World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL POETRY - 2/2 (145) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 5-7 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:

Chair: Mohamed Solieman (Lecturer of Greek and Roman History, Faculty of Arts, Department of History, Assiut University)

Paper presenter: Ali A. Hussein (Lecturer; Ph.D., dept. of Arabic Language and Literature. University of Haifa), “The Badi' in Jahili and Abbasid Poetry”
There is no doubt, either among classical scholars or modern researchers, that badi' poetry was developed mainly by Abbasid poets, and that this poetry was so called as it included a massive use of ''some'' figurative speeches in the badi' style. This presentation discusses the question: What, exactly, were the figurative speeches of the badi' style used in the Abbassid poetry that made it different from the poetry of the pre-Abbasid era (mainly the Jahili poetry)? This presentation attempts to shed some light on the most modern theories on this subject and also tries to answer the question by analyzing and comparing, the rhetoric of two pieces of writing: a pre-Islamic poem composed by Alqama l-Fahl and one composed by Bashshar b. Burd, an Abbasid poet considered one of the pioneers of the badi' school.

Paper presenter: Abeer A. al-Abbasi (Assisstant Professor, King AbdulAziz university, Faculity of Arts and Humanities, Department of Arabic Language & Literature), “The Zuhdiyyat (Poetry of Piety) of Abu al-'Atahiyya: Real or Fake”
Number of medieval and recent Researchers studying the life and work of the Abbasid poet Abu Ishaq Isma''il ibn al-Qasim al-'Anazi, well known by his nickname Abu al-'Atahiyya have been concerned with the reasons for and nature of the sudden change in his poetry marked by a shift to the exclusive production of zuhdiyyat (poetry of piety), whose main themes are the observation of everyday life and the criticism of the people's abandonment of spiritual values and their obsessive indulgence in this world's fleeting pleasures. Scholars have been concerned above all with the question of whether this poetic conversion was real or fake. Was al-'Atahiyya sincere in his renunciation of the things of this world and his mission to turn his readers'' attention to things of the spirit, or was he motivated by other concerns? Some researchers accept that al-'Atahiyya underwent certain life-changing experiences and thus claim that his pious verses were genuine, composed by a poet who had renounced worldly joys, seeking the everlasting reward of the Hereafter. Others argue that, on the contrary, al-'Atahiyya had left the path of orthodoxy and become a heretic, espousing a philosophy rooted in Zoroastrianism and that his zuhdiyyat covertly express this worldview. This paper seeks to investigate the accuracy of these competing claims and to reveal the motives for the abrupt change in al-'Atahiyya's poetry by exploring the poet's relationship with the ruling elite, who regarded him as their pre-eminent court poet, and by elucidating his poetic themes. The early Abbasid caliphs used the various means of communication available to them to spread what was effectively political propaganda justifying their claim to the succession, in an attempt to convince their subjects that allegiance to God entailed allegiance to them, as they represented the true authority of God on earth. They saw poetry as an appropriate and valuable vehicle for transmitting this propaganda, and so utilized it to help justify and consolidate the political constitution. The Abbasids in particular courted and supported poets, and poets understood the ruler’s purpose in bringing them within court circles. So to maintain a good relationship with the elite, and to avoid provoking the ruler’s anger, which could sometimes lead to execution, poets played their part in delivering this political message to the public. Al-'Atahiyya played this role to perfection for a time; however, seeing that the public were moved and influenced by his work, he began to use poetry in the form of political allegory to interpret, comment on and satirize significant events connected to Abbasid statecraft. The paper argues that the main motive for the sudden change in al-'Atahiyya's poetry was his desire to protest passionately against the Abbasids'' immoral and destructive behaviour, which he saw as seriously damaging the lives of their subjects. The paper intends to show that al-'Atahiyya became convinced that for the Abbasids poetry was no more than a weapon serving their political interests. Having dutifully put his talent at their service as a court poet, he adopted a personal agenda radically different in its politics from that of the ruling elite. The paper will focus on al-'Athiyya's central message, intended to influence both the ruling elite and their subjects, and on the reasons for his choice of zuhdiyyat as a vehicle. The main sources will be: first, his diwan; second, biographical materials, especially those concerning his relationship with the Abbasid court; and scholarly works concerned with l-'Ataiyya's works and life.

Paper presenter: Riikka Tuori (PhD Student, University Lecturer in Semitic studies, University of Helsinki), “The Poetic Genre of Zemirot in Karaite Literary Use”
The Poetic Genre of Zemirot in Karaite Literary UseIn this paper I will offer a literary analysis of the zemirot written by Karaite Jews, ranging from various geographical areas of Karaite literary activity in Egypt, Turkey and Poland-Lithuania (from the 11th until the 18th century). I will examine the Hebrew language, literary contents and the poetic form of the zemirot. The material analyzed contains various Karaite poems designated as zemirot by the editors of Karaite prayer books (Venice 1528-29, Chufut-Kale 1804, Vilnius 1890-92). The zemirot are Hebrew religious hymns recited in the synagogue or at homes, outside the sphere of the liturgy. The most popular zemirot are devoted to the Sabbath, but they are sung also during other ceremonial dinners and familial events. The appearance of the genre is relatively late; often the Hispano-Hebrew poets of al-Andalus are credited of writing the first zemirot for private events (see e.g. Ezra Fleischer [1975]). The genre became very popular in all Jewish communities from the 11th century onwards. While the main focus of the scholars of medieval Hebrew poetry has been on liturgical poetry, the study of this non-liturgical genre has been neglected and considered marginal or even lacking literary value. In particular with regard to their poetic form, the zemirot is a genre vague to define as they do not form an independent literary category but contain varied groups of poems with diverse prosodic characteristics. The Karaites comprise a Jewish movement that does not recognize, as opposed to rabbinic Judaism, the religious authority of the Oral Torah, i.e. the Mishna and Talmud. Therefore there are instantly recognizable departures between the Sabbath traditions of the two groups. In contrast to the Rabbanites, the Karaites do not allow conjugal relations during the Sabbath. The Karaite restrictions on the use of Sabbath candles and leaving one's home are more rigid. Are these distinctions between the two traditions, one normative and the other marginal, reflected in the lyrical expression of the zemirot? Many popular rabbinic zemirot were sung also in Karaite communities, albeit with slight modifications in controversial passages (cf. Abraham ibn Ezras Ki eshmera shabbat [see Rachel Kollender 1996]). Hence, the Karaite poets could not avoid being influenced by the corresponding rabbinic tradition. To what extent are there similarities between Rabbanite and Karaite zemirot?