Two examples of brave men sacrificing their sons

Two characters from history, from different places, but a similar deed that earned them an everlasting legacy: each sacrificed his son when asked to compromise his principles.

Al Samaw'al ibn Adiya السموأل بن عاديا

Shmuel was a Jew who lived in northern Arabia in the first half of the 6th century C.E. His mother was of royal descent, being from Ghassan. He had considerable wealth, enabling him to live in a private fort, Al-Ablaq الأبلق founded by his predecessor, Adiya. As with most of his contemporaries, he was also a poet.

His fame came from an incident where he was a friend of Amru' Al Qais أمرؤ القيس who was a warrior, a prince and poet. He was seeking to re-establish his ancestral power and inheritance and was fighting against Banu Asad. He asked Al Samaw'al for refuge, and was granted it, as was common in Arab custom.

Amru Al Qais left to seek help from Justinian, the Byzantine emperor, leaving his daughter HInd, and his armour entrusted to Al Samaw'al. Amru Al Qais died in his journey.

Al Munthir Ibn Ma' Al Sama, a rival of Amru Al Qais, send one Al Harith to Al Samaw'al ordering for the article left with him to be handed over. Al Samaw'al refused. Harith laid a siege on the fort. One day he captured Samaw'al's son.

Harith then gave Al Samaw'al a choice between giving up the articles of Amru Al Qais, or having his son killed. Samaw'al's answer was that there are brothers to the son that can replace him, but once his honor is lost, it cannot be replaced. Harith then struck off the boy's head in front of the father.

This caused a Arab proverb to carry his name into eternity: أوفى من السموأل (More faithful than Al Samaw'al)

Here is a sample of his poetry, the Lamiya (ending with L)

إذا المرءُ لم يَدنـس من اللؤم ِ عِرضُه فـكلُّ ِرداءٍ يـَرتَديهِ جميـلُ

وإن هو لم يحمل علي النفس ضيمها فليسَ إلي حُسـن الثناءِ سبيلٍُ

تُعَّيـِِـُرنا أنا قـليــلٌ عـديــدنا فقـلتُ لها إن الكـــرام قـليــلُ

وما قـلّ مَن كانت بقـاياه مِثلَنــاُ شبابٌ تسامي في العُلا وكهولُ

وما ضـّرنا أنا قليـلٌ وجـارنا عزيزٌ وجاُرُ الأكثرين ذليلُ

لنا جَبَـلٌ يَحتله مَن نجيـرُهُ منيعٌ يردُّ الطرفَ وهو كليلُ

رسا أصلهُ تحت الثري وسما بهِ إلي النجمِِِ فرعٌ لا يُنالُ طويلُ

وإنا لقومٌ ما نري القـتـل سُـبَّـةً إذا ما رأته عامرٌ وسلولُ

يقـرِّب حـُبُ المـوتِ آجـالنـا لنا وتكـرهُهُ آجالهم فتطـولُ

وما مات منَّا سـيَّدٌ حَـتْْفَ أنفِهِ ولا ُطـلَّ منا حيثُ كان قـتيلُ

تَسـيلُ علي حدِّ الظباتِ نفوسُــنا وليست علي غير الظبات تَسيلُ

صفونا فلم نـكدِّر وأخلصَ سَـَّرنا إناثٌ أطابت حَمـلَنا و فحـولُ

عَـلونا إلي خََيـرِ الظـهورِ وحـَطـناِ لوقتٍ إلي خير البطونَ نُزولُ

فنحن كمـاءِ المُزْنِ ما في نِصـابـنا كَهامٌ ولا فينا يُعَدُّ بخيلُ

ونُـنْكِرُ إن شِئنا علي الناسِ قـََولَهم ولا ينكرون القول حين نقولُ

إذا سَيـَّـدٌ منا خـلا قـــام سيِّــدٌ قــئولٌ لما قال الكِرامُ فَـَعــولُ

وما أخـمـدت نارٌ لنا دون طـارقٌ ولا ذمَنا في النازلين نزيلُ

وأيامنـا مشــهورة ٌ في عدُّونّـــا لها غـُــرَرٌ معلومةٌ وحُجولُ

وأســـيافنا في كـل يـوم كــريهةٍ بها من قـِراع الدارعين فلولُ

مـعـوَّدة ً ألا تســــل نِصَـــالها فـتُغـمد حتي ُيسـتباحَ قـَبـِيـلُ

ســلي إن جهـلتِ الناس عـنَّّا وعـنُهمُ وليس ســواءً عالمٌ وجـهولُ

Alonzo Perez de Guzman, El Bueno

A similar story is told of Alonzo Perez de Guzman ("The Good", 1256 - 1309 C.E.), the founder of the house of Medina Sedonia of Spanish nobility.

As common in medieval Europe, Alonzo's son was placed in the care of of the Infante Don Juan, the rebellious brother of Sancho IV.

During a siege of the city of Tarifa Alonzo was given an ultimatum: surrender the city or have his boy killed. Alonzo rebuffed the ultimatum and chose that his son be killed over surrendering the city entrusted to him. Legend has it that he gave a speech, and even threw his own knife to be used.

The siege is said to have failed, partially because of the disgust of the Moorish knights accompanying Don Juan for his cowardly act of killing a defenseless boy.

It is noted that in a recent TV documentary by the BBC, the current Duchess of Medina Sedonia, Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo, has asserted that Alonzo was a Muslim, probably of North African Moorish origin.

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