Al-Hariri of Basra

Abū Muhammad al-Qāsim ibn Alī ibn Muhammad ibn Uthmān al-Harīrī (Arabic: أبو محمد القاسم بن علي بن محمد بن عثمان الحريري), popularly known as al-Hariri of Basra (1054– 10 September 1122) was an Arab poet, scholar of the Arabic language and a high government official of the Seljuks.[2]

Al-Hariri
الحریری البصری
Possible depiction of al-Hariri, in the Maqamat of al-Hariri, 1237 CE edition, probably Baghdad.[1]
Possible depiction of al-Hariri, in the Maqamat of al-Hariri, 1237 CE edition, probably Baghdad.[1]
BornAbū Muhammad al-Qāsim ibn Alī ibn Muhammad ibn Uthmān al-Harīrī
أبو محمد القاسم بن علي بن محمد بن عثمان الحريري
1054
Al-Mashan Village, near Basra, Abbasid Caliphate, now Basra Governorate, Iraq
Died10 September 1122 (aged 68)
Basra, Abbasid Caliphate, now Basra Governorate, Iraq
OccupationArab Poet, writer, Scholar of Arabic language, Official of Seljuqs
Notable worksMaqamat al-Hariri مقامات الحريري

He is known for his Maqamat al-Hariri (also known as the ‘'Assemblies of Hariri'’), a collection of some 50 stories written in the Maqama style, a mix of verse and literary prose. For more than eight centuries, Al-Hariri's best known work, his Maqamat has been regarded as the greatest treasure in Arabic literature after the Koran. Although the maqamat did not originate with al-Hariri, he elevated the genre to an art form.

BiographyEdit

Al-Hariri was born 446 AH (1054 AD) and died in his native city of Basra on 6 Rajab, AH 516 (10 September, 1122 AD).[3] Although his place of birth is uncertain, scholars suggest that he was probably born in Mashan (near Basra), where his family had a palm tree plantation.[4] and only resided in Basra after the age of maturity. The street where he died, Banu Haaran, was a place where certain families were known to have settled and was a centre of Basra's silk manufacturing industry. His name, al-Hariri, probably reflects his residence (hariri = silk manufacturer or silk merchant).[5]

He liked to boast of his Arab heritage: he was a descendant of Rabi’at al Faras, son of Nizār, the son of Ma’add, the son of Adnan al-Ya`muri, who was a companion of Muhammad.[6]

His family had achieved great wealth, enabling him to receive a good education, studying with Al Fadl al Kasbani. He is known to have studied jurisprudence, after which time he became a munshi (official writer).[7] His occupation is generally described as a high official.[8] Al-Hariri divided his time between Basra where he had his business interests and Baghdad where he carried out his literary activities.[9]

He is best known for writing Maqamat al-Hariri (مقامات الحريري, also known as The Assemblies of al-Hariri), a virtuosic display of saj', consisting of 50 anecdotes written in stylized prose, which was once memorized by heart by scholars, and Mulhat al-i'rab fi al-nawh, an extensive poem on grammar.[10]

Various accounts of Al-Hariri's inspiration to write the Maqmat can be found in the literature. One account, which has become the established account, was related by Al Hariri's son, Abu al-Qasim Abdullah, is that the author and his servants, were seated in a mosque in Banu Haaran when an indigent man, by the name of Abu Zayd, dressed in ragged cloaks, entered and spoke with great fluency and elegance. The speaker related the story of his native city of Saruj being ransacked and his daughter taken captive.[11]

As soon as it first appeared, Al-Hariri's Maqamat attained enormous popularity across the Arab-speaking world,[12] with people travelling from as far afield as Andalusia (Spain) to hear the verse read from the author's lips. The work's alternative title, ‘'The Assemblies'’ comes from the fact that maqamat were recited before an assembled audience.[13] Even during the author's lifetime, the work was worthy of memorisation, public recitation and literary commentaries.[14] Al-Hariri himself recited his Maqamat before learned audiences and scholars. Audience members would take dictation or make corrections to their own personal manuscripts. At the time, this type of public recitation was the main method for disseminating copies of literary works in the Arab speaking world.[15]

When al-Hariri had written 40 maqamat, he collected them into a single volume and headed to Baghdad where he expected a triumphant reception. However, his opponents accused him of plagiarism; they claimed that the Assemblies were in fact the work of a writer from the Western Maghreb who had died in Baghdad and whose papers had fallen into Al-Hariri's hands. To test the merit of such claims, the Vizier sent for al-Hariri and invited him to compose a letter on a specified subject. However, Al-Hariri was not an improviser, rather he required long periods of solitude in which to compose his stories, and although he retired to a corner for a lengthy period, he was unable to produce anything and was ashamed. In an effort to redeem his reputation, al -Hariri returned to Basra where he composed ten additional maqamat in the following months.[16]

He married and had two sons. His sons were trained in the recitation of their father's Maqamat.[17]

In terms of al-Hariri's physical appearance, he was very short in stature and wore a beard, which he had the habit of plucking when he was deep in thought[18] He was described as not a particularly handsome man. When visitors shunned his appearance, he would tell them: "I am a man to be heard, not seen".[19]

WorkEdit

 
"Discussion Near a Village", a miniature illustrating the 43rd maqāmah of a 1237 edition of al-Hariri's Maqamat al-Hariri, painted by Yaḥyā ibn Maḥmūd al-Wāsiṭī. Painting in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. MS Arabe 5847 fol. 138v.

For more than eight centuries, Al-Hariri's best known work, his Maqamat has been regarded as the greatest treasure in Arabic literature after the Koran.[20]

Al-Hariri’s MaqamatEdit

As a genre, the maqamat was originally developed by Badi' al-Zaman al-Hamadani (969–1008),[21][22] but Al-Hariri elevated it into major literary form.[23]

Al-Hariri's Maqamat consists of 50 anecdotes, related by Abu Zayd to Al-Harith who is understood to be the work's narrator. Abu Zayd is a wanderer and confidence trickster who is able to survive using his wiles and his eloquence.[24] The work makes extensive use of language as spoken by desert Arabs – its idioms, proverbs and subtle expressions.[25]

Al-Hariri's Maqamat made extensive use of literary artifice. In one maqama, known as "the reversal" sentences can be read in reverse, giving each passage an opposite meaning. In the 26th maqama, known as the "Spotted", the protagonist composes a "spotted letter" in which a character with a dot is alternated with a character without a dot.[26] In a passage that al-Hariri added to a version of his Maqamat, he lists a variety of techniques:[27]

Language, serious and light, jewells of eloquence, verses from the Qur'an, choice metaphors, Arab proverbs, grammatical riddles, double meanings of words, discourses, orations and entertaining jests.

Like most books of the period, maqamat were intended to be read aloud before a large gathering.[28] Oral retellings of maqamat were often improvised, however, al-Hariri who composed his stories in private, intended them as finished works that he expected to be recited without embellishment.

This text was translated into Hebrew by Al-Ḥarizi (d. 1225) as Maḥberet itiʾel and was a major influence on Al-Ḥarizi's own maqamat, the Taḥkemoni.[29]

Other worksEdit

A good deal of his correspondence has survived.[30] He also wrote some kasidas which made extensive use of alliteration.[31] He also wrote two treatises on grammar:[32]

* Durra al-Ghawwas – The Pearl of the Diver Being a Treatise of the Mistakes [in Arabic Grammar] Committed by Persons of Rank – an anthology of grammatical errors written in verse
* Mulhat al-Irab – The Beauties of Grammar – a collection of poems

Editions and translationsEdit

The work was copied many times by the various Islamic dynasties due to the royal custom of commissioning copies of well-known manuscripts for their private libraries.[33] From the 13th and 14th centuries, the work was translated into a number of Middle-Eastern languages including Hebrew and Turkish.[34] Some of the earliest copies and imitations of the Maqamat in European languages appeared in Andalusia as early as the 13th century.[35] Western audiences, however, were only introduced to the work when the first Latin translations appeared in the 17th century.[36]

During al-Hariri's lifetime, editions of his work were published without any illustrations. From the early 13th century, illustrated editions of the manuscript began to appear.[37] Ten different illustrated editions were known for some time, but with the discovery of a new illustrated edition in 1960, the total now stands at eleven.[38] One of the earliest and most widely known illustrated editions is that by al-Wasiti (1236),[39] now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.[40]

The most famous translation of his Maqamat was a German version by the poet and Orientalist Friedrich Rückert as Die Verwandlungen von Abu Serug and sought to emulate the rhymes and wordplay of the original.[41][42] The main English translation is the nineteenth-century edition by Thomas Chenery and Francis Joseph Steingass.[43]

 
al-Harith helps Abu Zayd to retrieve his stolen camel. Illustration for the 27th maqamat, from a manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford

Hundreds of printed editions of the Maqamat can be found.[44] Notable editions and translations include:

  • Friedrich Rückert (trans), Die Verwandlungen des Abu Seid von Serug, oder die Makamen des Hariri, Cotta, 1837 (in German)
  • Thomas Chenery and Francis J. Steingass (trans), – The Assemblies of Al-Ḥarîri: with an introduction about the life and times of al-Hariri (Translated from the Arabic with Notes Historical and Grammatical), Oriental Translation Fund, New Series, 3, 2 vols, London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1867 (in English)
  • Amina Shah (trans.), The Assemblies of Al-Hariri: Fifty Encounters with the Shaykh Abu Zayd of Seruj, London, Octagon, 1980
  • Theodore Preston (trans.), Makamat or Rhetorical Anecdotes of Al Hariri of Basra: Translated from the Original Arabic with Annotations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1850
  • Michael Cooperson (ed.), Maqamat Abi Zayd al-Saruji by Al-Hariri, NYU Library of Arabic Literature: New York University Press, 2020. ISBN 9781479800896 (Arabic edition)
  • Michael Cooperson (trans.) Impostures by Al-Hariri, NYU Library of Arabic Literature: New York University Press, 2020. ISBN 9781479810567 (English translation)

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Flood, Finbarr Barry (2017). A Turk in the Dukhang? Comparative Perspectives on Elite Dress in Medieval Ladakh and the Caucasus. Austrian Academy of Science Press. p. 232.
  2. ^ Assemblies of Al-Hariri Archived 6 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine Shah, Amina. Octagon Press, 78 York Street London
  3. ^ Margoulioth, D.; Pellat, Ch. (1971). "AL-ḤARĪRĪ". In Lewis, B.; Ménage, V.L.; Pellat, Ch.; Schacht, J. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume III (H-IRAM). Leiden: E.J. Brill. pp. 221–2. ISBN 90 04 08118 6. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  4. ^ Preston, R., Makamat; Or, Rhetorical Anecdotes of Al Hariri of Basra, London, James Madden, 1850, pp 5–7; Chenery, T. (trans), The Assemblies of Al Harîri, Volume 1, London, Williams and Norgate, 1867, p. 10
  5. ^ McGuckin de Slane, B., A Biographical Dictionary [ Kitāb Wafayāt Al-aʿyān] (trans), Paris, Oriental Translation Fund, 1873, pp 492–93
  6. ^ Chenery, T. (trans), The Assemblies of Al Harîri, Volume 1, London, Williams and Norgate, 1867, p. 9 Adnan, in turn, was a descendant of Abdullah bin Abbas, one of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad. The Adnanian tribe was one of the most important Arabian tribes. See: Abu l-'Ala al-Ma'arri, The Epistle of Forgiveness, NYU Press, 2016, p. 454
  7. ^ Chenery, T. (trans), The Assemblies of Al Harîri, Volume 1, London, Williams and Norgate, 1867, p. 10
  8. ^ Shah, A. (ed.), The Assemblies of Al-Hariri: Fifty Encounters with the Shayck Abu Zayd of Seruj, Ishk Book Service, 1980
  9. ^ Meisami, J.S. and Starkey, P. (eds), Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, Volume 1, Taylor & Francis, 1998, p. 272
  10. ^ al-Hariri Encyclopædia Britannica 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. .2008-03-12
  11. ^ Nicholson, R.A., A Literary History of the Arabs, Richmond, Surrey, Curzon, Press, 1993, p. 329; Chenery, T. (trans), The Assemblies of Al Harîri, Volume 1, London, Williams and Norgate, 1867, p. 21
  12. ^ Flood, F.B. and Necipoglu, G., A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, John Wiley & Sons, 2017, p. 272
  13. ^ Meisami, J.S. and Starkey, P., (eds), Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, Volume 2, Taylor & Francis, 1998, p. 508
  14. ^ Hämeen-Anttila, J., Maqama: A History of a Genre, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2002,p. 208; Meri, J.W., Medieval Islamic Civilization: A-K, Taylor & Francis, 2006 p. 314; Decter, J. P, "Literatures of Medieval Sepharad", Chapter 5 in: Zohar, Z., Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewry: From the Golden Age of Spain to Modern Times, NYU Press, 2005, p. 88
  15. ^ Maqamat Al-luzumiyah, BRILL, 2002, p. 2
  16. ^ Chenery, T. (trans), The Assemblies of Al Harîri, Volume 1, London, Williams and Norgate, 1867, pp 27–28
  17. ^ McGuckin de Slane, B., A Biographical Dictionary [ Kitāb Wafayāt Al-aʿyān] (trans), Paris, Oriental Translation Fund, 1873, pp 492–93
  18. ^ McGuckin de Slane, B., A Biographical Dictionary [ Kitāb Wafayāt Al-aʿyān] (trans), Paris, Oriental Translation Fund, 1873, pp 492–93
  19. ^ Nicholson, E.A., A Literary History of the Arabs, Richmond, Surrey, Curzon, Press, 1993, p. 331; McGuckin de Slane, B., A Biographical Dictionary [ Kitāb Wafayāt Al-aʿyān] (trans), Paris, Oriental Translation Fund, 1873, pp 492–93
  20. ^ Chenery, T. (trans), The Assemblies of Al Harîri, Volume 1, London, Williams and Norgate, 1867; Nicholson, R.A, A Literary History of the Arabs, Richmond, Surrey, Curzon, Press, 1993, p. 329; Essa, A. and Ali, O., Studies in Islamic Civilization: The Muslim Contribution to the Renaissance, International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), 2010, p. 152
  21. ^ Beeston, A. F. L. (1971). "The Genesis of the Maqāmāt Genre". Journal of Arabic Literature. 2: 1–12. JSTOR 4182866.
  22. ^ Nicholson, R., A Literary History of the Arabs, Project Gutenberg edition, 2011, pp 329–30 https://www.gutenberg.org/files/37985/37985-h/37985-h.htm#Page_329
  23. ^ Hamilton, M., Representing Others in Medieval Iberian Literature, Springer, 2007, p. 37
  24. ^ Preston, R., Makamat; Or, Rhetorical Anecdotes of Al Hariri of Basra, London, James Madden, 1850, pp 10–11
  25. ^ McGuckin de Slane, B., A Biographical Dictionary [Kitāb Wafayāt Al-aʿyān] (trans), Paris, Oriental Translation Fund, 1873, pp 492–93
  26. ^ Harb, L., "Beyond the Known Limits: Iban Darwul al-Isfashani’s Chapter on Intermedial Poetry", in: Joseph Lowry and Shawkat Toorawa (eds), Arabic Humanities, Islamic Thought: Essays in Honor of Everett K. Rowson, Leiden/Boston, BRILL, 2017, pp 127–28.
  27. ^ Cited in: Essa, A. and Ali, O., Studies in Islamic Civilization: The Muslim Contribution to the Renaissance, International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), 2010, p. 152
  28. ^ George, A., Orality, Writing and the Image in the Maqamat: Arabic Illustrated Books in Context, Association of Art Historians, 2012, p. 13
  29. ^ Decter, Jonathan P. (2003). "Al-Harizi's Tahkemoni in English". Prooftexts. 23 (1): 110–118. doi:10.1353/ptx.2003.0014.
  30. ^ Hämeen-Anttila, J., Maqama: A History of a Genre, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2002, p. 25;
  31. ^ McGuckin de Slane, B., A Biographical Dictionary [ Kitāb Wafayāt Al-aʿyān] (trans), Paris, Oriental Translation Fund, 1873, pp 492–93
  32. ^ Chenery, T. (trans), The Assemblies of Al Harîri, Volume 1, London, Williams and Norgate, 1867, p. 12; Meisami, J.S. and Starkey, P. (eds), Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, Volume 1, Taylor & Francis, 1998, p. 272; McGuckin de Slane, B., A Biographical Dictionary [ Kitāb Wafayāt Al-aʿyān] (trans), Paris, Oriental Translation Fund, 1873, pp 492–93
  33. ^ Ali, W., The Arab Contribution to Islamic Art: From the Seventh to the Fifteenth Centuries, American University in Cairo Press, 1999, p. 78
  34. ^ Meri, J.W., Medieval Islamic Civilization: A-K, Taylor & Francis, 2006, p. 314; Decter, J. P, "Literatures of Medieval Sepharad", Chapter 5 in: Zohar, Z., Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewry: From the Golden Age of Spain to Modern Times, NYU Press, 2005, p. 88
  35. ^ Scott, J. and Meisami, P. S. Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, Volume 1, Taylor & Francis, 1998, p. 272 al-Aštarkūwī, M., Maqamat Al-luzumiyah, al Luzumiyah, BRILL, 2002, pp 41–42; See: Roger Allen and D. S. Richards (eds.), Arabic Literature in the Post-Classical Period, Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 150-156.
  36. ^ Nicholson, R.A., Literary History of the Arabs, Richmond, Surrey, Curzon, Press, 1993, p. 331
  37. ^ Grabar, O., "The Illustrated Maqamat of the Thirteenth Century: the Bourgeoisie and the Arts", In: Peter J. Chelkowski (ed.), Islamic Visual Culture, 1100–1800, Volume 2, Constructing the Study of Islamic Art, Ashgate Publishing, (originally published in 1974), 2005, pp. 169–70; the earliest is dated 1222 and the latest 1337.
  38. ^ Grabar, O., "A Newly Discovered Illustrated Manuscript of the Maqamat of Hariri", in: Peter J. Chelkowski (ed.), Islamic Visual Culture, 1100–1800, Volume 2, Constructing the Study of Islamic Art, Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing, 2005, p. 93
  39. ^ Ali, W. (ed.), Contemporary Art From The Islamic World, Scorpion publishing, 1989, p. 166
  40. ^ Ali, W., The Arab Contribution to Islamic Art: From the Seventh to the Fifteenth Centuries, American University in Cairo Press, 1999, p. 78
  41. ^ Ḥarīrī; Friedrich Rückert (1837). Die Verwandlungen des Abu Seid von Serug: oder die Makamen des Hariri. Cotta.
  42. ^ See: Luisa Arvide, Maqamas de Al-Hariri, GEU, Granada 2009 (in Arabic and Spanish).
  43. ^ The Assemblies of Al-Ḥarîri. Translated from the Arabic with Notes Historical and Grammatical, trans. by Thomas Chenery and F. Steingass, Oriental Translation Fund, New Series, 3, 2 vols, London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1867–98, https://archive.org/details/assembliesofalha015555mbp (vol. 2).
  44. ^ Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, American Philosophical Society, 1971, p. 34

Further readingEdit

  • Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, Maqama: A History of a Genre, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2002
  • Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, New York, Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917, Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 143–201, (contains maqāmāt 1–12)

External linksEdit