The story of ‘Ubayyan Sharrak, the horse of the Shaykh of Sba’ah (by Mustafa al-Jabri, July 2010)

One day Dham al-Hadi al-Jarba the Shaykh of the Shammar tribe went hunting with one of the men from his tribe, a Bedouin known as Wati al-Ghishm (as an aside: Wati means lowly and vile, and it was a Bedouin habit to give their children rough or negatively connotated first names to draw the evil eye away from them ; they would keep positively connotated first names to their slaves, for example Mas’ud or Marzuq). Wati was riding a pretty mare of the Kuhaylan strain; Dham liked the mare so much that he asked for her; when Wati politely turned his request down, Dham was so irritated that he resolved to acquire the mare at any cost, even if he had to resort to force.

When Wati felt that Dham was up to something, he rode his Kuhaylah mare, and went off to the Sba’ah tribe, seeking protection with them ; but Dham wanted to show Wati that he could reach him and the mare wherever they went, so he sent two men to the Sba’ah encampments to steal the mare. Wati woke up one morning and saw that the mare was missing, so he went to the Shaykh of the Sba’ah and told him : « I left my tribe and my people and came all the way to you so you protect the mare, and look what happened »; the Shaykh of the Sba’ah told him : «Hope for the best ; lets perform the morning prayer first, and then we’ll examine the situation» ; upon hearing these words, Wati realized that the mare was lost and gave up on ever getting her back.

When the morning prayer was over, the five sons of the Sba’ah Shaykh came to check on their father; the latter stood before his chidlren and looked at each one for a long time, then he asked the eldest son to follow him. The Shaykh of the Sba’ah owned four mares and a stallion, all of them of the ‘Ubayyan Sharrak strain ; he went to his horses, sat in front of them, and started mumbling as he counted the beads in his hand ; then he asked his eldest son to jump on the stallion’s back, follow the thieves, and come back with the Kuhaylah mare.

And so it was. By the time of the evening prayer, the son was back with the Kuhaylah. Wati could not hide his amazement ; after thanking the Shaykh, he asked him for the reason why he stared at his children for such a long time before selecting the eldest for the mission of retrieving the mare. The Shaykh’s answer was : « all my sons are strong, but the maternal uncles of the eldest are from my kin »; by this the Shaykh meant that he was aware of his eldest son’s origins from his mother’s side, and hence he was certain of his performance. Wati then asked him about his mumbling as he was playing with the string of beads, and the Shaykh replied : « I was counting the paternal ancestors of the horses, and I found out that the fifth paternal ancestor of the stallion (that is, the sire of the stallion’s maternal great-great-great-granddam) was better than those of the mares, and that’s why I selected him».

When Dham learned the details of what had happened, he came to Wati to seek peace with him and asked him to return to the tribe, telling him he had no interest in the Kuhaylah mare anymore. Dham added : « Kuhaylat al-Wati may be strong, but the ‘Ubayyan Sharrak is much stronger, therefore the Kuhaylah does not deserve to be taken by force».

2 Responses to “The story of ‘Ubayyan Sharrak, the horse of the Shaykh of Sba’ah (by Mustafa al-Jabri, July 2010)”


    I took the liberty in presenting you some parts of this important document written in 1868 by Muhamad Ali Al Jabri .
    Muhamad Ali Al Jabri was one of the most honored people known as Sherif, i.e. a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhamad.
    The Al Jabri’s still are one of the most ancient and respected Aleppo’s families. Mustafa , a friend of Edouard’s and myself,is one of Syria’s most famous Arab horse breeders.

    By Mustafa Al Jabri, Jamil Rabiaa, Debra & Jerald Dirks.1993

    Historically, Western writers have made many attempts to understand the origin and evolution of the Arabian horse within the Middle East. Typically, these attempts have failed to give a concise and consistent history regarding origin, evolution, and Rasans (i.e. strains).
    The present article hopes to surmount the limitations noted above in the following ways

    1)The bulk of this article consists of a translation of a translation of an Arabic document authored around 1868 in Aleppo Syria by a direct lineal ancestor of the senior author, Mustafa Al Jabri.This document ,has historically been referenced in several seminal Western works on the Arabian horse.

    2)The Al Jabri manuscript makes extensive use of “Hadith” many of which referenced to Abdullah Ibn Abbas, who was a young boy during the lifetime of the Prophet and was one of his few companions who was literate, and actually recorded “Hadith” in written form during the very lifetime of the Prophet. In other words many of the “Hadith” upon which the Al Jabri manuscript has been made is based, have a known and proven provenance in written form for some 1350 years.

    One of the beauties of the manuscript is that it so neatly integrates along a simple longitudinal time line a variety of stories which had been previously, if incompletely, known in the West .for example, the Western student of the genesis of the Arabian horse no longer needs to consider the story of the original Kuhailan Ajuz as somehow incompatible with the story of the Prophet’s mares. Both stories are correct but cover different point of time in the evolution of the Arabian horse.

    paragraph 5 of the manuscript:

    — Now when it comes to their (i.e. the horses’) types, there is the Arab and the Barazeen. The first is the horse of the Arab people and the second is the foreigner’s horse. And from them there are two types of offspring’s .That of the Arabian father and the foreign mother is called Hajeen (i.e. high breed).That from an Arabian mother and a foreign father is called Muqraf (i.e. with disgust).Now most of the Turcoman horses are from these two types (i.e. Hajeen and Mukraf).Until they got from them horses that will supersede the Arabian in looks, and sometimes power. But the qualities of the Arabian do not exist in those horses.
    Annotations from the authors:
    This paragraph briefly departs from the history of the Arabian horse, in order to briefly give the origins of the Turcoman horse. In short the Turcoman horse is classified as a part-bred Arabian.

    Next the Prophet seven horses and Al Khamsa


    –Paragraph 11 of Al Jabri Manuscript

    The prophet had seven horses, as was indicated. One of them was called Alsakab, and that is the first horse that the Prophet owned in Medina. He bought it from a man from Fezarh. And Almortajaz, that is a horse that the Prophet bought from an Arab, and he has testified to its authenticity by Khuzeimah ibn Thabet.Walzaz was one of the horses he had as a gift from Mukawkas* (i.e. one of the leaders of one of the countries at the time of the Prophet).He was given a horse called Altharab by Farwah Al Khuzaee.And another horse was called Alaheef. He was given this horse as a gift from Rabieah Bin Aby Al Braa. And one horse was called Sabha, a horse that the Prophet bought from an Arab from the tribe of Jaheena. The horse called Alward was given as gift by Tameem alDaree to the Prophet.
    * Muqawqas: was the Christian Patriarch of Egypt at that time. Not mentioning that the Prophet had received an Arab horse from a Christian denotes a kind of sectaries by Al Jabri ,Rabiaa and the Dirks, all of them Muslims.
    One must not forget that during several centuries Christians were forbidden to ride horses in the Muslim world.(Joe)

    –Paragraph 12 of the Al Jabri Manuscript.

    So these are the seven horses, and these seven horses are said to be among the horses that the Prophet had. And we will mention some of the positions these horses had. From these seven horses, five were looked upon most highly and were elected to be the best among them. They were called the Kuhailat Al Khamsa(i.e. the five Kuhailans).And they were blessed ,and they became a separate reason for breeding an increase in the Arabian horses. And they called these (i.e. later increase in) horses by many names, namely referring to their ownership. And we will mention what comes to mind of those horses. The five Kuhailans, from them is Al Biada (i.e. the white),and also Biada Hamed, and all the Ma’anagis ,and the al Saad, and Al Daajaniat, and Al Jaiatniaat’, and Al Bater , and Al Hrzat, and Al Qialimiaat, and Al Nabaas, and Al Khalawiat, and Al Batliaat, and Al Friajat, and Al Wadnat, and Al Mriaaiaat ,and Al Samhat, and Al Nawfliat ,and Al Mkhldiat, and Al Kubiashat and Al Baariat, and Al Jalfat. Many of the five Kuhailans, which the Prophet had when they started breeding, they bred the many other types which were named after the owners of those horses when they were breeding them. What became famous and apparent from these five, one horses that came to be named after its owner? And from that horse, many horses were referenced to that particular horse, that was named after its owner .And its name became a symbol to the horses and that is the Kuhailan Ajuz

    –Annotations:(by the authors)

    The eleventh paragraph lists the names and provenance of the seven horses of the Prophet, with the names of the various prior owners of these horses being known individuals within Islamic history.

    Note: Western sources have typically referenced only five horses, i.e. the Kuhailat al Khamsa, and have mistakenly used the al Khamsa reference to refer to five strains or Rasans. As the twelfth paragraph makes clear, numerous Rasans, many more than five, trace to the Kuhailat al Khamsa .
    In short, Al Khamsa is a term which is properly applied only to the five favored horses of the Prophet, and should not be applied to strains at all.
    Finally, the twelfth paragraph closes with an abridged list of Rasans which can be traced to the original Kuhailat al Khamsa, many of which are now extinct.

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