World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Standing on Shoulders: The Use of Sources in Medieval Arabic Literature (102) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 11.30 am-1.30pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Institute of Ismaili Studies (UK)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Stephen Burge

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Standing on Shoulders: The Use of Sources in Medieval Arabic Literature
No text is wholly original, but usually develops earlier ideas and materials. This panel will explore the use of sources in different fields of Arabic and Islamic Studies. All of the papers in this panel discuss practical issues regarding the study of sources and the ways in which knowledge of source materials informs our understanding of literary works. How did medieval authors develop earlier sources and adapt them for their own use? How do literary texts reflect earlier ideas? What methodological problems are encountered when exploring the medieval use of sources? Through the analysis of various texts in the fields of history, religion, literature and exegesis, the aim of this panel is to explore how source-critical approaches can play a role in studies of medieval Arabic literature and thought.

Chair: Prof. Carole Hillenbrand, University of Edinburgh

Paper presenter: Saeko Yazaki, University of Edinburgh, Inter-religious Dialogue: A Comparative Analysis between Works on Ethics by al-Makki and Ibn Baquda
Arabic, as the lingua franca throughout the Islamic empire, encouraged continuous interaction beyond the borders of faith and culture, and the adoption of Arabic by Jewish communities was common. This inevitably suggests a great influence on medieval Jewish thought from Arabic culture and philosophy. In his Qut al-qulub Abu Talib al-Makki (d. 996) bases his ethical system on the concept of the heart as a metaphysical entity reflecting God. This is also found in the Judeo-Arabic text, al-Hidaya ila fara’id al-qulub by the Andalusian jurist, Ibn Baquda (d. after 1080), suggesting that he may have been influenced by al-Makki’s ideas. Although this has been noted by some commentators, there has been no comprehensive analysis of this relationship and this paper attempts to analyse these alleged literary parallels. Alongside this analysis, this paper explores the methodological difficulties in establishing connections between these two authors, due to the differences in their use of language and the commonalities in their beliefs.

Paper presenter:Jokha al-H’arth’, Sultan Qaboos University, I Melted with Passion: Love as Malady in ‘Udhri Poetry and Medical Texts
Rather than looking at the sources and influences on a particular literary work or form, this paper will explore the way in which early Arabic love poetry (‘udhri poetry) became a source for discussions of love-sickness in Islamic medical texts. This paper will focus principally on the image of the lover’s body, which is described as being malnourished, sick and constantly suffering from insomnia. In ‘udhri poetry the lover is sometimes driven mad by his ardent love. Ibn Sina, in his famous medical text al-Qanun, portrays excessive love as a sort of illness similar to melancholia and describes the characteristics of the illness in a manner that brings to mind many themes of the ‘udhri tradition. This paper will assess the extent to which medical discussions of love-sickness draw on ‘udhri poetry as a source and will explore how ‘udhri poetry, images and ideas are employed. More widely, it will highlight the use of a literary genre as a source for other fields of inquiry, such as philosophy, in medieval Arabic culture.

Paper presenter: Alex Mallett, Royal Holloway, University of London, Assessing the Historical Writings of al-Azimi
Writing the history of twelfth-century Syria is made difficult by a lack of contemporary Muslim historical sources focussed on the area. The only historical sources written in Syria during this period were those by Ibn al-Qalanisi (d. 1160) and al-Azimi (d. after 1161). As a result modern historians must consult texts from further afield, such as Ibn al-Azraq’s Ta’rikh Mayyafariqin (d. after 1176), or from later periods, such as Ibn al-Athir’s 13th century al-Kamil fi’l-ta’rikh (d. 1233). This paper will examine the accounts of the early twelfth-century in al-Azimi’s Ta’rikh Halab, also known as the Abridged Chronicle, providing a basis for the study of the historiography of twelfth-century Syria - an approach that has been lacking in past scholarship. This paper will highlight the main points from the Abridged Chronicle, and offer a frame of reference for those Syrian historians of the thirteenth-century, whose writings on the twelfth form the basis of most modern scholarship.

Paper presenter: Stephen Burge, Institute of Ismaili Studies, Al-Suyuti and His Sources
Al- Suyuti (d. 1505) is famed for his extensive output, especially in the field of Hadith Studies. In K.E. Nolin’s study of al-Suyuti’s use of sources in his Itqan f’ ‘ulum al-Qur’an, Nolin highlights al-Suyuti’s reliance and adaptation of al-Zarkashi’s Burhan fi ‘ulum al-Qur’an. Is this typical of al-Suyuti’s method of hadith compilation? What can be learnt from an analysis of his use of sources? This paper will present a wider analysis of al-Suyuti’s sources in a sample of his hadith collections, focusing on his tafsir works and his al-Durr al-manthur fi''l-tafsir bi''l-ma’thur in particular. The aim of this paper is to understand how al-Suyuti approaches the compilation of hadith, exploring whether al-Suyuti has ‘favoured’ sources, and how these vary from text to text. It is hoped that by analysing which sources al-Suyuti employs, it may also be possible to understand more fully how al-Suyuti worked and compiled his vast number of collections, as well as the way that scholarship was practised in the late Mamluk sultanate more widely.