Abu Nuwas: Wikis

  
  

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Abu Nuwas, Drawing by Kahlil Gibran, al-Funun 2, no. 1 (June 1916)

Abu-Nuwas al-Hasan ben Hani Al-Hakami (756814),a known as Abū-Nuwās[1] (Arabic: ابونواس‎; Persian: ابونواس, Abu Novas), was one of the greatest of classical Arabic and Persian poets. Born in the city of Ahvaz in Persia, of an Arab father and a Persian mother,[1] he became a master of all the contemporary genres of Arabic poetry. Abu Nuwas has entered the folkloric tradition, and he appears several times in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.

Contents

Early life and work

Abu Nuwas was born to an Arab father whom he never knew, Hani, who was a soldier in the army of Marwan II. His Persian mother, named Golban, worked as a weaver. Biographies differ on the date of Abu Nuwas' birth, ranging from 747 to 762. Some say he was born at Basra[1] others in Damascus, Busra, or at Ahwaz. His given name was al-Hasan ibn Hani al-Hakami, 'Abu Nuwas' being a nick-name: 'Father of the Lock of Hair' referred to the two long sidelocks which hung down to his shoulders.

When Abu Nuwas was still a boy, his mother sold him to a grocer from Basra, Sa’ad al-Yashira. Abu Nuwas migrated to Baghdad, possibly in the company of Walibah ibn al-Hubab, and soon became renowned for his witty and humorous poetry, which dealt not with the traditional desert themes, but with urban life and the joys of wine and drinking (khamriyyat), and ribald humor (mujuniyyat). His commissioned work includes poems on hunting, the love of women and young men, and panegyrics to his patrons. He was infamous for his mockery and satire, two of his favorite themes being the sexual passivity of men and the sexual intemperance of women. Despite his celebration of male sexual freedom, he was less than sympathetic towards lesbianism, and often mocked what he perceived as its inanity. He liked to shock society by openly writing about things which Islam forbade. He may have been the first Arab poet to write about masturbation.

Ismail bin Nubakht said of Abu Nuwas: "I never saw a man of more extensive learning than Abu Nuwas, nor one who, with a memory so richly furnished, possessed so few books. After his decease we searched his house, and could only find one book-cover containing a quire of paper, in which was a collection of rare expressions and grammatical observations."

Exile and imprisonment

Abu Nuwas was forced to flee to Egypt for a time, after he wrote an elegiac poem praising the Barmakis, the powerful family which had been toppled and massacred by the caliph, Harun al-Rashid. He returned to Baghdad in 809 upon the death of Harun al-Rashid. The subsequent ascension of Muhammad al-Amin, Harun al-Rashid's twenty-two-year-old libertine son (and former student of Abu Nuwas) was a mighty stroke of luck for Abu Nuwas. In fact, most scholars believe that Abu Nuwas wrote most of his poems during the reign of Al-Amin. His most famous royal commission was a poem (a 'Kasida') which he composed in praise of al-Amin.

"According to the critics of his time, he was the greatest poet in Islam." wrote F.F. Arbuthnot in Arabic Authors. His contemporary Abu Hatim al Mekki often said that the deepest meanings of thoughts were concealed underground until Abu Nuwas dug them out.

Nevertheless, Abu Nuwas was imprisoned when his drunken, libidinous exploits tested even al-Amin's patience. Amin was finally overthrown by his puritanical brother, Al-Ma'mun, who had no tolerance for Abu Nuwas.

Some later accounts claim that fear of prison made Abu Nuwas repent his old ways and become deeply religious, while others believe his later, penitent poems were simply written in hopes of winning the caliph's pardon. It was said that al-Ma'mun's secretary Zonbor tricked Abu Nuwas into writing a satire against Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet, while Nuwas was drunk. Zonbor then deliberately read the poem aloud in public, and ensured Nuwas's continuing imprisonment. Depending on which biography is consulted, Abu Nuwas either died in prison or was poisoned by Ismail bin Abu Sehl, or both.

Legacy

Abu Nuwas is considered one of the greats of classical Arabic literature. He influenced many later writers, to mention only Omar Khayyám, and Hafiz — both of them Persian poets. A hedonistic caricature of Abu Nuwas appears in several of the Thousand and One Arabian Nights tales. Among his best known poems are the ones ridiculing the "Olde Arabia" nostalgia for the life of the Bedouin, and enthusiastically praising the up-to-date life in Baghdad as a vivid contrast.

His freedom of expression especially on matters forbidden by Islamic norms continue to excite the animus of censors. While his works were freely in circulation until the early years of the twentieth century, in 1932 the first modern censored edition of his works appeared in Cairo. However, in January 2001, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture ordered the burning of some 6,000 books of his homoerotic poetry[2][3].

Swahili culture

In East Africa's Swahili culture the Name of Abu Nuwas is quite popular as "Abunuwasi". Here it is connected to a number of stories which otherwise go by names like Nasreddin, Guba or "the Mullah" in folktale and literature of Islamic societies.

Translations

  • O Tribe That Loves Boys. Hakim Bey (Entimos Press / Abu Nuwas Society, 1993). With a scholarly biographical essay on Abu Nuwas, largely taken from Ewald Wagner's biographical entry in The Encyclopedia of Islam.
  • Carousing with Gazelles, Homoerotic Songs of Old Baghdad. Seventeen poems by Abu Nuwas translated by Jaafar Abu Tarab. (iUniverse, Inc., 2005).
  • Jim Colville. Poems of Wine and Revelry: The Khamriyyat of Abu Nuwas. (Kegan Paul, 2005).

Further reading

  • Philip F. Kennedy. The Wine Song in Classical Arabic Poetry: Abu Nuwas and the Literary Tradition.. (Open University Press, 1997).
  • Philip Kennedy: Abu Nuwas: A Genius of Poetry, OneWorld Press, 2005.
  • The care and feeding of gazelles - Medieval Arabic and Hebrew love poetry. IN: Lazar, M. and Lacy, N. Poetics of Love in the Middle Ages. (George Mason University Press, 1989).
  • Richard Nelson Frye. The Golden Age of Persia, p123, ISBN 0-06-492288-X)
  • Encyclopædia Britannica entry for Abu Nuwas

Notes

  • Note a: Sources vary: Garzanti gives a date of birth of 756 or 758 and a date of death as circa 814,[4] while Dona S. Straley gives circa 756 to circa 810.[5]

References

  1. ^ a b c Garzanti
  2. ^ Al-Hayat, January 13, 2001
  3. ^ Middle East Report, 219 Summer 2001
  4. ^ Garzanti, Aldo (1974) [1972] (in Italian). Enciclopedia Garzanti della letteratura. Milan: Garzanti. pp. 2.  
  5. ^ Straley, Dona S.. The undergraduate's companion to Arab writers and their web sites. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 30. ISBN 9781591581185. ISBN 1591581184.  

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Abu Nuwas (c.750 - c.810) Arab poet; Libertine homosexual, lived in Baghdad during the reigns of Caliphs Harun al-Rashid and Muhammad al-Amin. His poetry describes a life of debauchery, wine, boys and women.

Sourced

  • Critic, relent!
    Your hope for repentance
    Will meet with disapppointment.
    For this is the life,
    Not desert tents,
    Not camel’s milk!
    • Diwan, 11-12
  • You, mad to expect repentance,
    Tear your robe all you want;
    I will never repent!
    • Diwan, 11-12
  • I bought abandon dear
    And sold all piety for pleasure.
    My own free spirit I have followed,
    And never will I give up lust.
    • Diwan, 164

Unsourced

The first three lines of one of his poems:

Do not reproach me! For reproach is temptation— And cure me with that which is my ailment (wine).
It (the wine) is yellow, and knows no sorrow— If a rock were to drink it, it would fly with joy.
It is poured by a creature with a vagina, but wearing the clothes of he who possesses a penis (a young woman dressed in men's clothes)— She has two lovers: a sodomite and a fornicator.

To be completed.

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

File:Abu
Abu Nuwas

Abu-Nuwas al-Hasan ben Hani al-Hakami (750–810), or Abū-Nuwās, was a great Arabic poet. He was born in Persia. He is in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.rue:Абу-Нувас








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