It tells it like it is.

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

Poetry has always had an important place to play in Arab culture, even from pre-Islamic times, when the status of a tribe would greatly depend on the skills of its tribal poet in composing verse that praised his patrons and satirised all others.

While English poetry may be an artistic form of literature, in Arabic it is that and more. Arab poetry has recorded and preserved much of our heritage, and events were often remembered for years to come only due to poetry that was composed about them.

One such example is the battle of 'Amooriyyah that took place on the 17th Ramadan, 223 Hijri. The Caliph al-Mu'tasim Billah had prepared a collosal army to attack the Byzantines in 'Amooriyyah, the heart of Christianity at the time, for they had been wreaking havoc in the Muslim lands, killing and dismembering their captives. The Byzantines at the time were said to be unconquerable, due to which the soothsayers and fortune-tellers warned al-Mu'tasim that he would be defeated. The poet Abu Tammaam al-Taa'ee believed otherwise, and voiced this to al-Mu'tasim in verse,

More truthful in its tidings is the sword than are books,

With its blade – the edge between seriousness and play

The battle of 'Amooriyyah was an enormous victory for the Muslims, but were it not for these lines that have become like a proverb, so familiar are they on the Arab tongue, it may possibly be now but a memory buried in the annals of history.


7 responses to “It tells it like it is.

  1. Walaikum asalaam,

    Are there certain characteristics of Arabic poetry? Is it just as important today as it was in the past?

  2. Masha allah. Love your blog. Great stuff. Maybe one day you could write a post about *how* beginners, or, those that have *some* knwoledge of the arabic language can go about learning it to an advanced level; is this possible by ones self? I find myself being able to read certain books or excerpts and understand their meaning, yet, have no idea about the grammar involved.

    Jazakallahu khairan for you efforts and May Allah increase in you the love for the arabic language, ameen.


  3. Arshad, I do not understand what you mean by ‘certain characteristics’. It remains important to read and refer to the old poetry today as we can learn a great deal of our history from it and often fill in the gaps left by prose. I would not say that Arabic poetry composed in modern times holds the same importance because there are many new methods of documentation. However, the tradition does still continue of recording events in poetic form, as is done by many Palestinian poets about the Intifada and occuption, for example.

    Yusuf, Jazakum Allahu Khayran. I will keep the suggestion about the post in mind. Grammar is not essential if you can understand the meaning, knowledge of grammar usually serves to clarify confusions in the meaning, or to view all shades of the meaning. There are many books you can go through to try develop your grammar, if that is what you are interested in. is one you could try (although it is written in arabic). You can also go to books such as Fiqh al-Lughah by al-Tha’aalibi (and many others available for download here: and reading them will deepen your understanding of the more delicate aspects of the language bi idhnillaah. Bi al-tawfeeq.

  4. Salamu’alaikum wa rahmatallah.

    Barakallahu feekum Sayyidi.


  5. Yaser Al-Hotaki

    No way! We just covered that poem in class. Awesome.

  6. Maa shaa’ Allaah. What did you learn?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s