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Salamun Alaikum (Peace be upon you

POETRY FROM A QURAN'S PERSPECTIVE AND A HISTORIC SURVEY

!opyright " #$$% &oseph A 'slam: Article last modified %th (arch #$)*

THE QURAN'S CRITICISM OF BARDS (POETS


Albeit containing rhyme+ the ,uran s!"o#$l% distances itself from any allegations of it being poetry and vindicates any charges against the Arabian prophet of being a poet. SHA'IR (pl& sh''a"a' ( a poe! SHI'R ( poe!"% CHAR)ES *+,-**. -...nay+ he has invented . forged it/ #a%/ he 0s a poe!...*12-*13 -...are we forsake our gods 4o" a poe! possesse5 60!h !he 70## 8 ma5 poe!9*.+-*1* -...he 0s a poe! for whom we await a misfortune of time-

QURANIC REBU:ES *+3-++; -and the poets 0 !he pe"<e"se 8 5e<0a!o"s 4ollo6 !hem*3=-*;, -And 0! 0s #o! the speech . word of a poet...*13-*3= -And >e ha<e #o! !a'$h! him poetry+ a#5 #o" 0s 0! ?e40!!0#$ 4o" h0m...1rom a ,uran2s perspective+ poets in particular seem to attract particular condemnation coupled with those who lie and on whom devils descend. *+3-++,(++3 -Shall ' inform you (of him upon whom the devils (Arabic: shaitan) descend3 They descend upon

every lying+ sinful one. The% pass o# 6ha! 0s hea"5 a#5 mos! o4 !hem a"e l0a"s. A#5 !he poe!s 0 the misguided+ astray+ perverse+ deviators (A"a?0@- $ha6a follow them. Do %o' #o! see !ha! !he% 6a#5e" a?o'! ?e60l5e"e5 0# e<e"% <alle%9 And that they sa% that 6h0@h !he% 5o #o! 5o3A general e4ception is noted in verse #:##5+ "Except those who believe and do righteous deeds and remember God much and defend themselves after they were wronged..." 6owever+ in the style that the ,uran presents this e4ception+ there is #o @e"!a0#!% that this e4ception particularly applies to poets+ some poets or is intended to be $e#e"al in nature given the conte4t. 6owever+ the e4ception arguably does seem general considering that an e4ception is also noted for those that defend themselves when they are wronged. The fact that poets have been coupled with those on whom demons descend cannot be dismissed and it seems to be tied with the fact that they are deemed to be fabricators. The ,uran also remains unequivocal+ that believers are e4pected to speak words which are straight to the point+ without seeming ambiguity or a cause for confusion. *11-*2* -7 you who believe8 1ear 9od and speak words s!"a0$h! !o !he po0#! 8 5e@0s0<e 8 s!"a0$h!4o"6a"5 8 app"op"0a!e 8 "0$h! (A"a?0@- Qa6la# Sa505a# **;-**= -...So let them fear 9od and let them speak words s!"a0$h! !o !he po0#! 8 5e@0s0<e 8 s!"a0$h!4o"6a"5 8 app"op"0a!e 8 "0$h! (A"a?0@- Qa6la# Sa505a# This stands in some contrast to the words oft spoken by poets who can be ambiguous and open to an array of interpretations. This is also hinted at by the following verse+ where the ,uran makes it clear that the prophet2s speech is neither poetry+ nor is it befitting for him to speak in poetry+ but rather his message is clear and unambiguous. This apparent contrast of clear speech with poetry cannot be dismissed and one has to assume that the ,uran infers poetry as anything but clear. *13-*3= -And >e ha<e #o! !a'$h! him poetry+ a#5 #o" 0s 0! ?e40!!0#$ 4o" h0m. This is no less than a message . reminder and a ,uran maA0#$ !h0#$s @lea".Such condemnation is also found in classical Arabic literature where the term for poetry or poets is usually twinned with fabrication or lies.

Source: :dward ;anes ;e4icon

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Source: :dward ;anes ;e4icon

B+C

Source: :dward ;anes ;e4icon

B1C

JAHADIYYA (PRE(ISDAMIC POETRY


There is much made of the e4istence of &ahaliyya Poetry (poetry preceding 'slam 0 period of ignorance as a possible contemporaneous source of understanding the language of the ,uran. 't would seem quite a fantastic assertion to on one hand+ acknowledge the ,uran2s condemnation of poets and poetry in general and yet imply the dependency of the ,uran to furnish deeper meanings . clarifications of its terms through Arabic poetry. This is especially when it is not unknown for poets to make use of 2poetic licence2 to depart from the conventional rules of language for the purposes of creating an effect. 6owever+ the purpose is not to deny outright that Arabic poetry can be useful in understanding how classical Arabs used their language+ but rather+ to understand the conte4t. There is in fact #o &ahaliyya Arabic poetry which has been known to survive from the ,uraish tribe of Prophet (uhammad (pbuh 0# 6"0!!e# 4o"m. <e simply have no e4tant sources in l0!e"a!'"e 4o"m& <hat is known is the attribution of poetry to early poets such as !he 6ell "e#o6#e5 Im"''al(Qa0s+ Tarafa+ =uhayr Abi Sulma+ Antarah ibn Shaddad al0Absi+ Amr ibn >ulthum+ ;abid+ Al06arith etc which have been 'alle$e5l%' o"all% #a""a!e5 a#5 passe5 o# !h"o'$h $e#e"a!0o#s. Some of these early poems were allegedly collected in the ?th century !: as in the 2(u2allaqat2 (hung poems by Ar0 @awiya. The fact that Ar0@awiya collected these odes is based on further claims by later grammarians such as 2Ahmad al0Aahhas (died %*%!: . (7ver B$$ years after the death of the Prophet . Therefore+ the actual period of the e4tant sources of the &ahaliyya poetry appro4imately correspond to a similar period to when grammarians were producing their works into a literary form+ at times citing poetry to make their claims. Coth sources were taking canon at appro4imately the same period+ many decades . centuries after the ,uran was revealed and it is no secret within scholarship that a! !0mes Jahal0%%a poe!"% 6as ?e0#$ 4o"$e5. As a glaring e4ample of such false attributions+ the following odes are attributed to the Arabian poet+ Im"'' al(Qa0s who allegedly lived in the ea"l% 3!h @e#!'"% (before the revelation of the Quran). 't is noteworthy that one finds verses in these odes which are also 4o'#5 in the ,uran.

'llustration 0 &oseph 'slam

Ima$e So'"@e B;C

't is 0#@o#@e0<a?le that the Divinely inspired ,uran+ would borrow from the words of ea"l0e" poe!s or that prophet (uhammad 6as $'0l!% o4 pla$0a"0sm 4"om ea"l% poe!s& @ather+ it is more likely as s'?seE'e#!l% a5m0!!e5 by <. St. !lair Tisdall+ that these odes were concocted later or borrowed from the ,uran rather than the ,uran borrowing from the odes of earlier poets. Therefore+ the attribution of such poetry to early poets such as 'mra2ul0,ays seems e4tremely dubious as does its authenticity. -There seems good reason to doubt whether 'mrau2l ,ais is the author of the lines in question. They may have been borrowed from the ,ur2an instead of having been inserted therein from an author who lived before (uhammad2s time. 7n the one hand it is difficult to suppose that at any time after the establishment of 'slam any one would have the daring to parody the ,ur2an by taking passages from it and applying them to the subEect to which these lines of poetry refer. 7n the other hand+ it is very customary even in comparatively modern times to quote verses of the ,ur2an and work them into later compositions of a philosophical or religious character+ to which class+ however+ these 7des do not belong. 't would be difficult to imagine (uhammad venturing to plagiariFe from such a well0 known author as 'mrau2l ,ais...- B.C 6owever+ these blatant fabrications have not stopped (uslims traditions from accepting the veracity such poetry. 'nstead+ they provide more support to these fabrications by mentioning them+ seemingly a part of an unrelenting desire to accept pre0'slamic poetry as being authentic. 'f so+ fabrications are being used to provide credence to other fabrications.

As St. !lair0Tisdall writes and admits: -' have even heard a story to the effect that one day when 1atimah+ (uhammad2s daughter+ was reciting the verse -The 6our has come near and the (oon has split asunder- (Surah ;'G.+ Al ,amar+ ) + a daughter of the poet was present and said to her+ -That is a verse from one of my father2s poems+ and your father has stolen it and pretended that he received it from 9od.- This tale is probably false+ for 'mrau2l ,ais died about the year H*$ of the !hristian era+ while (uhammad was not born till A.D. H5$+ -the year of the :lephant.- B3C The discerning reader will no doubt appreciate that there is a huge difference between a later e4tant body of work @la0m0#$ !o ?e 5e"0<e5 from an earlier source such as Pre0'slamic Arabic poetry and actually having that earlier source to analyFe. -6ere it suffices to remark that Arabia has not yielded so far any ancient inscriptions in verses+ that no old codices or papyri from the pre0'slamic period have come down to us+ and that the oldest book in Arabic literature+ in the usual sense of the term+ is the >oran2 Iet by the end of the eight century men were beginning to collect and edit+ of course in manuscript+ the 2works2 of individual poets believed to have lived before 'slam- B2C

-'t is a matter of debate whether or not the Arabic of >oraish was written down in the period preceding 'slam. 't is notable that no written evidence survives from that period+ although an oral corpus of poetry and prose was recollected and eventually written down during the first few centuries of 'slam. The ,ur2an+ it may safely be said+ is the earliest e4tant and complete te4t in the Arabic language.- BFC <hether any alleged pre0'slamic poetry has been faithfully transmitted orally is a matter of 4a0!h not e<05e#@e& Please see article (, below. This almost prevalent (uslim obsession to prove the authenticity and e4istence of pre0'slamic poetry seems to be tied with the question of the ,uran2s authenticity and its superior nature as a literary genre incapable of being imitated. Therefore+ any challenge against the e4istence or authenticity of pre0'slamic poetry seems to attract vehement challenges by (uslim apologists which is at times imbued with undertones of vitriol. As noted by a (uslim source: -'t must be added that the theories advanced by Taha 6usayn were by no means a novelty as far as :urope was concerned. 'n the same year that Taha 6usayn published his 1i2l0shicr al0&ahili ()%#H + it so happened that Professor David (argoliouth of the Jniversity of 74ford published in the Journal f !he "oyal #siatic $ociety a paper entitled -The 7rigins 7f Arabic Poetry-KLM+ in which he e4pressed identical views supported largely by identical reasons.- B=C -'n the language of the idiot+ no one submits to the fabulous conspiracy theories of (argoliouth and 6usayn+ save that they submit to the falsification of facts and the depravity of reasoning.- B,*C

-7ne can see the seductive appeal in fabulous conspiracy theories that can seemingly e4plain almost any phenomenon+ as has been demonstrated by Toby ;ester and his !hristian counterpart+ P. Aewton.- B,,C As intimated in the above quotations+ <estern scholarship has always raised doubts with regards Arabic poetry. As noted by a renowned <estern scholar who whilst remaining somewhat conservatively critical of Taha 6usayn2s efforts by suggesting he had gone 2too far2 did not dismiss his efforts outright. 6is criticism also admitted that there certainly e4isted a contingent within scholarship that were critical of pre0'slamic poetry. -'n )%#L another book was published which raised a considerable storm. This was a work on 2Pre0 'slamic Poetry2 (1i sh0shi2r al0Eahili by Taha 6usayn. Jsing <estern methods of literary criticism the author maintained that most pre0'slamic Arabic poetry was a later fabrication/ in this he showed himself e<e# mo"e s@ep!0@al !ha# mos! E'"opea# @"0!0@s o4 !h0s poe!"%+ and certainly 6e#! !oo 4a". Although the authenticity of pre0'slamic poetry cannot be said to be an essential part of the standard 'slamic world0view+ the religious institution attacked him+ probably because it felt that the implicit approval of <estern critical methods was dangerous. 'n the end+ the book had to be withdrawn+ but Taha 6usayn was supported by his colleagues in the :gyptian Jniversity (a <estern0type institution on the grounds that academic freedom was being threatened. 'n )%#% he became the first :gyptian Dean of the 1aculty of Arts+ then after many ups and downs was (inister of :ducation from )%H$ to )%H#. He #e<e" "e@a#!e5 h0s <0e6s a?o'! p"e(Islam0@ poe!"%+ but when the book was reissued in )%#5 under the title 2Pre0'slamic Arab ;iterature2 (changing shi%r to adab he removed the passages in which he had applied the term 2myths2 to ,u2ranic stories about Abraham and 'shmael- B,+C 6owever+ the fact that the ,uran #e<e" @la0ms !o ?e poe!"%+ nor in any way asso@0a!e5 60!h poe!"% often goes amiss. 'f as the (uslim thought seems to suggest that great poets were ubiquitous during the prophetic ministry+ then the reader of the ,uran is confronted with a slight parado4 as the ,uran clearly challenges the claim of the day that the ,uran was indeed poetry. A legitimate question arises+ would not the poetic giants that allegedly roamed during the prophetic ministry+ not have known that the ,uran was not poetry3 'f so+ then why were such claims made3

CDAIMS
*+,-**. -...nay+ he has invented . forged it/ nay+ he is a poet...*+3-++; -and the poets 0 the perverse . deviators follow them*12-*13 -...are we forsake our gods for a poet possessed with the Einn . mad poet3*.+-*1* -...he is a poet for whom we await a misfortune of timeThis lends some credence to the thought that the picture painted by later traditional sources of the presence of a myriad of great poets who would have been dumbfounded by the ,uran2s literary e4cellence is some6ha! eGa$$e"a!e5. 't is noteworthy that challenges made against the ,uran have been recorded such as the somewhat foreign language in which it is transmitted which is subsequently rebuked.

*,3&,*1 -And certainly <e know well that they say: 7nly a man teaches him. The speech . tongue of one at whom they refer to him is foreign+ while this is a clear Arabic language6owever+ #o @halle#$es against the ,uran2s poetic style are found. @ather+ e4plicit claims by the disbelievers of the ,uran being poetry and its alleged author+ (uhammad+ a poet have been rebuked in no uncertain terms. *3=-*;, -And it is not the speech . word of a poet...*13-*3= -And <e have not taught him poetry+ a#5 #o" 0s 0! ?e40!!0#$ 4o" h0m...-

FINAD THOU)HTS
As noted+ the ,uran s!"o#$l% distances itself from any allegations of it being poetry and vindicates any charges against the Arabian prophet of being a poet (#):H+ B5:BL+ H#:B$+ #L:##*+ L%:*)+ BL:L% . The ,uran also in the main+ condemns poets (#L:##)0##L and likens their speech to deliberate ambiguity (BL:L% and those that follow them are deemed as being 'ghawa' (misguided+ astray+ perverse+ deviators . 'n contrast+ believers are instructed to engage in clear+ straightforward speech (BB:5$/ *:% . (uch is made of the e4istence of pre0'slamic poetry+ but other than alleged oral narrations passed on from generation to generation+ there is absolutely no tangible . written evidence that any such poetry has survived from the prophetic ministry or before it. <hether any alleged pre0'slamic poetry has been faithfully transmitted orally over decades and centuries is a matter of 4a0!h not e<05e#@e& 't has also been argued that poetry was oft forged+ especially in the name of great poets of old.

Rela!e5 A"!0@les(, (+ 9rammatical :rrors in the ,uran 0 A Caseless Assertion 's Arabic a 6oly or Superior ;anguage3

REFERENCES
B,C DANE& E&>/ E56a"5 Da#es DeG0@o#/ >0ll0ams a#5 No"$a!e ,F31H D0?"a0"0e 5' D0?a# Be0"'!(De?a#o# ,=3F/ Vol'me ;/ Pa$e ,.3* 6ighlights marked in red on the le4icon e4cerpt are my own insertions. They have no bearing on the original te4t other than they emphasise relevance to the topic at hand. These are merely illustrations and have solely been utilised for educational and e4planatory purposes. B+C DANE& E&>/ E56a"5 Da#es DeG0@o#/ >0ll0ams a#5 No"$a!e ,F31H D0?"a0"0e 5' D0?a# Be0"'!(De?a#o# ,=3F/ Vol'me ;/ Pa$e ,.3+ B1C I?05& B;C Ima$e So'"@e o4 O5e- Ne6 >o"l5 E#@%@lope50a Bo#l0#eC h!!p-88666&#e66o"l5e#@%@lope50a&o"$8e#!"%8Im"''Ial( Qa%s BA@@esse5C =!h Ma"@h +*,; 6ighlights marked in red and ,uranic terms elucidated are my own insertions. These are merely illustrations and have solely been utilised for educational and e4planatory purposes.

B.C TISDADD& S!& CDAIR/ The O"0$0#al So'"@es o4 !he Q''"a#/ P'?l0she5 SPC:/ Do#5o# ,=*./ Appe#50G !o Chap!e" II/ Bo#l0#eC h!!ps-88a"@h0<e&o"$85e!a0ls8TheO"0$0#alSo'"@esO4TheQ'"a# BA@@esse5C =!h Ma"@h +*,; B3C I?05& B2C ARBERRY& A J/ The Se<e# O5es/ R&JR& Cla"A/ D!5/ E50#?'"$h/ F0"s! P'?l0she5 ,=.2/ P"olo$'e- The )ol5e# Poems/ Pa$e ,; BFC :ASSIS& H E/ A Co#@o"5a#@e o4 !he Q'"'a#/ U#0<e"s0!% o4 Cal04o"#0a P"ess- Be"Aele%(Dos A#$eles(Do#5o#/ GG<0 I#!"o5'@!0o# B=C ISDAMIC A>ARENESS/ Qas0m IE?al J M S M Sa04'llah/ O# P"e(Islam0@ Poe!"% J The Q'"'a#/ BO#l0#eC h!!p-88666&0slam0@(a6a"e#ess&o"$8Polem0@s8poe!"%&h!ml BA@@esse5C =!h Ma"@h +*,; B,*C I?05& B,,C I?05& B,+C >ATT& >&M/ Islam0@ F'#5ame#!al0sm a#5 Mo5e"#0!%/ II The Rel0$0o's I#s!0!'!0o# a#5 I!s De@l0#e/ Ro'!le5$e D0?"a"% E50!0o#s- Pol0!0@s o4 Islam/ Pa$es 1,(1+

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