Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila




Ibn Shuhayd’s (d. 1035) Risālat al-tawābiʿ has been preserved in fragments in Ibn Bassām’s al-Dhakhīra. The early eleventh century was a period of great experimentation in narrative prose. Just a few decades before Ibn Shuhayd wrote his work, al-Hamadhānī had written his maqāmas on the other side of the Islamic world. The Risālat al-tawābiʿ comes into the margin of maqāma literature. The original structure of the treatise is reconstructable to a certain extent, especially with the help of al-Thaʿālibī’s Yatīmat al-dahr, which has been neglected in earlier studies. In his work, Ibn Shuhayd quotes not only from his own poetry but also from his rasāʾil. One of these quotations shows how Ibn Shuhayd himself has revised his original Risālat al-ḥalwāʾ and modified it to fit it into the new context of the Tawābiʿ.


Ibn Shuhayd’s Risālat al-tawābiʿ waʾl-zawābiʿ (in the following: Tawābiʿ) has received considerable scholarly attention, mainly because of its connections with the works describing celestial and otherworldly voyages and especially the Divina Commedia of Dante[1] and the Risālat al-ghufrān of al-Maʿarrī. The work is preserved in fragments in Ibn Bassām’s (d. 1147) anthology of Andalusian literature al-Dhakhīra fī maḥāsin ahl al-Jazīra (in the following: Dhakhīra) I:245–78, 283–301. It has been edited from these fragments by al-Bustānī and translated into English[2] by Monroe (1971), who provides a lengthy introduction to the work.[3]

[66] The questions of the genetic links between these works are of unquestionable importance, but it seems that the study of the Tawābiʿ per se has been slightly neglected.[4] The aim of this paper is to shed some new light on the structure of the work and on how Ibn Shuhayd wrote it and to place it in context within eleventh-century narrative, especially the maqāma tradition.[5]

The early eleventh century was a period of vivid experimentation in narrative prose, and the Tawābiʿ finds its place within this development. Just a few decades before Ibn Shuhayd (992–1035)[6] wrote his work, Badīʿ al-Zamān al-Hamadhānī (d. 1008) had written his maqāmas on the other side of the Islamic world, and was to find many followers in the next decades.[7] In Syria, al-Maʿarrī was writing his rasāʾil, and Ibn Buṭlān soon wrote his Daʿwat al-aṭibbāʾ,[8] and in the Eastern parts of the Islamic world, close to al-Hamadhānī both in time and in space, al-Azdī wrote his Ḥikāyat Abī ʾl-Qāsim and Ibn Nāqiyā was soon to follow with his maqāmas.

The exact relations of these works are not always easy to pinpoint, but the three works which concern us here are the Maqāmas of al-Hamadhānī, the Risālat al-ghufrān of al-Maʿarrī and the Tawābiʿ.

The Tawābiʿ and the Risālat al-ghufrān resemble each other so closely that one has to presuppose a genetic link between the two. The consensus of scholars seems nowadays to be that it was al-Maʿarrī who was influenced by Ibn Shuhayd, not the other way around, although Pellat’s (1969, p. 939a) very early date for Tawābiʿ has to be rejected. Monroe (1971, pp. 16–17) dates the work at circa 1025–1027 (see also al-Bustānī 1980 [1951], pp. 67–70). Although his evidence is not decisive, it does seem that the work was [67] written some years before al-Maʿarrī wrote his in 1032.[9]

The influence of Ibn Shuhayd on al-Maʿarrī is quite possible, since we know that his prose and verse did arrive in Iran roughly when al-Maʿarrī was writing in Syria. In the final version of his Yatīmat al-dahr, al-Thaʿālibī (d. 1038) is able to quote passages from Ibn Shuhayd.[10] Whether al-Thaʿālibī knew his Tawābiʿ is a question which will be tentatively answered below.

The other genetic link which is of importance is that between the slightly earlier maqāmas of al-Hamadhānī and the Tawābiʿ—if al-Maʿarrī got his impetus to write the Risālat al-Ghufrān from Ibn Shuhayd’s work, there is no need to speculate on his relations with the maqāmas in the present article.

Al-Hamadhānī’s work seems to have been crucial for the development of Arabic narrative literature. All the maqāmas proper were written under his influence,[11] and many other works either acknowledge their debt to him openly or reveal it clearly upon analysis.[12] His work became widely known in the Arabic West very soon after having been written, so that Ibn Shuhayd must have known him, at least by reputation.

Ibn Shuhayd mentions al-Hamadhānī in his work and is able to quote a passage by him on a description of water (I:276/128/79). The passage comes from al-Hamadhānī’s al-maqāma al-Maḍīrīya (p. 137),[13] but it is also found in almost the same form in the anthology of al-Ḥuṣrī (Zahr al-ādāb, p. 235), though without being attributed to al-Hamadhānī.

As Ibn Shuhayd knew the maqāmas,[14] it is very probable that he was influenced by them. Openly fictitious writing outside the maqāma genre was [68] rather infrequent in the early 11th century—though not totally lacking—and al-Hamadhānī may have provided the main impetus for Ibn Shuhayd to select a fictitious story as his medium. The main theme of the Tawābiʿ, literary criticism, was also the subject of some maqāmas, both the aesthetic maqāmas[15] of al-Hamadhānī and those of many later authors, for example, the compatriot of Ibn Shuhayd, al-Ashtarkuwī al-Saraqusṭī. Naturally maqāmas were by no means the only works dealing with literary criticism, which had its heyday in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The setting of a fictitious journey through the country of the jinn is reminiscent of the travel theme in the maqāmas. Similarly, Ibn Shuhayd's use of two main protagonists—the first person narrator and his jinni guide—resembles the use of a hero and a narrator in the maqāmas, and the comic elements are similar in both. The Tawābiʿ differs from the maqāmas mainly in its moderate use of sajʿ, as well as the lack of any picaresque hero.

In its turn, it is probable that the narrative technique of Ibn Shuhayd influenced the later Spanish maqāma tradition, most notably the work of the slightly later Abū Ḥafṣ ʿUmar ibn al-Shahīd, whose maqāma has been preserved in fragments in the anthology of Ibn Bassām (Dhakhīra I:674–85).[16] The speaking animals (animal jinnis, that is) in Tawābiʿ I:296–301/147–52/93–96 seem to be missing from the earlier maqāmas, but they turn up in the maqāma of Ibn al-Shahīd. Whether they found their way from Ibn Shuhayd’s work to Spanish maqāmas (and to al-Maʿarrī, for that matter) is not certain, but this is a reasonable guess. Similarly, the scene of Abū Nuwās with the monks in Tawābiʿ I:258–59/104–105/63–64 links the work of Ibn Shuhayd to the maqāma of Ibn al-Shahīd, although the scene itself would have been readily available from any literature in which Abū Nuwās and his carousals were described.

[69] Ibn Shuhayd’s Tawābiʿ comes thus into the margin of maqāma literature. It may have been influenced by al-Hamadhānī’s maqāmas, but the author obviously did not feel that he was writing within any fixed limits of a new genre. Al-Hamadhānī had given good ideas—perhaps the whole structure of the Tawābiʿ owes something to al-Hamadhānī—but the field was quite open, and there were many other works which may have influenced him: the beggar literature, anecdotes concerning men in rags with golden mouths, perhaps even the Ḥāʾik al-Kalām.[17] Ibn Shuhayd uses the metaphor in Dhakhīra I:268/116/71, but, as the metaphor is frequent, this does not prove he knew the Weaver of Words anecdote.

The original structure of the Tawābiʿ is, of course, partly lost as the work has been preserved only in fragments, but thanks to Ibn Bassām’s rather faithful reproduction of his materials, we are able to reconstruct Ibn Shuhayd’s work to a certain extent, especially with the help of al-Thaʿālibī’s Yatīmat al-dahr, which surprisingly has been neglected in earlier studies.

Ibn Bassām selected four (or five) fragments from the text of the Tawābiʿ: no. 1 = Dhakhīra I:245–48; no. 2 = I:248–78; no. 3 = I:283–96; no. 4 = I:296–301. Fragment no. 2 may be divisible into two parts: I:248–75 and I:275–78 (boundary in I:275, l. 1/127/79).[18]

The work contained a preface. The first fragment is most easily thus understood, and Ibn Bassām (I:245) in fact identifies it as such, calling his selection fuṣūl min risāla and introducing the first fragment with qāla fī ṣadrihā (missing from B and M). Ibn Shuhayd himself (I:248/90/53) says that his work (kitāb) is only a selection of all that happened between him and his familiar spirit Zuhayr ibn Numayr, and that he gives us only some of these stories (qiṣaṣ) so that the book would not become too long—yet Ibn Bassām thought it did become disproportionately long (I:278, missing from B and M).

Briefly stated, the work describes the travels of Ibn Shuhayd—who uses his kunya Abū ʿĀmir when speaking of himself as a character[19]—in the land of the jinnis with his own familiar spirit[20] as a guide and tells of their encounters with the jinnis there.

[70] The longest fragment, no. 2 (I:248–78/91–131/54–81)—which obviously is the beginning of the main text, as the theme of travelling to the land of the jinnis is presented here for the first time—consists of encounters with these jinnis. The encounters in this fragment have an invariable structure: the jinnis recite some of the poetry with which they inspired the ancient poets, and Ibn Shuhayd impresses them by quoting his own verses, after which he receives their ijāza, the license to transmit their poems.

The theme of ijāza seems to have played a certain role in Ibn Shuhayd’s real life too. He is on the defensive here, as if he had been accused of not being able to produce regular ijāzas for the poetry he quoted. His opponents in the field seem to have criticized him for not having learnt the craft through respectable channels. The Ṭawābiʿ is imbued with a certain polemic tone against these opponents (see al-Bustānī 1980 [1951], pp. 28–37, 54–55, 70–71, and Monroe 1971, p. 18). Ibn Shuhayd seems to be making light of the opposition he had met by providing the fictitious ijāzas from the jinnis.[21] His openly hostile attitude may be seen in his encounter in I:274/124/77–78 with Anf al-Nāqa, the familiar spirit of the learned commentator of al-Mutanabbī, al-Iflīlī. When Anf al-Nāqa tries to dismiss him by calling him fatan lam aʿrif ʿalā man qaraʾa, Ibn Shuhayd rather sharply reciprocates by asking who the teachers of Anf al-Nāqa were. For Ibn Shuhayd, poetry was a natural gift which did not require any learned channels of transmission.

Fragment no. 2 is very long and seems to represent an uninterrupted segment, although there might be a break at I:275. In any case the bulk of the fragment is in one piece, although the possibility of very slight omissions remains. But this is not very probable, especially in light of the evidence provided by the Yatīma (see below). Thus we may take the passage, at least until I:275, as one fragment.[22]

[71] Within this fragment, the narration is continuous and the episodes are carefully linked together so as to create the illusion of evenly flowing narrative. I:251–52/95–96/57 provides an example of these links: fa-ṣāḥa ʿAntar [the familiar spirit of Ṭarafa]: “. . .” wa-ghāba ʿannā. thumma milnā ʿanhu fa-qāla lī Zuhayr [Abū ʿĀmir’s familiar spirit]: “ilā man tatūqu nafsuka baʿdu min al-jāhilīyīn?” qultu: “. . . .” This shows clearly that the episodes were not independent—as in the maqāmas of al-Hamadhānī—but that they were melted together to form one continuous narrative, as was later done in the maqāmas of Ibn al-Shahīd and others.

The size of the original work is not very easy to estimate. The Jāhilī poets are discussed only on a few pages: I:252/95/57 explicitly marks the end of the passage starting in I:248/91/54. There are no obvious fragment boundaries in between, and the passage seems to be unabbreviated. Similarly, I:267/114/70 marks the end of the passage on the older poets in general, and Ibn Shuhayd and his jinni head for the orators. Later there comes a passage (fragment 3) on aesthetic questions and another on contemporary poets and critics, the most satirical of all (no. 4), but the twenty pages allotted to all pre-Islamic and eastern poets together seem to indicate that we still have a major part of the original work at our disposal and that the Tawābiʿ was thus considerably shorter than al-Maʿarrī’s Risālat al-Ghufrān.

In the longest fragment (no. 2), the theme of travelling is very prominent. At the beginning of the fragment the two protagonists go to the land of the jinnis (I:248), and subsequently they move on after each encounter, with careful links in the text containing references to travelling which tie the episodes together.

The exact nature of fragments no. 3 and no. 4 and their place within the whole work is more problematic. These fragments start rather abruptly: no. 3 (I:283/132/82) starts with: qāla Abū ʿĀmir (either part of the text or an addition by Ibn Bassām): wa-ḥaḍartu ayḍan ana wa-Zuhayr majlisan min majālis al-jinn . . . , making no effort to link this with what may have preceded it. Similarly no. 4 starts (I:296/147/93): qāla Abū ʿĀmir: wa-mashaytu yawman ana wa-Zuhayr bi-arḍ al-jinn ayḍan. . . . They may also have ended without links with the next episode. Thus I:301/152/96 ends with: fa-nṣarafat wa-nṣarafnā, which sounds rather final.

Accordingly, at least this part of the Tawābiʿ—obviously the latter part, which is implied both by the subject matter (pre-Islamic and eastern poets must have preceded contemporary and western poets) and by the general tendency of Ibn Bassām to excerpt from larger works retaining the order of material in them—seems to have been looser than the first part, and the episodes seem to have been more independent towards the end of the book. [72] Even in these fragments, though, Ibn Shuhayd is carefully inserting sentences which stress the continuous character of the narration. Thus, for example, in I:286/134/84 Ibn Shuhayd asks Zuhayr concerning a certain jinni: “fa-hallā ʿarraftanī shaʾnahū mundhu ḥīn?”

Ibn Shuhayd is very careful to maintain the illusion of narrative reality. In I:269/117/73, Abū ʿĀmir is able to use the kunya of a jinni who has only just been introduced to him, without his kunya having been mentioned before. Here Ibn Shuhayd adds, as if in brackets: wa-qad kāna Zuhayr ʿarrafanī bi-kunyatihī, thus narrowly escaping making his character Abū ʿĀmir an omniscient narrator.

The general resemblance of the Tawābiʿ with the maqāmas has already been mentioned. There are also specific features which are similar to though not identical with those of the maqāmas. The early recognition scene (I:247/89/52) between Abū ʿĀmir (Ibn Shuhayd) and the mysterious character who turns out to be Zuhayr (who knows the narrator although Abū ʿĀmir does not know him, cf. the anagnorisis in the maqāmas) reminds one of the maqāmas, as does the anagnorisis in the last fragment. In I:298/149/94 the mule, which had been speaking to the two protagonists, removes its veil (lithām)[23] and Abū ʿĀmir, the narrator, exclaims: fa-idhā hiya baghlat Abī ʿĪsā, just like ʿĪsā ibn Hishām had exclaimed: fa-idhā huwa. . . .

Ibn Shuhayd knew al-Hamadhānī. In I:276/127–28/79 he meets the familiar spirit of al-Hamadhānī, called Zubdat al-Ḥiqab,[24] and the jinni has to admit the superiority of Ibn Shuhayd. Throughout the work, indeed, Ibn Shuhayd makes it clear that his prose and his verse are, to say the least, not inferior to the compositions of the easterners, not to mention those of his compatriots and contemporaries.[25]

[73] Within the Tawābiʿ, Ibn Shuhayd quotes not only from his own poetry but also from his own rasāʾil. One of these quotations, from the risāla on the description of sweets, ḥalwāʾ (I:270–72/119–22/74–76), is of special interest. This passage has many parallels with the maqāmas, as was already noted by al-Bustānī (1980 [1951]), p. 52, and, following him, Monroe (1971), p. 28.[26] The description of food was a favorite topic of al-Hamadhānī, especially in the maqāmas. This theme was naturally well known from elsewhere as well, but Ibn Shuhayd also uses a comic character, a faqīh who is unusually fond of sweets. When he eats too many of them and belches, the company is dispersed—fa-lam najtamiʿ baʿdahā waʾl-salām. This might well belong to the same comic tradition as the maqāmas.

This risāla is very important. It is found with some other risālas in al-Thaʿālibī, Yatīma II:46–49, and because it is possible to compare the versions of Ibn Bassām and al-Thaʿālibī with each other, we can see how Ibn Shuhayd molded his risālas when inserting them into the Tawābiʿ.

In Yatīma II:46–49, al-Thaʿālibī quotes five risālas[27] on the description of different objects by Ibn Shuhayd: a flea, a gnat, a fox, water, and sweets, in that order. Four of these five are also found in the Dhakhīra (i.e., the Tawābiʿ), namely, sweets, flea, fox, and water, in that order (I:270–76/119–28/74–79).

The nearly identical selections and their order is interesting. The three short risālas (flea, fox, and water) are also almost identical in wording.[28] We return to the fourth below.

The possibility of either Ibn Bassām or al-Thaʿālibī using the other’s work is naturally excluded: Ibn Bassām wrote a century after al-Thaʿālibī, and al-Thaʿālibī gives only the short descriptive risālas (and the poems), not the text of Tawābiʿ itself. Thus, both offer material taken directly from the works of Ibn Shuhayd himself, which makes the Yatīma of special value in evaluating the selection of Ibn Bassām and in studying Ibn Shuhayd’s technique [74] in compiling the Tawābiʿ from his earlier materials.

There are some questions which may best be answered when we study both sources in comparison. First of all, did al-Thaʿālibī quote from the Tawābiʿ? At first glance, this would seem to be so, but the question is more complicated. In the Tawābiʿ, Ibn Shuhayd is quoting himself: definitively not all of the poetic citations or the descriptions were written for the Tawābiʿ, nor does Ibn Shuhayd claim they were. The character Abū ʿĀmir is recalling his, that is, Ibn Shuhayd’s, earlier poetry and prose.

The identical order of the three short risālas in the Yatīma and the Dhakhīra would suggest that al-Thaʿālibī took them from the Tawābiʿ, but the fourth risāla makes the matter more complicated. (It should also be noted that al-Thaʿālibī does not mention the Tawābiʿ, which, one would think, would have merited mention if he knew of its existence.)

The fourth risāla, on sweets, is intriguing. Al-Thaʿālibī obviously quotes from a recension other than that used by Ibn Bassām. The differences between the two are considerable, both in wording and in the selection of material, and they cannot be explained purely as scribal omissions or the choices of the two anthologists. In the other three risālas al-Thaʿālibī and Ibn Bassām reproduce their source verbatim, as a comparison of their texts shows.

Al-Thaʿālibī’s version of the fourth risāla is a full grown narrative: first the scene is set and the characters are introduced, then the incident with the sweets is related, and the dispersal of the company is mentioned. The result is a piece very similar to the maqāmas. Ibn Bassām’s version concentrates on the descriptions and lacks the introduction.

It seems clear that it is Ibn Shuhayd himself who has revised his work here, and that the two texts represent different redactions. Since the author in fact notes that he is quoting his older works in the Tawābiʿ, and since our analysis of the Yatīma and the Tawābiʿ confirms the existence of two different redactions, there does not seem to be any reason to doubt this. The text of the fourth risāla in the Dhakhīra (i.e., the Tawābiʿ), we may conclude, is a later redaction of an earlier risāla.[29]

Ibn Bassām’s version, then, is from the Tawābiʿ, while that of al-Thaʿālibī is not from it, but from another source—obviously the same original collection which Ibn Shuhayd used as his source when writing his Tawābiʿ. This would explain, it should be added, the nearly identical order of materials in the two sources. The case of the fourth risāla makes it probable [75] that the other three plus one risālas (flea, gnat, fox, and water) in the Yatīma are also taken from this original source, not from the Tawābiʿ. But the poetic quotations in Dhakhīra/Tawābiʿ and the Yatīma (II:35–44, 49–50) have to be taken into consideration before deciding whether this is the case. The last two fragments of verses quoted in the Yatīma (II:49–50) obviously come from a source other than the Tawābiʿ or from its original source. Note that they are separated from the other poetic quotations by the 2+5 risālas (II:44–49), and can be omitted from the discussion here.

In the main part of the article on Ibn Shuhayd in his Yatīma (II:35–44), al-Thaʿālibī quotes fragments from 12 poems by Ibn Shuhayd. Eleven of these are also found in Dhakhīra/Tawābiʿ and in the same order as in the Yatīma (which is not according to the rhyme). In addition, there are 16 poems in Dhakhīra/Tawābiʿ which are not found in the Yatīma. A comparison of the poems in the Yatīma and Dhakhīra/Tawābiʿ[30] shows that despite the identical order of the 11 shared poems, the selection of verses differs in the two sources.

The selection in the Yatīma was, of course, made by al-Thaʿālibī himself—he is an anthologist who selects the best verses and freely omits others. But the question is whether it is Ibn Bassām who is responsible for the selection of verses in the Dhakhīra? First of all, it is obvious that Ibn Shuhayd quoted his own poems only partially, that is, he made the initial selection. The abbreviations are indicated in the first person (e.g., I:255/100/60: ilā an intahaytu fīhā ilā qawlī . . . ), which hardly comes from Ibn Bassām. The editorial policy of mediaeval anthologists does not condone tampering with the wording of their sources to the extent that the anthologist would add words in the first person referring to the author.

Whether Ibn Bassām made yet another selection from the material already once selected by the author himself, is a more difficult question, but I believe that the answer has to be negative. The structure of the Tawābiʿ does not favor very long poetic quotations—in its present form the longest quotation, I:265–67/112–14/68–70, consists of 24 verses—but the variance between Dhakhīra/Tawābiʿ and the Yatīma is so marked that their common source must have contained very long quotations from Ibn Shuhayd’s poetry. The poem in Yatīma II:41–42, consisting of two fragments (5+9 verses), has only five verses[31] in common with the 24-verse fragment in the Tawābiʿ, [76] and the distribution of the common verses implies a much longer source for both.

All considered, it seems that the verses in the Yatīma do not come from the Tawābiʿ, despite the identical order of the poems. Rather there must have been two independent selections. Ibn Shuhayd[32] selected verses from his own poetry for the Tawābiʿ, while al-Thaʿālibī took his excerpts from the same original source, not the Tawābiʿ. This original source may well have been a rather short[33] collection of poems from the youthful production of Ibn Shuhayd, as has been suggested by Pellat.[34] The similar selection of poetry by both anthologists also confirms that the second fragment of the Tawābiʿ (no. 2) has been preserved intact.

The fourth risāla, on sweets, shows us how Ibn Shuhayd worked when inserting his earlier prose into the Tawābiʿ. The original Risālat al-ḥalwāʾ (the version in the Yatīma) was revised and modified by him to fit it into the new context of the Tawābiʿ. The narrative parts of the risāla were minimized: in the new context Ibn Shuhayd was only concerned with descriptions. That Ibn Shuhayd kept the ending is a compromise; without it the descriptions would have been somewhat loose in the context. In the older version presented in the Yatīma there is a kind of double introduction, typical of many maqāmas (general introduction and the introduction of the main episode): first, Ibn Shuhayd describes the prayer and then continues with the scene that leads to the description of the sweets.

The version of the Yatīma is closer to the maqāma tradition, though it may have been written without any influence from al-Hamadhānī. If the Tawābiʿ was written about 1025 to 1027, and the risāla was then incorporated, it cannot much postdate, say, 1020. In that case, its date comes annoyingly close to that of the maqāmas. Technically, Ibn Shuhayd may well already have known the maqāmas at that time, but it would be one of the earliest cases of maqāma influence anywhere.[35] It seems more probable that Ibn [77] Shuhayd came to compose the Risālat al-ḥalwāʾ, as Ibn Buṭlān came to compose his Daʿwat al-aṭibbāʾ, independently of al-Hamadhānī but influenced by the same sources that had influenced al-Hamadhānī. That Ibn Shuhayd knew the maqāmas when writing the final version of the Tawābiʿ is more probable.

Against this background, it is intriguing to note that the original version of the fourth risāla is much closer to the maqāmas than the version in the Tawābiʿ, the resemblance of which to the maqāma has been noted by earlier scholars. The similarity with al-Hamadhānī’s work is clear, but the risāla resembles even more the maqāmas of the slightly later Ibn Nāqiyā. Both have an unpleasant hero; Ibn Nāqiyā’s al-Yashkurī might well be the cousin of the belching faqīh of Ibn Shuhayd. The obvious admiration of the author for his hero, which al-Ḥarīrī, for example, shows for Abū Zayd, is definitely missing in the cases of al-Yashkurī and the belching faqīh. They are unpleasant and off-putting, in keeping with the tone of the beggar literature in general. The eloquence of the protagonists is perfectly mixed here with their unpleasant behavior, thus making them real heroes of maqāmāt al-kudya. Al-Hamadhānī’s hero Abū ʾl-Fatḥ is never overtly unpleasant, al-Ḥarīrī’s hero even less so. Even al-Ashtarkuwī’s hero Abū Ḥabīb, who sometimes comes close to al-Yashkurī, always finally overcomes all his unpleasant, external features (yellow teeth and the like) by his wit. Al-Yashkurī and the belching faqīh are disgusting, though eloquent, comic heroes whom we can laugh at without qualms.

The first section of the risāla (Yatīma II:47, seven lines), which has been deleted by Ibn Shuhayd from his Tawābiʿ, was not superfluous in the original, although Ibn Shuhayd managed to do without it in the Tawābiʿ. The first section creates a marked contrast between the sublime ecstasy of Ibn Shuhayd at prayer and the down-to-earth ecstasy of the faqīh who was overly fond of sweets. Much of the dialogue between the narrator and the faqīh has been dropped (Yatīma II:47–48), whereas two descriptive passages have been added in the Tawābiʿ (I:270–71/120–21/74–75, on qubayṭāʾ and thamar al-nashā). In these cases, though, we cannot be sure whether the passages are additions in the later redaction of the risāla by Ibn Shuhayd himself, or whether Ibn Bassām abbreviated the risāla, or, finally, whether the copyists (or editor) inadvertently dropped these passages. Ibn Shuhayd’s own editorial work remains, though, the most natural hypothesis. As for the deletion of the narrative parts, Ibn Shuhayd admits that what he gives in the [78] Tawābiʿ is no more than a selection from the original risāla (I:270/119/74: “min” risālatī fī l-ḥalwāʾ).

The comparison between the Dhakhīra and the Yatīma also shows how faithful Ibn Bassām was to his source. The three short risālas are almost identical in the two books—disregarding copyists’ errors—and the fourth is so completely rewritten that the redaction cannot have originated with Ibn Bassām, but must date back to the author himself.



Poems of Ibn Shuhayd quoted in the Yatīma and the Tawābiʿ[36]



































































al-Hamadhānī. Maqāmāt = Muḥammad Muḥyī ʾl-Dīn ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd, Sharḥ maqāmāt Badīʿ al-Zamān al-Hamadhānī. Bayrūt, n.d.

al-Hamadhānī. Rasāʾil = Ibrāhīm al-Aḥdab, Kashf al-maʿānī waʾl-bayān ʿan Rasāʾil Badīʿ al-Zamān. Bayrūt, 1890.

al-Ḥuṣrī. Zahr al-ādāb wa-thamar al-albāb. Ed. Zakī Mubārak and Muḥammad Muḥyī ʾl-Dīn ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd. 4th ed. Bayrūt: Dār al-Jīl, 1972.

Ibn Bassām. al-Dhakhīra fī maḥāsin ahl al-Jazīra. IIV. Ed. I. ʿAbbās. LībiyāTūnis: al-Dār al-ʿArabīya li-l-Kitāb, 1399/1979.

Ibn Shuhayd. Risālat al-tawābiʿ waʾl-zawābiʿ. Ed. K. al-Bustānī. [Bayrūt:] Dār ­Sādir, 1400/1980 [reprint of the 1951 edition].

al-Thaʿālibī. Yatīmat al-dahr. I–IV. Bayrūt: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmīya,  1399/1979.





al-Bustānī, Buṭrus. 1980 [1951]. Ibn Shuhayd al-Andalusī: ḥayātuhū, adabuhū, Risālat al-tawābiʿ waʾl-zawābiʿ. Preface to Ibn Shuhayd, Risālat al-tawābiʿ. See Sources.

de la Granja, Fernando. 1976. Maqāmas y risālas andaluzas. Madrid, Instituto Hispano-Árabe de Cultura.

Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko. 1997. The Early Maqāma: Towards Defining a Genre. Asiatische Studien 51 (1997), pp. 577–99.

Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko. Forthcoming. Al-Hamaḏānī and the Early History of the Maqāma. In U. Vermeulen, D. de Smet (eds.), Philosophy and Arts in the Islamic World. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta. Louvain, Uitgeverij Peeters.

Monroe, J. T. 1971. Risālat at-tawābiʿ wa z-zawābiʿ. The Treatise of Familiar Spirits and Demons by Abū ʿĀmir ibn Shuhaid al-Ashjaʿī, al-Andalusī. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Publications. Near Eastern Studies 15.

Pellat, Ch. 1969. Ibn Shuhayd. In The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition, vol. III, 1971, pp. 93840.

[1] It would be tempting to try to find links between the Tawābiʿ, written in Spain, and the later Viaje del Parnaso literature in the same country (e.g., Cervantes) but it seems that the Viaje del Parnaso was not native to Christian Spain but was received from Renaissance Italy. Literature concerning celestial and otherworldly visitations has been much in vogue since the Sumerians and the influences have criss-crossed all over the Mediterranean for five millennia.

[2] There is also a translation by S. Barbera (Ibn Xuhaid, Epistola de los genios o árbol del donaire. Santander: Sur, 1981).

[3] When quoting from Tawābiʿ, I use the following form: I:00/00/00. Read: Dhakhīra I: p. 00 (ed. I. ʿAbbās) /p. 00 (Tawābiʿ, ed. al-Bustānī) /p. 00 (tr. Monroe). When necessary, I abbreviate B for the edition of al-Bustānī and M for the translation by Monroe. The references to the Tawābiʿ are primarily to Ibn Bassām’s Dhakhīra. The “edition” of al-Bustānī—which was also used by Monroe as the basis for his translation—is a faithful reproduction of the text, but it lacks the immediate context of the fragment, and the comments of Ibn Bassām, who could inspect the whole text, whereas we have only the fragments he selected. Thus his comments on his own selection are valuable and should not have been dropped from the edition.

[4] Ibn Shuhayd’s work is very important for the literary criticism it contains, but this subject lies outside the scope of this article.

[5] I am preparing a monograph on the history of the development of the maqāma.

[6] The biography of Ibn Shuhayd is found in several major biographical dictionaries and the main points of it have been discussed by al-Bustānī 1980 (1951) and, following him, Monroe 1971.

[7] See Hämeen-Anttila 1997 and forthcoming.

[8] For which, see Hämeen-Anttila (forthcoming).

[9] See also J. M. Continente Ferrer, “Consideraciones en torno a las relaciones entre la Risālat al-Tawābiʿ de Ibn …Suhayd y la Risālat al-Gufrān de al-Maʿarrī,” Actas de las Jornadas de Cultura Árabe e Isámica (Madrid: Instituto Hispano-Árabe de Cultura, 1981), pp. 125–34.

[10] See also al-Bustānī 1980 (1951), pp. 74–75.

[11] Note, however, that not all works which later came to be called maqāmas were imitations of al-Hamadhānī’s maqāmas; there is, for instance, no reason to suggest any Hamadhānian influence on Ibn Buṭlān’s Daʿwa. See Hämeen-Anttila (forthcoming).

[12] E.g., Ibn Sharaf’s Masāʾil al-intiqād. One should also recall that al-Hamadhānī’s work was anthologized already by al-Ḥuṣrī (d. 1022) in his Zahr al-ādāb.

[13] See also Maqāmāt, p. 100.

[14] It goes without saying that he did not necessarily know all the maqāmas of the present standard collection. It seems that a separate collection of twenty maqāmas circulated widely in North Africa. See Hämeen-Anttila (forthcoming). The issue will be discussed in detail in my monograph on the maqāma genre.

[15] On the subgenres of the Hamadhānian maqāma, see Hämeen-Anttila 1997. Fragment no. 3 (I:283–96/132–46/82-92), especially, is very similar in tenor to the Hamadhānian aesthetic maqāma.

[16] Ibn al-Shahīd’s work has received unduly little attention. The work, although preserved only in fragments, is a masterpiece and seems to have been very influential (on its influence on al-Ḥarīzī and his Taḥkemoni, see de la Granja 1976, pp. 92–94, referring to an article in Hebrew by S. M. Stern). The structural similarity of the work with Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is striking, although it would be hasty to suggest any genetic links between the two. The hero of the maqāma seems to have been a faqīh—like the belching faqīh of Ibn Shuhayd discussed below—called Ibn al-Ḥadīd, although his role in the story remains somewhat obscure owing to the fragmentary condition of the text.

[17] See Hämeen-Anttila (forthcoming).

[18] As al-Bustānī and Monroe do not give the crucially important (although consisting only of three words: qāla Abū ʿĀmir) information of Ibn Bassām, the possible boundary remains invisible in B and M.

[19] Most maqāma heroes are best known by their kunya, e.g., Abū ʾl-Fatḥ, Abū Zayd, and Abū Ḥabīb (al-Ashtarkuwī’s hero). Using the kunya is a form of familiarity in mediaeval Arabic.

[20] According to an old belief—though at least in later sources the question is of a topos, not of an actual belief—the poet was inspired by a familiar spirit. The idea goes back to pre-Islamic times and possibly to the prehistory of Arabic poetry, when poets (shāʿir/shuʿarāʾ) and kāhins were still men in contact with the supernatural.

[21] On the surface his claim to have received these ijāzas is similar to the practice of many charismatic figures in the sphere of esoteric Islam, who asserted that they had received their knowledge and authority from the imām al-ghayb (Persian ustād-i ghayb). The Shaykhīya movement leader Shaykh al-Aḥṣāʾī (d. 1826), who claimed to have received the ijāzas of the Imams and the Prophet in dreams, is one example.

[22] One should be careful in deducing anything from the omissions of the text. Monroe (1971, p. 19) may well be right, though, in assuming that the omission of the great Umayyad poets Jarīr, al-Farazdaq, al-Akhṭal and Dhū ʾl-Rumma is not fortuitous but indicates Ibn Shuhayd’s aesthetic preferences.

[23] Monroe translates “bridle,” obviously misreading lijām.

[24] Monroe (1971, p. 79, note 41) takes the name to be a parody of Badīʿ al-Zamān and writes that al-Hamadhānī’s “name means ‘the wonder of the age,’ while Zubdat al-Ḥiqab ‘the butter of the years’ is a humorous parody.” Monroe’s translation is humorous, that goes without saying, but zubda as “choicest part; quintessence” is used in quite serious contexts. Many a mediaeval work—e.g., the “epitome” of the history of Aleppo, Zubdat al-ḥalab min taʾrīkh Ḥalab—has zubda in its title with not the slightest shade of parody implied.

[25] Ibn Shuhayd becomes a paragon of the West, whose work is shown to be on a par with that of the easterners. Whether he represents the whole West (in I:276/128/79 he is called fatā ʾl-Maghrib, “champion [Monroe: youth] of the West”), is not quite clear. His sense of personal superiority does not necessitate reading any patriotic overtones into the text, although these may well be there.

[26] Monroe also comments on the possible influence of al-Hamadhānī’s al-Maqāma al-Iblīsīya on the Tawābiʿ. It is somewhat disturbing that neither al-Bustānī nor Monroe deem it necessary to consult the text of the same risāla in al-Thaʿālibī (Yatīmat al-dahr, II:47–49). Al-Bustānī does mention al-Thaʿālibī, but does not give any further attention to the variant version. Monroe does not even refer to him, nor is the Yatīma mentioned in his bibliography.

[27] These five risālas are preceded by two others (II:44–46).

[28] The edition of the Yatīma is not impeccable, but most of the variants can easily be attributed either to a careless copyist or to a careless editor. There are no major differences which could not be explained as simple scribal (editorial?) errors.

[29] Al-Hamadhānī himself had incorporated into his collection pieces that had originally been risālas. See Hämeen-Anttila (forthcoming).

[30] See the Appendix.

[31] All from the second fragment of the Yatīma. The verses are (the verse number of the Yatīma/the verse number of the Tawābiʿ): 6/3, 7/4, 8/11, 9/20 and 13/23.

[32] There is one case where either Ibn Bassām has deleted a whole fragment or, more probably, the copyist has done so (I:267/114/70, where the main part of the poem is missing).

[33] Otherwise one cannot explain how the selections of both the Yatīma and the Tawābiʿ are almost identical.

[34] Pellat 1969, p. 939a. Pellat’s dating of the whole work to before 1011 is, however, hardly acceptable. But he is certainly right in suggesting that there have been later additions to an earlier core, which al-Thaʿālibī’s evidence seems to confirm.

[35] Al-Ḥuṣrī’s Zahr al-ādāb could have been available to him, but al-Maqāma al-Maḍīrīya is not quoted in it. If Ibn Shuhayd wrote the risāla under the influence of al-Hamadhānī, his reaction to the maqāmas must have been instantaneous, provoking him to write a risāla in the same style.

[36] To make the table simple, I have given references only to the edition of al-Bustānī. The references to the Yatīma are to volume II. When either of the sources quotes several fragments, the verses are counted separately (e.g., 2+2). When only one hemistich of the first verse is given, this is counted as one verse. If not otherwise stated, the smaller number of verses is included within the larger.

The following 16 fragments, quoted in the Tawābiʿ, have no parallel in the Yatīma: p. 89, R 1+1+1; p. 90, ā 3; pp. 99–100, D 9+2; p. 106, R 5; p. 109, H 1+2; p. 110, D 1+4; pp. 110–11, ʿ 6; p. 123, R 6; p. 136, S 5 (see Monroe 1971, p. 85 n. 12); p. 138, B 4; p. 140, R 7; p. 141, Q 4; p. 141, B 4; pp. 141–43, R 15; pp. 143–44, M 13; and p. 146, R 2.

[37] The second fragment, p. 137, contains the same verses as the first with one additional verse. All verses are from the second fragment of the Yatīma.

[38] The last six verses lack parallels in the Yatīma.

[39] One verse has no parallel in the Yatīma.

[40] The last four verses have no parallels in the Tawābiʿ.

[41] 1+2+2 verses lack parallels in the Yatīma.

[42] Seven verses lack parallels in the Yatīma.

[43] 5+4 verses lack parallels in the Tawābiʿ.

[44] Three verses lack parallels in the Yatīma.

[45] The verses come from a long poem partly (1+76 verses) quoted in Dhakhīra I:199–203, but two of the seven verses in the Tawābiʿ lack parallels in the Dhakhīra.