banu Abs tribe is quite large and scattered across the region. Significant populations of this tribe can be found in Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Jordan. In addition, branches of the tribe can be found in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere in the Arab World, as well as in Malaysia, Europe, the United States, and Brazil. Members and descendants of the tribe may carry the tribal name or some variation thereof, such as: Alabsi, Al-Absy, al-Absy, Al'Absy, Al Absy, Al-Absi, al-Absi, Al'Absi, Al Absi, Absy, Absi, Absey, Abzi, etc.


The modern Bedouins in Arabia value ancient Arab traditions including chivalry, honor, bravery, honesty, nobility, hospitality, and generosity. While the Banu 'Abs share such values with their tribal neighbors, they are famous for their unique tribal cultural values. In addition to the aforementioned Bedouin mores, the Banu 'Abs greatly value very ancient traditions that are held in high regard. This helps distinguish them from the many other tribes in Arabia. The main branch of the Banu 'Abs tribe has succeeded in preserving their traditional dress, language, and ethics despite the Westernization of some of their neighbors. The traditional dialect of the tribe is a form of Hejazi and Nejdi Arabic. Specifically, it is a mix between the dialect of the northern peoples of Ha'il, the standard Bedouin dialect and Hijazi Arabic. The Banu 'Abs tribe has its own tribal emblem or symbol, which is a practice that is common amongst Arab tribes. This symbol has been lost to some branches of the tribe which settled in other regions.

Branches of the Banu Abs located in other countries uphold their clan-based traditions such as maintaining a clan head to whom all respect is directed and from whom tribal edicts are delivered, upholding traditional codes of honor and utmost family loyalty, and establishing and holding tribal Diwans. Maintaining and respecting family traditions is an important aspect of what differentiates members of the Banu Abs diaspora. At the same time, they have also adapted to their local cultures, incorporating traditions, stories, legends, foods, and music from the lands where they have settled.

While the original Banu Abs have their own tribal emblem, many of the scattered branches outside of Saudi Arabia have developed their own independent tribal crests and flags to identify, and take pride in, their section of the extended family. Some branches of the tribe have also developed their own mottos, fables, and proverbs.

It is a common practice for branches of the Banu Abs tribe to maintain private family genealogies and histories that trace their patrilineal lines from their modern members all the way back to Abs, Adnan, Ishmael, Abraham, and ultimately to Adam. These private family histories of their ancestors also record notable details about historical members of the tribe. These histories can include dates of birth and/or death, mention of wars or battles participated in, various deeds done and honors earned, details of personalities and reputations, information on the crafts, trades, and businesses that the people engaged in, any peculiar or interesting causes of death, and other notable events or actions.

Social work

The sheer numbers, and widespread nature, of the Banu Abs clan have contributed to the formation of various tribal organizations, divans, cultural groups, and charitable trusts.

One example is the 'Abs Universal Organization for Social Development. This is a non-profit organization dedicated to:

"Social, cultural, economic and humanitarian organization. It aims to improve the living conditions of Rashaida people and in particular the Rashaida people in the Sudan, Eritrea and poor areas. Also, it aims to raise the level of education and cultural knowledge for Rashaida people in the whole Arabic world."

- The organization includes some charities. The charities are going to build some schools and hospitals in some poor countries that are home to Rashidi people.

The President is Mr. Fayez Albghaili Al- Rashidi

Secretary-General is Mr. Mubarak Al-Duwailah

Deputy of Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah Saad Alawaimrai"5

Descendant branches

Banu Rasheed

The Bani Rasheed or Rashaida peoples are the sons of Rasheed Al-Zaul Al-Absi. Rasheed Al-Zaul was one of the Banu Abs tribe's most famous warriors, living in the 7th century. Afterwards, his progeny named themselves after him. The Rashaida peoples are currently located in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Sudan, Eritrea, Jordan, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Oman.

Al Hubus

The Al Hubus, or Habsi tribe, are one of the largest tribes of Oman. The inhabitants of this tribe reside in the Eastern region of Oman, and Ras al-Khaimah alongside the Shuhooh. They descend directly from Banu Abs, and branch into several other large tribes. Some of the most notable are: the Jawaber (Al Jabry, which is distinct from Bani Jabir of Yemen or Hamdan, present in other parts of Oman), Yal Thaneen, Aial Mahara, Aial Abdu, Awlad Habn, Al Ghassassina, Bani Bu Said, Maqadima, Ghananima, Sawalem, Najyah, and the Asiyrah.

Like their central Arabian cousins, the Habsi tribe and its many branches are known for their courage, strength, and bravery.

Mahas people

The Mahas people are a tribe that are descended on the matrilineal side from a combination of the Banu Khazraj of Arabia (of whom the Nasrid dynasty of Granada was also descended) and the Nubians. There is some intermarriage between the Rashaida peoples and the Mahas peoples of the Butana region in Sudan. Due to their intermarriage with the Rashaida peoples, some branches of the Mahas are partially linked to the Banu Abs tribe, as well. It is unclear when exactly they intermarried, and which full name they would carry, whether back to Adnan (of the Rashaida and Banu Abs) or Qahtan (of the Khazraj). Members of the Mahas that are descended from the Banu Abs are, by blood, technically a combination of Adnanite, Qahtanite, and Azdite.

Notable members



See also

Related Research Articles

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan the fifth Umayyad Caliph

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ibn al-Hakam was the fifth Umayyad caliph, ruling from April 685 until his death. A member of the first generation of born Muslims, his early life in Medina was occupied with pious pursuits. He held administrative and military posts under Caliph Mu'awiya I, founder of the Umayyad Caliphate, and his own father, Caliph Marwan I. By the time of Abd al-Malik's accession, Umayyad authority had collapsed across the Caliphate as a result of the Second Muslim Civil War and had been reconstituted in Syria and Egypt during his father's reign.

Quraysh Arabic tribe

The Quraysh are a mercantile Arab tribe that historically inhabited and controlled Mecca and its Ka'aba. The Islamic prophet Muhammad was born into the Hashemite clan of the tribe. Despite this, many of the Quraysh staunchly opposed Muhammad, until converting to Islam en masse in c. 630 AD. Afterward, leadership of the Muslim community traditionally passed to a member of the Quraysh, as was the case with the Rashidun, Umayyad, and Abbasid caliphs.

Marwan ibn al-Hakam ibn Abi al-As ibn Umayya, commonly known as Marwan I, was the fourth Umayyad caliph, ruling for less than a year in 684–685. He founded the Marwanid ruling house of the Umayyad dynasty, which replaced the Sufyanid house after its collapse in the Second Muslim Civil War and remained in power until 750.

Al-Walid I the sixth Umayyad Caliph (c.674-715) (ruled 705-715)

Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, commonly known as al-Walid I, was the sixth Umayyad caliph, ruling from October 705 until his death. He was the eldest son of his predecessor Caliph Abd al-Malik. As a prince, he led annual raids against the Byzantines from 695 to 698 and built or restored fortifications along the Syrian Desert route to Mecca. He became the heir apparent after the death of Abd al-Malik's brother and designated successor, Abd al-Aziz ibn Marwan, in 704.

Al-Walid II the eleventh Umayyad Caliph

Walid bin Yazid or Walid II was an Umayyad Caliph who ruled from 743 until his assassination in the year 744. He succeeded his uncle, Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik.

Yazid III the twelfth Umayyad Caliph

Yazid ibn al-Walid ibn 'Abd al-Malik or Yazid III was the twelfth Umayyad caliph. He reigned for six months, from April 15 to October 3 or 4, 744, and died in that office.

Banū Makhzūm was one of the wealthy clans of the Quraysh. They are regarded as being among the three most powerful and influential tribes in Mecca before the advent of Islam, the other two being the Banu Hashim and the Banu Umayya Members of this clan can still be found in present-day Saudi Arabia

The Ansar were the local inhabitants of Medina who, in Islamic tradition, took the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his followers into their homes when they emigrated from Mecca during the hijra.

Qays ʿAylān, often referred to simply as Qays were an Arab tribal confederation that branched from the Mudhar section of the Adnanites. The tribe does not appear to have functioned as a unit in the pre-Islamic era. However, by the early Umayyad, its constituent tribes consolidated into one of the main tribo-political factions of the caliphate.

Khalid ibn al-Walid invaded the city of Dumat Al-Jandal in April 631 AD, under the orders of Muhammad to retaliate for the killings of preachers that had previously been sent by him. He also ordered Khalid to destroy an idol that was worshipped by the Bani Kalb tribe.

Third Fitna

The Third Fitna, was a series of civil wars and uprisings against the Umayyad Caliphate beginning with the overthrow of Caliph al-Walid II in 744 and ending with the victory of Marwan II over the various rebels and rivals for the caliphate in 747. However, Umayyad authority under Marwan II was never fully restored, and the civil war flowed into the Abbasid Revolution (746–750) which culminated in the overthrow of the Umayyads and the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate in 749/50. Thus a clear chronological delimitation of this conflict is not possible.

Qurra ibn Sharīk ibn Marthad ibn Ḥazīm al-Absi al-Ghaṭafānī was a statesman of the Umayyad Caliphate, most notable for his governorship of Egypt under Caliph al-Walid I between 709 and his death in 715.

Thumāma ibn al-Walīd ibn Qa‘qā al-‘Absi‘ was an Arab general of noble lineage from Syria, who served the Abbasid Caliphate.

The Banu Umayya or Umayyads (الأمويون), were the ruling family of the Muslim caliphate between 661 and 750 and later of Islamic Spain between 756 and 1031. In the pre-Islamic period, they were a prominent clan of the Meccan tribe of Quraysh, descended from Umayya ibn Abd Shams. Despite staunch opposition to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the Umayyads embraced Islam before the latter's death in 632. A member of the clan, Uthman, went on to become the third Rashidun caliph in 644–656, while other members held various governorships. One of these governors, Mu'awiya I, after the assassination of Ali ibn Abi talib in 661 and established the Umayyad Caliphate with its capital in Damascus, Syria. This marked the beginning of the Umayyad dynasty, the first hereditary dynasty in the history of Islam, and the only one to rule over the entire Islamic world of its time.

Abu al-Ward

Majzaʾa ibn al-Kawthar ibn Zufar ibn al-Ḥārith al-Kilābī was a mid-8th century Umayyad governor of Jund Qinnasrin in Syria. He was a cavalry commander of Umayyad Caliph Marwan II and later the leader of a rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate in Syria which aimed to reestablish the Umayyad Caliphate in 750.

Hassan ibn Malik ibn Bahdal al-Kalbi (Arabic: حسان بن مالك بن بحدل الكلبي‎, romanized: Ḥassān ibn Mālik ibn Baḥdal al-Kalbī, commonly known as Ibn Bahdal, was the Umayyad governor of Palestine and Jordan during the reigns of Mu'awiya I and Yazid I, a senior figure in the caliph's court, and a chieftain of the Banu Kalb tribe. He owed his position both to his leadership of the powerful Kalb, a major source of troops, and his kinship with the Umayyads through his aunt Maysun bint Bahdal, the wife of Mu'awiya and mother of Yazid. Following Yazid's death, Ibn Bahdal served as the guardian of his son and successor, Mu'awiya II, until the latter's premature death in 684. Amid the political instability and rebellions that ensued in the caliphate, Ibn Bahdal attempted to secure the succession Mu'awiya II's brother Khalid, but ultimately threw his support behind Marwan I, who hailed from a different branch of the Umayyads. Ibn Bahdal and his tribal allies defeated Marwan's opponents at the Battle of Marj Rahit and secured for themselves the most prominent roles in the Umayyad administration and military.

Abū Zurʿa Rawḥ ibn Zinbāʿ al-Judhāmī was the Umayyad governor of Palestine, one of the main advisers of Caliph Abd al-Malik and the chieftain of the Judham tribe.

Zuhayr ibn Jadhīma ibn Rawāḥa al-ʿAbsī was the chieftain of the Banu Abs who ultimately became the leader of the Ghatafan and Hawazin tribal confederations in pre-Islamic Arabia in the mid-6th century.

Al-Walīd ibn ʿUtba ibn Abī Sufyān was an Umayyad ruling family member and statesman during the reigns of the Umayyad caliphs Mu'awiya I and Yazid I. He served two stints as the governor of Medina in 677/78–680 and 681–682. He was dismissed during his first term for failing to secure oaths of allegiance from Husayn ibn Ali and other senior Muslim figures who opposed Yazid's accession. After his relocation to Damascus during the Second Fitna, he was imprisoned in 684 for proclaiming his support for continued Umayyad rule and condemning the anti-Umayyad caliph Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. He was freed shortly after by his kinsman Khalid ibn Yazid and the pro-Umayyad Banu Kalb tribe.

Maslama ibn Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, also known by his kunyaAbu Shakir, was an Umayyad prince and commander. His capture of the southern caverns of Cappadocia and the fortress of Ancyra in 739 marked the last Umayyad military gains in the wars with Byzantium. Despite the abortive attempts by his father Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik to install Maslama as his chosen successor in place of al-Walid ibn Yazid, Maslama became a close companion of al-Walid and defended him from his father's machinations. As a result, he was spared the fate of his brothers who were imprisoned upon al-Walid's accession in 743. Nothing is heard of Maslama afterward and he may have been killed in a massacre of the Umayyad family by the Abbasids following their takeover of the Caliphate in 750.


  1. Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad. The Life of Muhammad. Oxford University Press. p. 4.
  2. Landau-Tasseron 1997, pp. 42–61.
  3. Landau-Tasseron 1997, pp. 48–49, 53.
  4. Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 51.
  5. Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 52.
  6. Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 53.
  7. Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 45, note 16.
  8. Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 46.
  9. Landau-Tasseron 1997, p. 43.
  10. Elad 1999, pp. 59–63.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Elad 1999, p. 61.
  12. 1 2 Crone 1980, p. 105.
  13. Elad 1999, pp. 61–62.
  14. 1 2 3 Crone 1980, p. 106.
  15. Hillenbrand 1989, p. 89.
  16. Elad 1999, pp. 61–62, note 126.
  17. Zakkar 1971, p. 85.