The Info List - Kahina

or Kahina (Berber: Daya Ult Yenfaq Tajrawt, ⴷⵉⵀⵢⴰ Dihya, or ⴷⴰⵎⵢⴰ Damya) was a Berber warrior queen and a religious and military leader who led indigenous resistance to the Muslim
conquest of the Maghreb, the region then known as Numidia. She was born in the early 7th century and died around the end of the 7th century in modern-day Algeria.


1 Origins and religion 2 Conflicts and legends 3 Defeat and death 4 Legacy 5 Cultural references 6 See also 7 Notes 8 Bibliography

Origins and religion[edit]

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Her personal name is one of these variations: Daya, Dehiya, Dihya (ⴷⵉⵀⵢⴰ), Dahya or Damya (with Arabic spelling it is difficult to distinguish between these variants).[1] Her title was cited by Arabic-language sources as al-Kāhina (the priestess soothsayer). This was the nickname given to by her Muslim
opponents because of her reputed ability to foresee the future. She was born into the Jrāwa Zenata
tribe[2] in the early 7th century. Arab
historians wrote that she was a Jewish "sorcerer", and because of this belief she was able to defeat the Arab
Islamic invaders, who retreated to eastern Tripolitania. For five years she ruled a free Berber state from the Aurès Mountains to the oasis of Gadames
(695-700 AD). But the Arabs, commanded by Musa bin Nusayr, returned with a strong army and defeated her. She fought at the El Djem
El Djem
Roman amphitheater but finally was killed in a combat near a well that still bears her name, Bir al Kahina in Aures, and her head was sent to the caliph as a trophy.[3] Accounts from the 19th century on claim she was of Jewish religion or that her tribe were Judaized
Berbers.[4] According to al-Mālikī, she was accompanied in her travels by an "idol", possibly an icon of the Virgin
Mary or one of the Christian saints,[5][dubious – discuss] but certainly not something associated with Jewish religious customs.[further explanation needed] The idea that the Jrāwa were Judaized
comes from the medieval historian Ibn Khaldun, who named them among a number of such tribes[according to whom?]. Hirschberg and Talbi note that Ibn Khaldun seems to have been referring to a time before the advent of the late Roman and Byzantine
empires, and a little later in the same paragraph seems to say that by Roman times "the tribes" (presumably those he had listed before) had become Christianized.[6][dubious – discuss] In the words of H. Z. Hirschberg, "of all the known movements of conversion to Judaism
and incidents of Judaizing, those connected with the Berbers
and Sudanese
in Africa
are the least authenticated. Whatever has been written on them is extremely questionable."[7] Hirschberg further points out that in the oral legends of Algerian Jews, "Kahya" was depicted as an ogre and persecutor of Jews. Over four centuries after her death, Tunisian hagiographer al-Mālikī seems to have been among the first to state she resided in the Aurès Mountains. Just seven centuries after her death, the pilgrim at-Tijani was told she belonged to the Lūwāta tribe.[8] When the later historian Ibn Khaldun
Ibn Khaldun
came to write his account, he placed her with the Jrāwa tribe. According to various Muslim
sources, al-Kāhinat was the daughter of Tabat, or some say Mātiya.[9] These sources depend on tribal genealogies, which were generally concocted for political reasons during the 9th century.[10] Ibn Khaldun
Ibn Khaldun
records many legends about Dihyā. A number of them refer to her long hair or great size, both legendary characteristics of sorcerers. She is also supposed to have had the gift of prophecy and she had three sons, which is characteristic of witches in legends. Even the fact that two were her own and one was adopted (an Arab officer she had captured) was an alleged trait of sorcerers in tales. Another legend claims that in her youth, she had supposedly freed her people from a tyrant by agreeing to marry him and then murdering him on their wedding night. Virtually nothing else of her personal life is known.[according to whom?] Conflicts and legends[edit] Dihya
succeeded Caecilius as the war leader of the Berber tribes in the 680s and opposed the encroaching Arab
Islamic armies of the Umayyad Dynasty. Hasan ibn al-Nu'man marched from Egypt
and captured the major Byzantine
city of Carthage
and other cities (see Muslim conquest of North Africa). Searching for another enemy to defeat, he was told that the most powerful monarch in North Africa
was "the Queen of the Berbers" (Arabic: malikat al-barbar) Dihyā, and accordingly marched into Numidia. The armies met near Meskiana[11] in the present-day province of Oum el-Bouaghi, Algeria. She defeated Hasan so soundly that he fled Ifriqiya
and holed up in Cyrenaica
(Libya) for four or five years. Realizing that the enemy was too powerful and bound to return, she was said to have embarked on a scorched earth campaign, which had little impact on the mountain and desert tribes, but lost her the crucial support of the sedentary oasis-dwellers. Instead of discouraging the Arab
armies, her desperate decision hastened defeat.[12] Another, lesser known account of Dihyā claimed that she had an interest in early studies of desert birds. While this view may or may not be plausible, some evidence has been recovered at the site of her death place, modern-day Algeria. Several fragments of early parchment with a painting of a bird on them were found, although there's no way to conclude the fragments were hers. However, it is possible that she began her interest while in Libya, as the painting was of a Libyan bird species.[according to whom?] Defeat and death[edit] Hasan eventually returned and, aided by communications with the captured officer "Khalid bin Yazid al-Qaysi" adopted by Dihya, defeated her at a locality (presumably in present-day Algeria) about which there is some uncertainty.[13] According to some accounts, Dihya died fighting the invaders, sword in hand, a warrior's death. Other accounts say she committed suicide by swallowing poison rather than be taken by the enemy. This final act occurred in the 690s or 700s, with 703 AD given as the most likely year.[14] In that year, she was, according to Ibn Khaldun, 127 years old. This is evidently yet another of the many myths which surround her. According to Muslim
historians, her sons Bagay and Khanchla converted, and led the Berber army to Iberia. However, the historian Ibn al-Athīr says they died with their mother. Legacy[edit]

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In later centuries, Dihyā's legend was used to bolster the claims of Berbers
in al-Andalus against Arab
claims of ethnic supremacy—in the early modern age, she was used by French colonials, Berber nationalists, Arab
Nationalists, North African Jews, North African feminists, and Maghrebi nationalists alike for their own didactic purposes. Cultural references[edit]

Author Manly Wade Wellman
Manly Wade Wellman
wrote a historical fantasy novel about her, titled Cahena. The TV series Relic Hunter
Relic Hunter
(episode 64) The relic hunters recover an artifact that had belonged to Kahina. Kahina is seen in flashback scenes. The Xena: Warrior Princess episode "Legacy" provides a fictionalized story about Kahina (Alison Bruce) in northern Africa.

See also[edit]

portal History portal Berbers
portal Feminism portal

Umayyad conquest of North Africa Caecilius


^ See discussion of these supposed names by Talbi. ^ Naylor, Phillip C. (2009-12-03). North Africa: A History from Antiquity to the Present. University of Texas Press. p. 65.  ^ Charles André Julien; Roger Le Tourneau (26 November 1970). Histoire de L'Afrique du Nord. Praeger. p. 13.  ^ See Hirschberg (1963) and Talbi (1971). ^ Modéran (2005) discussing this point also points out that according to the 6th-century historian Procopius
a Berber king carried an idol of the god Gurzil. ^ The most recent study, by Yves Modéran (cited below), agrees with and reinforces Talbi's conclusions. ^ Hirschberg (1963) p. 339. ^ at-Tijani, arabic text p. 57: al-kāhinat al-ma'arūfat bi-kāhinat lūwātat, p. 118 of the translation ^ according to some, this name is an Arabicized form of the Christian name Matthias or Matthew, see cited paper by Talbi for more discussion ^ Talbi (1971) and Modéran (2005) discuss the various sources. ^ Talbi suggests that based on the topography reported by al-Mālikī, the actual battlefield was the Wadi Nīnī. ^ However, even if true, the Arab
accounts are considered to be greatly exaggerated. See Talbi (1971) and Modéran (2005). One thing that is certain is that Dihyā loved ornithology. ^ Talbi suggests it was between Setif and Tobna but this is not certain ^ Modéran (2005)


Ibn Khaldun, Kitāb al-Ibar. Usually cited as: Histoire des Berbères et des dynasties musulmanes de l'Afrique septentrionale, a French trans. by William McGuckin de Slane, Paul Geuthner, Paris, 1978. This 19th-century translation should now be regarded as obsolete. There is a more accurate modern French translation by Abdesselam Cheddadi, Peuples et Nations du Monde: extraits des Ibar, Sindbad, Paris, 1986 & 1995. Hirschberg (1963) gives an English translation of the section where Ibn Khaldun
Ibn Khaldun
discusses the supposed Judaized
Jarāwa. Hannoum, Abdelmajid. (2001). Post-Colonial Memories: The Legend
of the Dihyā, a North African Heroine (Studies in African Literature). ISBN 0-325-00253-3. This is a study of the legend of the Dihyā in the 19th century and later. The first chapter is a detailed critique of how the legend of the Dihyā emerged after several transformations from the 9th century to the 14th. H. Z. Hirschberg, 'The Problem of the Judaized
Berbers', Journal of African History, 4 (1963), 313-339. H.Z. Hirschberg, A History of the Jews in North Africa. E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1974 (2nd ed., Eng. trans.). al-Mālikī, Riyād an-Nufūs. Partial French trans. (including the story of the Dihyā) by H.R. Idris, 'Le récit d'al-Mālikī sur la Conquête de l'Ifrīqiya', Revue des Etudes Islamiques 37 (1969) 117-149. The accuracy of this translation has been criticised by Talbi (1971) and others. Modéran, Yves. (2005). Article 'Dihyā (Dihyā)', Encyclopédie Berbère vol. 27, p. 4102-4111. The most recent critical study of the historical sources. Talbi, Mohammed. (1971). Un nouveau fragment de l'histoire de l'Occident musulman (62-196/682-812) : l'épopée d'al Kahina. (Cahiers de Tunisie vol. 19 p. 19-52). An important historiographical study. at-Tijānī, Rihlat. Arabic text ed. by H.H. Abdulwahhab, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, 1994. French trans. by A. Rousseau in Journal Asiatique, section containing the story of the Dihyā is in n.s. 4, vol. 20 (1852) 57-208.

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 76181831 LCCN: nr92033192 GN