Poets at the Court of Sayf Al-Dawla Al-Hamadani
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Poets at the Court of Sayf Al-Dawla Al-Hamadani
Annotation
PII
S268684310021470-5-1
Publication type
Article
Status
Published
Authors
Yafia Hana 
Occupation: associate professor, Faculty of Asian and African Studies
Affiliation: St. Petersburg State University (SPbSU)
Address: Russian Federation, St. Petersburg
Edition
Pages
55-59
Abstract

The article researches poetry life at the court of Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani, who was the Emir of Aleppo. The ruler encouraged the development of literature, and the most opulent court of the Emir of Aleppo in the Middle East attracted poets, writers and scholars from all over the Arab world. The cohort of the most famous poets at the court of Sayf al-Dawla included al-Mutanabbi, Abu Firas al-Hamadani, Abu al-Abbas al-Nami, al-Sanawbari and others. Al-Mutanabbi was the most famous poet of this period. The poet was imbued with a special love for the Bedouin character and improved his knowledge of the Arabic classical language. Abu Firas is well-known by his “Byzantine verses” or “Rumiyat”. Al-Sanawbari was famous for his poems, in which he sang of the cities of Aleppo and Raqqa, where the residences of Sayf al-Dawla were located. A Persian by origin, Kashajim also found himself at the court of Sayf al-Dawla as a court poet. Kashajim wrote traditional panegyrics, laments, hamriyat, he also often turned to descriptions of nature in his work. Sayf al-Dawla surrounded himself not only with talented poets, but also with outstanding intellectuals of his time, among whom was, for example, the most famous philosopher of his time, al-Farabi.

Keywords
Sayf al-Dawla, poets, poetry, court, cultural life
Received
11.08.2022
Date of publication
19.09.2022
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1 The period from the 8th to the 12th centuries was the most fruitful in the history of medieval Arab culture, since the people who inhabited a significant part of the provinces conquered by the Arabs adopted the language and religion of the conquerors and took an active part in the development of Arab culture. The people of the Caliphate, who had not been subjected to total Arabization, used the Arabic language to create scientific and literary works. The collapse of the Caliphate had a positive effect on the general state of literature, which was the result of the spiritual activity of many different ethnic groups of the Caliphate, who wrote in Arabic [Фильштинский, 1978, с. 15].
2 The large cities of the Caliphate at this time became centers of trade and culture, and among the rulers there were many admirers and patrons of science and art. One such ruler was the Emir of Aleppo, Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani, who belonged to the Shia Arab Hamdanid dynasty. He ruled northern Syria from 945 to 967. The Hamdanid dynasty, founded by Hamdan bin Hamdun, ruled in northern Iraq and Syria from 890 to 1004. They claimed to be descendants of the ancient tribe of Christian Arabs Banu Taghlib.
3 The Hamdanids remained in power in Mosul until 990, after which the lands of the Hamdanids were divided, in 1003 the Fatimids destroyed the last members of the dynasty.
4 Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani encouraged the development of literature, and the most opulent court of the Emir of Aleppo in the Middle East attracted poets, writers and scholars from all over the Arab world.
5 The cohort of the most famous poets at the court of Sayf al-Dawla included al-Mutanabbi, Abu Firas al-Hamadani, who was the cousin of Sayf al-Dawla, Abu al-Abbas al-Nami, al-Sanawbari, al-Tanukhi, Kashajim, al-Tamimi, al-Dimashki al-Rifa al-Sirri, the al-Khalidiyan brothers, Said al-Khalidiya and Muhammad al-Khalidiya, and Abu al-Faraj al-Babaga.
6 Al-Mutanabbi (born 915–died 965) is the most famous poet of this period. He was born in Kufa into a poor family, which was descended from the Bedouins of South Arabia. In 925, the future poet was forced to flee from Kufa to the Bedouins in Syria. Staying among them greatly influenced his political and artistic ideas, and left an imprint on his worldview. The poet was imbued with a special love for the Bedouin character and improved his knowledge of the Arabic classical language. In 933, al-Mutanabbi tried to preach in Kufa, and later among the Syrian Bedouins. According to Arab biographers, because of these sermons people gave the poet his nickname “al-Mutanabbi” (i. e., pretending to be a prophet, a false prophet) [Фильштинский, 1984, с. 233].
7 In 948, the poet moved to the court of the famous Aleppo ruler Sayf al-Dawla. According to biographers, the poet was Sayf al-Dawla's closest friend and regularly accompanied him on campaigns against Byzantium. According to legend, al-Mutanabbi asked Sayf al-Dawla for permission to read his panegyrics while sitting, and not bowing before the ruler. Sayf al-Dawla gave the poet his permission. The poems composed by al-Mutanabbi during this period under the name “Sayfiyyat” make up more than a third of his diwan. In them, the poet acts as a court panegyrist.
8 At the court of Sayf al-Dawla, the poet was constantly forced to fight with his rivals and ill-wishers. In the end, al-Mutanabbi decided to leave Aleppo because of a quarrel with Ibn Khalawayh, who, according to legend, threw an iron key (according to another version, an inkwell) at the poet. Sayf al-Dawla, who witnessed the quarrel, did nothing, and the offended al-Mutanabbi decided to leave his court, after which he went to Egypt.
9 The work of al-Mutanabbi is the pinnacle of Arabic panegyric poetry. Numerous lyrical and philosophical reflections occupy a special place in his qasidas.
10 Al-Mutanabbi’s rival, Abu Firas, was born in 932 and died in 967. Abu Firas, a cousin and pupil of Sayf al-Dawla, was close to the emir. He was appointed as commander of a fortress on the border with Byzantium. The poet was captured by the Byzantines, where he spent about seven years, and after returning to Aleppo he died in battle.
11 The poems that Abu Firas wrote in Byzantine captivity were called “Byzantine verses” or “Rumiyat”. In them, the poet complains about his fate, asks Sayf al-Dawla to ransom him from captivity and longs for freedom. However, the main themes of Abu Firas' poetry are chivalrous prowess and love.
12 Another famous poet of this period was al-Sanawbari (died 945). Most biographers agree that the real name of al-Sanawbari was Ahmad bin Murad al-Dabbi (that is, from the Dabba tribe) al-Antaki (from Antakya or Antioch) al-Halabi (أحمد بن مراد الضبي الأنطاكي الحلبي). When asked about his nickname, the poet himself said that his grandfather served in the House of Wisdom (دار الحكمة) under the ruler al-Mamun. One day, a discussion took place between al-Mamun and grandfather al-Sanawbari, during which the ruler compared the hot and short-tempered character of the opponent with a “pine tree”. Hence the nickname Sanawbar (or pine) [Ihsan, 1998, 11]. There are, however, other possible versions of the origin of the nickname. So, for example, A. Mez, referring to Arabic sources, suggested that it indicated the profession of as-Sanaubari himself or his father (a pine trader), or was associated with a description of his figure [Мец, 1966, с. 218].
13 Al-Sanawbari was born in Antakya in 898. He was the curator of the Sayf al-Dawla library and was a very wealthy man [Ganim, 2013, p. 84]. Al-Sanawbari was famous for his poems, in which he sang of the cities of Aleppo and Raqqa, where the residences of Sayf al-Dawla were located [Мец, 1966, с. 219], as well as the nature of his native Syria, for which he even received the nickname شاعر روضيات (poet of gardens). This is how al-Sanawbari ironically described the river called Kuwaik (قويق) [al-Sanawbari]:
14 قويق إذا شم ريح الشتاء ... أظهر تيهاً وكبراً عجيباً
15 وناسب دجلة والنيل وال ... فرات بهاء وحسناً وطيبا
16 وإن أقبل الصيف أبصرتهُ ... ذليلاً حقيراً حزيناً كئيباً
17 إذا ما الضفادع نادينه ... قويقُ قويقُ أبى أن يُجيبا ... Feeling the breath of winter, the Kuwaik River shows amazing pride
18 She becomes like the Tigris and Euphrates in her beauty.
19 But she meets summer humiliated and sad
20 When the frogs call her "Kuwaik, Kuwaik", she doesnt answer.
21 However, among his poems there were also traditional praises (غزل), panegyrics (مدح), lamentations (رثاء). From the poet’s poems we learn that he had a daughter who died early. The poet dedicated the following lines to her [Ihsan, 1998, 229]:
22 كنت سرورا فمضى
23 وكنت حلما فانقضى
24 You were the joy that ended.
25 You were the dream that passed.
26 Al-Sanawbari also made extensive use of complex poetic figures of speech. It is believed that most of the verses of al-Sanawbari have been lost, and only verses that begin with the letter "ra" and end with the letter "qaf" have survived.
27 Al-Nami (born 922–died 1009 in Aleppo) was one of the most famous poets in the court of Sayf al-Dawla.
28 It is known that after al-Mutanabbi left Aleppo, Sayf al-Dawla especially favored al-Nami among other poets. Unfortunately, the work of al-Nami was not subjected to such a thorough study as, for example, the work of al-Mutanabbi. Information about al-Nami is sketchy and scarce. It is known that his full name is Abu Abbas Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Darimi.
29 The poet was born in Mopsuestia (المَصّيصة), an ancient city in Turkey. It is curious that before becoming a poet, al-Nami worked as a butcher.
30 Al-Nami's poems are notable for their linguistic simplicity, and therefore, are understandable to a simple reader. The poet liked to use metonymy in his works [Radif, 1970, p. 31]. The most famous al-Nami diwans are الأمالي and كتاب القوافي. Besides, the influence of the poetry of al-Mutanabbi can be traced in his work [Radif, 1970, p. 13–14].
31 The poet, linguist and jurist Abu al-Qasim al-Tanukhi (born 892–died 953) also appeared at the court of Sayf al-Dawla. Born in Antakya, a city in southern Turkey. Initially, he studied religion, the Hanafi madhhab. Al-Tanukhi gained fame in Iraq, as for some time he ruled Basra and Ahvaz (a city in Iran). After he was removed from his post, he went to the court of Sayf al-Dawla. Due to the patronage of the ruler of Aleppo al-Tanukhi, he regained the lost position. In addition to the poetry al-Tanukhi also wrote several prose works of an entertaining nature [Мец, 1966, с. 213].
32 A Persian by origin, Kashajim also found himself at the court of Sayf ad-Dawla as a court poet. Very little is known about him. Biographers report that Kashajim died in 970, and his real name sounded like Mahmud bin al-Hussein bin al-Sindi bin Shahik al-Ramli. The poet was born in the city of al-Ramla (hence the part of his name "al-Ramli"). Interestingly, the pseudonym Kashajim, which the poet chose for himself, is an example of an abbreviation. Thus, the first letter (ك) meant (كاتب) writer, the letter (ش) meant (شاعر) poet, the hamza meant (أديب) writer, and the letter (م) meant both (منطق) logician and (منجم) astronomer. Legend has it that Kashajim combined the duties of a poet with those of a cook at the court of Sayf al-Dawla for some time. This allegedly forced him to subsequently add an additional letter (ط) to his pseudonym, which meant (طباخ) cook. And his name began to sound Takshajim (طكشاجم).
33 It is known that Kashajim was friendly with al-Sanawbari, whom the latter patronized to the best of his ability. According to Arabic sources, Kashajim wooed one of the daughters of al-Sanaubari [Мец, 1966, с. 219].
34 Kashajim wrote traditional panegyrics, laments, hamriyat, he also often turned to descriptions of nature in his work. It is known that Kashajim was the author of not only poetic works. For example, he is the author of an essay on hunting and fishing. In it, Kashajim talks not only about the intricacies of hunting, but also about the characteristics of wild animal meat, as well as its impact on human health. The author emphasized that his work is the first essay on this subject.
35 Sayf al-Dawla surrounded himself not only with talented poets, but also with outstanding intellectuals of his time, among whom was, for example, the most famous philosopher of his time, al-Farabi. Cultural life at the court of the ruler of Aleppo was a reflection of the general attitude towards science, literature and art in the society of that time: major statesmen considered it necessary to patronize the outstanding thinkers of their time, contributing to the development of science.

References

1. Mez A. An Muslim renaissance. Moscow: Nauka, 1966. — 458 p. (in Russian).

2. Filshtinsky I. M. Arabic Literature in the Middle Ages. Moscow: Nauka, 1978. — 254 p. (in Russian).

3. Filshtinsky I. M. Literature of 10–12th centuries [Arabic literature]. History of World Literature. Vol. 2. Moscow: Nauka, 1984. Pp. 232–239 (in Russian).

4. Abbas Ihsan. Poetry collection of al-Sanawbari. Beirut: Dar sadirr, 1998. — 510 p. (in Arabic).

5. al-Jabbar Sa‘ud Mahmud ‘Abd. Poetry at the Court of Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani. Beirut: 1994. — 413 p. (in Arabic).

6. Radif Sabih. Poets of Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani. Baghdad: 1970. — 308 p. (in Arabic).

7. Ganim Fida’ Muhammad. The Image of Water in poetry of al-Sanawbari. Amman: 2013. — 105 p. (in Arabic).

8. Al-Sanawbari (in Arabic). URL: http://islamport.com/w/tkh/Web/363/96.htm (accessed 23.02.2022).

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