The Maqamah of Hamadhani and Hariri, early Arabic literature
November 29, 2014 10:26 PM   Subscribe

"Maqamah is an old story in prose interspersed with poetry about the hero who is involved in different adventures. Towards the end of the story he disappears to show up in another guise in the next Maqamah (maqamah is singular from maqamat). So Maqamat is the collection of separate stories with unity in subject. Hariri’s Maqamat is one of the outstanding literary works of Arabic literature written in the 5th century." This is the introduction to an article on Hariri's Maqamat. You can read an English translation online in The Assemblies Of Al Hariri, Vol. I, translated by Thomas Chenery M.A. (1867) and Vol. II, translated by Dr. F. Steingass (1898), both on Hariri's Maqamat is heavily influenced by Hamadhani's Maqamat, considered to be the first collection of such writings, is also translated online (also on Both works include footnotes from the translators.
posted by filthy light thief (4 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
This is awesome. Thanks.
posted by dejah420 at 5:32 AM on November 30, 2014

Thanks flt!
posted by sneebler at 8:02 AM on November 30, 2014

Looking forward to exploring this; thanks for the post. A bit of urgently needed clarification:

> Hariri’s Maqamat is one of the outstanding literary works of Arabic literature written in the 5th century.

That's the 5th century A.H. (year of the Hejira); it's the 12th century A.D. There was no Arabic literature in the 5th century A.D. (though presumably there was oral poetry).

From Marshall Hodgson's The Venture of Islam (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3), a masterpiece that anyone even slightly interested in Islam and the Islamicate world should read:
Yet the maqâmât genre carried a fascination not unconnected with the figure of its hero as a personality. Once invented by Badî‘-al-Zamân Hamadhânî, the genre always featured the same pair — the adventurous, brilliant impostor who always gets away with his plans, however outrageous, and the narrator, a lay figure who is often duped by the hero and sometimes shocked by him, but yet admires him for his gifts and his daring. The greatest work of maqâmât was that of Abû-Muḥammad al-Qâsim al-Ḥarîrî (d. 1122), an unobtrusive grammarian of the Iraq who was persuaded by friends to produce his one great triumph, designed to show proper usage of all the more recondite points of Arabic form. It is one long display of virtuosity; for instance, some passages are written exclusively with letters which in the Arabic alphabet are undotted — that is, omitting half the letters of the alphabet (a like effect as if one wrote an English sonnet without using curving letters — i.e., using only A, E, F, H, I, K, etc.). Yet the work has unceasing charm even for the non-grammarian; indeed, it can even be read with pleasure translated into an alien tongue, where most of its tricks disappear.
(That's just one bit of a long section on the topic.)
posted by languagehat at 8:29 AM on November 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

Thank you for the clarification and the additional context, languagehat! I found this while looking for ancient examples of Arabic literature in my readings on the contest of Arabian Nights/ Alf Layla. I didn't find much on the maqâmât genre, and these works in particular, so I'm grateful to have more to read.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:49 AM on November 30, 2014

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