Abu Zayd Struggles with a Jinni

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(Bani Hilal, Banu Hilal/Tunisia)

As a reward for his exploits in battle, Amir Rizq was allowed to marry Amira Khadrs, the daughter of the Sharif of Mecca. Amir Rizq's wife became barren after she bore a daughter. In her despair, she gave a bowl of couscous to the birds, asking the almighty to grant her a son. A black crow landed on the bowl, and Amira Khadrs requested a son with the qualities of this bird, a youth who, when he stabbed with the sword, would cause much blood to flow. God gave her a son as black as night, a boy endowed with the nature of a white or free man—this was Abu Zayd, a mythic hero. But when the birth was reported to Amir Rizq, he banished his wife.

Abu Zayd joined a group of courageous kinsmen. They debated among themselves as to who was the mightiest, Zaydan, who was a great spear thrower; Dhiyab, who was especially impressive in battle; or Abu Zayd, who was compared to a hawk hovering above a bustard, who found adventure in the desert, who trod the wastelands, and destroyed camps with only the owl to tell the tale. The members of this group of three were interchangeable. Dhiyab battled a jinni in a well created by a meteorite, cutting its body in half with his sword. But in some versions of this story, Abu Zayd is the hero. He killed the jinni, the serpent, or the dragon, and inherited a kingdom. In other accounts, the three of them slaughtered the monster. There was then a contest: Who could leap highest against a castle wall in order to touch the monster's severed head? Abu Zayd became the champion, the one who had slain the monster serpent, the jinni.

In another exploit, Dhiyab fought with ‘Alan the slave of Zanayti, an enemy of the Hilali. Before the fort of Zanayti, ‘Alan tried to overwhelm Dhiyab, but failed. As he retired, Dhiyab's horse leapt over the moat. Dhiyab threw his spear, which pierced ‘Alan's eye, went through his head, and was buried in the wall of the fortress. As ‘Alan was dying, Dhiyab told him his name; it was the fulfillment of a prophecy having to do with ‘Alan's death. See also: Antar, Bayajida, Jinn.

Subjects: Religion.

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