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 named his work The Book of Songs because he based it primarily on 100 songs, originally selected by renowned musician and singer Ibrahim Al-Mosili, to be sung for his patrons, the Abbasid caliphs Harun Al-Rashid and Al-Wathiq. It was said that it took Al-Isbahani 50 years to complete the book, before he dedicated it to Seif ud-Dawla, the emir of Aleppo. The book consists of three parts: a selection of songs that Al-Mosili performed for his caliph patrons, stories of caliphs and their relatives who composed song melodies, and other songs of Al-Isbahani’s own selection.

Last updated: August 12, 2016