History 2606E Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Asceticism, Sibawayh

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Published on 9 Feb 2014
Lecture 9 – Arabic Literature, Theology, Philosophy and Mysticism
Arabic Literature: General Characteristics
o1. A product of civilization, not of a single people
o2. The language was a unifying factor to all Muslims
o3. The literature was extremely rich both in linguistics and in its various
literary genres
Early Beginnings
oThe poetry of the Desert
oThe Qur’an as literature
oThe appearance of grammar
oHistory and geography
oThe libraries
Fundamentals of the Arabic Language: The ‘Desert Poetry
oWe refer to the early manifestations of Arabic literature using this term
because there was the origin of the Arabic literature before it became a
written language and while it was preserved orally, nonetheless attained a
high level of sophistication
oLater generations refer to it continuously with great reverence
oThe genre is referred to as the qasida
The content it secular
Genre before religion and Islam, deals with matters of everyday
life, love, etc.
oTwo main themes:
A praise for an individual or for a tribe, or a satire of another tribe
of individual
Moral qualities
Emotional: the poet describes the pastoral life of the desert
Speaks about love to a woman and untimely separation
from the beloved who is moving away with her tribe
oAt this early stage, poetry was composed and recited by poets of Arab
Bedouin tribes
oAccording to tradition was recited also in Mecca, where copies of poetry
of poetry in writing were hanging from the walls of the Kaba (doubtful)
oWhile describing a primitive society, the content is linguistically powerful
and reflects the rhythm of life of a nomadic society
oNomadic society held the poet in high esteem, respected his talent and
took pride in poetical creativity
Unified Arabs as a people, shared culture
Some trace of notion of nationhood
oPrepared an intellectual climate of openness to Muhammads message
The Qur’an as Literature
oRepresents the next phase in the development of Arabic literature
oProvides a new style, a rhymed prose, and gave birth to numerous
branches of literary genres
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oMuhammad did not use the style of poets but created a rhetorical prose
which was at once very powerful and complex
oProvided several idioms
oHard to translate into other languages
Literary Genres Linked to the Qur’an
Linguistic style and philology of the language began as a study of
the language of the Qur’an, and later developed into the Arabic
Study of the content of the Qur’an became the early layer of the
history of the Arabs and the world history
Study of the Prophet’s tradition, which developed into hadith, also
became an element of history but more became the foundation of
another genre, theology
Chronological Development
oExpansion in style and volume of Arabic literature occurred under the
early Abbasids, 8-10th centuries
oIntellectual world of Muslims expanded
Curiosity about human conduct, science, environment, led to the
birth of genres such as geography and travel, medicine, science,
physics and natural sciences
oFacilitating factors
Importance of the spread of paper as a cheap writing material
oTranslations from Greek
Undertaken in the 9-10th centuries was reserved to the sciences
Translated the most important science, medicine, into Arabic
Initiative of the caliphs, appreciated culture and knowledge
oNone of the literary works was translated
Unique Arabic Literary Genres
oEarly appearance of technical manuals
Appeared for every occupation
oFirst literary genre to appear was the genre known as adab
oLiterary manual it was linked to the rise of the secretarial work involved in
running the state’s administration in the Abbasid court, the administration
of tax collection, administration of the provinces, postal services, army
pay, etc.
oArabic formula used as models in the manuals became known as adab,
meaning literary culture
Arabic Grammar
oSecond literary branch to develop after the appearance of adab in the 8th
century was grammar
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