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Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri (973 - 1058)

PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:51 am
by Robert
From Wikipedia:

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, born AD 973 / AH 363, died AD 1058 / AH 449) was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth.


Abul Ala was born in Maʿarra, Syria. He was a member of the Banu Sulayman, a notable family of Maʿarra, belonging to the larger Tanukh tribe. 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. He lost his eyesight at the age of four due to smallpox.[3]

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. This grammarian and Islamic scholar had died in AH 370 (AD 980/1), when Al-Maʿarri was still a 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, Al-Maʿarri visited a Christian monastery near Latakia where he listened to debates about Hellenic philosophy, which planted in him the seeds of his later skepticism and irreligiosity; but other historians such as Ibn al-Adim deny that he had been exposed to any theology other than Islamic doctrine.

He also spent two years at Baghdad, where he was well received in the literary salons of the time, but he opted for an ascetic lifestyle, refusing to sell his poems, living in seclusion and observing a strict diet. He nevertheless enjoyed great respect and attracted many students locally, as well as actively holding correspondence with scholars abroad.[2]

He returned to his native town of Maʿarra in about 1010, where he lived the rest of his life, practicing asceticism and veganism.[4]


Al-Maʿarri was skeptic in his beliefs and denounced superstition and dogmatism in religion. Thus, he has been described as a pessimistic freethinker[5], some argue that he might have been a deist. One of the recurring themes of his philosophy was the rights of reason against the claims of custom, tradition and authority.

Al-Maʿarri taught that religion was a "fable invented by the ancients," [6] worthless except for those who exploit the credulous masses.[6]

"Do not suppose the statements of the prophets to be true; they are all fabrications. Men lived comfortably till they came and spoiled life. The sacred books are only such a set of idle tales as any age could have and indeed did actually produce." [7]

Al-Maʿarri criticized many of the dogmas of Islam, such as the Hajj, which he called, "a heathen’s journey." [8]

He rejected claims of any divine revelation.[9] His creed was that of a philosopher and ascetic, for whom reason provides a moral guide, and virtue is its own reward.[10]

Al-Maarri's fundamental pessimism is expressed in his recommendation that no children should be begotten, so as to spare them the pains of life. In an elegy composed by him over the loss of a relative, he combines his grief with observations on the ephemerality of this life:

"Soften your tread. Methinks the earth’s surface is but bodies of the dead,
Walk slowly in the air, so you do not trample on the remains of God’s servants."

His religious skepticism and positively antireligious views are expressed in a poem which states "The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains." [12]


An early collection of his poems appeared as "The Tinder Spark" (Saqṭ al-zand; سقط الزند). It gained great popularity and established his reputation as a poet.

A second, more original collection appeared under the title "Unnecessary Necessity" (Luzūm mā lam yalza لزوم ما لا يلزم أو اللزوميات ); also Luzūmīyāt "Necessities"), alluding to the unnecessary complexity of the rhyme scheme used.

His third famous work is a work of prose known as "The Epistle of Forgiveness" (Risālat al-ghufrān رسالة الغفران). In this work, the poet visits paradise and meets the Arab poets of the pagan period, contrary to Muslim doctrine which holds that only those who believe in God can find salvation (Quran 4:48). Because of the aspect of conversing with the deceased in paradise, the Resalat Al-Ghufran has been compared to the Divine Comedy of Dante.[13]

"Paragraphs and Periods" (Al-Fuṣūl wa al-ghāyāt) is a collection of homilies, which have been characterized as a parody of the Qur'an.[2]

Re: Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri (973 - 1058)

PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2011 1:08 am
by Robert

"Do not suppose the statements of the Prophets to be true; they are all fabrications. Men lived comfortably till they came and spoiled life. The "sacred books" are only such a set of idle tales as any age could have and indeed did actually produce. What inconsistency that God should forbid the taking of life, and Himself send two angels to take each man's! And as for the promise of a second life -- the soul could well have dispensed with both existences:"

(...) ... al_maarri/