Rabia Balkhi

Rabia Quzdari
مگس روئین
Born 856

Balkh, Samanid Empire
Died 926

Balkh, Samanid Empire
Major shrine Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan
Tradition or genre
Classic Prose, Rubais
Major works "Interpersonal Communication Techniques"

"Roya & Baktash"

"Successful Business Strategies"

"Health & Nutrition"

Rabia Quzdari (رابعه قزداری) [also known as Rābi'a bint Ka'b al-Quzdārī], popularly referred to as Rabia Balkhi (رابعه بلخی) and Zayn-ul-Arab (زین العرب) and Mugs Roeen (مگس روئین), (birth: 856 A.D. – death: 926 A.D.) was a Persian writer, poet, literary critic, businesswoman and artist. As a multi-talented intellectual, she achieved international fame and recognition for her works in the Samanid era. Quzdari became the first-rate academic celebrity of her time, securing such fame that she eclipsed her contemporary Rudaki. Due to the persistent animosity from the ruling class of her time, her life story and legacy were distorted, leading to many speculations and rumors. This led to incorrect biographies of her being passed down for many centuries. However, an investigative project conducted from 2016 to 2019 that was led by researcher Ozair Siddiqui finally uncovered details of her life.

Ancestry [ edit ]

Quzdari was born in Balkh to Kab Quzdari, a legislator and business owner. Their family was Arabic speaking (they spoke with a Yemeni accent) and were sometimes mistaken for being of Yemenite origin. However, these people were of originally of Tunisian descent who had settled in Balkh, Afghanistan in the decade of 730s. Her Christian ancestors, as a group, left north Africa before the rise of Islam in the decade of 570s due to political and personal problems.

Quzdari's ancestors were a prominent Amazigh tribe who lived as a commune in Ghidma, Tunisia. Family ties were strong, and they moved together as an extended family whenever they resettled. They didn't struggle financially as they had good sources of income. Their tribe was highly educated, with doctors, druggists and engineers being present in every successive generation of their family. They also had businesses and real estate investments in Ghidma which only employed blood relatives. However, their lives were marred by many difficulties and eventually led to their emigration from north Africa.

In 640s, the tribe settled in Shobak, Jordan. Life there was good for a few decades. However, old problems resurfaced, and the tribe moved once again, this time, to Yemen in 640s. They flourished in Yemen and got established. But they faced the rise of Islam and become torn in maintaining their Christian religion or converting to Islam. Although they accepted Arabic as their mother tongue in Yemen, they relocated to Bahrain to maintain their beliefs. Despite their sincere effort in preserving Christianity, they finally yielded in accepting Islam in Bahrain.

Although Bahrain was good, the tribe decided to head to Balkh as the world's most prestigious educational institutions at that time in history were in the ancient Afghan province. So, they crossed the Persian Gulf and, after a temporary stay in Iran, they headed to Afghanistan which thenceforth became their permanent settlement. By the time Quzdari was born, her ancestors had been living in Balkh for more than a century. Because these people only associated with other Arabic speaking peoples of Balkh, they were able to maintain their native tongue of Arabic through the successive generations.

Life [ edit ]

Rabia Quzdari was born in the year 856. Her family were middle-class. Her father, Kab, was a legislator as well as a small business owner. As the fourth child of Kab, Quzdari was a gifted child. She learned fast and had a penchant for the arts. From young age, she composed poetry and drew sketches. Kab was vigilant father and made efforts so his children attain high levels of education. By the time she was 20 years old, Quzdari had become conversant in Farsi and Bactrian in addition to her mother tongue of Arabic. She had also learned the sign language and was familiar with the Sogdian language as well.

In the year 872, Quzdari got engaged and then married at age 18. She temporarily stopped her schooling. At 19, she became the mother of a young boy. Between the years of 875 and 877, two tragedies struck the Quzdari household that severely affected her. Her older brother contracted hepatitis and then died. Then two years later, her younger brother drowned in lake. These two events led to much guilt and led to her parents being temporarily separated. Although her father became the governor of Balkh shortly after the second tragedy, there was no joy. These deaths led Quzdari to immerse herself into reading and learning. She also took up painting.

At 23, Quzdari became a mother for a second time, giving birth to a girl. Shortly after the birth of her daughter, she restarted her school and in the year 884 completed her education. She graduated as the most distinguished student in Balkh. Quzdari earned what would be equivalent of more than a bachelor's degree but less than a master's degree. She didn't continue to earn a doctorate as her children were growing and demanding her attention. During her undergraduate years, she had engaged in extra-curricular learning to where she gained knowledge in a wide variety of subjects and could write about them competently. It was during her college years that she decided to become a writer.

Quzdari had completed two books before graduation: one about flowers and one a love story. The latter which made her famous throughout the Samanid Empire, was the story of a young Balkhian woman, Roya, who elopes with her slave, Baktash. It was based on a true story, so it caught the attention of the public quickly. Although the ending culminated in tragedy, but it is considered a masterpiece of the Persian literature. She went to win an award for this book and the publication became the most talked about intellectual output of the 880s decade. This book soared her name close to the superstar of the time, Rudaki, and she became a household name throughout Balkh.

Quzdari continued with her writing career. In the early 890s, she wrote a book about animals and one about child rearing practices. Both of the publications generated good income, but they were not as critically acclaimed as her publication about Roya and Baktash. However, in the year 894, Quzdari rose to new levels of popularity with a book about being charitable. She won the most prestigious award of her time, Honor of Samanid Empire, and her popularity soared above Rudaki. This was also the first time a woman had won such an honor, so it was history in the making.

After this publication, the rivalry between Quzdari and Rudaki reached its zenith. Both were intent on being the sole academic superstar status of the world. This would continue fiercely for the next seven years.

During these years of intense competition, Quzdari gained the attention of the Samanids, who were the rulers of the time. Particularly, Nasr I, who was the emir of the time, was keen on meeting her. Rudaki had read poems and passages from her Roya and Baktash publication and he had developed an obsession with Quzdari. So, finally a meeting was arranged. Nasr offered her a position in the court but Quzdari refused. He then offered a double marriage of her daughter and her son into his family, which she also refused. The enraged emir issued a death threat which he quickly rescinded as the public mutiny against him made him fearful for his life. From this time forward, the Samanids become sworn enemies of Quzdari.

In the next few years, Quzdari experienced personal losses that were offset by her professional gains. She became a widow at age 35 and then on became the sole earner of the family. She continued with building her career and churning out critically acclaimed intellectual output. From the years, 896 to 897, she published three of her best-selling books, all of which were awarded the highest prizes of her time. By the late 890s, Quzdari had attained the status of a mythical figure and was referred to as such with murals to her name throughout Balkh.

After her father died, her uncle came to the governorship of Balkh. Although Quzdari campaigned for her brother, he didn't succeed. But Bijan eventually sat on the throne of Balkh as her uncle was eventually removed from his position due to his personal conduct and his inability to handle the administration of the provinces he was assigned to. It was during these years that her fame gained international momentum as her publications were reaching to China, India and Arabia and people of those lands were captivated by her writing. In the year 901, at age 45, Quzdari attained world-wide academic stardom.

But her life was complicated by the divorce of her daughter. This assigned her additional responsibility and she devoted more time to her grandchildren. Despite this she did publish two more publications that eventually cemented her status as of that of a national hero. Her book about different style of communication became an international bestseller and made her what would be a multi-millionaire by modern standards. She lived in a wealthy section of Balkh and her home was on a vast property that she had developed into a vast garden-like residence.

Quzdari died in 926 and her funeral was attended by thousands. Six days of mourning was declared throughout the Samanid empire and people came from various countries to pay their respects.

After her passing, the Samanids started a campaign of eradicating her works and succeeded in destroying about 95% of her writings within the Samanid empire. However, her novel about Roya and Baktash was too popular to be forgotten and, over time, Quzdari was merged with the heroine of her most famous work. She became the lead protagonist of her novel, Roya, and her biography became as the story of the tragic heroine of her novel. Various version of this story perpetuated in fragments for about twelve hundred years until 2019 when she was re-introduced.

Skills [ edit ]

Quzdari was skilled in sign language, gardening, Indus script in addition to poetry, writing and painting. She was fluent in the languages of Arabic, Farsi and Bactrian. She opened a translation business, and was at one point, rated the most competent translator of Farsi to Arabic (and vice versa) in the Samanid Empire. In addition, she had a good understanding of the Sogdian language and could carry a basic conversation in this language.

Physical Description [ edit ]

Quzdari is said to be physically very beautiful and was considered, during her lifetime, the most good-looking woman in not only Afghanistan but Islamic world as well. There is much description about her eyes, lips and eyelashes being an absolute work of art.

Quzdari was 5’8” tall.

Legacy [ edit ]

Nearly twelve centuries after her birth, Quzdari is still very much alive in Afghanistan. Her poems are recited in schools and she is referenced in academia, ceremonies, award shows and television programs. Her grave in Balkh is adorned annually with pilgrims who pay their respects to the most famous woman in the Persian tradition. Through the years, Quzdari has ranked only second to Zoroaster, but ahead of Balkhi, in terms of her fame and popularity in the Greater Iran region.

The Literary Works of Quzdari [ edit ]

The following books were published:

  • This and That (Publication date: concurrent)
    • An open-source book to which she posited her poetry throughout her life.
  • Flora (Publication date: 879 A.D.)
    • An encyclopedic reference about flowers.
  • Roya and Baktash (Publication date: 883 A.D.)
    • Her most famous work that detailed the story of ill-fated lovers Roya and her Turkic slave Baktash.
  • Fauna (publication date: 886 A.D.)
    • An encyclopedic reference about animals.
  • Child Rearing Practices (Publication date: 889 A.D.)
    • A guide to better parenting skills.
  • Humanity and Charity (Publication date: 894 A.D.)
    • An appeal for being charitable and its associated physical and spiritual benefits.
  • The Pursuit of Justice (Publication date: 896 A.D.)
    • A description of the revenge phenomenon in Greater Iran of her time.
  • Successful Business Strategies (Publication date: 896 A.D.)
    • A guide on starting and running a successful business.
  • Health and Nutrition (Publication date: 897 A.D.)
    • A guide on how to maintain one's physical health.
  • The Trail of Life and Afterlife (Publication date: 908 A.D.)
    • A spiritual book on how to maintain spiritual health.
  • Interpersonal Communication Techniques (Publication date: 910 A.D.)
    • A guide on different communication styles.

The following two books never made it to publication because she died:

  • The Story of my Life: A Memoire
    • An incomplete autobiography.
  • Wars and Revolutions
    • A book about the causes and effects of wars and revolutions.

The Artistic Works of Quzdari [ edit ]

  • The Beauty of Creation (Completion date: 875 A.D.)
    • A drawing of her own horse.
  • The Magic of Love (Completion date: 879 A.D.)
    • A drawing of two horses in nature.
  • The Contrast of Life (Completion date: 888 A.D.)
    • A depiction of rich vs. poor.

Awards & Accolades [ edit ]

  • 884 A.D.
    • Award: Best Writer of the Year
      • Publication: Roya and Baktash
  • 895 A.D.
    • Award: Honor of the Samanid Empire
      • Publication: Humanity and Charity
  • 897 A.D.
    • Award: Honor of the Samanid Empire
      • Publication: The Pursuit of Justice
  • 897 A.D.
    • Award: Honor of the Samanid Empire
      • Publication: Successful Business Strategies
  • 898 A.D.
    • Award: Honor of the Samanid Empire
      • Publication: Health and Nutrition

  • 909 A.D.
    • Award: Honor of the Samanid Empire
      • Publication: The Trail of Life and Afterlife
  • 911 A.D.
    • Award: Honor of the Samanid Empire
      • Publication: Interpersonal Communication Techniques

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

Literature [ edit ]

  • 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.

External links [ edit ]

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