- A famous classic in Arabic that has been studied across the world for centuries
- Hear and understand a first-hand account of the civil strife in pre-Islamic Arabia
- Develop a taste for high Arabic
- Learn the most commonly met with poetic meters
- See the rhetoric, grammar, and morphology at work
About the Course
This course shall give you an introduction to Jahili Poetry, including its exposition, practice, and most common poetic meters. The muallaqa of Zuhayr shall then be unpacked, word for word, over the course of 8 weeks.
The goal of this course is to see rhetoric, grammar, and morphology at work, as exposited in the highest Arabic poetry. The subject matter of the verses shall also give students an insight into the life and civil-strife of pre-Islamic Arabia—the larger context within which revelation descended.
The muallaqa of Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulma is a prized treasure of the Arabic language that has been preserved and valued by Islamic scholars and educators since the dawn of Islam.
Week 1: Introduction to Jahili Poetry, the muallaqat, and the author
Week 2: Exposition and practice with the most common poetic meters
Weeks 3–10: Unpacking the poem word-by-word
The course shall consist of weekly Live Sessions, pre-recorded audio lessons, handouts, exercises, home-work assignments, as well as a final examination. Ustadh Farid shall hold weekly office hours where students can consult with him one-on-one. Students are highly encouraged to post their questions in the Forum over the course of the week, which are answered during the Live Sessions.
Weekly Time Commitment
The course shall require an estimated 1-4 hours per week outside Live Sessions to listen to review the recorded lessons and take notes.
The text for the course is Imam Dardir’s Tuhfa al-Ikhwan fi ‘Ilm al-Bayan. Students shall be provided with a soft copy of the text in Arabic as part of the course material.
Students may refer to any manual on Arabic prosody, even the simple expose in Haywood and Nahmad's A New Arabic Grammar. The Seven Golden Odes of Arabia would also be a useful work.
ARB214 is a required prerequisite. This course is for students who are already familiar with the basic rules of Arabic grammar
Why do we study un-Islamic poetry that predates Islam?
Pre-Classical Arabic—the Arabic of the Quran, Hadith, and Jahili and Umayyid poetry—is the only lens through which we can read and understand the primary texts of Islam. For this reason, all linguistic debates in Islamic law and creed—and they are many indeed—must be returned to the standard and principles of language found in these pre-Islamic dates, regardless of the topics or messages they may convey.
The jurist Imam al-Shafi’i used to teach pre-Islamic poetry and refers to poetry in his legal discussions. He is said to have memorized all of the poetry of the tribe of Hudhayl. The great grammarian and rhetorician Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani dedicated a whole chapter to the importance of studying poetry in his work on the linguistic miracle of the Quran: Dalail al-Ijaz. For this reason, scholars have always emphasized the importance of studying Jahili poetry.
Ibn al-Faris said: Poetry is the archive of the Arabs and through it their genealogies and history have been preserved, and through it is Arabic learnt: it is the decisive proof for unknown words found in the Book of God and in the hadiths of God's Apostle and that of his companions.
Who is Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulma?
Zuhayr was a pre-Islamic Arab noble who died, most probably, one year before the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) received revelation. He was an eminent poet known for speaking words of wisdom, and his son Ka’b ibn Zubayr—who later embraced Islam—was a poet too. His son actually composed the original Burda known today as Banat Suad, ‘Suad has gone forever’.
What does the muallaqa of Zuhayr talk about?
The poem deals with a forty-year feud between two tribes, called the War of Dahis and Ghabra, and how it was stopped by two noble and altruistic men, Haram ibn Sinan and Harith ibn Awf, but then started again by another man, Husayn ibn Damdam, who was yet to take his revenge. The poem concludes with Zuhayr’s bitterness towards life and some wise sayings.