Nazhūn bint al-Qulā’iya al-Gharnātiya
The Insult Poet
c. 1100, Granada
Back in the olden days, there were no Comedy Central Roasts. (This is just one reason why the past was so magical.) But people back then loved to make fun of each other just as much as we do now.
The only difference is, they did it with POETRY.
Nazhūn bint al-Qulā’iya al-Gharnātiya was likely a slave poet in the medieval Arabic kingdom of Andalusia (modern-day Spain). She was an expert in the art form of invective poetry, which is an old-fashioned form of insult comedy. Invective poets traded sharp, biting verses with each other, like in a roast or rap battle.
Scholar Marla Segol calls Nazhūn “the most outrageous of the poets.”
Nazhūn made a huge splash when she traded insults with a feared and famous male invective poet, al-Makhzumi. This is my modern-day translation:
Al-Makhzumi: You’re a whore.
Nazhūn: Yeah, an old whore like your mother.
Al-Makhzumi: You’re a dirty whore and I can smell you from a mile away. God should show you “the rod.” That’ll teach you.
Nazhūn: That doesn’t make any sense because I WANT that rod! Gimme it!
Al-Makhzumi: You’re halfway decent looking, but under your robes is a sloppy wet pussy.
Nazhūn: You’re from an uncivilized land that smells like shit and you were born with one eye. Look, I’m a woman and I’m beating you at your own game!
They went back and forth until someone broke up the fight, but this altercation established Nazhūn’s “courageous” and comedic reputation.
Some of her invective verses and love poems survive to this day! Read them at the links below and celebrate this witty woman of history!