Born in the 7th century, she was born to a tribe of Berbers and lead them to resist the Islamic expansion of that century. Her name is Dihyā, Dahyā or Damiya and was called the Kahina as it was believed she could see the future. Kahina means soothsayer.
A later Islamic historian, Ibn Khaldūn say she comes from the tribe of Judaized Berbers, called the Jrāwa tribe. Although this has been argued over since.
At the time North Africa had been under the Byzantine Empire, which eventually gave way with the Islamic Conquests in the 680s. The Umayyad Caliphate eventually conquered Carthage in 698, leaving nothing but the Berbers to resist them. Damiya came from the Aures Mountains in eastern Algeria and Tunisia, known as Ifriqiya. The Umayyad General Hasān ibn an-Nu’mān al-Ghassānī, who had won the Battle of Carthage then went up against Damiya, near Meskiana. He was beaten so soundly that he retreated for five years. The Kahina then conquered Carthage herself.
The above statue is in Algeria, celebrating her reign. For five years, she held North West Africa. By this stage it is thought she was 127 years old and had three sons to three different fathers, such was her legend. Knowing that the Islamic conquerers will return, she started a “scorched earth” policy, which lost her the support of the city dwellers. Hasan returned and eventually defeated her. However, it is said that the night before the battle, the Kahina foresaw her own death. She then urged her sons to go to the Muslim conquerers & convert. Thus meaning her line would rule after she died.
The Kahina, Queen of the Berbers by Michael Klossner.
Review of Colonial Histories, Post-Colonial Memories by A. Hannoum on The Moor Next Door blog.
Studia islamica, Volume 16 edited by Robert Brunschvig. Google Books preview.
Queens in the Nile Valley on the Nubian Archive.org.
The Problem of the Judaized Berbers by H. Z. (J. W.) Hirschberg. Jstor article.
Reviewed work(s): Colonial Histories, Post-Colonial Memories: The Legend of the Kahina, a North African Heroine by Abdelmajid Hannoum by Lidwien Kapteijns. Jstor article.