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 what was once the tent area of his lady. Then the poet carries on to describe many aspects of Bedouin life, including camels, landscape, and animals—but also honor, bravery, and war and peace. Although the exact number of these poems—and which ones among them are true muallaqaat—remain points of contention to this day, it is generally agreed that there are between seven and ten. This commentary by Hussein ibn Ahmed Al-Zawzani (died 1093 AD, 486 AH) on the best-known seven of the muallaqaat is arguably the most authoritative among many. Al-Zawzani explained the difficult language and meanings in these poems to contemporary and later generations of Arabic speakers.

Last updated: August 12, 2016