By Margaret Larkin
"Abu'l-Tayyib al-Mutanabbi (915-965) is usually considered as the best of the classical Arab poets, along with his paintings occupying a special place on the center of Arab tradition. Born the son of a water-carrier in Kufah, Iraq, al-Mutanabbi lived a tumultuous lif.
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Additional resources for Al-Mutanabbi : voice of the 'Abbasid poetic ideal
As he declares in a panegyric to ‘Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Tanukhi: People [are measured] by their kings And no Arabs whose kings are non-Arab will ever prosper. ”), the conventional amatory prelude is replaced by the poet’s complaint about the contemporary political situation and his own personal fate, followed by his trademark boasting: Though I blame my enviers still I do not deny that I am a punishment to them. , 149) This is a tack he was to develop and elaborate throughout his career, gradually replacing the communal voice of pre-Islamic poetry with a clear individual voice and personal presence, even in panegyric poetry.
His description of the pitch-black darkness of the lonely journey he endured to reach Sayf al-Dawlah is one example: When I made up my mind to head for a distant land I walked at night, I the secret and the night the one keeping it. , 382) The flavor of the pre-Islamic “outlaw” poets’ descriptions of solitary walking in the desert is clearly discernible here. , 382). He emphasizes the supportive role Sayf al-Dawlah has played for the ‘Abbasid caliph, but then, distinguishing between his given name and this title bestowed on him by the caliph, makes bold to intimate that Sayf al-Dawlah is, in truth, his superior.
Al-Mutanabbi had to be constantly on his toes, prepared to hold his own against grammarians, other poets, and scholars from diverse fields. Thinkers, and intellectuals of all types, were sponsored at Sayf al-Dawlah’s court: theologians, philosophers, philologists, astronomers, and poets. The latter two were to be perpetual thorns in al-Mutanabbi’s side during his nine years at the court of Aleppo. A self-fashioned champion of Islam, Sayf al-Dawlah had passion and bravery, alas, not always matched by tactical shrewdness, that had helped raise him to the status of hero in the minds of many.
Al-Mutanabbi : voice of the 'Abbasid poetic ideal by Margaret Larkin