Imaam Quṣayy "Zayd" bin Imaam Kilaab

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Imaam Quṣayy "Zayd" bin Imaam Kilaab, Custodian of Ka'aba

Also Known As: "قصي بن كلاب بن مرة، خادم الكعبة", "The Unifier", "Quṣayy ibn Kilab ibn Murrah ibn Ka'b ibn /Lu'ayy/", "Zaid"
Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Death: Died in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Cause of death: Old Age
Place of Burial: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Immediate Family:

Son of Imaam Kilaab bin Imaam Murrah and Fatima binte Sa'd bin Shibl
Husband of Hubba bint Hulail and Ḥubbaiy "Chavah" binte Hulail al-Ḵh̲uzāʿa
Father of ʻAbdul-ʻUzzá bin Imaam Quṣayy; Abd bin Qusai; Abd-al-Dar bin Qusai; Abd Manaf bin Qusai; Takhmur bint Qusai and 7 others
Brother of Zuhrah bin Imaam Kilaab and Zuhra bin Kilab
Half brother of Darraj (Rizaaj) bin Rabi'ah bin Haram al-as-Sham

Occupation: Governor of Mecca, Rei de Mecca
Managed by: David John Bilodeau
Last Updated:

About Imaam Quṣayy "Zayd" bin Imaam Kilaab

Quṣayy, an ancestor of Muḥammad in the fifth generation and restorer of the pre-Islamic cult of the Kaʿba in Mecca.

His genealogy is unanimously given in all sources as Qusayy b. Kilāb b. Murra b. Kaʿb b. Luʾayy b. Fihr or Qurays̲h̲ b. G̲h̲ālib (Ibn al-Kalbī-Caskel, Ǧamhara, Tab. 4), and his life and exploits are recorded by our sources in three recensions which only differ from each other in trifling details; these go back to Muḥammad al-Kalbī (d. 146/763-4), Ibn Iṣhāḳ (d. 150/767) and ʿAbd al-Malik b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Ḏj̲urayd̲j̲ al-Makkī (d. 150/767). Ḳuṣayy is represented, like the usual legendary type of hero who founds a city, as having passed his childhood and youth far from his native land and in obscurity: a younger son of Kilāb b. Murra, a descendant of the Ḳurays̲h̲ whose supremacy in Mecca had been replaced by that of the Banū K̲h̲uzāʿa, he loses his father soon after his birth and is taken by his mother Fāṭima bint Saʿd b. Sayāl who had married again, her second husband being a member of the tribe of Banū ʿUd̲h̲ra, to that new husband’s tribe in the north of the Arabian Peninsula (in the neighbourhood of Sarg̲h̲, according to Ibn al-Kalbī [in Ibn Saʿd, i/1, 36, 26] a place on the Syrian frontier of the Ḥid̲j̲āz, near Tabūk [Yāḳūt, iii, 77], or right into Syrian territory near Yarmūk [al-Bakrī, 773]); here his original name of Zayd was changed to Quṣayy from the root q-ṣ-y, “to go far away”.

Having learned his true origin from his mother, he returned to Mecca where as a result of his marriage with Ḥubbā, the daughter of the K̲h̲uzāʿī chief Ḥulail b. Ḥubs̲h̲iyya, who controlled all the arrangements for the worship of the Kaʿba and the pilgrimage, he soon acquired an important position in the city. On the death of his father-in-law, Quṣayy managed to succeed him in his offices, either after a long struggle with the K̲h̲uzāʿa, or as a less reliable tradition has it by means of a tricky bargain which he made with (Abū) G̲h̲ubs̲h̲ān, with the son or only some more distant ¶ relative of Ḥulayl (cf. Ibn Durayd, al-Is̲h̲tiḳāḳ, 277, 7 with 282, 2). The detailed narrative of the events which brought Quṣayy to fame is given in the article k̲h̲uzāʿa .

Becoming master of Mecca and guardian of the Kaʿba, Quṣayy rebuilt the latter and organised its worship; he united the clans of the Ḳurays̲h̲, who were previously scattered, into a solid body which assured them the mastery of the town for the future; indeed it is even said that it was on this account that the name Qurays̲h̲ (from taḳarras̲h̲a, “to combine”) replaced the old name Banu ’l-Naḍr; Quṣayy is said to have been called al-Mud̲j̲ammiʿ “the re-uniter”. On his death, the sacred offices that had become his perquisites, were inherited by his four sons ʿAbd al-Dār, ʿAbd Manāf, ʿAbd al-ʿUzzā and ʿAbd Ḳuṣayy, the second of whom through his son Hās̲h̲im was the direct ancestor of the Prophet. The house which Quṣayy had built himself quite close to the Kaʿba Was henceforth the centre of the civil and religious functions of the Qurays̲h̲ under the name Dār al-Nadwa. To Quṣayy is also attributed the discovery and digging of the well of al-ʿAd̲j̲ūl (Ḳuṭb al-Dīn = Chron. Stadt Mekka, ed. Wüstenfeld, iii, 107, below; Balād̲h̲urī, Futūḥ, 48; Yāḳūt, iii, 19-20; al-Bakrī, 646, cf. 766).

From what has been said above, it is evident that the Qurays̲h̲ regarded Quṣayy as their true founder and the founder of the Kaʿba. The antiquity of this tradition is attested by a verse of al-Aʿs̲h̲ā (al-Bakrī, 489) and by several of Ḥassan b. T̲h̲ābit. Later historiography has tried to harmonise this old native tradition with the genealogical system which later became established and according to which Qurays̲h̲ = Fihr b. Mālik b. al-Naḍr (Wüstenfeld, Geneal. Tabellen, N.) as well as with the tradition quite different in origin and character of the Abrahamic cult of the Kaʿba and its vicissitudes under the D̲j̲urhum and the K̲h̲uzāʿa. Quṣayy is therefore to Mecca “what Theseus was for Athens and Romulus for Rome” (Caetani).

In the present state of our knowledge, it is impossible to say whether he should be regarded as a historical personage transformed into a hero or the mythological transfiguration of a hero. His name is found, although by no means commonly, in the Arab onomasticon: a Nahīk b. Quṣayy al-Salūlī, a contemporary of Muḥammad, is mentioned by Ibn al-At̲h̲īr, Usd, vi, 14-15; Ibn Ḥad̲j̲ar, al-Iṣāba, ed. Cairo vi, 257; the D̲j̲amhara of Ibn al-Kalbī (Caskel, Tab. 114) mentions a Quṣayy b. ʿAwf and (Tab. 125) a Ḳuṣayy b. Mālik. The fact that this name is to bd recognised in the of the Nabataean inscriptions and probably also in the Κουσας of a parchment from Dura on the Euphrates (cf. Cumont, Les fouilles de Doura-Europos, Paris 1926, 320) does not justify us in concluding that it is of northern origin, since as we have seen, it is found among different tribes. The tradition which makes Ḳuṣayy pass his childhood in Syria is in favour of the hypothesis which makes the worship of the Kaʿba introduced, or at least renewed, as a result of influences from the north; perhaps in some statements of tradition (e.g. al-Kalbī, quoted by Ibn Saʿd i/1, 39, I-II) we have an echo of an actual fact, namely that on the old cult of Hubal [q.v.], “the idol of the K̲h̲uzāʿa” there was super-imposed that of al-ʿUzzā and Manāf-Manāt, for which we have definite evidence in Northern Arabia in particular.

In any case, the figure of Ḳuṣayy soon became legendary; his story, as we have seen, has the characteristic features of the legends of eponymous heroes; his alleged sons are only symbols of the part played ¶ by Ḳuṣayy in the religion of Mecca. If it is not quite true that he was the object of regular divine worship (the name ʿAbd al-Ḳuṣayy borne by one of his sons does not necessarily imply the divine character of the father), he was undoubtedly venerated according to the ancestor worship, which certainly existed in pre-Islamic Arabia, although we know very little about it. The eponymous hero of the people of al-Ṭāʾif, T̲h̲aḳīf, is analogous in character to Ḳuṣayy. The latter’s memory remained particularly associated with the Dār al-Nadwa [q.v.].

Whatever the origins may be, it is certain that at the beginning of the 6th century A.D. the control of the Kaʿba and of the ḥad̲j̲d̲j̲ was in the hands of a clan claiming descent from Ḳuṣayy and that the Ḳurays̲h̲ were agreed that he was the founder of their tribal unity. It is to be noted on the other hand that even if this clan included among its members some of the recognised chiefs of the Ḳurays̲h̲, among others the Banū Umayya, it was far from having complete political and financial control in its hands; the Banū Mak̲h̲zūm, for example, one of the most powerful families in Mecca, were not descended from Ḳuṣayy. It seems probable then that the Meccan “republic” was constituted on the initiative and under the direction of the Banū Ḳuṣayy, but that the latter were forced to admit into their social organism other clans having the same rights and privileges as themselves, although the prestige of noble blood and supremacy in religious matters always remained the exclusive prerogative of the Banū Ḳuṣayy.

(G. Levi Della Vida)


Ibn His̲h̲ām, Sīra, ed. Wüstenfeld, 75-84

Ibn Saʿd, Ṭabaḳāt i/1, 36-42

Ṭabarī, i, 1092-1110

Azraḳī, Chron. der Stadt Mekka, ed. Wüstenfeld, i, 60-6, 464-5

Yaʿḳūbī, Historiae, i, 273-8

Maḳdisī, al-Badʾ wa ’l-taʾrīk̲h̲ iv, 126-7, tr. 118-19

Ibn Ḳutayba, Maʿārif, ed. Wüstenfeld, 34

Ibn Durayd, al-Is̲h̲tiḳāḳ, 13, 97

Yāḳūt, i, 235, ii, 524-5, iv, 623-5

Bakrī, Muʿd̲j̲am, ed. Wüstenfeld, 58

Caussin de Perceval, Essai zur l’histoire des Arabes, i, 231-51

Caetani, Annali, i, 73-5, 99-106

M. Hartmann, in ZA, xxxvii (1912), 43-9

Lammens, La Mecque à la veille de l’Hégire, in MFOB, ix (1924), 52-3, 268-70

idem, Les sanctuaires préislamites dans l’Arabie occidentale, in MFOB, xi (1926), 27-33, 41

T. Fahd, Le panthéon de l’Arabie centrale, Paris 1968, index.

Citation Levi Della Vida, G.. " Ḳuṣayy." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 10 January 2013 <>

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Imaam Quṣayy "Zayd" bin Imaam Kilaab's Timeline

Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Age 33
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Age 83
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Age 83
Mecca, Saudi Arabia