Abu Al-Tayyeb al-Mutanabbi, A Great Arab Poet – Part One _1 أبو الطيب المتنبي – 1
Arab American Encyclopedia – Poetry (Soon will be published in a book form)
Abu al-Tayyib, Ahmad ibn al-Hussein al-Mutanabbi (915-965 A.D) was one of the most acclaimed of the classical Arab poets, he is the author of the tenth-century Diwan, a collection of poems featuring numerous skillfully crafted panegyrics or praiseful verses, written for the poet’s patrons to extol their generosity and celebrate their bravery in battle. His mastery of the genre helped to advance Arab poetry from its classic qasida form.
Al-Mutanabbi was born in Kufu (Iraq); his father, although of noble ancestry, was a water-bearer. Al-Mutanabbi was well-educated, studied for a time in Damascus, and from a young age offered himself as a panegyrist to various men of modest rank. He completed his education in the desert, practicing his craft with the Bedouin. His consummate skill at writing verse enabled him to pass himself off as divinely inspired; his popular name, al-Mutanabbi, means “he who passes himself off as a prophet.” With numerous Bedouins joining him, he led a failed uprising in al-Samāwa, Syria, for which he was imprisoned in 933. From 948 to 957, al-Mutanabbi served as poet in the court of the Arab prince Saif al-Daula of Aleppo but ultimately, after falling victim to court intrigue, fled to Egypt. There, he wrote numerous panegyrics for the ruler, Kāfūr. When his hoped-for reward of a government position was denied him. Later he wreaked revenge on Kāfūr by making him the object of biting satire.
It was in his youth that he won his nickname “Al Mutanabbi”, which means “the one who wants to become a Prophet”. Why he was named so is only partly clear. According to some interpretations, he likened himself to the Prophet Salih in some of his verses. Others claim it is his political activities that won the young poet the unusual name. He was the leader of a revolutionary movement and, claiming to be a Prophet, led a revolt in his home town in 932.
The revolt was suppressed and the young man was imprisoned. It is during this period that he began to write his first poems.
Al-Mutanabbi is considered as the Greatest Arabic Poet. The art of Arabic poetry is one of the disciplines, which characterize the Arab people. It has a unique nature among the broad field of world poetry. Al-Mutanabbi’s egomaniacal nature seems to have got him in trouble several times and might be why he was killed. This can be seen in his poetry, which is often bombastic.
His search for patrons led al-Mutanabbi to Iraq and Iran. Returning to Iraq in 965, he and his party were accosted by thieves. According to legend, al-Mutanabbi’s first impulse was to escape, but then he was reminded of some of his verses glorifying bravery in warfare, turned back to fight against his attackers, and was killed. He boasts his chivalric qualities of marrying scholarship with courage, fighting abilities:
Al-Khaylu wal-Laylu wal-Baydau’ T’arifuni *** was-Sayfu war-Rumhu wal-Qirtasu wal-Qalamu, in Arabic:
الخيل والليل والبيـداء تعرفني * والسيف والرمح والقرطاس والقلمُ
The desert knows me well, the night and the mounted men The battle and the sword, the paper and the pen . This famous verse killed the Poet. But his famous poem he boasts that his poetry is so powerful that even blind men can read it, and his words are so meaningful that even the deaf can hear them.
أنا الذي نظر الأعمى إلى أدبـي وأسمعت كلماتي من به صمم
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