Jahiliyyah Arabic Verse: The Dichotomy in Its Poetry

BUSOERI, Muritala Alhaji, ANIMASHAUN, Maruf Suraqat


This study is actuated with three notions of vital importance to the understanding of Jahiliyyah verse; firstly, that the concept of the ritualistic function of the sha‘ir is in danger of causing the personal and inward aspects of pre-Islamic poetry to be neglected, by providing a convenient explanation of the apparently stereotypical conventionality of Jahiliyyah poetry; secondly, that the poetic force and importance of the dhikr al-atlal and nasib movements,[1] had not been properly understood, the translation of the term nasib as “amatory prelude” being representative of this deficiency in understanding; thirdly, that, although I considered that scholars who discerned  a connection between Jahiliyyah poetry and the concept of muruwwah were on the right path, nevertheless, I did not think that they had fully realized the extent of that connection. The purpose of this study, then, is to rectify what I consider to be serious shortcomings in our knowledge and understanding of the poetry of this period.

Keywords: Jahiliyyah; Versification; Poetry; Dichotomy.

[1] Movement: the analogy with the musical terminology is intentional, because it captures the essence of the qasidah and how it was composed in a way in which the words ‘section’ or passage’ do not. This will become evidence if the following explanation of the term ‘movement’ is used as a working base: a movement can be a self-contained section, or part, of a larger composition, such as a concerto or symphony in orchestral music, or a sonata, or string-quartet, solo or chamber music. Its self- containment and potential independence capture the peculiar nature of any movement of a pre-Islamic qasidah, which is both integral to, and independence of the qasidah when considered as a holistic phenomenon. The term is applied to such ‘building blocks’ of the qasidah as the nasib and the rihlah.

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