46 results in English
Path of Eloquence
This manuscript is a copy of Nahj al-balāghah (Path of eloquence), the classic compendium of the sermons, writings, and aphorisms of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (died 661), the fourth caliph. This work is especially revered by Shia Muslims who view ‘Ali and his descendants as the legitimate successors of the Prophet Muhammad. ‘Ali’s authorial voice is filtered here through his interpreter, Muhammad ibn al-Husayn, known as al-Sharif al-Radi (969 or 970–1016), who compiled the text from many early Islamic sources. The resulting anthology has led to debate over ...
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Three Collections of Proverbs and Sayings
This printed book was published in 1883 at the famous Jawa’ib Press founded by the Arab printer, author, and journalist Ahmad Fāris al-Shidiyāq. As is often the case with early printed books, the publication itself has received more attention than the contents of the work. Jawa’ib Press was established in the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1860 and operated for about 20 years publishing the newspaper al-Jawa’ib (begun in 1861) as well as more than 70 Arabic classics and tracts. Books were printed in runs of ...
Contributed by Qatar National Library
Poetry Collection of Ṣafī al-Dīn al-Ḥilli
Scholars consider al-Hilli one of the leading poets of postclassical times, that is, the period following the fall of the Abbasid Empire in 1258. His Diwan (Collection of poems) is in 12 chapters, which cover a variety of personalities and occasions and recount in verse vignettes his travels with the Egyptian Mamluk ruler Qalāwūn (died 1290) on his campaign to Mardin in eastern Anatolia. The poems are preceded by an autobiographical note in saj’ (rhymed prose). Al-Hilli was a recognized master of all forms of classical and popular poetry as ...
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Poetry Collection
Born in what is now the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, ‘Ali ibn al-Muqarrab (1176 or 1177−1231 or 1232) had an adventurous life that included political intrigue and involvement with trade as well as literary accomplishment. Writing in the early 13th century, he is said to have been one of the last poets before modern times to have composed in the classical style. His Diwan (Poetry collection) is lauded for its historical as well as literary qualities. It is considered a primary source for geography and history as well ...
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Literary Essays by Classical Arab Authors
Jesuit scholar Louis Cheikho was born in Mardin, Turkey, and educated at the Jesuit school in Ghazīr, Lebanon. He remained associated with the seminary and its successor institution in Beirut, Université Saint-Joseph, throughout his life. Cheikho studied in Europe and eventually gained a world-wide reputation as a Semitist and authority on Eastern Christianity. Al-Machriq, the journal he founded in 1898, is a principal resource for scholars in these fields. It is supplemented by Melanges de l’Université Saint-Joseph and Proche-Orient Chrétien from the same publishers. The work presented here, ‘Ilm ...
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History of Arab Literature
Jirjī Zaydān was born in Beirut, Lebanon, into a Syrian Orthodox family of modest means. After a mediocre experience at local schools, he moved to Egypt to study at al-Qaṣr al-ʻAynī medical college, but he abandoned medicine in favor of a literary and publishing career. He founded Dar al-Hilal printing and publishing house and in 1892 brought out the weekly al-Hilal magazine, which continues publication to this day. Al-Ahram newspaper and al-Hilal became the most long-lived and influential media advocates for Egyptian national causes and modernizing progress based on Western ...
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Pearls, or Selections of Fond Memory and Immortal Imprint
Al-Durar wa-hiyya Muntakhabat al-Tayyib al-Zikr al-Khalid al-Athr (Pearls, or selections of fond memory and immortal imprint) is a memorial volume that collects the political and literary writing of the influential Arab nationalist Adib Ishaq (1856−85). Born in Damascus, Ishaq was a precocious youngster who received his formative education in Arabic and French at the French Lazarist school there and under the Jesuits in Beirut. His family’s strained circumstances forced him to leave school for work as a customs clerk. Excelling at languages, he supplemented his income by writing ...
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Islamic Civilization in the City of Peace
Hadharat al-Islam fi Dar al-Salam (Islamic civilization in the city of peace) is a work of historical imagination, written as a straightforward narrative free of stylistic adornments. The city referred to is Baghdad. The book straddles the transition in Arabic literature from baroque, poetic metaphor to a modern, economic prose style. Treatment of the subject is also innovative. Rather than an essay on glories of the Abbasid period (750−1258), the work is presented as the tale of an anonymous Persian traveler writing home about conditions in the largely Persianate ...
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Emanations of Musk from Beiruti Verse
Al-Nafh al-Miski fi-al-Shi’r al-Bayruti (Emanations of musk from Beiruti verse) is a collection of verse by the prolific Lebanese poet Shaykh Ibrāhīm al-Aḥdab. The author was first and foremost a traditionalist in his literary as well as his legal career. The poems are of various rhyme schemes and meters and display mastery of classical prosody. They are primarily madh (praise) commemorating the achievements of public figures or personal acquaintances. Examples include “Commending His Excellency Muhammad Rushdi Pasha, Governor of Syria,” “Praising Prince ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri on the Festival ...
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The Most Poetical of Poetry
Like many of his contemporaries, Rizq Allah Hassun (1825−80) set out to transcribe the classics into a refreshed Arabic idiom. In Ashʻar al-shiʻr (The most poetical of poetry), he chooses to recast selected Old Testament texts in an accessible poetic form. The book of Job is prominently featured in the collection because, as the author says in his foreword, it ranks with Homer and Shakespeare as a monument of world literature. Hassun’s translation of the story of Job into Arabic poetry is not intended as a Bible reading ...
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The Pillar Regarding Creation and Critique of Poetry
This book is a printed edition of Al-‘Umdah fi Sina’at al-Shi’r wa-Naqdih (The pillar regarding creation and critique of poetry), a foundational text of Arabic literary criticism. The author, Ibn Rashīq al-Qayrawānī, covers poetic history and prosody up to his lifetime in 11th century Qayrawān, the center of intellectual life in Tunisia, then called Al-Ifriqiya. The work is universally known as Ibn Rashiq’s Al-‘Umdah (The pillar). It is also cited as Al-‘Umdah fī maḥāsin al-shiʻr wa-ādābih. Scholarly judgment of Al-‘Umdah holds that although ...
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The Interpreter of Arabic Literature and Its History
Al-Wasit fi-al-Adab al-‘Arabi wa-Tarikhih (The interpreter of Arabic literature and its history) is a textbook in Arabic literature approved for use by the Egyptian Ministry of Education in the various schools under its jurisdiction, namely all teacher-training institutes and secondary schools. The authors were religious and literary figures. The better known of the two, Shaykh Ahmad al-Iskandarī, was born in Alexandria, pursued his studies at al-Azhar, and became a teacher in the schools of al-Fayyūm and other areas around Cairo. He was appointed to the faculty of Cairo University ...
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Explaining al-Khansa’ in Delightful Stanzas
This book is a printed collection of the verse of Tumāḍir bint ʿAmr ibn al-Ḥarth ibn al-Sharīd al-Sulamīyah entitled Anis al-Julasāʼ fī Sharḥ Dīwān al-Khansāʼ (Explaining al-Khansa’ in delightful stanzas). Known to history as al-Khansā’ (she of the snub-nose or of resemblance to a gazelle), the author is regarded as one of the leading poets of late pre-Islamic Arabia. After meeting the Prophet Muhammad, who is said to have admired her poetry, she became a Muslim. Contemporary and subsequent appreciation of her poetry owed much to the power of her ...
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The Superabundance of the Commendable and the Reinforcement of the Yet-More Commendable: Poetry Collection
This diwan, Al-Faydh al- Muhammadi wa-al-Madad al-Ahmadi wa Huwa Diwan (The superabundance of the commendable and the reinforcement of the yet-more commendable: Poetry collection), is a book of poems, mostly in praise of the Prophet Muhammad or in supplication of his blessing and assistance. Some of the verses vary from this theme, for example, poetic prayers addressing Ahmad al-Rifa’i, founder of the famous Sufi order of which the author, Abū al-Hudá al-Ṣayyādī, was a prominent (and controversial) leader. Abu al-Huda was a prolific writer who rose from humble origins ...
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Nymphs of the Valley
ʻArā'is al-Murūj (Nymphs of the valley) is a collection of short stories by the celebrated Lebanese-American author and artist Gibran Khalil Gibran. Gibran was born in 1883 to a Maronite Catholic family in the village of Bsharri in the north of Lebanon. His family immigrated to the United States in 1895, where he began his formal schooling, studying English and art. He is best known in the West for his book The Prophet, which was completed in 1923 and subsequently translated into more than 40 languages. Gibran died in ...
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An Introduction to the Study of the Eloquent Speech of the Arabs
Muqaddama li dirāsat balāghat al-ʻArab (An introduction to the study of the eloquent speech of the Arabs) is a work on Arabic literature or belles lettres. The author, Aḥmad Ḍayf, was an instructor at the Egyptian University (later renamed the University of Cairo). The book was intended for students at the university and was to serve as a study guide for their understanding of literary eloquence. It includes a brief description of the modern Arabic literary movement. Other topics covered are belles lettres and society, and the different categories of ...
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Contentment of the Seeker Regarding the Most Famous Arabic Compositions Printed by Eastern and Western Printing Presses
Edward Van Dyck was an American diplomat and author who served as consular clerk and vice-consul in Lebanon and Egypt from 1873 to 1882. He was the son of the missionary Cornelius Van Dyck, a medical doctor who was professor of pathology at the Syrian Protestant College (which became the American University of Beirut), but who is well known for his Arabic edition of the Bible. Kitāb iktifā' al-qanūʻ bimā huwa matbuʻ min ashhar al-ta'ālīf al-arabīya fī al-maṭābiʻ al-sharqīya wa al-gharbīya (Contentment of the seeker regarding the most famous ...
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A Journey through the Atmosphere on an Airship
Al-riḥla al-jawwīya fī al-markaba al-hawā'iya (A journey through the atmosphere on an airship) is an Arabic translation by Yusuf Ilyan Sarkis (1856−1932 or 1933) of Cinq Semaines en Ballon (Five weeks in a balloon), a novel by the French author Jules Verne originally published in 1863. Shown here is a second edition of this work, produced by the Jesuit print shop in Beirut in 1884 (the first edition having been published in 1875). The novel tells the story of an explorer, Dr. Samuel Ferguson, who, accompanied by a ...
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Attainment of Fluency in “Al-Muthallathat” Poetry
Nayl al-arab fi-muthallathat al-‘Arab (Attainment of fluency in al-muthallathat poetry) is a manual of poetics for students. It discusses the use of triple short vowels (muthallathat) in a manner conforming to Arabic morphology and authoritative practice. The author, Hasan ibn ‘Ali Quwaydir (1788 or 1789−1846), does not tell us how he came to select the words and phrases in the book. In its idiosyncratic choice of examples and its prescriptive directions for use, this is a highly personal work. The verses of the main text, framed in a ...
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Correspondence of the Masters of Eloquence
Rasa’il al-bulagha’ (Correspondence of the masters of eloquence) is a compilation of classical epistolary writing assembled by the famous modern authority on the Arabic language Muhammad Kurd ‘Ali. It focuses on the writings of the eighth-century literary master ‘Abd Allah ibn Muqaffa’ and contains shorter pieces by other writers whom Kurd ‘Ali judged to be exemplars of style, such as ‘Abd al-Hamid ibn Yahya al-Katib and Ibn Qutayba. ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Muqaffa’, whose prose style is regarded as a model for writers to this day, is represented by ...
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Commentary on al-Busti’s Poem “To Rise in One’s World is to Decline”
This manuscript was composed by Hasan al-Burini (1555 or 1556−1615 or 1616). It is a commentary on a qasidah (poem) of moral aphorisms by al-Busti entitled “To Rise in One’s World Is to Decline. Al-Burini is best known for his commentary on the mystical poetry of Ibn al-Farid and for his biographical dictionary of Damascus. He is also recognized as a poet, mathematician, and logician, although few of his works in these fields have survived. In this commentary on al-Busti’s poem, he generally follows a pattern of ...
The Path of the Vexed Towards Achievement
This manuscript is a qasidah (poem) of eight pages by Zayn al-Din Sha’ban ibn Muhammad al-Athari (1364−1425) praising the Prophet Muhammad. The poet lists the perfections of the Prophet and his stature above all of God’s creatures. He then proceeds to the miracle of the Isra and Miraj, Muhammad’s night journey to heaven. He addresses the Prophet directly, asking him to “take him by the hand.” He exalts ahl al-bayt (the family of the Prophet) and declares that prayers are “blocked and nugatory” if they do ...
Poem
This manuscript is an undated poem by ‘Ali ibn ‘Abd al-Haqq al-Qusi (1788−1877). The poem is a qasidah (lyric poem). The author was from al-Qus, a town in Upper Egypt. He studied there and at al-Azhar in Cairo. After early travels, he settled in Asyut, a town on the Nile approximately 320 kilometers south of Cairo, where he taught for the rest of his life. His known writings include works of religion and astronomy. This qasidah, of which an autograph copy is held in the library of King Saud ...
Untitled Outline in Verse of Islamic Obligations
This untitled Arabic manuscript is an urjūza (versification) of Muqaddimat Ibn Rushd (Ibn Rushd’s introduction). It is a work on Mālikī Islamic jurisprudence by Ibn Rushd al-Jadd (the grandfather), otherwise known as Abū al-Walīd Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad (circa 1058−circa 1126), not to be confused with his famous grandson, the philosopher Abu al-Walid Ibn Rushd (1126−98). This versification, commonly known as Naẓm muqaddimat Ibn Rushd (The versification of Ibn Rushd’s introduction), is ascribed to ʻAbd al-Rahman ibn ʻAlī al-Ruqʿī al-Fāsī (died in Fez, in present-day Morocco, circa ...
Dawn for the Blind in the Craft of Composition
Ṣubḥ al-aʻshá (Dawn for the blind), as this encyclopedic masterpiece is commonly known, was compiled by medieval Egyptian scholar Ahmad al-Qalqashandi (1355 or 1356−1418) for the secretaries in the chancery of the sultans of Egypt. Scholars have long mined the work for the information it contains on a wide variety of cultural and literary topics, for example the histories of Egypt and Syria, non-Muslim populations in the Muslim world, state formation and administration, calligraphy, libraries, and even codes and cyphers. Scholars have also produced many critical analyses of the ...
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The Burdah Poem
This illuminated small codex contains a famous poem in honor of the Prophet Muhammad popularly known as “Qaṣīdat al-Burdah” (The poem of the mantle), which was composed by Sharaf al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Būṣīrī (died 694 AH [1294 CE]). This copy was executed in a variety of scripts, probably in Iran, by Ḥabīb Allāh ibn Dūst Muḥammad al-Khwārizmī in the 11th century AH (17th century CE). The first page (folio 1b) of the manuscript features an illuminated rectangular headpiece with five inner panels of text executed in the following scripts: muhaqqaq (gold ...
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The Desire of the Students for an Explanation of the Calculator's Craving
This manuscript offers a clear example of the liveliness of the North African mathematical tradition under the Muslim-Berber dynasties that ruled over the Islamic West from the 12th century to the first half of the 17th century. They were the Almohads (12th–13th centuries), the Marinids (13th–15th centuries), the Wattasids (15th–16th centuries), and the Saadis (16th–17th centuries). While there was little scientific advance in other fields in this period, the mathematical sciences kept on developing, as reflected both in the composition of original works and in commentaries ...
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The Illumination of Inheritance Calculation
Islamic law goes into great detail on the subject of the division of inheritances (farā'id) among heirs. For this reason, inheritances have received extensive treatment in books of fiqh (Islamic law) and been a subject of study for mathematicians as well. Qabas al-Daw' fī al-Hisāb (The illumination of inheritance calculation) was copied by its author, ‘Abd al-Raḥman ibn Aḥmad ibn 'Ali al-Ḥamidi, in this 1589 manuscript. The work, which he dedicated to the son of the Šāf‘ī jurist Šams al-Dīn Muhammad al-Bahwašī, is an example of a genre ...
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The Sound of Insanity
This calligraphic fragment includes four verses of poetry in Persian describing the simple mark and sound of insanity (i.e., the chain). The verses read: “I and the chain that / Were walking and lamenting together / (that is what) causes the separation between craziness / and enjoyment and wisdom.” The text is written in nasta'liq script in white ink on a red ground. The lines of text are separated by green or blue bands decorated with flower-and-vine motifs painted in gold. In the lower-right corner appears the calligrapher's signature: katabahu ...
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Bahram Gur in the Yellow Pavilion
This text describes an episode from the Haft Paykar (Seven thrones) of Niẓāmī Ganjavī (died 1202−3), the fourth book from his Khamsah (Quintet). In this romantic allegory of love and frustration, Sassanian ruler Bahram Gur (died 438) visits seven pavilions on each day of the week. Here, Niẓāmī describes the ruler's visit to the gunbad-i zar (yellow pavilion) on a Ruz-i yakshamba (Sunday), an anecdote represented on the folio's verso. In this tale, Bahram Gur is disappointed by his concubines and convinces a woman, who first refuses ...
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Amplification of the Poem, the Burdah, Or the Expansion of the Bright Stars in the Praise of the Finest of Mankind, the Prophet Muhammad
This manuscript is a copy of the poem in honor of the Prophet Muhammad, which is popularly known as Qaṣīdat al-burdah (The poem of the mantle). It was written by Sharaf al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Būṣīrī (died 694 AH [1294 AD]). The poem has a takhmīs (amplification, or expansion of the poem) by Naṣīr al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Fayyūmī. The amplification and the text of the Qaṣīdat al-burdah were written in Naskh and Thuluth scripts respectively by Riḍwān ibn Muḥammad al-Tabīzī in 767 AH (1366 AD), probably for the Mawlawī (Mevlevi) Library in Konya ...
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Burning and Melting
This manuscript is an illuminated and illustrated copy of the poem Sūz va gudāz (Burning and melting) by Naw’ī Khabūshānī, who died in 1019 AH (1610 AD). It recounts the love story of a Hindu girl who burns herself on the funeral pyre of her betrothed. The codex was written in Nasta’līq script in black ink by Ibn Sayyid Murād al-Ḥusaynī and illustrated by Muḥammad ‘Alī Mashhadī in 1068 AH (1657 AD). According to the colophon, Ibn Sayyid Murād al-Ḥusaynī copied the manuscript for the painter Muḥammad ‘Alī ...
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Poems (Carmina)
This manuscript, which probably dates from the 16th century, contains Mušḥātā (Poems) by Gregory Bar ‘Ebraya (also seen as Bar Hebraeus, 1226–86), a Syriac Orthodox bishop and a major author in the later Syriac tradition. He wrote prolifically, mostly in Syriac but also in Arabic, on philosophy, theology, spirituality, and history. His works also included commentaries on scripture, devotions, moral treatises, logic, the sciences, and humorous stories. Bar Hebraeus was renowned for his justice, integrity, great learning, and principled leadership. A few recent pages (mostly blank) have been ...
The Dove’s Neck-Ring
Abu Muhammad Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Said ibn Hazm (994–1064 AD; 384–456 AH) was a renowned Andalusian poet and religious scholar from Cordoba. He was born into an eminent family and, after receiving a distinguished and wide-ranging education, served the Umayyad caliphate in its decline. His political activities led to his imprisonment and banishment, and he wrote Tawq al-hamamah (The dove’s neck-ring) while in exile, in response to a friend’s request. The book is often considered the most detailed and insightful book on the nature of ...
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The Diwan
Al-Waleed ibn Ubaidillah Al-Buhturi (821–97 AD; 206–48 AH) was a leading Arab poet who was born in Manbij, in present-day Syria, and lived in the early Abbasid dynasty. He was a companion of the Abbasid caliph, Al-Mutawakil, whom Al-Buhturi saw murdered before his eyes in 861. The violent incident weighed heavily on the poet’s psyche, sending him into self-exile and a period of seclusion. Often mentioned in connection with two other preeminent poets of the Abbasid era, Abu Tamman who preceded him and Al-Mutanabbi who succeeded him ...
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The Book of Misers
Abu Uthman Amr ibn Bahr al-Kinani (776–869 AD; 163–255 AH), nicknamed Al-Jahiz for his bulging eyes, was a leading literary figure who lived during the early Abbasid era. He was born and died in Basra, Iraq. It was said that his grandfather was a slave from East Africa. Al-Jahiz was a prolific writer on subjects ranging from theology, to politics, to manners, who left many highly significant works. He is credited with having profoundly shaped the rules of Arabic prose. Al-bukhalaa (The book of misers) is considered a ...
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Zawzani's Commentary on the Seven Suspended Odes
The Muallaqaat (The suspended odes) are long, classical Arabic poems written in the pre-Islamic period. They are referred to by this name because it was believed Arab critics of the time chose to hang them on the walls of the Kaaba in Mecca (a holy place for the tribes of Arabia even before Islam) in deference to the greatness of these poems and to set the standards for all Arabic poetry to come. They typically start with a pause by the lover and his companions to memorialize the remnants of ...
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The Book of Songs
Abu Al-Faraj Al-Isbahani (or Al-Isfahani, 897–967 AD) was a literary scholar, poet, and genealogist who was born in Isfahan, in present-day Iran, but lived much of his life in Baghdad and Aleppo. Kitab al-Aghani (The book of songs) is often considered his masterpiece. A dozen or more other works by him are known. Most of them describe the indulgent social life of his times, a topical choice that prompted considerable criticism especially from clerics, some of whom went as far as to question his scholarly rigor and authenticity. Al-Isbahani ...
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The Philosophy of ibn Tufail and His Treatise the Self-Taught Philosopher
Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Tufail (also known by a Latinized version of his name, Abubacer Aben Tofail, 1105–85 AD) was an Andalusian Muslim polymath who was born near Granada, Spain, and died in Morocco. Apart from fragments of poetry, Hayy ibn Yaqzan (Alive, son of awake), also called Philosophus Autodidactus (The self-taught philosopher), is his only surviving work. Considered the first philosophical novel, it is often seen as an earlier Arabic version of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The book had much influence in the West. It takes place ...
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Book of Poetry and Poets
Abdullah ibn Muslim ibn Qutaibah (828–85 AD, 213–76) was an Arab literary historian and critic and an Islamic jurist and scholar. He was born in Kufa, in present-day Iraq, and spent much of his life in Baghdad, where he died. His Al-shiir wal shuaraa (Book of poetry and poets) is considered a major classic of Arabic literature and a pioneering work of literary criticism. It is a biographical encyclopedia of more than 200 leading Arab poets, spanning the pre-Islamic period to the early Abbasid era (the sixth century ...
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Al-Mutannabbi's Diwan with Al-Ukbari's Commentary
Abu Al-Tayyib Ahmed ibn Al-Hussein (915–65 AD, 303–54 AH), better known as Al-Mutanabbi (Self-proclaimed prophet), is arguably the greatest Arab poet of all time. He lived a short, turbulent life of about 50 years. He was born in Iraq but traveled extensively, crisscrossing Syria and Egypt, then returning to Iraq and Persia in search of political and monetary rewards. Proud to the extent of arrogance and critical of his enemies, he was assassinated in his birthplace of Iraq, on his way home from Persia. His poetry endured because ...
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The One of a Kind
Abdulmalik ibn Muhammad al-Thaalibi (961–1038 AD, 350–429 AH) was a leading linguist, literary figure, and poet. He was born in the trading and cultural center of Nishapur in Persia (present-day Iran). Yateemet al-dahr (The one of a kind) is the most famous of his more than 80 works. The book is a compilation of biographies of the poets of the time, divided into four main sections, each of which covers a region: the poets of al-Sham (Levant) and its environs; the Buwayhid poets (Western Persia and Iraq); the ...
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