بَنُو كِنَاَنَة
Mudari Arab tribe
Banner of the Kinana at Battle of Siffin (657)
Nisba Al-Kinānī
Location Areas of Tihama and Hejaz around Mecca (5th-present)

Palestine (7th-12th centuries)

Damietta and vicinity (12th-13th centuries)
  • Nadr
    • Quraysh (counted as separate tribe)
  • Malik
  • Milkan
  • Amir
  • Amr
  • Abd Manat
Religion Islam

The Kinana (Arabic: كِنَاَنَة‎, romanizedKināna) were an Arab tribe based around Mecca in the Tihama coastal area and the Hejaz mountains.[1] The Quraysh of Mecca, the tribe of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, was an offshoot of the Kinana. A number of modern-day tribes throughout the Arab world trace their lineage to the tribe.[2]


The traditional tribal territory of the Kinana extended from the part of the Tihama coastline near Mecca northeastward to the borders of the territory of their tribal relatives, the Banu Asad.[3]


Origins and branches

Approximate locations of some of the important tribes of the Arabian Peninsula at the dawn of Islam (circa 600 CE)

In the Arab genealogical tradition, the eponymous ancestor of the tribe was Kinana ibn Khuzayma ibn Mudrika ibn Ilyas.[4]Before Islam, the tribe claimed descent from worshippers of Meccan goddesses such as Al-lata, Uzza and Manata. After Islamisation, the tribe traced its ancestry to Ishmael, who married a woman of the Arab Jurhum tribe and settled in the vicinity of Mecca according to Islamic tradition.[5] The Kinana were polytheists, with their worship centering on the goddess al-Uzza. They originated from beyond Northern Arabia, in the modern regions of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Islamic tradition holds that the Kinana and the other descendants of Ishmael gradually dispersed throughout northern Arabia, losing their original faith and falling into idolatry.[5]

There were six principle branches of the tribe, namely the Nadr, Malik, Milkan, Amir, Amr and Abd Manat groups. The Nadr were the parent tribe of the Quraysh, the tribe of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which were counted independently of the Kinana. The Abd Manat, worshipper of goddess Manata included the particularly strong subgroup of Bakr ibn Abd Manat, whose main branches were the Mudlij, Du'il, Layth and Damra. The Ghifar subgroup belonged to the Damra or directly stemmed from Abd Manat. Another branch, the Harith ibn Abd Manat, formed the core of the Ahabish group, a collection of small, most likely unrelated, clans.[3]

The ancestor of the Quraysh, Fihr ibn Malik ibn Nadr, emerged as the leader of the Kinana at unknown date in their victory against a branch of the Himyarites of South Arabia. His descendant, Qusayy ibn Kilab, was backed by the Kinana in his capture of the sanctuary town of Mecca, home to the Kaaba. Qusayy's position among the tribesmen was further bolstered by the support of the Kinani chief Ya'mar ibn Amr of the Layth group; the Bakr generally opposed Qusayy. The Fijar War was precipitated by the killing of a chief of the Banu Kilab by the Kinani al-Barrad ibn Qays, who was a man of the Damra exiled by his tribe but given protection by the Du'il and maintaining a confederate relationship with the Qurayshite chief Harb ibn Umayya. The Kilab and their Hawazin tribal kin moved against the Quraysh in retaliation, and the Kinana, including the Bakr, came to the Quraysh's backing. The Bakr remained hostile toward the Quraysh, and tensions were elevated when a chief of the Bakr was killed in revenge for the Kinani killing of a Qurayshite youth; tribal customs did not give youths equal status as chiefs.[3]

Early Islamic period

Islamic historians did not note the actions of the Kinana as a united tribe in the time of Muhammad, though several of the tribe's offshoots, including the Quraysh, played pivotal roles in the formation and spread of Islam.[2] The Quraysh initially opposed Muhammad and his monotheistic message, but due to previous tensions with the Bakr, were hesitant to move against him and his followers at Badr in 624 without guarantees of safety by the Kinana. The Mudlij group promised not to attack the Quraysh from the rear and they thus moved against Muhammad, who defeated them in that engagement. Later, an attack by the Bakr on Muhammad's allies, the Khuza'a, prompted Muhammad to launch his conquest of Mecca in 630. In this he received the backing of the Ghifar, Layth and Damra.[6]

Following the conquest of Mecca, there is scant information about the Kinana. An important tribesman of the Du'il, Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali, was counted as an ally of Caliph Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad.[6] The Kinana were one of the main components of the Arab tribal garrison of Jund Filastin (military district of Palestine) following its conquest by the Muslims in the 630s; the other main components were the Judham, Lakhm, Khuza'a, Khath'am and Azd.[7] Caliph Umar (r. 634–644) appointed two men of the Kinana, Alqama ibn Mujazziz and Alqama ibn Hakim as dual governors of Palestine, with the former based in Jerusalem and the latter based likely in Lydda, around 638/639;[8] the latter remained governor until being replaced by Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan by Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656). The singing girl of the Umayyad caliph Yazid II (r. 720–724), Habbaba, mentioned the Kinana's presence in Palestine in verse:

A troop of the Kinana around me
In Palestine, swiftly mounting their steeds.[9]

The Kinana were recorded to have maintained a presence, though weakened, around Mecca in 844/45.[6]

Middle Islamic period

The emirs and fief-holders of the Kinana in southern Palestine left for Fatimid Egypt following the capture of the port town of Ascalon by the Crusaders in 1153. The Fatimid vizier Talai ibn Ruzzik resettled the tribesmen in Damietta and its environs where they became known as the Kinaniyya. Under the Ayyubids, the Kinaniyya were fiscally counted as second-tier troops, paid half of the rate of Kurdish, Turkish and Turkmen soldiers, but significantly more than the Arab auxiliaries.[10] The Kinani tribesmen fought with Qadi al-Fadil, a commander of the Ayyubid sultan Saladin, against the Crusaders at the Battle of Montgisard near Ramla, where Saladin's forces were routed.[11] They were likely utilized due to their familiarity with the area around Ramla in southern Palestine.[11]

In June 1249 the naval forces of Louis IX, about 700 ships' strong, landed in Damietta as part of the Seventh Crusade. The city's Kinani garrison, known by then for their bravery, fled at the sight of the Crusaders' arrival along with the Egyptian garrison led by Fakhr al-Din.[12] The Ayyubid sultan as-Salih Ayyub consequently executed the commanders of the Kinani deserters.[13][14]


  1. ^ Watt, W. Montgomery. "Kinana". Brill. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b M. Th. Houtsma, ed. (1993). "Kinana". E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Volume 4. pp. 1017–1018. ISBN 9789004097902.
  3. ^ a b c Watt, p. 116.
  4. ^ Ibn Ishaq (1955). The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Isḥāq’s sīrat. Translated by Alfred Guillaume. London. pp. 3, 38–41, 52–53. ISBN 0195778286.
  5. ^ a b Peters, Francis E. Muhammad and the Origins of Islam. pp. 5–15.
  6. ^ a b c Watt 1986, p. 116.
  7. ^ Crone 1980, p. 225, note 210.
  8. ^ Gil 1997, p. 116.
  9. ^ Jayyusi 2010, pp. 98–99.
  10. ^ Gibb, p. 76.
  11. ^ a b Gibb, p. 86, note 25.
  12. ^ Lane-Pool 2013, p. 238.
  13. ^ Runciman 1951, p. 221.
  14. ^ Lane-Poole 2013, pp. 232–233.