Given this governor’s death date, Pieter Smoor estimates that the Ṣāhil was completed no later than 1020 CE (“Al-Maʿarrī,” EI2).
An admittedly anachronistic term, “vegan” comes closest to describing al-Maʿarrī’s avoidance of all animal products, including fish, milk, eggs, and honey, plus his exhortation that everyone else should avoid them, too. For further discussion, see (Blankinship 2019b, p. 261
), footnote 1.
Thanks to one of the anonymous reviewers for suggesting further discussion of this point.
For an overview of ḥadīth
that spell out these guidelines, see (Furber 2015, pp. 7–17
). One sees an overall concern for animal welfare in ḥadīth
s that tell of the Prophet praising a man for giving water to a thirsty dog (the matn
states, “There is a reward for every moistened liver” [fī kulli kabidin raṭbatin ajrun
], meaning that every good deed, such as wetting the liver of thirsty animals—giving them water to drink—will be rewarded) (Al-Nīsābūrī 1991, vol. 4, p. 1761, #2244
; Al-Bukhārī 2002, p. 569, #2363
); or of a woman damned to hellfire for starving a cat to death (ḥattā māta jūʿan
) (Al-Nīsābūrī 1991, vol. 4, p. 1760, #2242-2243
; Al-Bukhārī 2002, p. 569, #2364-2365; p. 862 #3482
In the immediate Arab cultural milieu, some also saw kindness to animals as part of “manly virtue,” murūʾah
. For instance, the early writer Ṣāliḥ ibn Janāḥ (d. ca. 767 CE) says in his Risālah fī l-adab wa-l-murūʾah
: “A man’s kindness to his riding animals, his taking good care of them, and his support for them, is indeed a righteous act, a way toward prosperity, and one of the many aspects of manly virtue” (Inna rifq al-rajul bi-dawābbihī wa-ḥusn taʿāhudihī lahā wa-qiyāmihī ʿalayhā ʿamal min aʿmāl al-birr wa-sabab min asbāb al-ghinā wa-wajh min wujūh al-murūʾah
) (Kurd ʿAlī 1913, part 2, p. 305
). Thanks to Geert Jan van Gelder for this reference.
According to Tlili, “the two [Sunnī] schools that are more text-oriented, the Shāfiʿī and the Ḥanbalī, are more attentive to nonhuman animals’ well-being. Shāfiʿīs and Ḥanbalīs, therefore, can more accurately be described as Ḥadīth champions than as animal champions. The two descriptions, however, are not mutually exclusive” (Tlili 2015, p. 244
Since the term anām
refers, especially in post-Qurʾānic usage, to creatures seen as “rational” (ʿāqil
)—namely humans, angels, and jinn (Tlili 2012, p. 139
)—It makes sense that the Qawāʿid
should focus on human rather than animal welfare. That said, Qurʾānic usage is often more capacious, e.g., the word dābbah
, which in later texts means “nonhuman animal” but which, according to Qurʾān commentators, includes humans too (Tlili 2010
Al-Jāḥiẓ ascribes a number of unorthodox opinions to these aṣḥāb al-jahālāt
, by whom he also meant the Jahmiyyah, that is, followers of slain theologian Jahm ibn Ṣafwān (d. 745 CE). He shows them, for instance, promoting extreme voluntarism, namely a denial of inherent differences between physical objects, since the only real difference lies in God’s will. Supposedly the aṣḥāb al-jahālāt
held to his view against al-Naẓẓām’s doctrine of “latency,” al-kumūn
, which says that traits like wetness, dryness, heat, and saltiness inhere in the objects themselves. The logical conclusion of the Jahmiyyah viewpoint, at least as recounted by al-Jāḥiẓ, is that, “apart from God, nothing really exists” (Crone 2012a, p. 29
Thanks to Geert Jan van Gelder for this reference.
). For more on his life and times, see Mohsen Zakeri, “Sahl ibn Hārūn,” EI2
Lane quotes a saying of the Prophet, jurḥ al-ʿajmāʾ jubārun
, “The wound of the speechless beast is a thing for which no retaliation, nor expiatory mulct is extracted” (ibid.; Al-Bukhārī 2002, “Kitāb al-diyāt,” p. 1709, #6913
; Al-Nīsābūrī 1991, vol. 3, “Kitāb al-ḥudūd,” pp. 1334–35, #1710
; Al-Shāfiʿī 2001, vol. 10, “Bāb jurḥ al-ʿajmāʾ jubārun,” pp. 315–17
) (thanks to Geert Jan van Gelder for the ḥadīth
and al-Shāfiʿī references). This is almost certainly an unstated allusion of al-Maʿarrī’s line.
Found in the grasslands and deserts of Central and Southwestern Asia, bagworms are known proverbially in Arabic for industriousness due to their oddly distinctive log cabin cocoon: aṣnaʿ min al-surfah
(craftier than a bagworm). The cocoon is often made with twigs from the saxaul tree (al-rimth
) and is known colloquially as mukḥulat al-dhīb
, “the wolf’s antimony jar,” since it appears in the branches of far-off trees, familiar only to wolves (Ibn Manẓūr 1999, vol. 6, pp. 244–45
For a fuller study of these letters with respect to veganism, see (Blankinship 2019b
The Qurʾān endorses humankind’s profiting from animals as a natural resource, whether of flesh and milk (e.g., 23/al-Muʾminūn: 21–2), wool, fur, and skin (e.g., 16/al-Naḥl: 80), or prowess in hunting (e.g. 5/al-Māʾidah: 4).
This verbiage comes directly from the Qurʾān, e.g., Q 2/Al-Baqarah 143, inna llāha bi-l-nāsi la-raʾūfun raḥīmun
(“Truly God is All-gentle with the people, All-compassionate,” Arberry 1955, vol. 1, p. 46
); Q 9/Al-Tawbah 128, bi-l-muʾminīna raʾūfun raḥīmun
(“gentle to the unbelievers, compassionate,” ibid., p. 223).
“Those who have witnessed Indians practice self-immolation (man shahida īḥrāqahum nufūsahum
) tell that when they feel the fire burning they want to get out, but those present push them back with sticks and sharpened swords. There is no god but God; << You have done a monstrous thing!>> [quoting Q 19/Maryam, v. 89]” (Al-Maʿarrī 2013–2014, vol. 2, pp. 80–83
Ibn al-ʿAdīm writes that al-Maʿarrī went to Antioch (Ḥusayn et al. 1944, pp. 555–56
), while Jamāl al-Dīn al-Qifṭī says he visited Latakia (Al-Qifṭī 1950, vol. 1, p. 49
). Even though such details differ, the biographers who mention this episode all agree that al-Maʿarrī traveled beyond Greater Syria in his youth, and that the trip affected his worldview.
In the twelfth-century Byzantine historical epic The Alexiad
, at the back half of Book 14 and the middle of Book 15, Princess Anna Komnene (d. 1153 CE) exposes various dualist offshoots for the perceived threat they posed. She calls the Bogomils “a serpent lurking in its hole” and describes how, like a viper, their ideas had slithered into small towns and villages, taking hold especially among the peasants (Komnene 1969, pp. 455–63
For more on Galen as a canonical source of Byzantine medicine, see (Nutton 1984
Muḥammad Salīm al -Jundī rolls out statements by al-Maʿarrī on a number of theological positions, especially those for which he was charged with unorthodox views. (Al-Jundī 1962–1964, vol. 3, pp. 1398–487
). Even though al-Jundī seems eager to defend al-Maʿarrī, he adds up enough evidence to show that al-Maʿarrī was not a convinced reincarnationist.
As Kathryn Babayan points out, the Sufi belief in waḥdat al-wujūd—which here al-Maʿarrī conflates with metempsychosis—was, at least in the mind of heresiographers, shared by Iranian neo-Pythagorian movements like the Nuqṭavīs.
Nor is this for al-Bīrūnī’s lack of knowledge about the Indic tradition, reckoning by his commentary on yoga philosophical texts (Al-Bīrūnī 2020
Recent research casts doubt on some of the stark lines that have been by scholars between Hellenic and Indian thought, judging from centuries of direct contact between the two (Stoneman 2020
Many thanks to one of the anonymous reviewers for suggesting further discussion on this point.
The word for fat, nay
y, “raw” or “untouched by fire,” is originally written nayʾ
. Traditionally, desert Arabs distinguished fat as an uncooked substance from flesh, sometimes called naḍīj
, “cooked” (Lane 1984, vol. 2, supplement, p. 2930
). Abū l-Muzāḥim
, or sometimes Ibn al-Muzāḥim
or simply muzāḥim
, “fighter,” can by association mean a raging elephant or, in this context, a bull with broken horns (munkasir al-qarnayn
, reading munkasir
in the text) (Ibn Manẓūr 1999, vol. 6, p. 29
In literature, disemboweling and the like seems emblematic of a particularly gruesome death. In his Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abū Shādūf Expounded
(Hazz al-quḥūf bi-sharḥ qaṣīd Abī Shādūf
), seventeenth-century Egyptian author Yūsuf al-Shirbīnī (d. ca. 1700 CE) includes an anecdote about a wolf cub raised on the milk of a ewe, which it then eviscerates (Al-Shirbīnī 2016, vol. 1, pp. 40–41
); and about a hyena raised by a Bedouin man, whose stomach the hyena later rips open (ibid.). Apart from highlighting the starkness of the violence, these stories are meant as evidence that humans, like animals, “will not escape their inborn nature” (lā yakhruju al-insān min ṭabʿihi
, ibid., pp. 38–39).
There is a variant reading of the first hemistich: Wa-qad uṣāḥibu fityānan ṭaʿāmuhumu, “and time was that I went with young warriors [geared for raiding] whose food was” etc.
Many thanks to Geert Jan van Gelder for checking my understanding of this line, and for suggesting the various references that appear in this paragraph.
Khuḍr can mean green, but also brown or black in classical Arabic—presumably this refers to how the water was colored by the dark contents of their stomachs, but possibly also bile (this seems less likely).
“Whenever the desert Arabs rode through a barren wasteland, i.e. one without moisture, they would give water to a sturdy camel, then pierce its snout [to bind it] so that it could not chew its cud. Then, when thirst overtook them, they would puncture the camel’s upper chest and drink whatever water was in its stomach. The name of that water is faẓẓ, ‘pressed-out’” (kānū idhā rakibū mafāzatan jardāʾ, ay lā māʾ fīhā, arwaw baʿīran thumma jadhdhū mashāfirahu li-allā yajtarr, fa-in ajhadahum al-ʿaṭash naḥarūhu wa-sharibū mā fī jawfihī min al-māʾ, wa-ism dhālika l-māʾ al-faẓẓ).
In his edition of Ibn al-Kalbī’s Kitāb al-aṣnām
(Book of Idols), Aḥmad Zakī Bāshā reproduces a marginal note from the unique Egyptian National Archives manuscript (Ibn al-Kalbī 1995, p. 3
) explaining the phrase inna llāha arāḥakum min al-sajjah wa-l-bajjah
, “God has given you respite [i.e. freed you] from the pagan god Sajjah and the practice of blooddrinking.” The note glosses al-sajjah
as “an idol once worshipped alongside Allāh” (ṣanam kān yuʿbad min dūn Allāh
), and al-bajjah
as “phlebotomized blood which the desert Arabs would consume in times of crisis” (al-faṣīd alladhī kānat al-ʿarab taʾkulu fī l-azmah
). In his Kitāb al-bukhalāʾ
(Book of Misers), al-Jāḥiẓ mentions majdūḥ
, a Bedouin “emergency dish” made of blood mixed with other things (Al-Jāḥiẓ 1948, pp. 216, 218
; Al-Jāḥiẓ 1997, trans. Serjeant, pp. 195, 197
; cf. Ibn Durayd 1987–1988, vol. 1, p. 435
). Thanks to Geert Jan van Gelder for the references in al-Jāḥiẓ and Ibn Durayd. Setting aside the question of historicity, such references show that, in the Arab popular imagination, opening the veins of mounts and pack animals was considered a standard tactic of Bedouin desert survival.
There is a confusion, as noted in (Ullmann 1981, p. 88, note 84
), with the well-known poet Asmāʾ ibn Khārijah al-Fazārī (on whom see e.g., Sezgin 1974–1995, vol. 2, p. 329
); Bint al-Shāṭiʾ, editor of the Ṣāhil
, did not notice this. Perhaps al-Maʿarrī misremembered; Ullmann thinks it is due to copyists. Ullmann gives all eighteen lines in transliteration, translation, and with extensive commentary (Ullmann 1981, pp. 87–96
). The lines are from a poem by Asmāʾ ibn Khārijah (Aḥmad and Hārūn 1955, pp. 48–52
). Many thanks to Geert Jan van Gelder for pointing out the misattribution and recommending these sources.
Thanks to one of the anonymous reviewers for pointing this out.
normally carries the technical meaning of a ḥadīth
transmitter. So it may here too, although the full Arabic statement is general enough not to mark it either way. Umm Shamlah
is a nickname for the sun; it can also mean wine or, more generally, the world and its fleeting joys, “so called because compassing [shamlah
] the intellect of a man and concealing it” (Lane 1984, vol. 1, p. 1610
In discourse analysis, sociologist Erving Goffman is credited with the distinction between “overhearers,” i.e. those who are privy—or potentially privy—to a conversation not directly “intended” for them, and “ratified participants,” namely those for whom a conversation is intended, whether or not they happen to be listening (Goffman 1981, pp. 124–59
). Whatever one thinks about an author’s ability to imagine future readers, if one assumes that there are readers whom the author has not thought of, but who may in fact one day read his works, then they could be described as overhearers.
Lines 8, 15, and 16 occupy the same order in both the Ṣāhil and al-Sukkarī. Lines 9, 10, 12, and 13 in the Ṣāhil are, respectively, lines 10, 9, 14, and 12 in al-Sukkarī. Most of the variant recensions change by just a single word, e.g. al-Sukkārī’s yanẓuruhā versus al-Maʿarrī’s yarqubuhā in line 11. The only major change appears in the first hemistich of al-Maʿarrī’s line 10, yarūdu fīhā nahāran thumma mawriduhū / ṭāmin ʿalayhi furūʿu l-qāni wa-l-nashamī (“Here it wanders during the day, followed by its drinking/where branches of grewia and old man’s beard [Clematis vitalba] drape overhead”), versus al-Sukkarī’s line 9, yaʾwī ilā mushmakhirrātin muṣaʿʿidatin/shummin bi-hinna furūʿu l-qāni wa-l-nashamī (“It takes shelter in points up high/where branches of grewia and old man’s beard spread out overhead”).
Lane translates al-saḥam
as “a kind of tree,” but says of al-sajam
that it refers to the leaves of a tree called khilāf
and which—most relevant here—are often compared to arrowheads (Lane 1984, vol. 1, p. 1322
). Most scholars translate khilāf
as “Egyptian willow,” Salix aegyptiaca
, in Arabic ṣafṣāf miṣrī
(e.g., Stetkevych 2002, p. 112
; Nasrallah 2017, p. 296
; Dozy 1877–1881, vol. 1, p. 397
), or simply “willow” (Al-Ḥarīrī 2020, p. 285
); while a minority give “oleaster,” Elaeagnus angustifolia
, known as Persian olive, or in French, chalef
(e.g., Fahd 1996, p. 826
). Although the term khilāf
might refer to both trees, this seems unlikely, since willows and oleasters belong not just to different biological genera, but in fact to different families, Salicaceae
(the willow family) and Elaeagnaceae
(the oleaster family) (ambiguity in Arabic animal terms tends to stay at the genus level, e.g. namir
, which denotes the genus Panthera
, hence why it is used interchangeably to mean “tiger,” “leopard,” or “panther,” or ghurāb
for the genus Corvus
and which is used to mean “crow” or “raven”).
Also found in (Thaʿlab 1960, vol. 2, p. 506
; Al-Ābī 1980–1991, vol. 6, p. 201
; Al-Tawḥīdī 1988, vol. 6, p. 162, quoting Ibn al-ʿAmīd
; Al-Maydānī 1959, vol. 1, p. 431, no. 2271
). Ironically, the uromastyx lizard appears again in the Ṣāhil
—though only in passing—as “judge of all the animals” (qāḍī al-bahāʾim
) (Al-Maʿarrī 1975, p. 214