Abu Nuwas

Abū Nuwās al-Ḥasan ibn Hānī al-Ḥakamī (variant: Al-Ḥasan ibn Hānī 'Abd al-Awal al-Ṣabāḥ, Abū 'Alī (الحسن بن هانئ بن عبد الأول بن الصباح ،ِابو علي), known as Abū Nuwās al-Salamī (أبو نواس السلمي)[1] or just Abū Nuwās[2] (أبو نواس Abū Novās); c. 756 – c. 814) was a classical Arabic poet. Born in the city of Ahvaz, in modern-day Iran, to an Arab father and a Persian mother, he became a master of all the contemporary genres of Arabic poetry. He also entered the folkloric tradition, appearing several times in One Thousand and One Nights. He died during the Great Abbasid Civil War before al-Ma’mūn advanced from Khurāsān in either 199 or 200 AH (814–816 AD).[3]

Abu Nuwas
Abu Nuwas drawn by Khalil Gibran in 1916
Abu Nuwas drawn by Khalil Gibran in 1916
BornAbū Nuwās al-Ḥasan ibn Hānī al-Ḥakamī
c. 756
Ahvaz, Abbasid Caliphate
Diedc. 814 (aged 57–58)
Baghdad, Abbasid Caliphate

Early lifeEdit

Nuwas's father, Hānī, whom the poet never knew[clarification needed], was an Arab, a descendant of the Jizani tribe Banu Hakam and a soldier in the army of Marwan II. His Persian mother, Jullaban, worked as a weaver. Biographers differ on the date of Nuwas's birth, with estimates ranging from 747 to 762. Some sources say that he was born in Basra.[2]


Ismail bin Nubakht, one of Nuwas's contemporaries, said:

"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 death 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."[4]

The earliest anthologies of his poetry and his biography were produced by:[5]

  • Yaḥyā ibn al-Faḍl and Ya‘qūb ibn al-Sikkīt arranged his poetry under ten subject categories, rather than in alphabetical order. Al-Sikkīt wrote an 800-page commentary.[6]
  • Abū Sa’īd al-Sukkarī[a] edited his poetry, providing commentary and linguistic notes; he completed editing approximately two thirds of the corpus of one thousand folios. [7][8]
  • Abū Bakr ibn Yaḥyā aI-Ṣūlī edited his work, organizing poems alphabetically, and corrected some false attributions.
  • ‘Alī ibn Ḥamzah al-Iṣbahānī also edited his writings, compiling works alphabetically. [9]
  • Yūsuf ibn al-Dāyah [10]
  • Abū Hiffān [b] [11]
  • Ibn al-Washshā’ Abū Ṭayyib, scholar of Baghdād[12][13][14][15]
  • Ibn ‘Ammār[c] wrote a critique of Nuwas's work, including citing instances of alleged plagiarism.[16][17]
  • Al-Munajjim family: Abū Manṣūr; Yaḥyā ibn Abī Manṣūr; Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyā; ‘Alī ibn Yaḥyā; Yaḥyā ibn ‘Alī; Aḥmad ibn Yaḥyā; Hārūn ibn ‘Alī; ‘Alī ibn Hārūn; Aḥmad ibn ‘Alī; Hārūn ibn ‘Alī ibn Hārūn.[18][19][20][21][22]
  • Abū al-Ḥasan al-Sumaysāṭī also wrote in praise of Nuwas. [23]

Imprisonment and deathEdit

Because he frequently indulged in drunken exploits, Nuwas was imprisoned during the reign of Al-Amin, shortly before his death.[24] The cause of his death is disputed; some say that Nuwas died in prison, while others claim that he was poisoned. [25] Nuwas was buried in Shunizi cemetery in Baghdad.[26]


Nuwas is one of a number of writers credited with inventing the literary form of the mu‘ammā (literally "blinded" or "obscured"), a riddle which is solved "by combining the constituent letters of the word or name to be found".[27][28] Ibn Quzman, who was writing in Al-Andalus in the 12th century, admired him deeply and has been compared to him.[29][30]


While his works were in circulation freely until the early years of the twentieth century, the first modern censored edition of his works was published in Cairo in 1932. In January 2001, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture ordered the burning of some 6,000 copies of books of Nuwas's homoerotic poetry.[31][32] In the Saudi Global Arabic Encyclopedia entry for Abu Nuwas, all mentions of pederasty were omitted.[33]


The city of Baghdad has several places named for the poet. Abū Nuwās Street runs along the east bank of the Tigris River, in a neighbourhood that was once the city's showpiece.[34] Abu Nuwas Park is located on the 2.5-kilometer stretch between the Jumhouriya Bridge and a park that extends out to the river in Karada near the 14th of July Bridge.[35]

In 1976, a crater on the planet Mercury was named in honor of Abu Nuwas.[36]

In popular cultureEdit

A heavily fictionalised Abu Nuwas is the protagonist of the novels The Father of Locks (Dedalus Books, 2009)[37] and The Khalifah's Mirror (2012) by Andrew Killeen,[38] in which he is depicted as a spy working for Ja'far al-Barmaki.[39]

In the Sudanese novel Season of Migration to the North (1966) by Tayeb Salih, Abu Nuwas's love poetry is cited extensively by one of the novel's protagonists, the Sudanese Mustafa Sa'eed, as a means of seducing a young English woman in London: "Does it not please you that the earth is awaking,/ That old virgin wine is there for the taking?"[40]

The Tanzanian artist Godfrey Mwampembwa (Gado) created a Swahili comic book called Abunuwasi which was published in 1996. It features a trickster figure named Abunuwasi as the protagonist in three stories draw inspiration from East African folklore as well as the fictional Abu Nuwasi of One Thousand and One Nights.[41][42]

In Pasolini's Arabian Nights, the Sium story is based off of Abu Nuwas' erotic poetry. The original poems are used throughout the scene.[43]

Editions and translationsEdit

  • Dīwān Abū Nu’ās, khamriyyāt Abū Nu’ās, ed. by ‘Alī Najīb ‘Aṭwi (Beirut 1986).
  • 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).
  • The Khamriyyāt of Abū Nuwās: Medieval Bacchic Poetry, trans. by Fuad Matthew Caswell (Kibworth Beauchamp: Matador, 2015). Trans. from ‘Aṭwi 1986.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Abū Sa’īd al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥusayn al-Sukkarī (d. 888/ 889), scholar of linguistics, ancient history, genealogy, poetry, geology, zoology and botany.
  2. ^ Abū Hiffān Abd Allāh ibn Aḥmad ibn Ḥarb al-Mihzamī (d. 871), secretary and poet of al-Baṣrah who lived in Baghdād.
  3. ^ Ibn ‘Ammār is possibly Aḥmad ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh Muḥammad ibn ‘Ammār al-Thaqafī (d. 926), Shī’ah secretary and vizier to many caliphs.


  1. ^ Ibn-Hallikān 1961, p. 546, II.
  2. ^ a b Garzanti
  3. ^ Ibn al-Nadīm 1970, pp. 352-3.
  4. ^ Arbuthnot 1890, p. 81.
  5. ^ Ibn al-Nadīm 1970, pp. 312–16,353,382,1062.
  6. ^ Ibn al-Nadīm 1970, p. 352.
  7. ^ Ibn al-Nadīm 1970, pp. 173, 353.
  8. ^ Flügel 1862, p. 89.
  9. ^ Ibn al-Nadīm 1970, pp. 353, 954.
  10. ^ Ibn al-Nadīm 1970, pp. 353, 1129.
  11. ^ Ibn al-Nadīm 1970, pp. 316, 1003.
  12. ^ Ibn al-Nadīm 1970, pp. 186, 353, 1122.
  13. ^ Suyūṭī (al-), Jalāl al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān (1965). Bughyat al-Wuʻāh fī Ṭabaqāt al-Lughawīyīn wa-al-Nuḥāh (in Arabic). 1. al-Qāhirah: Ṭubiʻa bi-mạṭbaʻat ʻĪsa al-Bābī al-Halabī. p. 18 (§ 27).
  14. ^ Yāqūt, Shihāb al-Dīn ibn ‘Abd al-Ḥamawī (1993). Abbās, Ihsan (ed.). Irshād al-Arīb alā Ma'rifat al-Adīb (in Arabic). Beirut: Dār Gharib al-Islām i. pp. 2303-2304 (§ 953).
  15. ^ Yāqūt, Shihāb al-Dīn ibn ‘Abd al-Ḥamawī (1913). Margoliouth, D. S. (ed.). Irshād al-Arīb alā Ma'rifat al-Adīb (in Arabic). VI (7). Leiden: Brill. pp. 277–278.
  16. ^ Iṣbahānī, Abū al-Faraj (1888). Kitab al-Aghānī (in Arabic). IV. Leiden: Brill. p. 157.
  17. ^ Iṣbahānī, Abū al-Faraj (1888). Kitab al-Aghānī (in Arabic). XVIII. Leiden: Brill. pp. 2–29.
  18. ^ Khallikān (Ibn), Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad (1868). Ibn Khallikan's Biographical Dictionary (tr. Wafayāt al-A'yān wa-al-Anbā Abnā' al-Zamān). III. Translated by McGuckin de Slane, William. London: W.H. Allen. pp. 604–5.
  19. ^ Khallikān (Ibn), Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad (1972). Wafayāt al-A'yān wa-Anbā' Abnā' al-Zamān (The Obituaries of Eminent Men) (in Arabic). VI. Beirut: Dār Ṣādar. pp. 78–79.
  20. ^ Tha‘ālibī (al-), ‘Abd al-Mālik, Abū Manṣūr (1915). Nāqidan fī Yatīmat al-dahr fī Shu'arā' Ahl al-Aṣr. Asiatic Society of Bengal (in Arabic). II. Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press. p. 283.
  21. ^ Tha‘ālibī (al-), ‘Abd al-Mālik, Abū Manṣūr (1915). Nāqidan fī Yatīmat al-dahr fī Shu'arā' Ahl al-Aṣr. Asiatic Society of Bengal (in Arabic). III. Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press. pp. 207–8.
  22. ^ Tha‘ālibī (al-), ‘Abd al-Mālik, Abū Manṣūr (1885). Index: Farīdatu'l-'Aṣr (in Arabic). Damascus: Al-Maṭba’ah al-Ḥanifīyah.
  23. ^ Ibn al-Nadīm 1970, p. 353.
  24. ^ "Abu Nuwas". 16 October 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Abu Nuwas Biography". Poemhunter. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  26. ^ Khallikān, Ibn (1842). Ibn Khallikan's biographical dictionary – Internet Archive. Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. p. 394. Retrieved 12 September 2010. Abu Nuwas buried cemetery.
  27. ^ "mu'ammā". Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature. 1998.
  28. ^ "Lughz". Encyclopedia of Islam. 2009.
  29. ^ La Corónica. 24. 1995. p. 242.
  30. ^ Monroe, James T. "Why was Ibn Quzmān Not Awarded the Title of "Abū Nuwās of the West?" ('Zajal 96', the Poet, and His Critics)". Journal of Arabic Literature.
  31. ^ Al-Hayat, 13 January 2001
  32. ^ Middle East Report, 219 Summer 2001
  33. ^ Bearman, Peri (2009). "Global Arabic Encyclopedia". In Khanbaghi, Aptin (ed.). Encyclopedias about Muslim Civilisations. pp. 16–17.
  34. ^ Abū Nuwās Street at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  35. ^ "DVIDS – News – A Walk in the Park". Dvidshub.net. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  36. ^ Mahoney 2013, p. 49.
  37. ^ Killeen, Andrew. (2009). The father of locks. Sawtry: Dedalus. ISBN 978-1-903517-76-5. OCLC 260209089.
  38. ^ Killeen, Andrew. (2012). The Khalifah's mirror. New York: Dedalus. ISBN 978-1-909232-35-8. OCLC 815389625.
  39. ^ Killeen 2009.
  40. ^ Ṣāliḥ 1991, pp. 119-120.
  41. ^ Pilcher 2005, p. 297.
  42. ^ Gado 1998.
  43. ^ https://books.google.de/books?id=fgDRDgAAQBAJ&pg=PT38&lpg=PT38&dq=1001+nights+sium&source=bl&ots=C87WIxMnAp&sig=ACfU3U0gSUAXSCpT_736gctVmvJZiuGdbw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiFgPOX0_LsAhUE_aQKHdhCBC84ChDoATADegQIAxAC#v=onepage&q=1001%20nights%20sium&f=false


Further readingEdit

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