Bashshār b. Burd composed a masterful poem in the rajaz style in the aftermath of an infamous incident with ʿUqba b. Ruʾba, the son of the celebrated rajaz poet Ruʾba b. al-ʿAjjāj. An analysis of the poem shows that it might have been composed as a double entendre. While the poem was meant to be a panegyric in praise of the Basran governor Ibn Salm, Bashshār imbued the poem with satirical references to his rival poet ʿUqba b. Ruʾba. The poem reflects themes of shuʿūbiyya, the poetic rivalry between the conservative and the modern poets, and contempt against the monopoly of tradition and family heritage.
The incident between Bashshār b. Burd (d. 167/784) and ʿUqba b. Ruʾba b. al-ʿAjjāj (d.?) is well-known in literary sources. The urjūza that Bashshār composed in the aftermath of this incident is considered by many to be one of his finest compositions. Individual lines and excerpts of this long urjūza (164 lines) were quoted in works of literature, history, and even tafsīr.1 James Montgomery has translated the poem in its entirety and compared the recension of al-Aghānī with the longer version in Bashshār’s Dīwān.2 Excerpts from the urjūza, as well as the incident, are occasionally mentioned in secondary scholarship on Arabic literature but they have not been fully studied and analyzed yet.3 The urjūza, besides being one of Bashshār’s finest compositions due to its mastery of language, the vividness of imagery, and compact syntactic structure, abounds with allusions and references. Indeed, the account itself (khabar) of the incident is loaded with subtle hints and insinuations related to the themes I will be discussing in this essay such as shuʿūbiyya, the rivalry between the conservative Bedouinized poets and their modern Persianized rivals, and the monopoly of tradition and family heritage. I read the poem as a double entendre: it is a classical panegyric dedicated to the governor of Basra and a satire of ʿUqba b. Ruʾba depicted as a talentless poet whose only worth was luck and his descent from a family of rajaz poets. The urjūza reflects the conflict between the traditional and muḥdath poets: the muḥdath Bashshār demonstrated to the traditional ʿUqba that a self-made poet of Persian descent was able to outclass a privileged Arab poet and beat him at his own game, that is, rajaz poetry, the very manifestation of Arabism and Bedouinism.
The Khabar 4
Bashshār entered the court of Ibn Salm, governor of Basra, and delivered before him a few of his fine panegyrics. ʿUqba b. Ruʾba, the grandson of al-ʿAjjāj the rājiz, happened to be present at the court and in turn, recited some of his rajaz panegyrics. Bashshār congratulated ʿUqba on his fine rajaz but the latter returned the praise by scoffing at Bashshār, telling him that he could not excel at this genre of poetry/rajaz (ṭirāz). Bashshār retorted vexedly: “You dare say such words to me? By God, I compose rajaz better than you, your father, and your grandfather,” to which ʿUqba responded: “My father and I opened the door of gharīb5 and rajaz, and it will be I who closes it in people’s face” — i.e., I will be the last composer of fine rajaz. But Bashshār mocked him: “May they rest in peace, and so will you soon”6 — i.e., your family’s glorious days and yours are gone. ʿUqba retaliated: “Are you looking down on me, when I am a poet, son of a poet, son of a poet?” to which Bashshār replied teasingly: “Indeed you are among the Prophet’s household (Āl al-bayt) God purified by removing rijs (abomination, sin).” With this final exchange, ʿUqba left the court angrily. The next day, Bashshār returned to the governor’s court and recited his famous urjūza in ʿUqba’s presence. Realizing he was outclassed by Bashshār, ʿUqba fled the scene in shame and was never seen again after this incident.
Arabic Literature and the Density of Cultural References
The account, quoted in many classical sources, is sometimes mentioned among Bashshār’s numerous anecdotes in his biography (tarjama) and almost always constitutes the only khabar in ʿUqba b. Ruʾba’s biography. Indeed, the only significant information we know about ʿUqba is this encounter with Bashshār. It is quite symbolic that what seemingly ended his career as a poet as well as his family reputation as Bedouin rajaz poets was an urjūza composed by an urbanized Persian who was an outsider to the family business. When ʿUqba vowed to be the last poet holding the torch of rajaz and closing the door of gharīb in the face of others, he ended up losing the “mandate of rajaz,” let alone being completely forgotten as a rājiz. The anecdote ushers the new era of modern poets (muḥdathūn) like Bashshār and later Abū Nuwās, who became the true inheritors of Arabic poetry, including rajaz, and who were able to excel in this craft thanks to their genius and hard work.7 All that survived of ʿUqba’s rajaz was scattered expressions and individual verses in works of grammar and language.8 To this effect, Ruʾba, ʿUqba’s father, reportedly told his son after hearing one of his poems: “My son, you are the sparkle (dhahbān) of poetry.” Dhahbān is intended to have a double meaning here: the glitter of gold (dhahab) and the act of fading away (dhahaba). Al-Marzubānī commented on this statement by saying that things turned out as Ruʾba predicted: ʿUqba’s poetry was all gone (dhahaba) and no one memorizes a single line by him. Moreover, no transmitter has ever collected his poetry.9
On one hand, one may argue that the poem could be appreciated on its own without a background story or external references. If this is the case, a fine translation of the poem, like Montgomery’s, would be sufficient to the uninitiated reader. One may be able to appreciate the imagery in Bashshār’s poem as it stands without necessarily being inducted into the cultural context and backdrop of the poem: the lighting is as fast and ominous as mourning women lacerating their faces with sharp blades; the hazy look of the beloved is like the sun lurking behind the clouds; an uninvited guest one cannot get rid of is like a festering pus one carries under their skin; in a very hot desert the chameleon bounces off the sand like a monkey jumping; the top of the distant mountains engulfed in a flickering mirage looks like women weaving fabric; the retreat and attack of an army resemble the movement of sea waves; and the dead bodies covered in blood on the battlefield look like young men laid low by fine red wine. One should also add the stock of images often used and recycled in classical Arabic poetry, which Bashshār refined, polished, and rendered in stunning Arabic.
On the other hand, when the target language is as rich as Arabic, the vocabulary will hardly carry the same cultural nuances in both languages even though they refer to the same signified idea, be it a physical object or a concept. Even with Montgomery’s minimalistic approach to footnotes — except for the few cases where the original text is ambiguous or vague and he had to justify his choices — he was compelled, for example, to point out the significance of the word dhubāb (a fly) in line 88 because any connoisseur of classical Arabic poetry would immediately recall the dhubāb image in ʿAntara’s Ode (muʿallaqa).10 A fly is the same signified insect in both English and Arabic but the “Arabic dhubāb” carries more meaning and depth, in a poem, with the extra dimension given to it by ʿAntara’s line as well as all subsequent recycled images derived from it. Therefore, Bashshār’s “dhubāb” is not simply a “fly” but an amalgamation of ʿAntara’s and his own, and the initiated reader will probably appreciate Bashshār’s image more than one who is reading Bashshār’s poem without prior exposure to ʿAntara’s Ode. The same may hold true for other vocabulary particular to classical Arabic poetry, e.g., campsite, camels, mirage, sand dunes, which gained extra shades of meaning over decades and centuries of recycling, refinement, and polishing by generations of poets. Furthermore, there also exist cultural and historical nuances that cannot be directly embedded into a translation without extraneous footnotes. Two cases in point here are shuʿūbiyya (the Arab-Persian cultural conflict) and muḥdath (modern) poetry both of which are central themes in Bashshār’s urjūza. In the following pages, I will try to flesh out some of these cultural references so that the poem may be further appreciated both as a literary work and a cultural document.11
Ṭirāz and gharīb
The first important cultural reference in this anecdote is the word ṭirāz that ʿUqba used in addressing Bashshār: “This is a ṭirāz you cannot excel at.”12 Ṭirāz, as Montgomery accurately translated it, is a delicate stitch work. However, it carries more nuances in this context than simply being a refined, stitch work of a poem. Firstly, it specifically alludes to genre or type (shakl, hayʾa) and in this context it refers to the rajaz genre and not just a well-composed work of poetry.13 ʿUqba taunted Bashshār that rajaz as a genre was out of his league. He might acknowledge Bashshār as a poet but not as a rājiz. Thus, ʿUqba was not challenging him in the domain of poetry, to which ʿUqba might readily acknowledge his defeat, but rather in the domain of rajaz. Secondly, ṭirāz is an Arabized word from Persian.14 The rivalry in this incident transcends poetic competitiveness between two poets, one of whom, i.e., ʿUqba, is virtually unknown for any poetic achievement in the classical Arabic tradition. ʿUqba’s fame was solely owing to the reputation of his father Ruʾba and his grandfather al-ʿAjjāj, both of whom were first-class poets who created a paradigm shift in rajaz composition and elevated the urjūza to the same literary status of the classical Arabic qaṣīda. Subsequently, the rajaz rivalry transcends artistic poetic composition into its representation of the native Arab Bedouin style of cultural poetic composition that is characterized by the usage, or over-usage, of gharīb. Gharīb is unfamiliar Arabic vocabulary unknown to laymen, preserved and circulated among elite philologists whose main source for the collection of gharīb was Bedouins, particularly rajaz poets; hence the emphasis in this khabar on the relationship between rajaz and gharīb both of which ʿUqba claimed to excel at. The ṭirāz of Bashshār, and in some variants of the khabar, his likes (wa-nuẓarāʾuka),15 is a jab at the muḥdath poets, many of whom were of Persian descent, and their ṭirāz that was foreign to the traditional Bedouin style of using complex, obsolete, and uncouth gharīb vocabulary and syntax.16 Bashshār was at the center of the battle of muḥdath poetry as well as shuʿūbiyya, both movements which have been discussed at length in secondary scholarship.17
It is important to remember that rajaz is not simply poetry composed according to a specific meter and with the hemistich as a unit. The usage of gharīb, coining new vocabulary, and the concise, compact, unusual syntactical structure are all at the heart of a rajaz poem.18 Unusual words like thaʿd, tarqadd, murqadd, ʿayham, ʿaland, and sakhd could be avoided by a muḥdath poet for their uncouthness and unpleasant sound, but in an urjūza they are an essential part of the fabric of the poem and how it should sound: rough, dry, and unwavering. The emphasis on gharīb is clearly expressed in another anecdote related to this incident. It is reported that Bashshār, Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (d. 142/759) and ʿUqba were sitting together enjoying an intellectual exchange of poetry and akhbār during which Bashshār recited his urjūza. Realizing how much gharīb Bashshār had embedded in the poem, ʿUqba was infuriated (ightāẓa li-mā samiʿa fīhā min al-gharīb).19 What enraged ʿUqba the most was not Bashshār’s excellence as a poet but his encroaching on the genre of rajaz and his accessibility to gharīb that bedouinized the poem and made it inaccessible to the non-bedouinized Arab. In this context, gharīb is treated as private, restricted knowledge circulating within a privileged group or family and passed down from one generation to another just like Shi’is claim that only the Prophet’s family (Āl al-bayt) hold the keys to the true knowledge of Islam.
Rijs: rijz, rajaz? and Āl al-bayt
Bashshār’s comment on Āl al-bayt is a reference to Q 33:33, innamā yurīdu ‿llāhu li-yudhhiba ʿankumu ‿r-rijsa ahla ‿l-bayti wa-yuṭahhirakum taṭhīran (God only desires to put away from you abomination and to cleanse you),20 a verse that sparked disparate interpretations among Shi’i and Sunni exegetes concerning the individuals the phrase “Āl al-bayt” refers to. Regardless of their identity, Āl al-bayt as a group is considered by most Muslims to be the privileged family of the Prophet whose individuals were blessed and purified by God. Rijs is dirt or filth (qadhar), but it is also interpreted as punishment or suffering (ʿadhāb). Scholars also equate rijs to rijz in terms of meaning and argue that every mention of rijs in the Qur’an may refer to rijz as it is customary for the letter sīn to transform to the letter zāy (a linguistic phenomenon called ibdāl).21 I believe that the connection between rijz/rijs and rajaz was intended as a double entendre and a simple play on words. When ʿUqba told Bashshār that his family paved the path of rajaz and gharīb and that he was entitled to usher its closure, Bashshār sarcastically poked at him as being one of “the chosen” Āl al-bayt whom God blessed and cleansed of all filth (rijz/rajaz). Bashshār was not only making a point that ʿUqba’s membership of a privileged family of rajaz poets would be of no help to him since he is a talentless rājiz, but also an insinuation that God has purified ʿUqba and his family from rajaz/rijs and that they no longer possess the “mandate of the heaven” to keep their monopoly on rajaz. Other talented, self-made, and urbanized poets like Bashshār have come to put an end to this “Arab” privilege and claim poetry/rajaz as their own.22
Bashshār b. Burd was at the center of the shuʿūbiyya polemics during his time.23 He wrote poems in which he derided Bedouins and their “barbaric” lifestyle: singing behind scabby camels, chewing on bitter prickly cactus, eating lizards and beetles, and drinking from the same bowl as dogs use.24 References to his zandaqa, majūsiyya, and shuʿūbiyya sentiments are ubiquitous in his poetry to the extent that he made it into works of heresiography.25 He allegedly renounced his clientship to banū ʿAqīl in order to boast of his Persian heritage and lineage. His two poems “hal min rasūlin mukhbirin” and “a-ʿādhila lā anāmu ʿalā qtisāri” are representative of such ideas and beliefs.26 Shuʿūbiyya is also present in this khabar between Bashshār and ʿUqba as well as the urjūza it culminated in. The raison d’être of the poem was to surpass the Arab Bedouin at his own game, rajaz and gharīb, while infusing the poem with several references of anti-Arab sentiment. The mamdūḥ, Ibn Salm, who hailed from the Arab tribe of Hanāʾa of al-Azd, was praised by Bashshār as wearing a crown (tāj) (lines 110, 146), the Persianate symbol of power and kingship. While the tāj denotes Persian political dominance, Bashshār boasts of his “ṭirāz” and presents it to the mamdūḥ as a garment to wear (line 122), which in turn denotes Persian cultural dominance. Thus, the Arab mamdūḥ ends up deriving his political power from the crown inherited from Khosrow (lines 146–7) and his cultural prestige from the garment/poem Bashshār gifted to him. Furthermore, by relying on Ibn Salm’s ruthless past of subduing the people of Bahrain, Bashshār made the governor’s massacre of other Arabs a cause for celebration: “Blessed your victories over Maʿadd, Qaḥṭān and ʿAbd al-Qays” (lines 123–4, 151). Bashshār addressed Ibn Salm and concluded the poem as follows: “You are a crowned virtuous king like the people of Khosrow and the people of Burd — putting himself on equal footing with Kisrā — defeating those who stray from the right path.” Without necessarily delving into the politics behind such statement, it is fitting here to recall Gibb’s interpretation of shuʿūbiyya “that it was not merely a conflict between two schools of literature, nor yet a conflict of political nationalisms, but a struggle to determine the destinies of the Islamic culture as a whole.”27 Bashshār’s shuʿūbī sentiment in this poem could be all three: literary, as a representative of the muḥdath poetry movement, national as an advocate of the superiority of Persian hegemony, and cultural as a herald proclaiming the Arabs’ deflection from the “right path” and the restoration of the mandate of heaven to those who were following the “right path,” that is, Khosrow’s descendants and the cultural values they uphold.
Muʿāraḍa and tawriya
The poem is a traditional panegyric that consists of the conventional elements of a qaṣīda. It can be divided into the following sections:
Several references are made in the poem which, indirectly and obscurely (taʿrīḍ), allude to the rivalry with ʿUqba. Such references are to be understood as tawriya (double entendre). Lines 1–34 of the poem comprise the aṭlāl and nasīb section in which Bashshār laments the good old times of youth and his inability now to obtain true love despite his hard work, unlike other fools who do not need to make every effort because they are lucky and privileged (line 36: mā ḍarra ahla n-nūki ḍaʿfu l-kaddi). Instead of interpreting line 35 as “I did not work hard,” a better reading would be: I was prevented from [obtaining] luck and I did not get any. Bashshar’s implication is that the fool is ʿUqba who was lucky to have obtained what he had without even trying: he is among ahl al-nūk, not ahl al-Bayt. Moreover, line 37 can be better understood as: he who works hard will come upon fortune (line 37: wāfaqa ḥaẓẓan man saʿā bi-jaddi). What follows is an ambiguous line (38: qul li‿Z-Zubayri s-sāʾilī ʿan wuldī) for which the commentators of the dīwan and Montgomery favored the reading wakdī (intention, goal) over wuldī (children, progeny, lineage), so that the line could mean “Say to al-Zubayr who asks what I have in mind.” In the context of my interpretation of the poem, I prefer to read “wuldī” or “wildī” as in children, progeny, or family (rahṭ).28 The line then translates to “Say to al-Zubayr who asks about my family/progeny,” i.e., tell al-Zubayr who keeps asking about my heritage and family achievements [that] I am in no need of a family poetic heritage like that fool ʿUqba who did not know his place. [Indeed,] free men receive counsel, while sticks are reserved for slaves (line 39: al-ḥurru yūṣā wa-l-ʿaṣā li-l-ʿabdi). This is in reference to ʿUqba’s ill manners to which al-Jāḥiẓ alluded: “reflect on how ʿUqba met Bashshār’s respect and courtesy with his uncivil behavior and foolish responses.”29 Had ʿUqba behaved like a “civilized” gentleman, good council would have sufficed, but he was an unruly slave who needed to be disciplined by receiving a good beating. He who incessantly asks [for recognition] will eventually be struck down and put in their place (line 40: wa-laysa li-l-mulḥifi mithlu r-raddi). It is almost as if Bashshār is telling ʿUqba: “Had you laid low and not overreached, you could have warded off your enemies — i.e., Bashshār and his poetry — (line 42: an-naṣfu yakfīka mina t-taʿaddī). You are an insincere, disingenuous friend whom I cannot get rid of just like the festering pus on my skin that I am stuck with wherever I go (line 43: wa-ṣāḥibin ka‿d-dummali l-mumiddi) waiting for it one day to strike me with fever (line 44: arqubu minhū mithla yawmi l-wirdi). I endured this deceitful friend/festering pus out of courtesy and thanks to my patience (line 46: ṣabran wa-tanzīhan li-mā yuʾaddī) but once I cut it open/off it departed without being missed and without knowing that I endured it out of self-denial and not out of desire [for it to stay] (line 48: wa-mā darā mā raghbatī min zuhdī).” After this interlude, Bashshār immediately transitions to describe his journey in the perilous desert until he reaches a distant oasis hidden deep in the badlands with no landmarks or leading signs. Wild animals dare not venture there and only the shrieks of owls can be heard from within. The best part of this transition from the previous section that attacked ʿUqba and his poetic heritage is by way of muʿāraḍa (contrast) in line 49: wa-ṭāmisi s-samti jamūḥi l-wirdi, which is an indirect reference to the poetry of ʿUqba’s grandfather, al-ʿAjjāj:
which was recycled and reused by ʿUqba’s father, Ruʾba:
Even if one ignores the lexical similarity of using the word “ṭāmis” as a mere chance, Bashshār’s transitional two lines:
curiously echo Ruʾba’s famous qāfiyya:
wa-qātimi l-aʿmāqi khāwī l-mukhtaraq32
by following the same structural pattern, especially with “khālin” evoking “khāwin.”
Birth of a Poem
It goes without saying that the blind Bashshār could not have gone through the hazardous journeys described in his poetry, including this urjūza. The desert journey became a poetical trope constituting an important element of the qaṣīda regardless of its factuality. Be that as it may, reading this urjūza through the lens of muʿāraḍa and tawriya (contrast and double entendre) allows some of the allegories and images used to resonate with the idea of the birth of a poem. The long arduous journey through the horrifying, ominous, and barren desert eventually leads the poet to a lush and fertile oasis sheltered by clouds heavy with the blessings of rain. Right after Bashshār sets out on the journey with his mount, the section of the riḥla begins with the conventional elements one finds in classical Arabic poetry: journey into an unknown, uncharted territory, deserted ruins teeming with jinn, sweltering hot noon, and detailed description of animals, geographical locations, mirage, clouds, and so on. The onerous journey eases with the discovery of the ʿāzib (line 73), a lush oasis where animals graze, which Bashshār uncovers through his usage of the word “inṣadaʿat” (to be revealed), a possible reference to the Qur’anic verse (Q 15:94) fa‿ṣdaʿ bi-mā tuʾmar (So shout that thou art commanded) where God commands the Prophet to proclaim Islam’s message and recite the Qur’an to the idolators. Bashshār describes himself as a rider who frequents waterholes as yellow as the fetal fluid (line 72: māʾ al-sukhd). This urjūza is the ʿāzib: a lush oasis [of poetry] hidden in and surrounded by deserted wilderness that the jinn cannot find. In other words, not even the jinn (the agents of poetry) are able to discover this poem/oasis and compose something of its like. Moreover, this is also a possible reference to the jinn in Qur’an sūra 72 who were prohibited from eavesdropping on humans’ affairs after the sending of Muḥammad as a Prophet. Yet with effort and striving (line 74: ṭūl al-shaddi) the ʿāzib (the poem) will be found. It is bursting with lush plants and colorful flowers (the verses of the poem) that were not watered (inspired) with regular rain (line 77: fayḍ, ʿadd) but with the rain of thunderclouds (line 78: muʿṣirāt), that is, Bashshār’s unique poetic creativity. Again, muʿṣirāt is a Qur’anic reference to (Q 78:14) wa-anzalnā mina l-muʿṣirāti māʾan thajjājan (and have sent down from the rainy clouds abundant water). This oasis contains all sorts of radiant flowers — even the sun is dazzled by their beauty and brilliance (line 87). When the fly sings in its meadows, one hears the lark (mukkāʾ) whistling its response
The mukkāʾ could be a reference to ʿUqba. Vexed by the singing of the fly, the lark contests, and whistles back. It is a negative Qur’anic reference from (Q 8:35) wa-mā kāna ṣalātuhum ʿinda l-bayti illā mukāʾan wa-taṣdiyatan (And their prayer at the House is nothing but a whistling and a clapping of hands). Mukāʾ means whistling but it also means the farting sound of the camel.33 Bashshār is drawing the contrast between ʿAntara’s muʿallaqa in which he himself represents the singing fly, the true heir of Arabic poetry, and ʿUqba’s whistling and farting-like mukkāʾ of his uninspiring arājīz.34
The Dichotomy of Difference
Antithesis (ṭibāq) is an important rhetorical device utilized as early as pre-Islamic poetry. While this urjūza is not unique for employing ṭibāq more often than other poems, the pervasiveness of ṭibāq from beginning to end is striking.35 If this poem was composed within the framework of a double entendre or a muʿāraḍa, the frequent usage of ṭibāq reinforces this framework by constantly highlighting a contrast between two entities, be it objects, colors, concepts, or emotional states. Contrasts take place in almost every single line of the poem whether through direct ṭibāq juxtaposition (awḥasha — nāʿim, yukhlifna — nafī) or through words and expressions that denote difference and disparity (buddiltu, mukhtalif) or through imagery that imparts stark dissimilitude between two entities (suffering from puss is like the company of a bad friend, the sun hides behind the clouds, a lush oasis hides deep amidst a waste land). Below are straightforward examples of ṭibāq used throughout the urjūza. I attach the verse number to each pair with its English translation.
Kunta — baʿdī (you were — after me, 2); awḥashta — nāʿimin wa-mardi (wilderness — lush, 3–4); yukhlifna — nafī (break — keep the tryst, 7); sabaṭ — jaʿd (tall — short, 9–10); ahdā — lam yastahdi (to gift — to not ask for a gift, 15–16); ṭilbāt — ṣadd, ṭālabanī — laysa yujdī (request — deny, desire — futile, 19–20); badd — ahl al-badd (worshipped — worshippers, 23); ballānī — ḥulw/ḥasan (torment — sweet, 24–26); tarāʾā — raʾatnī (to make oneself seen — to see, 28); mubyaḍḍ — muswadd (white — black, 30); ḍannat bi-khadd — jalat ʿan khadd (hide — show, 31); ʿarq — uṣaddī (torment — clapping/fun, 33); ʿājiz — muṣaddī (helpless — joyful, 34); jadadtu ʿan ḥaẓẓī — lam ajaddi (to search for luck — to not be lucky, 35); ḍaʿf al-kadd — saʿā bi-jadd (slacking — hard work, 36); ḥurr — ʿabd (free — slave, 39); mulḥif — radd (ask [repeatedly] — respond, 40), naṣf — taʿaddī (justice — inequity, 42); tanzīhan — yuʾaddī (endure/push away — do/deliver, 46); ghayr faqīd — al-faqd (not to be missed — missed, 47); raghbatī — zuhdī (desire — antipathy, 48); ṭāmis — al-samt (effaced — markings/signs, 49); khālin — aṣwāt (noiseless — sounds, 50); tukhfī — tubdī (hide — show, 53); quddāmī — baʿdī (close — far/behind-front, 56); yashdū — yakhdī (slow — fast, 67); ʿayth — ṣald (soft — hard, 68); lā yahdī — muhaddī (is not guided — a guide, 69); inṣadaʿat — akhfā (revealed — hidden, 71–73); lā yahdī — yulfā (is not guided — to be found, 69–74), taghaddī — lam yughdha (feeding — was not fed, 76–77); al-fayḍ — al-ʿidd (flood — stream, 77); aṣfar — ward (yellow — red, 80), banafs — jawn (purple — blackish yellow, 81–82); aḥmar — lam yaswadd (red — not blackened, 84); dhubāb — mukkāʾ (fly — lark, 88–89); ṣabbaḥtuhu — ẓilli muznin suddi (morning — black clouds, 90); ghudayyatan — qabla ghuduww (early morning — before the early morning, 91); al-subdi — jaddāʾ (long hair — cut/severed [or bird — camel], 91–92), taḥdū bihi rīḥ — rīḥ tahdī (to be dragged — to follow [posterior — anterior], 96), najm al-saʿd — anwāḥ al-nisāʾ (good/fortune star — mourning women, 95–96); ghawr — najd (low — high, 99), aḍāʾ — jawn (light — black, 101–103); al-wahd — ghayr al-wahd (low land — high land, 106); janā — mawt (crop\life — death, 109); miftāḥ — munsadd (key — shut, 111); jund — ghayr al-jund (military — civilian, 113); ḥilm — ḍarb al-kard (prudence/forgiveness — beheading, 116), muḥkamāt — nadd (tightly knit — dispersed, 121); al-muqrabāt — al-mubʿadāt (short distance — long distance, 127); akdā — lam tukdi (stringent — generous, 128); tulḥim — tusdī (to extend horizontally — to extend vertically, 129); rāḥa — ghadā (to travel at night — to travel in the morning, 132); aṣamm — ṣawt (deaf — sound, 137), numūr — usd (leopards — lions, 141); jāfin — al-rushdi (off course — guidance, 148); mushghib — mujdī (destroyer — healer, 157), sayf aḥadd — ʿāriḍ muswadd (sharp radiant — black wide, 160).
These pairs of ṭibāq are clear examples without stretching the interpretation of the text too far. More examples could be added with extrapolation and careful analysis. For example, kayfa kunta baʿdī (line 2) depicts the current deserted state of the camping site vis-à-vis its past condition; akhyāfun bi-mā nuʾaddī (line 6) is a contrast between two individuals in how they reciprocate love for one another. Khayaf is a condition whereby one of the horse’s eyes is black while the other one is blue; buddiltu min dhāka (line 18) refers to times of happiness which were replaced by times of grief; lā yashfīnanī bi-bardi (line 21) means to cure a feverish person with cooling [kisses]; arānī fī ṣ-ṣibā l-ajaddi (line 22) refers to the current old self looking back at its youthful past; ṣāḥibin ka-d-dummal (line 43) is the bad company of a friend who resembles a festering pus; bi-ghayri niddi (line 66) refers to an unrivalled person who has no parallel; ṣalīf al-qidd (line 70) is a forked road that symbolizes a choice between two paths; ʿāzib (line 73) is a lush patch/oasis hidden amidst the desert; mukhtalif (line 79) is a hill covered by different, contrasting flowers; and finally mashbūban bi-lawn al-fahd (line 82) describes the cheetah’s color of yellow with black spots.
The preponderance of ṭibāq pairs embedded throughout the poem is indicative of the contrast Bashshār intended to showcase. The urjūza is essentially a muʿāraḍa, a challenge to ʿUqba b. Ruʾba and his rajaz heritage, the representation of the Bedouin, traditional style of poetry native to the Arabs and their desert habitat. The contrast was first triggered by ʿUqba: we, namely, the Bedouin Arabs including myself, my father Ruʾba, and my grandfather al-ʿAjjāj against you, namely, Bashshār and your likes among the Persianized modern poets. As Savant frames it in her discussion of shuʿūbiyya, early Arab-Muslim society viewed “Arab achievement as a function of desert life … the sciences of the Arabs are horse husbandry, observation of the stars and other physical phenomena, the use of natural ingredients in medical practice, and the composition of poetry, oratory, and wisdom in an oral environment.”36 This urjūza is indeed a masterpiece of Arabic poetry. It is a powerful artistic and poetic expression as well as a cultural document that reflects the political, social, and cultural situation in the early Abbasid society of the second/eighth century.
يا طَللَ الحَيِّ بِذاتِ الصَّمْدِ
باللهِ حَدِّثْ كيفَ كُنتَ بَعدي
أَوْحَشْتَ من دَعْدٍ ونُؤْيِ دَعْدِ
بعدَ زمانٍ ناعمٍ ومَرْدِ
عهْدًا لنا سقيًا لهُ من عهْدِ
إذْ نحنُ أَخيافٌ بما نُؤَدّي
يُخْلِفْنَ وعدًا ونَفي بِوَعْدِ
فَنَحْنُ من جَهْدِ الهَوى في جَهْدِ
نَلْهو إلى نَوْرِ الخُزامَى الثَّعْدِ
في زاهرٍ من سَبَطٍ وجَعْدِ
ما زالَ مِن حَرْجِ الصِّبا في رَنْدِ
يَخْتالُ في ماءِ النّدى المُنَدّي
حتّى اكْتسى مِثلَ عُيونِ البُرْدِ
روضًا بِمَغْنى واهِبِ بنِ فِنْدِ
أهْدى له الدّهرُ ولم يَسْتَهدِ
أفوافَ نَوْرِ الحِبَرِ المُجَدِّ
يَلقى الضُحى رَيْحانُهُ بِسَجْدِ
بُدّلتُ من ذاكَ بُكًى لا يُجْدي
آذَنَ طِلْباتُ الصِّبى بِصَدِّ
طالَبَني أَمرٌ وليسَ يُجْدي
فَهُنّ لا يَشفينني بِبرْدِ
وقد أَراني في الصِّبَى الأَجَدِّ
كالبَدِّ فِيهِنَّ لأهلِ البَدِّ
هذا وبلّاني مَسيرُ الأَزْدِ
سِربٌ تَراءى كَنِظامِ العِقْدِ
حُلْوُ الحديثِ حَسَنُ التّصَدّي
واهًا لأسماءَ ابنةِ الأَشَدِّ
قامتْ تَراءى إذْ رأَتْني وَحْدي
كالشّمس بينَ الزِّبْرِجِ المُنْقَدِّ
سُلطانَ مُبْيَضٍّ على مُسْوَدِّ
ضَنَّتْ بِخَدٍّ وَجَلَتْ عنْ خَدِّ
ثُمّ انْثَنَتْ كالنّفَسِ المُرْتَدِّ
ورُحْتُ من عَرْقِ الهَوى أُصَدّي
يا عَجَبًا لِلعاجِزِ المُصَدّي
جَدَدْتُ عن حَظّي ولم أَجَدِّ
ما ضرَّ أهلَ النُّوكِ ضَعْفُ الكَدِّ
وافقَ حَظًّا من سَعى بِجَدِّ
قُلْ للزُبيرِ السّائلي عن وُلدي
الحُرُّ يوصى والعصا للعبْدِ
وليس للْمُلْحِفِ مثلُ الرّدِّ
فارْضَ بِنَصْفٍ وأَزِحْ في القَصْدِ
النّصْفُ يكْفيكَ منَ التّعَدّي
وصاحِبٍ كالدّمّلِ المُمِدِّ
أرقُبُ منهُ مِثلَ يومِ الوِرْدِ
حَمَلْتُه في رُقْعَةٍ من جِلدي
صبْراً وتَنْزيهًا لما يُؤَدّي
حتّى انْطوَى غيرَ فقيدِ الفقْدِ
وما دَرى ما رَغْبتي من زُهدي
وَطامِسِ السَّمْتِ جَموحِ الوِردِ
خالٍ لأصواتِ الصّدَى المُصَدّي
أرضًا ترى حِرباءها كالقِرد
يميدُ في رأدِ الضحى المُمْتَدّ
للقَورِ في رَقراقِها تَرَدّي
زوراءَ تُخفي عَجَبا وتُبدي
مِن لامعاتٍ كالسّعالي البَدِّ
تلمعُ قُدّامي وطَورًا بعدي
كأنّ قُصوى أُكْمِها تُسَدّي
لا بل تُصلّي تارةً وتَرْدي
تَرْقَدُّ في رَيْعانها المُرْقَدِّ
وعاصفٍ من آلها المُشْتَدِّ
صدعتُها بالعَيْهم العَلَنْدِ
يَلْقى الضُّحى بمَنْسِمٍ مُكِدِّ
ونَظَرٍ راعٍ وهادٍ نَهْدِ
وهامةٍ مَلمومةٍ كالصَّلْدِ
جشَّمتُه أقصى وَسيجِ الجَلْدِ
طَيَّ السَّخاوِيِّ بِغيرِ نِدِّ
ما زال يَشدو تارةً ويَخْدي
في بَطَنٍ عَيْثٍ وظَهْرٍ صَلْدِ
أملَسَ لا يَهدي بهِ مُهَدّي
حتّى انتهى مِثْلَ صَليفِ القِدِّ
فانصدَعتْ عن راكبٍ مُجِدِّ
وَرّادِ أمواهٍ كماءِ السُّخْدِ
وعازِبٍ أخفى لِخافي البَلْدِ
ريّانَ يُلفى مَعَ طولِ الشّدِّ
مُكَعْبِرًا ثُدّاءَه المُثَدّي
فيهِ لصِيرانِ الفلا تَغَدّي
لم يُغْذَ بالفَيضِ ولا بالعِدِّ
إلا بماء المُعصراتِ الهُدِّ
مُخْتلِفَ التّيجانِ في التّنَدّي
كُلّلَ بالأصفرِ بينَ الورْدِ
وبالبَنَفْسِ المُشرقِ الرِّخْوَدِّ
والجَوْنِ مَشبوبًا بلونِ الفهدِ
مُوفٍ على حَوْذانِهِ كالنّقدِ
من زاهرٍ أحمرَ لم يسْوَدِّ
يغدو كغادي الشرقِ في التّغَدّي
مُنْبَلِقًا مثلَ عُيونِ الجُرْدِ
تحارُ فيه الشمسُ ذاتُ الوَقْدِ
إذا حَدا ذبابُه المُحَدّي
عارضَهُ المُكّاءُ كالمُسْتَعدي
صَبَّحْتُه في ظِلِّ مُزْنٍ سُدِّ
غُدَيّةً قبلَ غُدُوّ السُبْدِ
بِعاقِرٍ جَدّاءَ أو أَجَدِّ
يَطْلبُ شأوَ اليَعْمُلاتِ الجُدِّ
بل هل ترى لمْعَ الحَبِيِّ القَرْدِ
وافى من العينِ بِنجمِ السَّعْدِ
تحْدو بهِ ريحٌ وريحٌ تَهدي
كأنّ أنواحَ النساءِ الحُدِّ
في عرْصةٍ يلمَعْنَ بالفِرَنْدِ
قد طبّقَ الغَوْرَ وأعلى نَجْدِ
يَسْتَنُّ فيهِ كالنّعامِ الرُّبْدِ
إذا سناهُ انْشقَّ غيرَ المُكْدي
أضاءَ للشامَةِ بعدَ الرَّقْدِ
جُونَ الرُّبا مثلَ جبالِ الكُردِ
مُنْبَعِقَ القَصْفِ هزيمَ الرعدِ
قلتُ له حينَ حفا في العهدِ
وغرّقَ الوهدَ وغيرَ الوَهْدِ
بِسَبَلٍ مثلِ زلالِ الشهدِ
اِسْلَمْ وحُيِّيتَ أبا المِلَدِّ
أنتَ جَنا العُودِ ومَوْتُ الرِّئْدِ
مُتوّجُ الآباءِ ضخمُ الرِّفْدِ
مِفتاحُ بابِ الحَدَثِ المُنْسَدِّ
نِعْمَ مَزارُ المُعْتَفي والوَفْدِ
وأنتَ للجُندِ وغيرِ الجُندِ
مُشْترَكُ النَّيْلِ ورِيُّ الزَّندِ
تَسْبِقُ مَن جاراكَ قبلَ الشّدِّ
بالحِلمِ والجودِ وضربِ الكَرْدِ
مازلتَ معروفًا معَ الأَرَدِّ
أغَرَّ لَبّاسًا ثيابَ المجدِ
ما كان منّي لكَ غيرُ الوُدِّ
ثمّ ثناءٌ مثلُ ريحِ الوَرْدِ
نَسَجْتُهُ في المُحْكماتِ النّدِّ
فَالْبَسْ طِرازي غيرَ مُسْتَرِدِّ
لِلّهِ أيّامُكَ في مَعَدِّ
ثُمَّ بني قـَحْطانَ ثمّ عَبْدِ
يومًا بِذِي صِبْيَةَ عِنْدَ الحَدِّ
وعندَهُ اسْتَوْدعْتَ أرضَ الهِنْدِ
بالمُقْرِباتِ المُبْعِداتِ الجُرْدِ
إذا الفتى أكْدى بها لم تُكْدِ
تُلحمُ أمرًا وأمورًا تُسْدي
وابنُ حكيمٍ إذ أتاكَ يَردي
في العَددِ المُعْلَنْكِسِ الأعَدِّ
راحَ بِحَدٍّ وغدا بِحَدِّ
يحْفِزُ دَفّاعًا كَطَرْدِ الصَّرْدِ
حَفْزَ الأَوَاذِيِّ عُبابَ المَدِّ
كأنّه من غُلَواءِ الحَرْدِ
في العَسكَرِ المُلَنْطَحِ المُقْوَدِّ
أصَمُّ لا يسمعُ صوتَ الرعدِ
حَيَّيْتهُ بِحَتْفِهِ المُعَدِّ
بعدَ طِعانٍ صادقٍ وجَلْدِ
فانْهَدَّ مثلَ الجبلِ المُنْهَدِّ
وانْفَرَجَتْ عن أسدٍ أَلَدِّ
وعن نُمورٍ حولَهُ وأُسْدِ
صَرْعى كصرْعى الخَنْدَريسِ المُرْدِ
بُعدًا ولا تَرْثِ لهم مِنْ بُعدِ
كُلُّ امرئٍ رهنٌ بما يُؤَدّي
وَرُبَّ ذي تاجٍ كريمِ المَجْدِ
كآلِ كِسرى وكآلِ بُردِ
أَنْكَبَ جافٍ عن طريقِ الرُّشْدِ
فَصَلْتُهُ عن مالِهِ والوُلْدِ
يا بنتَ أَفْصى من بَني العُرُنْدِ
قُولي لعبدِ القيسِ إن لم تُجْدِ
لا تَفرحي بالجلَبِ الأَشَدِّ
قد يُخرِجُ الليثُ سِهامَ الوَغد
قومي[…]دمًا أو صدِّي
فانتظري عُقبةَ بعد الوَخْدِ
سِيّانِ من يغْزو ومن في اللحْدِ
قد جاءكَ الدهرُ بأمرٍ إِدِّ
بِعُقبةَ المِشْغَبِ ثمّ المُجْدي
يهُزُّ أعلى سيفِهِ الأَحَدِّ
في جَحْفلٍ كالعارضِ المُسْوَدِّ
يشُقُّ متْنَ الصَّحْصَحانِ الجَرْدِ
بالمُعلَمينَ في الحَديدِ السّرْدِ
وكلِّ جيّاشِ العَشايا نَهْدِ
في لِبْدِهِ والموتُ فوقَ اللِبْدِ
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Ibn Jinnī (d. 392/1002), Abū l-Fatḥ, al-Muḥtasab fī tabyīn wujūh shawādhdh al-qirāʾāt wa-l-īḍāḥ ʿanhā, ed. by ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Shalabī, ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm al-Najjār and ʿAlī al-Najdī Nāṣif, second edition, 2 vols., Cairo: Dār Sazkīn li-l-Ṭibāʿa wa-l-Nashr, 1986.
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(d. 392/1002), Abū l-Fatḥ, al-Muḥtasab fī tabyīn wujūh shawādhdh al-qirāʾāt wa-l-īḍāḥ ʿanhā, ed. by Ibn Jinnī , , ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Shalabī and ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm al-Najjār ʿAlī al-Najdī Nāṣif second edition, 2 vols., Cairo: Dār Sazkīn li-l-Ṭibāʿa wa-l-Nashr, . 1986
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Ibn Qutayba, Abū Muḥammad, The Excellence of the Arabs, trans. by Sarah Bowen Savant, ed. by James E. Montgomery et al., Library of Arabic Literature, New York: NYU Press, 2017.
Ibn Rashīq al-Qayrawānī (d. 456/1064), Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan, al-ʿUmda fī maḥāsin al-shiʿr wa-ādābihi wa-naqdihi, ed. by Muḥammad Muḥyī l-Dīn ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd, 2 vols., Beirut: Dār al-Jīl, 1981.
Al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 255/869), Abū ʿUthmān ʿAmr b. Baḥr, al-Bayān wa-t-tabyīn, ed. by ʿAbd al-Salām Hārūn, 4 vols., Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī, 1998.
Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī (d. 463/1069), Abū Bakr, Tārīkh Madīnat al-Salām wa-akhbār muḥaddithīhā wa-dhikr quṭṭānihā al-ʿulamāʾ min ghayr ahlihā wa-wāridīhā, ed. by Bashshār ʿAwwād Maʿrūf, 17 vols., Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 2001.
Al-Qurṭubī (d. 671/1273), Abū ʿAbdallāh, al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qurʾān, ed. by ʿAbdallāh al-Turkī, 24 vols., Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 2006.
Al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923), Abū Jaʿfar, Jāmiʿ al-bayān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, ed. by ʿAbdallāh al-Turkī, 26 vols., Cairo: Dār Hajar, 2001.
Al-Tanūkhī (d. 384/994), Abū ʿAlī, Nishwār al-muḥāḍara wa-akhbār al-mudhākara, ed. by ʿAbbūd al-Shāljī, 8 vols., Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1995.
Badawi, M. M., The Function of Rhetoric in Medieval Arabic Poetry: Abū Tammām’s Ode on Amorium, in: Journal of Arabic Literature 9/1 (1978), 43–56.
Gibb, H. A. R., The Social Significance of the Shuubiya, in: H. A. R. Gibb (ed.), Studies on the Civilization of Islam, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014, 62–73.
Montgomery, James E., Personal Communication, August 30th, 2022.
Mottahedeh, R., The Shuʿūbīyah Controversy and the Social History of Early Islamic Iran, in: International Journal of Middle East Studies 7 (1976), 161–182.
Savant, Sarah Bowen, Naming Shuʿūbīs, in: Wheeler M. Thackston et al. (eds.), Essays in Islamic Philology, History, and Philosophy, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016, 167–184.
Savran, Scott, Cultural Polemics in the Early Islamic World: The Shuʾubiyya Controversy, in: Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict, 1 (2007), 42–52.
Stetkevych, Jaroslav, The Discreet Pleasures of the Courtly Hunt: Abū Nuwās and the ʿAbbāsid Tardiyyah, in: Journal of Arabic Literature 39 (2008), 141–183.
Ullmann, Manfred, Beiträge zur Lexikographie des klassischen Arabisch: Wa-ḫairu l-ḥadīṯi mā kāna laḥnan, München: Verlag der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1979.
See, e.g., al-Qurṭubī’s (d. 671/1273), al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qurʾān, IV, 374; VI, 288.
Montgomery, Listening for the Poem; Aṣfahānī, Aghānī, III, 174–177; Bashshār b. Burd, Dīwān, II, 218–242.
Ḍayf, al-Fann wa-madhāhibuhu, 125–126; id., Tārīkh al-adab, 144–145.
The anecdote can be found in the following sources: al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād, VII, 614–615; Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh, XL, 485–486; Ibn Qutayba, Shiʿr, 757; Tanūkhī, Nishwār, VI, 49; Jāḥiẓ, Bayān, I, 49–50; Marzubānī, Muwashshaḥ, 450; Ibn al-Muʿtazz, Ṭabaqāt, 25–26; Ibn Rashīq al-Qayrawānī, ʿUmda, I, 203–204.
Unusual, obsolete Arabic/Bedouin words that are no longer in general use among non- specialists. See below for more detail.
I took the liberty of translating this phrase irḥamhum raḥimaka Allāh as such. The phrase literally means “have mercy on their souls may God have mercy on your soul,” meant here as a mockery.
On Abū Nuwās and his hunting poems (ṭarḍiyyāt) in rajaz style, see Frolov, The Place of Rajaz, 245; Stetkevych, The Discreet Pleasures.
E.g., Ibn Qutayba, al-Maʿānī al-kabīr, 3; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, 1096 (kh-b-q).
Marzubānī, Muwashshaḥ, 450.
Ibn al-Anbārī, Sharḥ al-qaṣāʾid, 314.
“Many people go to the theatre to enjoy Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, for example. They do not need to be experts in the language, idioms, and conventions of Petrarchan love lyric in order to appreciate Romeo’s plight — in fact the actor is rarely an expert in Petrarchanism. It may be interesting to go to a performance of Romeo and Juliet and have a simultaneous performance in which an expert provides footnotes for the audience’s benefit, but I suspect it would not be a very enjoyable evening and the show would close. A familiarity with Petrarch improves our appreciation of the play and admiration for Shakespeare but is not absolutely vital to its appreciation,” Montgomery, Personal communication.
The word ṭirāz is consistently used in the different sources that mention this account; al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād, VII, 614; Ibn Qutayba, Shiʿr, 757.
James Montgomery wonders whether ṭirāz could have been an older, non-technical usage of badīʿ, the term that Ibn al-Muʿtazz popularized in his book; Montgomery, Personal communication.
Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, 2655 (ṭ-r-z).
Ibn al-Muʿtazz, Ṭabaqāt, 25.
For an in-depth study of the rajaz style, see Ullmann, Beiträge zur Lexikographie, especially chapters 5, 6 and 7 (pages 83–175).
Gibb, Social Significance; Savran, Cultural Polemics; Mottahedeh, The Shuʿūbīyah Controversy. In Sarah Savant’s introduction to Ibn Qutayba’s The Excellence of the Arabs (x–xvi), she discusses the formation of the Arab identity during a time of political and social turmoil in third/ninth century Baghdad, and how the decline of the sense of Arabness among the people was behind Ibn Qutayba’s efforts to reestablish the cultural superiority of the Arabs. She translates shuʿūbīs as bigots and shuʿūbiyya as bigotry. Savant has also summarized the different opinions on shuʿūbiyya in modern scholarship and argued that the importance of the movement was overestimated in secondary scholarship especially when looked at from the lens of modern nationalistic movements across the Arabic speaking world; Savant, Naming Shuʿūbīs, 166–169 and 180–181.
Ullmann, Beiträge zur Lexikographie, 180–201.
Al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād, VII, 615; Tanūkhī, Nishwār, VI, 49.
Arberry, The Koran, 124.
Q 74:5 is read in two ways: wa‿r-rijza fa‿hjur and wa‿r-rujza fa‿hjur. Some exegetes consider rijz and rujz to mean the same thing. Rujz are idols whereas rijz is punishment, and since worshipping idols will lead to punishment, both readings were considered synonymous (Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ, XXIII, 410–412). In Q 2:59, fa-anzalnā ʿalā ‿lladhīna ẓalamū rijzan mina ‿s-samāʾi, rijz is interpreted as punishment although al-Ṭabarī states that in this context rijz is different from rijs (dirt, filth). Other linguists and exegetes consider rijz and rijs to be interchangeable by way of ibdāl (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, 1590 (r-j-s); Qurṭubī, Jāmiʿ, II, 134). Ibn Jinnī states that rijz al-shayṭān is the same as rijs al-shayṭān due to the proximity of the sīn and zāy and their interchangeability (Ibn Jinnī, Muḥtasab, I, 275).
Note that Bashshār witnessed the downfall of the Umayyads and the taking over of the Caliphate by the Abbasids. Regardless of the authenticity of the anecdote, it might not be a farfetched reading to also suggest a political backdrop of this story.
Blachère, Bas͟h͟shār b. Burd.
Beeston, Selections, 50–52; Bashshār b. Burd, Dīwān, III, 231.
Ḍayf, Tārīkh al-adab, 202–207; Baghdādī, Farq, 54–56; Van Ess, Die Kāmiliya, 141.
Aṣfahānī, Aghānī, III, 138–140; Bashshār b. Burd, Dīwān, III, 229–232.
Gibb, Social Significance, 62.
Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, 4914 (w-l-d).
Aṣfahānī, Aghānī, III, 177.
ʿAjjāj, Diwān, 391–392: “We roamed from one empty waste to another. Our saddles are the best companions [for crossing] these waste lands.”
ʿAjjāj, Majmūʿ, 71, 109: “Crossing from one waste land to another; [revealing a] waste land vast and endless.”
“An empty passage between two mountains, dark and empty.”
Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, 4251 (m-k-w).
“Yet in the muʿallaqa of Imruʾ al-Qays only the makākī survive the flood in the morning,” Montgomery, Personal communication.
Again, the similarities between badīʿ and ṭirāz are intriguing. As Montgomery suggests, ṭirāz could have been the precursor of badīʿ as the movement of new poetry (Montgomery, Personal communication). On antithesis as a component of the badīʿ movement and how it was employed and analyzed in Abū Tammām’s poetry, see Badawi, The Function of Rhetoric, 43, 55–56.
Ibn Qutayba, Excellence, xxii.