Rabia Balkhi

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Rābi'a bint Ka'b al-Quzdārī (Persian: رابعه بنت کعب‎), popularly known as Rābi'a Balkhī (رابعه بلخی) and Zayn al-'Arab[1] (زین العرب), is a semi-legendary[2] figure of Persian literature and was possibly the first woman poet in the history of New Persian poetry. References to her can be found in the poetry of Rūdakī and 'Attār. Her biography has been primarily recorded by Zāhir ud-Dīn 'Awfī and renarrated by Nūr ad-Dīn Djāmī. The exact dates of her birth and death are unknown, but it is reported that she was a native of Balkh in Khorāsān (present-day Afghanistan). Some evidences indicate that she lived during the same period as Rūdakī, the court poet to the Samanid Emir Naṣr II (914-943).[3]


Her name and biography appear in 'Awfī's lubābu 'l-albāb, 'Attār's maṭnawīyat, and Djāmī's nafahātu 'l-uns. She is said to have been descended from a royal family, her father Ka'b al-Quzdārī, a chieftain at the Samanid court, reportedly descended from Arab immigrants who had settled in eastern Persia during the time of Abu Muslim.[3]

She was one of the first poets who wrote in modern Persian, and she is, along with Mahsatī Dabīra Ganja'ī, among a very few female writers of medieval Persia to be recorded in history by name.[2] When her father died, his son Hāres, brother of Rābi'a, inherited his position. According to legend, Hāres had a Turkic slave named Baktāsh, with whom his sister was secretly in love. At a court party, Hāres heard Rābi'a's secret. He imprisoned Baktāsh in a well, cut the jugular vein of Rābi'a and imprisoned her in a bathroom. She wrote her final poems with her blood on the wall of the bathroom until she died. Baktāsh escaped the well, and as soon as got the news about Rābi'a, he went to the governor’s office and assassinated Hāres. He then committed suicide.

Her love affair with the slave Baktāsh inspired Qājār poet Rezā Qulī-Khān Ḥedāyat to compose his Baktāshnāma.


A girls' high school in Kabul, Afghanistan called Rabia Balkhi Institute of Higher Education is named after her.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ H. Rowley/P. Weis, Journal of Semitic studies, Vol. 23-24, Oxford University Press, 1978, p. 139
  2. ^ a b G. Lindberg-Wada, Literary History: Towards a Global Perspective, Gruyter; 1st ed., 2006, p. 204: "This does not mean that no women composed poetry [...] but the system kept obviously such efforts out of sight. The very few whom we know by name are more legendary than real, for example Rabi'a bint Ka'b Quzdari ..."
  3. ^ a b Indo-Iranica, Vol. 2, Iran Society India, Calcutta, 1947, p. 39
  4. ^ http://afghanistantimes.af/prospective-of-private-universities-challenges-and-expectations/


  • E.G. Browne: Literary History of Persia. (Four volumes, 2,256 pages, and twenty-five years in the writing). 1998. ISBN 0-7007-0406-X
  • Jan Rypka: History of Iranian Literature. Reidel Publishing Company. 1968 OCLC 460598. ISBN 90-277-0143-1
  • Chopra, R.M., "Eminent Poetesses of Persian", 2010, Iran Society, Kolkata.

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