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     The Status of the Arab Poet among His Tribesmen

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    Abdul-Settar Abdul-Latif
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    Registration date : 2008-02-05

    PostSubject: The Status of the Arab Poet among His Tribesmen   Sat Feb 09, 2008 2:25 am


    The Status of the Arab Poet among His Tribesmen


    As Arabs were a nation in the becoming, the 'tribe' as an institution was still the nucleus around which Arabs' life and society pivoted. The tribal relations, norms and visions governed every aspect in Arabia. There were wars, conflicts and raids and forays here and there among all tribes. The reasons and excuses differ but the cruelty of nature and the scarcity of water and other requisites of life in such arid habitat like Arabia together with different tribal idiosyncrasies to control scant numbers of wells of water and main trade routs were among the causes of such belligerent nature of the Nomads. Tribes reared their male children on values of horsemanship and cruelty; revenge, self-pride connected to tribe-pride and honor; on principles of defending the oppressed tribesmen and refusing injustice or harm inflicting the tribe and taking part into the tribe's raids, wars and conquers in right and in wrong, though all the time in the wrong.

    Poets were born amid these tribal values and impacts and visions .And their poems were the vehicles for Arabs to spread the tribal doctrines from one generation to another. Poets were considered as the defenders of the tribe at the time of war, preachers at time of peace, verse orators to instill the magic eloquence of their language into the younger breeds, chroniclers who recorded their history though orally and even the sacred temple men as ancient Arab Nomads believed that every poet got one genii or 'a Follower' coming daily to inspire him with verse, adage and wise sayings. Thus, poets were sought for, bestowed with all kinds of hospitality, generosity by their chiefs. They were the symbols of tribe-learning, and -dignity and history as well.

    At certain times in Ancient Arabia, there were literary markets and poetry forums held so that poets of different tribes came to initiate flyting. Also, there were big tents set up for big poets (as Al-Thibyanni) to put their poetry to his criticism. The best poems hence were celebrated and inscribed on posters and hung on the walls of the Ka'aba especially at the annual rendezvous of the Arabs. They called these poems 'Mu'allaqat' meaning 'hanging verses'. Such display on the walls of the Ka'aba was the reward for the poets.

    When Islam was revealed, it respected poets on new bases – their obeyance of the Islamic doctrines of good faith, of call for virtue, love and peace, of defending woman's rights, of abandoning vendetta, profanity and vice. Prophet Mohammad considered poetry ' the wisdom by instinct…and Arabs can stop saying poetry only if camels stop craving', while 'A'isha, his younger spouse rendered poetry 'the water for children's arid souls'. Omar, the 2nd Caliphate enjoyed himself by reciting Al-Asha's long poems; Ibn Maso'od, the Prophet's Disciple, considered poetry as 'the discharge emitted for one wounded in chest!'. There are so many sayings and examples in this respect, all enhance the role of poetry in the life of Arabs. Poetry, when Arab civilization came to its ascendancy at Abbasid Caliphate, was used in jotting down Arab scientists' discoveries, inventions, theses and books. It is there in books of grammar, chemistry, philosophy, medicine, astronomy …etc. Many verses are put into the warp and weft of the Arabian Nights, the Epistle of Love by Ibn Sinna (Aviccena), of Ibn Hazim's Ring of the Dove…etc. It is through such books that Arab classical poetry moved to Europe when great Arab masterpieces in different fields of learning were translated at medieval ages to Latin, Spanish, French …etc. In addition, direct and indirect contact with Arabs in Al-Andalusia, Sicily, Malta, and Cyprus as there were centres of translation, played a great role in triggering new movements in medieval literature, in general and in poetry in particular. Troubadours for instance were influenced by Muwashahat and Ghazel. And Dante learnt to write his first sonnets via following the Ghazel examples. There are many other European poets who were affected by one way or another by the Arabic Classical poetry.
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