He belonged to the Bani Amir, a division of the tribe of the Hawazin. In his younger years he was an active warrior, and his verse is largely concerned with inter-tribal disputes. Later, he was sent by a sick uncle to get a remedy from Muhammad at Medina and on this occasion was much influenced by a part of the Koran. He accepted Islam soon after, but seems then to have ceased writing. In Umar's caliphate he is said to have settled in Kufa. Tradition ascribes to him a long life, but dates given are uncertain and contradictory. One of his poems is contained in the Mu'allaqat.
His muruwwa (virtue) is highlighted in the story that he vowed to feed people whenever the east wind began to blow, and to continue so doing until it stopped. Al-Walid 'Uqba, leader of the Kuffa, sent him one hundred camels to enable him to keep his vow.
In an elegy composed for Nu'mh Mundhii, Labid wrote:
- Every thing, but Allah, is vain
- And all happiness, unconditionally, will vanish
- When a man is on a night joumey, he thinks that he has accomplished some deed
- But man spends his life in hopes
- If you do not trust your self, approve it
- Perhaps the past would unclose it to you
- When you do not find a father other than 'Adnan and Ma'ad,
- The judge (God) will punish you
- On the day when every body will be informed of his deeds
- When the record of his life is opened before Allah'
أَلا كُلُّ شَيْءٍ مَا خَلا اللَّهَ بَاطِلٌ
The Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ said regarding the first verse of the above eulogy,
❝The most truthful line of poetry any poet ever uttered is the phrase of Labīd, 'Indeed, everything, except for Allāh, is of no value.'❞
[Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri, The Book of Manners, Ḥadīth]
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.