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xxvi Notes to the Introduction 1 See Lyons, “The Two Companions Convention”; Abu-Haidar, “Qifā nabki: The Dual Form of Address in Arabic Poetry in a New Light.” 2 The Arabs call the standard form al-lughah al-ʿarabiyyah al-fuṣḥā (“the pure Arabic language ”), or fuṣḥā for short; the vernacular forms are called ʿāmmiyyah (“common,” from al-ʿāmmah, “the common people”). There is some controversy whether or not the standard language differed from everyday speech from the outset; in the course of the centuries the two diverged considerably. For an introduction to Arabic, its structure and history , see Versteegh, The Arabic Language; useful, too, is Holes, Modern Arabic: Structure, Functions, and Variations, Ch. 1, “A Brief History of Arabic,” pp. 9–36. 3 In spite of its negative sense, “(the time of) Ignorance,” or “Brutishness,” the word alJ āhiliyyah also has positive connotations for the Arabs: a time that formed the classical Arabic language and its many desert-derived idioms, a period of unsurpassed heroic poetry and virtues deemed essential to the Arab identity, such as hospitality and natural eloquence. The Islamic era is traditionally said to begin with the emigration or hijra of the Prophet Muḥammad from Mecca to Medina in 622. 4 The term naẓm (“verse, versification,” literally “arrangement, stringing”) is often used for poetry when it is distinguished from nathr (“prose,” literally “scattering”). Stringing and scattering pearls are images found countless times in literary texts. 5 See below, p. 93 6 For more than a century English readers have had to make do with Richard Burton’s idiosyncratic translation and since 1990 the much better but incomplete one by Husain Haddawy; readers now have the reliable and complete version by Malcolm C. Lyons, The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights. 7 To mark its special status in Islam and in Arabic literature alike I have used angle brackets (« ») for Qur’anic quotations. I have mostly but not exclusively used the translation by A.J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, as acknowledged in relevant notes; where no translator is mentioned the translation is my own. The verse numbering is that of the Egyptian standard edition (but note that the numbering in Arberry’s translation often differs from this). xxvii Introduction 8 It is ironic that the dogma according to which Muslims (including, one must assume, the Prophet Muḥammad himself) have traditionally believed that the Qur’an is God’s literal speech has denied Muḥammad a place among the world’s most gifted and original authors. 9 G.J. van Gelder, Een Arabische tuin: klassieke Arabische poëzie. 10 I have not made an English version of my translation, in Dutch rhymed couplets, of the long and extremely famous ode on the Prophet, al-Burdah by al-Būṣīrī (d. ca. 694/1296); for unrhymed English translations, see the one by Stefan Sperl, in Sperl and Shackle (eds), Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa, II:388–411 (reproduced in Irwin, Night and Horses and the Desert, 334–45), and by Suzanne Stetkevych, The Mantle Odes, 70–150. 11 An example among several is the slim anthology by G.B.H. Wightman and A.Y. al-Udhari , Birds Through a Ceiling of Alabaster: Three Abbasid Poets. Arab Poetry of the Abbasid Period, translated with an Introduction, in which poems by al-ʿAbbās ibn al-Aḥnaf, Ibn alMu ʿtazz, and Abū l-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī have been subjected to amputation, reinterpretation, and rewriting (while the complete lack of bibliographical references makes it difficult even for specialists to consult the originals). The result, it must be admitted, is often far from unpleasing; to paraphrase Richard Bentley (who commented on Alexander Pope’s version of Homer’s Iliad), they are pretty poems, but they must not call it “Arab poetry,” as the translators did. 12 I have used monorhyme for a poem by Qays ibn Dharīḥ of twelve lines. 13 Recent examples in English translations from the Arabic may be found in Paul M. Cobb’s translation of al-Iʿtibār, the memoirs of Usama ibn Munqidh (d. 584/1188), as The Book of Contemplation, and in Humphrey Davies’s translation of a seventeenth-century work, Yūsuf al-Shirbīnī’s Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abū Shādūf Expounded. 14 Cachia, The Arch Rhetorician, or The Schemer’s Skimmer. For a short survey, see “rhetorical figures” by W.P. Heinrichs in EAL, 656–62. 15 I have, however, often omitted...


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