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Detail of Bathers by the Edge of a River, Jean-Leon Gerome  [19th cent.] (Public Domain Image)

The Diwan of Abu'l-Ala

by Henry Baerlein


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"There is no God save Allah!"—that is true,
   Nor is there any prophet save the mind
   Of man who wanders through the dark to find
The Paradise that is in me and you.--LXXXI

Abu al-'Alā Ahmad ibn 'Abd Allāh ibn Sulaimān al-Tanūkhī al-Ma'arri (b. 973, d. 1057) was a blind poet and philosopher. Born in Syria, he lost his sight at an early age due to smallpox. Although he spent most of his life in Syria in his hometown of Ma'arrat al-Numan, he also taught in Baghdad.

He was a skeptic and a rationalist, a keen observer of the human condition, and an advocate for the poor and lowly. Modern doctrinaire Muslims may not find this kind of critical thinking to their taste. But Abu'l-Ala stands out as one of the best thinkers of medieval Islam, and deserves to be better known. This work is composed of selections from his two collections of poetry, The Tinder Spark, and Unnecessary Necessity.

Title Page
Table of Contents
Editorial Note
Introduction to the Diwan
The Diwan of Abu’l-Ala