Hind Bint al-Nu’man and al-Zarqa’

Posted on October 30, 2010


Though little has been translated and originals are hard to come by in a largely homophobic culture, a surprising amount of medieval Arabic poetry from the Middle East, North Africa and Spain was homoerotic in nature. Perhaps even more surprising, a lenient attitude toward homosexuality in medieval Islamic states wasn’t just towards men, but towards women as well.

In the Encyclopedia of Pleasure (Gawami al lada) by Ali Ibn Nasr al-Katib, he cites the Christian princess Hind Bint al-Nu’man’s love for Hind Bint al Khuss al-Iyadiyyah, known as al-Zarqa’, as a romantic ideal. When al-Zarqa’ died, al-Nu’man went into deep mourning, leading an ascetic life and founding a monastery in al-Zarqa’s name, the gate at which al-Nu’man was buried when she herself died. Ibn Nasr also refers to other poets writing about the love between the two women and describing it as greater than that between a man and wife.

You can read about al-Nu’man and al-Zarqa’ in Saher Amer’s Crossing Borders: Love Between Women in Medieval French and Arab Literatures at Google Books, here. The book is also available on Amazon, here.