Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri

Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri
February 22 18:36 2015 Print This Article

Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri (Arabic أبو العلاء المعري Abū al-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī, full name أبو العلاء أحمد بن عبد الله بن سليمان التنوخي المعري Abū al-ʿAlāʾ Aḥmad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sulaimān al-Tanūẖī al-Maʿarrī; 973–1058) is a blind Arab philosopher, poet, and writer.

Al-Ma’rri was born in the region south of Aleppo Ma’arra currently Ma’ariv of Nu’man. Al-Ma’rri came from the ranks of the noble family of Banu Suliman, belonging to the largest Arab tribe Tanukh. His paternal great-great-grandfather had been the city’s first qadi. Some members of the Bany Sulayman had also been noted as good poets. Al-Ma’arri lost his eyesight at the age of four due to smallpox. He started his career as a poet at an early age, at about 11 or 12 years old. He was educated at first in Maʿarra and Aleppo, later also in Antioch and other Syrian cities. Among his teachers in Aleppo were companions from the circle of Ibn Khalawayh. Ibn Khalawayh was a grammarian and an Islamic scientist who died when Al- Ma’arri child. Al-Maʿarri nevertheless laments the loss of Ibn Ḵh̲ālawayh in strong terms in a poem of his Risālat al-ghufrān.

Al-Qifti reports that when on his way to Tripoli, visited a Christian monastery near Latakia where he listened to debates about Hellenic philosophy, which planted in him the seeds of his later skepticism, but historian Ibn al- Adim but denies that it deviated from the doctrine of Islamic theology . He also spent eighteen months at Baghdad, where he was well received in the literary salons of the time. He returned to his native town of Maʿarra in about 1010, having run out of money and hearing that his mother was ill (she died before he arrived).

He remained in Ma’arra for the rest of his life, where he opted for an ascetic lifestyle, refusing to sell his poems, living in seclusion and observing a strict vegan diet. He nevertheless enjoyed great respect and attracted many students locally, as well as actively holding correspondence with scholars abroad.

Al-Ma’arri gave his last breath at Maarat Al-A ‘ man in the year 1058, at the age of 85-86.