Classical Arabic Stories: An Anthology
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Short fiction was an immensely innovative art in the medieval Arab world, providing the perfect vehicle for transmitting dazzling images of life and experiences as early as pre-Islamic times. These works also speak to the urbanization of the Arab domain after Islam, mirroring the bustling life of the Muslim Arabs and Islamized Persians and reflecting the sure stamp of an urbanity that had settled very staunchly after big conquests. All the noises and voices of the Umayyads and Abbasids are here. One can taste the flavor of Abbasid food, witness the rise of slave girls and singers, and experience the pride of state. Reading these texts today illuminates the wide spectrum of early Arab life and suggests the influences and innovations that flourished so vibrantly in medieval Arab society. The only resource of its kind, Salma Khadra Jayyusi's Classical Arabic Stories selects from an impressive corpus, including excerpts from seven seminal works: Ibn Tufail's novel, Hayy ibn Yaqzan; Kalila wa Dimna by Ibn al-Muqaffa; The Misers by al-Jahiz; The Brethren of Purity's The Protest of Animals Against Man; Al-Maqamat (The Assemblies) by al-Hamadhani and al-Hariri; Epistle of Forgiveness by al-Ma'arri; and the epic romance, Sayf Bin Dhi Yazan. Jayyusi organizes her anthology thematically, beginning with a presentation of pre-Islamic tales, stories of rulers and other notables, and thrilling narratives of danger and warfare. She follows with tales of love, religion, comedy, and the strange and the supernatural. Long assumed to be the lesser achievement when compared to Arabic literature's most celebrated genre-poetry-classical Arabic fiction, under Jayyusi's careful eye, finally receives a proper debut in English, demonstrating its unparalleled contribution to the evolution of medieval literature and its sophisticated representation of Arabic culture and life.
appreciation of such benefits. The leader of the humans then asked for permission to speak. “It is taken against us that we sell, buy, and slaughter these animals. But is this not what Persians do to Romans? And Romans to Persians where one party achieves victory over the other? Do they not all become either master or slave? Is this not the case between Abyssinians and Nubians? Arabs, Kurds, and Turks? The jinn king then ordered one of his attendants to conclude the session and said, “Humans
girdle and it broke.” I said, “That’s true enough, but why are your genitals wet? She said, “I have my monthlies just like your women do.” I said, “You’re a fibber, I won’t take that excuse!” She said, “You’ve asked about something that’s not your property, To me you are a brainless nincompoop. How can your sort ever gain one like me Without the risk of death and of spilling blood?” Alas for me, how can I have any hope Of ever gaining possession of such a girl? I ask God’s pardon for
Lies Al-Jahiz said: Muhammad ibn Yasir told me the following of a governor in Persia: While [this governor] was busy with his accounts and affairs, having removed himself as far as he could, a poet came to him and recited poetry in his praise and to his glory. When he had finished, the governor told him, “Very good” and ordered his secretary to give the man ten thousand dirhams. The poet was transported with delight. When the governor saw this, he told him: “I see this instruction has moved
ride behind, but, a short while later, looked back and saw his enemies galloping along behind, about to catch up with him. “‘Get down,’ he requested the man. ‘If not we shall both be killed.’ “‘By God,’ the man said, ‘I will not agree to dismount, but rather hold on to what I have gained. If we are to be saved, then let us be saved together. If not, let us perish together.’ “‘If there is no help for it but to be killed,’ the horseman told him, ‘then it is better I should die facing the enemy
equipped with saddles of the kind used by merchants, the slave vendor riding with us. On we went till we reached a house whose gate was a sign of old wealth and status. The slave vendor knocked at the door, and a handsome young man, wearing a shirt, and with the marks of suffering on him, opened for us. “Come through, sirs,” he said. As we entered, we saw a large corridor and a neglected courtyard. The young man brought a piece from a large old mat and laid it down for us, and we sat. “Bring