Al-Mutanabbi (.. - September 23, 0965)
Died: 23rd September, 0965
Nationality: Muslim poet
Region: Kufah, Iraq

Al-Mutanabbi Facts

Biography

Al-Mutanabbi, in full Abu al-Tayyib Ahmad ibn Husayn al-Mutanabbi, (born 915 ce, Kufah, Iraq--died Sept. 23, 965, near Dayr al-?Aqul), poet regarded by many as the greatest of the Arabic language. He primarily wrote panegyrics in a flowery, bombastic, and highly influential style marked by improbable metaphors.

Al-Mutanabbi was the son of a water carrier who claimed noble and ancient southern Arabian descent. Because of his poetic talent, al-Mutanabbi received an education. When Shi?ite Qarmatians sacked Kufah in 924, he joined them and lived among the Bedouin, learning their doctrines and Arabic. Claiming to be a prophet--hence the name al-Mutanabbi ("The Would-Be Prophet")--he led a Qarmatian revolt in Syria in 932. After its suppression and two years' imprisonment, he recanted in 935 and became a wandering poet.

He began to write panegyrics in the tradition established by the poets Abu Tammam and al-Buhturi. A panegyric on the military victories of Sayf al-Dawlah, the Hamdanid poet-prince of northern Syria, resulted in al-Mutanabbi's attaching himself to the ruler's court in 948. During his time there, al-Mutanabbi lauded his patron in panegyrics that rank as masterpieces of Arabic poetry. Among his lines of praise for Sayf al-Dawlah are ones written after the prince's recovery from illness:

The latter part of this period was clouded with intrigues and jealousies that culminated in al-Mutanabbi's leaving Syria in 957 for Egypt, then ruled in name by the Ikhshidids. Al-Mutanabbi attached himself to the regent, the Ethiopian eunuch Abu al-Misk Kafur, who had been born a slave. But he offended Kafur by lampooning him in scurrilous satirical poems and fled Egypt about 960. After further travels--including to Baghdad, where he was unable to secure patronage, and to Kufah, where he again defended the city from attack by the Qarmatians--al-Mutanabbi lived in Shiraz, Iran, under the protection of the emir ?Adud al-Dawlah of the Buyid dynasty until 965, when he returned to Iraq and was killed by bandits near Baghdad.

Al-Mutanabbi's pride and arrogance set the tone for much of his verse, which is ornately rhetorical yet crafted with consummate skill and artistry. He gave to the traditional qasidah, or ode, a freer and more personal development, writing in what can be called a neoclassical style that combined some elements of Iraqi and Syrian stylistics with classical features.

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