Friday, July 10, 2009

Abu Tammam

Abu Tammam (Habib ibn Aus) Arabic, أبو تمام حبيب بن أوس (c. 805 – c. 845) was a famous Arab poet and Muslim convert born to Christian parents.[1] His life is not precisely dated, and some sources give 807 – 850.[2]

[edit] Biography

He was born in Jasim (Josem), Syria, a place to the north-east of the Sea of Tiberias or near Hierapolis Bambyce. He seems to have spent his youth in Homs, though, according to one story, he was employed during his boyhood in selling water in a mosque in Cairo. His first appearance as a poet was in Egypt, but as he failed to make a living there he went to Damascus, and then to Mosul. From there he made a visit to the governor of Armenia, who awarded him richly. After 833 he lived mostly in Baghdad, at the court of the caliph Mo'tasim. From Baghdad he visited Khorasan, where he enjoyed the favour of Abdallah ibn Tahir. About 845 he was in Ma'arrat un-Nu'man, where he met the poet al-Buhturi (c. 820–897). He died in Mosul.

Abu Tammam is best known in literature for his 9th century compilation of early poems known as the Hamasah. The Hamasah (Arabic, "exhortation") is one of the greatest anthologies of Arabic literature ever written. Abu Tammam gathered these works together when he was snowbound in Hamadan, where he had access to an excellent library. There are ten books of poems in the Hamasah, all classified by subject. Some of them are selections from long poems. This is one of the treasuries of early Arabic poetry, and the poems are of exceptional beauty. A later anthology by the same name was compiled by the poet al-Buhturi, and the term has been used in modern times to mean "heroic epic."

Two other collections of a similar nature are ascribed to Abu Tammam. His own poems have been somewhat neglected owing to the success of his compilations, but they enjoyed great repute in his lifetime. His poems of valour, often describing historical events, are important as source material. They were distinguished for the purity of their style, the merit of the verse, and the excellent manner of treating subjects. His poems were published in Cairo in 1875.

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