Arabic Literature: Understanding Saj and Khutbah

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12 Questions

Who is the author of the celebrated work 'Kalila wa Dimna'?

Ibn Al Muqaffa

What is the most striking characteristic feature of Arabic prose?

Rhymed prose

What is the title of Tanukhi's most famous work?

None of the above

During which period did the Arabic literature continue to be written?

17th and 18th century

Who developed Arabic prose into a literary vehicle of precision and elegance?


What is the genre of Ibn Al Muqaffa's famous work 'Kalila wa Dimna'?

Didactic fables

Who wrote 'Kitab al-aghani' in 24 volumes?

Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani

What is the name of the genre invented by Al-Hamadhani?


What is the typical theme of occasional Arabic poems?

War and revenge

What is the name of the anthology compiled by poet Abutamman in 836 A.D?


What is the typical length of an Arabic ode, or Quasida?

60-100 lines

What is the name of the collection of poems displayed by the Arabs on the Kaaba at Mecca?


Study Notes

Arabic Prose

  • Saj is a characteristic feature of Arabic prose, also known as "rhymed prose".
  • It consists of pairs of short rhyming expressions with a rhetorical and antithetical balance of sense.
  • Khutbah is a formal written style in rhymed prose, with a great antiquity, exemplified by Ibn Nubatah at- Farigi.
  • Maqama is an incredibly popular form of Arabic literature, written during the decline of Arabic in the 17th and 18th century.
  • Notable Arabic prose writers include:
    • Ibn Al Muqaffa: a convert to Islam, translated Classical Persian works into Arabic, and wrote "Kalila and Dimna", a series of didactic fables.
    • Al-Jahiz: developed Arabic prose into a literary vehicle of precision and elegance, and became one of Baghdad's leading intellectuals during the early Abbasid Period.
    • Abu Al-Faraj Al-Isfahani: wrote "Kitab al-aghani" ("The Book of Songs") in 24 volumes, a model of simplicity and clarity in writing.
    • Al-Hariri: took the Maqama to new heights, demonstrating his prowess with word-play and vocabulary.
    • Al-Hamadhani: credited with inventing the genre known as "Maqamat" (Assemblies) - dramatic anecdotes narrated by a witty but unscrupulous rogue.

Arabic Poetry

  • Arabic poetry is called "Badi".
  • Arabic poem verses are short in length compared to lines in normal text.
  • Arabic poems are classified into two categories:
    • Occasional Poems: usually 2-20 lines, with themes of war, revenge, and praise of one's own tribe.
    • Collection or Anthologies: a group of pre-Islamic odes, such as Al-Mu-Allakat, Al-Hamasa, and Mufaddalibn Ya'la's collection.

Occasional Poems

  • Elegies: mourning the dead, but also finding solace in the strength of Islam and its rulers.
  • Ode or Qasida: an elaborate ode usually of 60-100 lines.

Test your knowledge of Arabic literature, focusing on the characteristics of Saj, also known as 'rhymed prose', and its significance in Khutbah, a formal written style of great antiquity. Explore the works of famous exponents like Ibn Nubatah at- Farigi and more.

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