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 quoting a stanza and then furnishing a brief explanation followed by a longer grammatical and morphological discussion. Ali ibn Muhammad al-Busti was born in the once-prosperous town of Bust, in southern Afghanistan, and served at the Ghaznavid court. After falling out with his patron, he took refuge in Central Asia, where he died in 1010. He is known for his love of wordplay, as demonstrated here. This poem has several titles: “Ziyadat al-Mar’ fi-Dunyahu Nuqsan” (To rise in one’s world is to decline), “Nuniyat al-Busti,” a poem featuring the Arabic letter nun at the end of each couplet, and “‘Unwan al-Hukm” (Banner of adages). The manuscript is in an inelegant hand with marginalia and is carelessly trimmed. It is from the collections of the National Library and Archives of Egypt and is bound with two other manuscripts. Details concerning its copying are obscure, but it appears to have been written by the same scribe who copied one of the titles with which it is bound, Notes of Those Rooted in Understanding and Verification in the Matter of Hadiths and Their Abrogation by Abū al-Faraj Ibn al-Jawzī.

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Title in Original Language

شرح قصيدة زيادة المرء في دنياه نقصان

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  1. Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature (London: Routledge, 1998).
  2. Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1987).
  3. Yusuf Alyan Sarkis, Mu’jam al-Matbu’at al-‘Arabiyah wa-al-Mu’arribah (Cairo: Matba’at Sarkis, 1928).

Last updated: August 24, 2016