Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Al-Kahina: a powerful symbol of female resistance

A famous symbol of resistance to the 7th century Muslim conquerors of North Africa is the Jewish Berber warrior queen, the Kahina, whose story is detailed here (with thanks: Ida). She led what are believed to have been Judaised Berber tribes into battle and fought valiantly, but ultimately in vain. Over the centuries these Berber tribes are thought to have nearly all been Islamicised.

In his book Minorities of the Middle East Mordechai Nisan explains that the role of women in Berber society differed significantly from Arab Muslim norms:

"Unveiled women were free to meet and openly discuss marriage in contrast to Arab custom in many Muslim societies... From childbirth methods to participation in the war of liberation struggle against the French, the Berber woman demonstrated a willingness to endure pain and contribute to the solidity of the cultural group. Always she remained the symbol of love and beauty, magic and nature."


Anonymous said...

be sure to note that al Kahina was a black woman.....the re-writing of history seems to always make those who are fabulous of a pale complexion. Al Kahina was dark complexioned - see SOURCES:
African Warrior Queens, by John Henrik Clarke
African Glory, by J.C. Degraft-Johnson

Anonymous said...

thank God there is a history no one can deny although huge effords were made to extinguish the berber and jewish culture in north africa .it s time to search and make the truth known.the arabs came with islam and the Queen Kahina have done all what she could to save her nation.the arabs were brutal towars north africa s indeginous.

Anonymous said...

Who said she was Jewish, or the descendant of Jews? Isn't that a biased history, just as biased as trying to paint a lot of Africans of note as being clear skinned? No other African record makes any notation to say she was Jewish. You may as well classify Nefertiti as Jewish also.

Anonymous said...

I´m very interested about everything surrounding Al kahina; according to some Spanish authors, she was supposed to be christian. Her tribe, Yarawas, are noted as part of the first contingent of islamic in crossing Gibraltar Strait towards the conquest of visigothic Spain. Any further information about these points ?? Thank you.

BDC said...

It is important to remember that many ancient Jewish populations were very dark-complexioned, so much so that to modern eyes we would call them black. Saying someone is Jewish or from Jewish heritage in a history text does not mean they have a "pale complexion." But, in the case of Dahiya al-Kahina, she was not just Jewish or African, but also Berber. Modern Jewish populations who comprise the majority of Jews in the U.S. and Europe are from Eastern and Northern Europe and tend to be lighter-skinned, but over the centuries, Jewish complexions have varied. For Dahiya, a Judaic-Berber-African Queen, her complexion was likely the result of both North African genetics (including Jewish communities) and a life in the saddle and sun, which would greatly deepen her Semitic/African complexion. Does any of this make her less African or Berber or Jewish? No. We should take care not to have our modern perceptions of ethnicity distract us from her legendary courage and desire to defend the indigenous communities of North Africa, including her unique Judeo-Berber family as well as local Christian Copts and Byzantines. These are traits that should be celebrated by everyone. The sources for this information are in chronicles of North Africa and Iberia, including the North African Muslim philosopher Ibn Khaldun and several much earlier chroniclers, such as Ubaud ibn Salih ibn ‘Abd al-Halim. The stories are legends and can be argued by anyone, but for historians the Jewish connection is not at all implausible because linguistics show a trail of Hebrew in the Berber language that the whimsy of legends cannot obliterate. The Mediterranean basin at the time of Dahiya was a sea of intermarriage and cultural exchanges. In no old chronicle or modern Jewish history I have read has Dahiya al-Kahina EVER been referred to as "clear-skinned".

Anonymous said...

Al Kahena wasn't Jewish, she was simply a Berber from the Aures (Algeria). What the Spanish or other so called modern historians have to say about her is relevant and has to be taken very lightly. If you want to know about her, you just to have to go to the Aures region to notice that her original name "Dihyā" is still in use today among the Chaouis, as well as many places around that area which are named after her. You might even be brave to visit Medracen while you're there.

Anonymous said...

I was helping my sister write a small essay about the brave warrior Kahina and I was shocked to read that she was a jewish. I never heard that one!!! NEVER NEVER SAW THAT IN ANY BOOK.

Anonymous said...

No record to support she was jewish. Its more likely she was christian,judging by the name of her children. She is also believed to take part in attacks against the jewish population in north africa.

Ploni said...

link to read more about Dihyā is broken

Unknown said...

Diya is our Queen..the Queen of Amazigh People.Exuse my english.
Damia ,Diya ( the arabs called her "Kahina") what from the Zennata Amazigh Greattribe,in the Aures Dujdura .Here tribe called Jawara.They took Chaled cabtive.Diya adopted Chaled the nephew from the umayaden General Hassan al Nouman.Chaled betrayed here .
Ifrikiya been coloninize by the arabs.
they take 80 000 berberian Womens and slavet them and bring them to damas..

Read Ibn Khaloun ore Giselle Halemi,Berbere com, Kabyle com.Zlabi com .They will help you about the historie of Ifrikiya.
Read the story of Tarik ibn Ziyad.
.ore General Touati..