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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Arabic Literature
Critical Introduction by Richard Gottheil (1862–1936)
 
OF no civilization is the complexion of its literary remains so characteristic of its varying fortunes as is that of the Arabic. The precarious conditions of desert life and of the tent, the more certain existence in settled habitations, the grandeur of empire acquired in a short period of enthusiastic rapture, the softening influence of luxury and unwonted riches, are so faithfully portrayed in the literature of the Arabs as to give us a picture of the spiritual life of the people which no mere massing of facts can ever give. Well aware of this themselves, the Arabs at an early date commenced the collection and preservation of their old literary monuments with a care and a studious concern which must excite within us a feeling of wonder. For the material side of life must have made a strong appeal to these people when they came forth from their desert homes. Pride in their own doings, pride in their own past, must have spurred them on; yet an ardent feeling for the beautiful in speech is evident from the beginning of their history. The first knowledge that we have of the tribes scattered up and down the deserts and oases of the Arabian peninsula comes to us in the verses of their poets. The early Teuton bards, the rhapsodists of Greece, were not listened to with more rapt attention than was the simple Bedouin, who, seated on his mat or at the door of his tent, gave vent to his feelings of joy or sorrow in such manner as nature had gifted him. As are the ballads for Scottish history, so are the verses of these untutored bards the record of the life in which they played no mean part. Nor could the splendors of court life at Damascus, Bagdad, or Cordova make their rulers insensible to the charms of poetry,—that “beautiful poetry with which Allah has adorned the Muslim.” A verse happily said could always charm, a satire well pointed could always incite; and the true Arab of to-day will listen to those so adorned with the same rapt attention as did his fathers of long ago.  1
  This gift of the desert—otherwise so sparing of its favors—has not failed to leave its impression upon the whole Arabic literature. Though it has produced some prose writers of value, writing, as an art to charm and to please, has always sought the measured cadence of poetry or the unmeasured symmetry of rhymed prose. Its first lispings are in the “trembling” (rájaz) metre,—iambics, rhyming in the same syllable throughout; impromptu verses, in which the poet expressed the feelings of the moment: a measure which, the Arabs say, matches the trembling trot of the she-camel. It is simple in its character; coming so near to rhymed prose that Khalíl (born 718), the great grammarian, would not willingly admit that such lines could really be called poetry. Some of these verses go back to the fourth and fifth centuries of our era. But a growing sense of the poet’s art was incompatible with so simple a measure; and a hundred years before the appearance of the Prophet, many of the canonical sixteen metres were already in vogue. Even the later complete poems bear the stamp of their origin, in the loose connection with which the different parts stand to each other. The “Kasídah” (poem) is built upon the principle that each verse must be complete in itself,—there being no stanzas,—and separable from the context; which has made interpolations and omissions in the older poems a matter of ease.  2
  The classical period of Arabic poetry, which reaches from the beginning of the sixth century to the beginning of the eighth, is dominated by this form of the Kasídah. Tradition refers its origin to one al-Muhalhel ibn Rabí’a of the tribe of Taghlib, about one hundred and fifty years before Muhammad; though, as is usual, this honor is not uncontested. The Kasídah is composed of distichs, the first two of which only are to rhyme; though every line must end in the same syllable. It must have at least seven or ten verses, and may reach up to one hundred or over. In nearly every case it deals with a tribe or a single person,—the poet himself or a friend,—and may be either a panegyric, a satire, an elegy, or a eulogy. That which it is the aim of the poet to bring out comes last; the greater part of the poem being of the nature of a captatio benevolentia. Here he can show his full power of expression. He usually commences with the description of a deserted camping-ground, where he sees the traces of his beloved. He then adds the erotic part, and describes at length his deeds of valor in the chase or in war; in order, then, to lead over to the real object he has in view. Because of this disposition of the material, which is used by the greater poets of this time, the general form of the Kasídah became in a measure stereotyped. No poem was considered perfect unless molded in this form.  3
  Arabic poetry is thus entirely lyrical. There was too little, among these tribes, of the common national life which forms the basis for the Epos. The Semitic genius is too subjective, and has never gotten beyond the first rude attempts at dramatic composition. Even in its lyrics, Arabic poetry is still more subjective than the Hebrew of the Bible. It falls generally into the form of an allocution, even where it is descriptive. It is the poet who speaks, and his personality pervades the whole poem. He describes nature as he finds it, with little of the imaginative, “in dim grand outlines of a picture which must be filled up by the reader, guided only by a few glorious touches powerfully standing out.” A native quickness of apprehension and intense feeling nurtured this poetic sentiment among the Arabs. The continuous enmity among the various tribes produced a sort of knight-errantry which gave material to the poet; and the richness of his language put a tongue in his mouth which could voice forth the finest shades of description or sentiment. Al-Damári has wisely said: “Wisdom has alighted upon three things,—the brain of the Franks, the hands of the Chinese, and the tongues of the Arabs.”  4
  The horizon which bounded the Arab poet’s view was not far drawn out. He describes the scenes of his desert life: the sand dunes; the camel, antelope, wild ass, and gazelle; his bow and arrow and his sword; his loved one torn from him by the sudden striking of the tents and departure of her tribe. The virtues which he sings are those in which he glories, “love of freedom, independence in thought and action, truthfulness, largeness of heart, generosity, and hospitality.” His descriptions breathe the freshness of his outdoor life and bring us close to nature; his whole tone rings out a solemn note, which is even in his lighter moments grave and serious,—as existence itself was for those sons of the desert, who had no settled habitation, and who, more than any one, depended upon the bounty of Allah. Although these Kasídahs passed rapidly from mouth to mouth, little would have been preserved for us had there not been a class of men who, led on some by desire, some by necessity, made it their business to write down the compositions, and to keep fresh in their memory the very pronunciation of each word. Every poet had such a Ráwiah. Of one Hammád it is said that he could recite one hundred Kasídahs rhyming on each letter of the alphabet, each Kasídah having at least one hundred verses. Abu Tammám (805), the author of the ‘Hamásah,’ is reported to have known by heart fourteen thousand pieces of the metre rájaz. It was not, however, until the end of the first century of the Híjrah that systematic collections of this older literature were commenced.  5
  It was this very Hammád (died 777) who put together seven of the choicest poems of the early Arabs. He called them ‘Mu ’allakât,’—“the hung up” (in a place of honor, in the estimation of the people). The authors of these seven poems were: Imr-al-Kais, Tárafa, Zuhéir, Labîd (570), ’Antara, ’Amr, and al-Hárith. The common verdict of their countrymen has praised the choice made by Hammád. The seven remained the great models, to which later poets aspired: in description of love, those of Imr-al-Kais and ’Antara; in that of the camel and the horse, Labîd; of battle, ’Amr; in the praise of arms, Hárith; in wise maxims, Zuhéir. To these must be added al-Nabighah, ’Alkamah, Urwa ibn al-Ward, Hássan ibn Thábit, al-A’sha, Aus ibn Hájar, and as-Shánfarah, whose poem has been called “the most magnificent of old Arabic poems.” In addition to the single poems found in the ‘Mu ’allakât’ and elsewhere, nearly all of these composed whole series of poems, which were at a later time put in the form of collections and called ‘Diwans.’ Some of these poets have left us as many as four hundred verses. Such collections were made by grammarians and antiquarians of a later age. In addition to the collections made around the name of a single poet, others were made, fashioned upon a different principle: The ‘Mufáddaliyát’ (the most excellent poems), put together by al-Mufáddal (761); the ‘Diwan’ of the poets of the tribe of Hudhéil; the ‘Hamásah’ (Bravery; so called from the subject of the first of the ten books into which the collection is divided) of Abu Tammám. The best anthology of these poems is ‘The Great Book of Songs,’ put together by Abu al-Fáraj al-Ispaháni (died 967).  6
  With these poets Arabic literature reached its highest development. They are the true expression of the free Arabic spirit. Most of them lived before or during the time of the appearance of Muhammad. His coming produced a great change in the life of the simple Bedouins. Though they could not be called heathen, their religion expressed itself in the simple feeling of dependence upon higher powers, without attempting to bring this faith into a close connection with their daily life. Muhammad introduced a system into which he tried to mold all things. He wished to unite the scattered tribes to one only purpose. He was thus cutting away that untrammeled spirit and that free life which had been the making of Arabic poetry. He knew this well. He knew also the power the poets had over the people. His own ‘Qur’an’ (Koran) was but a poor substitute for the elegant verses of his opponents. “Imr-al-Kais,” he said, “is the finest of all poets, and their leader into everlasting fire.” On another occasion he is reported to have called out, “Verily, a belly full of matter is better than a belly full of poetry.” Even when citing verses, he quoted them in such a manner as to destroy the metre. Abu Bekr very properly remarked, “Truly God said in the ‘Qur’an,’ ‘We have not taught him poetry, and it suits him not.’” In thus decrying the poets of “barbarism,” and in setting up the ‘Qur’an’ as the greatest production of Arabic genius, Muhammad was turning the national poetry to its decline. Happily his immediate successors were unable or unwilling to follow him strictly. Ali himself, his son-in-law, is said to have been a poet; nor did the Umáyyid Caliphs of Damascus, “very heathens in their carnal part,” bring the new spirit to its full bloom, as did the Abbassides of Bagdad.  7
  And yet the old spirit was gradually losing ground. The consolidation of the empire brought greater security; the riches of Persia and Syria produced new types of men. The center of Arab life was now in the city, with all its trammels, its forced politeness, its herding together. The simplicity which characterized the early caliphs was going; in its place was come a court,—court life, court manners, court poets. The love of poetry was still there; but the poet of the tent had become the poet of the house and the palace. Like those troubadours who had become jongleurs, they lived upon the crumbs which fell from the table of princes. Such crumbs were often not to be despised. Many a time and oft the bard tuned his lyre merely for the price of his services. We know that he was richly rewarded. Harún gave a dress worth four hundred thousand pieces of gold to Já’far ibn Yahya; at his death, Ibn ’Ubeid al-Buchtarí (865) left one hundred complete suits of dress, two hundred shirts, and five hundred turbans—all of which had been given him for his poems. The freshness of olden times was fading little by little; the earnestness of the Bedouin poet was making way for a lightness of heart. In this intermediate period, few were born so happily, and yet so imbued with the new spirit, as was ’Umar ibn ’Rabí’a (644), “the man of pleasure as well as the man of literature.” Of rich parentage, gifted with a love of song which moved him to speak in verses, he was able to keep himself far from both prince and palace. He was of the family of Kureísh, in whose Muhammad all the glories of Arabia had centered, with one exception,—the gift of poetry. And now “this Don Juan of Mecca, this Ovid of Arabia,” was to wipe away that stain. He was the Arabian Minnesinger, whom Friedrich Rückert called “the greatest love-poet the Arabs have produced.” A man of the city, the desert had no attractions for him. But he sang of love as he made love,—with utter disregard of holy place or high station, in an erotic strain strange to the stern Umáyyids. No wonder they warned their children against reading his compositions. “The greatest sin committed against Allah are the poems of ’Umar ibn Rabí’a,” they said.  8
  With the rise of the Abbassides (750), that “God-favored dynasty,” Arabic literature entered upon its second great development; a development which may be distinguished from that of the Umáyyids (which was Arabian) as, in very truth, Muhammadan. With Bagdad as the capital, it was rather the non-Arabic Persians who held aloft the torch than the Arabs descended from Kuréish. It was a bold move, this attempt to weld the old Persian civilization with the new Muhammadan. Yet so great was the power of the new faith that it succeeded. The Barmecide major-domo ably seconded his Abbasside master; the glory of both rests upon the interest they took in art, literature, and science. The Arab came in contact with a new world. Under Mansúr (754), Harun al-Rashid (786), and Ma’mún (813), the wisdom of the Greeks in philosophy and science, the charms of Persia and India in wit and satire, were opened up to enlightened eyes. Upon all of these, whatever their nationality, Islam had imposed the Arab tongue, pride in the faith and in its early history. ‘Qur’an’ exegesis, philosophy, law, history, and science were cultivated under the very eyes and at the bidding of the Palace. And, at least for several centuries, Europe was indebted to the culture of Bagdad for what it knew of mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy.  9
  The Arab muse profited with the rest of this revival. History and philosophy, as a study, demanded a close acquaintance with the products of early Arab genius. The great philologian al-Asmái (740–831) collected the songs and tales of the heroic age; and a little later, with other than philological ends in view, Abu Tammán and al-Búchturí (816–913) made the first anthologies of the old Arabic literatures (‘Hamásah’). Poetry was already cultivated: and amid the hundreds of wits, poets, and singers who thronged the entrance to the court, there are many who claim real poetic genius. Among them are al-Ahtal (died 713), a Christian; ’Umar ibn Rabí’a (died 728), Jarír al-Farázdak (died 728), and Muslim ibn al-Walíd (died 828). But it is rather the Persian spirit which rules,—the spirit of the Shahnámeh and Firdaúsi,—“charming elegance, servile court flattery, and graceful wit.” In none are the characteristics so manifest as in Abu Núwas (762–819), the Poet Laureate of Harun, the Imr-al-Kais of his time. His themes are wine and love. Everything else he casts to the wind; and like his modern counterpart, Heine, he drives the wit of his satire deep into the holiest feelings of his people. “I would that all which Religion and Law forbids were permitted me; and if I had only two years to live, that God would change me into a dog at the Temple in Mecca, so that I might bite every pilgrim in the leg,” he is reported to have said. When he himself did once make the required pilgrimage, he did so in order to carry his loves up to the very walls of the sacred house. “Jovial, adventure-loving, devil-may-care,” irreligious in all he did, yet neither the Khalif nor the whole Muhammadan world were incensed. In spite of all, they petted him and pronounced his wine-songs the finest ever written; full of thought and replete with pictures, rich in language and true to every touch of nature. “There are no poems on wine equal to my own, and to my amatory compositions all others must yield,” he himself has said. He was poor and had to live by his talents. But wherever he went he was richly rewarded. He was content only to be able to live in shameless revelry and to sing. As he lived, so he died,—in a half-drunken group, cut to pieces by those who thought themselves offended by his lampoons.  10
  At the other end of the Muslim world, the star of the Umáyyids, which had set at Damascus, rose again at Cordova. The union of two civilizations—Indo-Germanic and Semitic—was as advantageous in the West as in the East. The influence of the spirit of learning which reigned at Bagdad reached over to Spain, and the two dynasties vied with each other in the patronage of all that was beautiful in literature and learned in science. Poetry was cultivated and poets cherished with a like regard: the Spanish innate love of the Muse joined hands with that of the Arabic. It was the same kind of poetry in Umáyyid Spain as in Abbasside Bagdad: poetry of the city and of the palace. But another element was added here,—the Western love for the softer beauties of nature, and for their expression in finely worked out mosaics and in graceful descriptions. It is this that brings the Spanish-Arabic poetry nearer to us than the more splendid and glittering verses of the Abbassides, or the cruder and less polished lines of the first Muhammadans. The amount of poetry thus composed in Arab Spain may be gauged by the fact that an anthology made during the first half of the tenth century, by Ibn Fáraj, contained twenty thousand verses. Cordova under ’Abd-al-Rahmán III. and Hákim II. was the counterpart of Bagdad under Harun. “The most learned prince that ever lived,” Hákim was so renowned a patron of literature that learned men wandered to him from all over the Arab Empire. He collected a library of four hundred thousand volumes, which had been gathered together by his agents in Egypt, Syria, and Persia: the catalogue of which filled forty-four volumes. In Cordova he founded a university and twenty-seven free schools. What wonder that all the sciences—Tradition, Theology, Jurisprudence, and especially History and Geography—flourished during his reign. Of the poets of this period there may be mentioned: Sa’íd ibn Júdi—the pattern of the Knight of those days, the poet loved of women; Yáhyah ibn Hakam, “the gazelle”; Ahmad ibn ’Abd Rabbíh, the author of a commonplace book; Ibn Abdún of Badjiz, Ibn Hafájah of Xucar, Ibn Sa’íd of Granada. Kings added a new jewel to their crown, and took an honored place among the bards; as ’Abd al-Rahmán I., and Mu’tamid (died 1095), the last King of Seville, whose unfortunate life he himself has pictured in most beautiful elegies. Although the short revival under the Almohades (1184–1198) produced such men as Ibn Roshd, the commentator on Aristotle, and Ibn Toféil, who wrote the first ‘Robinson Crusoe’ story, the sun was already setting. When Ferdinand burned the books which had been so laboriously collected, the dying flame of Arab culture in Spain went out.  11
  During the third period—from Ma’mún (813), under whom the Turkish body-guards began to wield their baneful influence, until the break-up of the Abbasside Empire in 1258—there are many names, but few real poets, to be mentioned. The Arab spirit had spent itself, and the Mogul cloud was on the horizon. There were ’Abd-allah ibn al-Mu’tazz, died 908; Abu Firás, died 967; al-Tughrai, died 1120; al-Busíri, died 1279,—author of the ‘Búrda,’ poem in praise of Muhammad: but al-Mutanábbi, died 965, alone deserves special mention. The “Prophet-pretender”—for such his name signifies—has been called by Von Hammer “the greatest Arabian poet”; and there is no doubt that his ‘Diwán,’ with its two hundred and eighty-nine poems, was and is widely read in the East. But it is only a depraved taste that can prefer such an epigene to the fresh desert-music of Imr-al-Kais. Panegyrics, songs of war and of bloodshed, are mostly the themes that he dilates upon. He was in the service of Saif al-Dáulah of Syria, and sang his victories over the Byzantine Kaiser. He is the true type of the prince’s poet. Withal, the taste for poetic composition grew, though it produced a smaller number of great poets. But it also usurped for itself fields which belong to entirely different literary forms. Grammar, lexicography, philosophy, and theology were expounded in verse; but the verse was formal, stiff, and unnatural. Poetic composition became a tour de force.  12
  This is nowhere better seen than in that species of composition which appeared for the first time in the eleventh century, and which so pleased and charmed a degenerate age as to make of the ‘Makamat’ the most favorite reading. Ahmad Abu Fadl al-Hamadhání, “the wonder of all time” (died 1007), composed the first of such “sessions.” Of his four hundred only a few have come down to our time. Abu Muhammad al-Hariri (1030–1121), of Bâsra, is certainly the one who made this species of literature popular; he has been closely imitated in Hebrew by Charízi (1218), and in Syriac by Ebed Yéshu (1290). “Makámah” means the place where one stands, where assemblies are held; then, the discourses delivered, or conversations held in such an assembly. The word is used here especially to denote a series of “discourses and conversations composed in a highly finished and ornamental style, and solely for the purpose of exhibiting various kinds of eloquence, and exemplifying the rules of grammar, rhetoric, and poetry.” Hariri himself speaks of—
  “These ‘Makamat,’ which contain serious language and lightsome,
          And combine refinement with dignity of style,
          And brilliancies with jewels of eloquence,
          And beauties of literature with its rarities,
Besides quotations from the ‘Qur’an,’ wherewith I adorned them,
And choice metaphors, and Arab proverbs that I interspersed,
        And literary elegancies, and grammatical riddles,
        And decisions upon ambiguous legal questions,
    And original improvisations, and highly wrought orations,
    And plaintive discourses, as well as jocose witticisms.”
  13
  The design is thus purely literary. The fifty “sessions” of Hariri, which are written in rhymed prose interspersed with poetry, contain oratorical, poetical, moral, encomiastic, and satirical discourses, which only the merest thread holds together. Each Makámah is a unit, and has no necessary connection with that which follows. The thread which so loosely binds them together is the delineation of the character of Abu Zeid, the hero, in his own words. He is one of those wandering minstrels and happy improvisers whom the favor of princes had turned into poetizing beggars. In each Makámah is related some ruse, by means of which Abu Zeid, because of his wonderful gift of speech, either persuades or forces those whom he meets to pay for his sustenance, and furnish the means for his debauches. Not the least of those thus ensnared is his great admirer, Háreth ibn Hammám, the narrator of the whole, who is none other than Hariri. Wearied at last with his life of travel, debauch, and deception, Abu Zeid retires to his native city and becomes an ascetic, thus to atone in a measure for his past sins. The whole might be called, not improperly, a tale, a novel. But the intention of the poet is to show forth the richness and variety of the Arabic language; and his own power over this great mass brings the descriptive—one might almost say the lexicographic—side too much to the front. A poem that can be read either backward or forward, or which contains all the words in the language beginning with a certain letter, may be a wonderful mosaic, but is nothing more. The merit of Hariri lies just in this: that working in such cramped quarters, with such intent and design continually guiding his pen, he has often really done more. He has produced rhymed prose and verses which are certainly elegant in diction and elevated in tone.  14
  Such tales as these, told as an exercise of linguistic gymnastics, must not blind us to the presence of real tales, told for their own sake. Arabic literature has been very prolific in these. They lightened the graver subjects discussed in the tent,—philosophy, religion, and grammar,—and they furnished entertainment for the more boisterous assemblies in the coffee-houses and around the bowl. For the Arab is an inveterate story-teller; and in nearly all the prose that he writes, this character of the “teller” shimmers clearly through the work of the “writer.” He is an elegant narrator. Not only does he intersperse verses and lines more frequently than our own taste would license: by nature, he easily falls into the half-hearted poetry of rhymed prose, for which the rich assonances of his language predispose. His own learning was further cultivated by his early contact with Persian literature; through which the fable and the wisdom of India spoken from the mouths of dumb animals reached him. In this more frivolous form of inculcating wisdom, the Prophet scented danger to his strait-laced demands: “men who bring sportive legends, to lead astray from God’s path without knowledge and to make a jest of it; for such is shameful woe,” is written in the thirty-first Surah. In vain; for in hours of relaxation, such works as the ‘Fables of Bidpai’ (translated from the Persian in 750 by ’Abd Allah ibn Mukáffah), the ‘Ten Viziers,’ the ‘Seven Wise Masters,’ etc., proved to be food too palatable. Nor were the Arabs wanting in their own peculiar ‘Romances,’ influenced only in some portions of the setting by Persian ideas. Such were the ‘Story of Saif ibn dhi Yázan,’ the ‘Tale of al-Zir,’ the ‘Romance of Dálhmah,’ and especially the ‘Romance of Antar’ and the ‘Thousand Nights and A Night.’ The last two romances are excellent commentaries on Arab life, at its dawn and at its fullness, among the roving chiefs of the desert and the homes of revelry in Bagdad. As the rough-hewn poetry of Imr-al-Kais and Zuhéir is a clearer exponent of the real Arab mind, roving at its own suggestion, than the more perfect and softer lines of a Mutanábbi, so is the ‘Romance of Antar’ the full expression of real Arab hero-worship. And even in the cities of the Orient to-day, the loungers in their cups can never weary of following the exploits of this black son of the desert, who in his person unites the great virtues of his people, magnanimity and bravery, with the gift of poetic speech. Its tone is elevated; its coarseness has as its origin the outspokenness of unvarnished man; it does not peep through the thin veneer of licentious suggestiveness. It is never trivial, even in its long and wearisome descriptions, in its ever-recurring outbursts of love. Its language suits its thought: choice and educated, and not descending—as in the ‘Nights’—to the common expressions of ordinary speech. In this it resembles the ‘Makamat’ of Hariri, though much less artificial and more enjoyable. It is the Arabic romance of chivalry, and may not have been without influence on the spread of the romance of mediæval Europe. For though its central figure is a hero of pre-Islamic times, it was put together by the learned philologian, al-’Asmái, in the days of Harun the Just, at the time when Charlemagne was ruling in Europe.  15
  There exist in Arabic literature very few romances of the length of ‘Antar.’ Though the Arab delights to hear and to recount tales, his tales are generally short and pithy. It is in this shorter form that he delights to inculcate principles of morality and norms of character. He is most adroit at repartee and at pungent replies. He has a way of stating principles which delights while it instructs. The anecdote is at home in the East: many a favor is gained, many a punishment averted, by a quick answer and a felicitously turned expression. Such anecdotes exist as popular traditions in very large numbers; and he receives much consideration whose mind is well stocked with them. Collections of anecdotes have been put to writing from time to time. Those dealing with the early history of the caliphate are among the best prose that the Arabs have produced. For pure prose was never greatly cultivated. The literature dealing with their own history, or with the geography and culture of the nations with which they came in contact, is very large, and as a record of facts is most important. Ibn Hishám (died 767), Wákidi (died 822), Tabari (838–923), Masudí (died 957), Ibn Athír (died 1233), Ibn Khaldún (died 1406), Makrísi (died 1442), Suyúti (died 1505), and Makkári (died 1631), are only a few of those who have given us large and comprehensive histories. Al-Birúni (died 1038), writer, mathematician, and traveler, has left us an account of the India of his day which has earned for him the title “Herodotus of India,” though for careful observation and faithful presentation he stands far above the writer with whose name he is adorned. But nearly all of these historical writers are mere chronologists, dry and wearisome to the general reader. It is only in the Preface, or ‘Exordium,’ often the most elaborate part of the whole book viewed from a rhetorical standpoint, that they attempt to rise above mere incidents and strive after literary form. Besides the regard in which anecdotes are held, it is considered a mark of education to insert in one’s speech as often as possible a familiar saying, a proverb, a bon mot. These are largely used in the moral addresses (Khútbah) made in the mosque or elsewhere, addresses which take on also the form of rhymed prose. A famous collection of such sayings is attributed to ’Ali, the fourth successor of Muhammad. In these the whole power of the Arab for subtle distinctions in matters of wordly wisdom, and the truly religious feeling of the East, are clearly manifested.  16
  The propensity of the Arab mind for the tale and the anecdote has had a wider influence in shaping the religious and legal development, of Muhammadanism than would appear at first sight. The ‘Qur’an’ might well suffice as a directive code for a small body of men whose daily life was simple, and whose organization was of the crudest kind. But even Muhammad in his own later days was called on to supplement the written word by the spoken, to interpret such parts of his “book” as were unintelligible, to reconcile conflicting statements, and to fit the older legislation to changed circumstances. As the religious head of the community, his dictum became law; and these logia of the Prophet were handed around and handed down as the unwritten law by which his lieutenants were to be guided, in matters not only religious, but also legal. For “law” to them was part and parcel of “religion.” This “hadith” grew apace, until, in the third century of the Híjrah, it was put to writing. Nothing bears weight which has not the stamp of Muhammad’s authority, as reported by his near surroundings and his friends. In such a mass of tradition, great care is taken to separate the chaff from the wheat. The chain of tradition (Isnád) must be given for each tradition, for each anecdote. But the “friends” of the Prophet are said to have numbered seven thousand five hundred, and it has not been easy to keep out fraud and deception. The subjects treated are most varied, sometimes even trivial, but dealing usually with recondite questions of law and morals. Three great collections of the ‘Hadíth’ have been made: by al-Buchári (869), Múslim (874), and al-Tirmídhi (892). The first two only are considered canonical. From these are derived the three great systems of jurisprudence which to this day hold good in the Muhammadan world.  17
  The best presentations of Arabic literature have been made by Clément Huart, ‘A History of Arabic Literature’ (London, 1903); Reynold A. Nicholson, ‘A Literary History of the Arabs’ (London, 1907); Italo Pizzi, ‘Letteratura Araba’ (Milan, 1903) and Carl Brockelmann, ‘Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur’ (Leipzig, 1901). Translations of Arabic poetry into English have been published by E. H. Palmer, ‘The Poetical Works of Beha-ed-din Zobeir,’ Vol. ii. (Cambridge, 1877); W. A. Clouston, ‘Arabic Poetry’ (Glasgow, 1881); C. J. Lyall, ‘Translations of Ancient Arabic Poetry’ (London, 1885); Henry Baerlein, ‘The Singing Caravan; Some Echoes of Arabic Poetry’ (London, 1910); ib. ‘The Diwan of Abul’l-Ala’ (London, 1908); Heinrich Schaefer, ‘The Songs of an Egyptian Peasant’ (Leipzig, 1904). See also John Wortabet, ‘Arabian Wisdom’ (London, 1907) and Claud Field, ‘Tales of the Caliphs’ (New York, 1909).  18
 
 
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