Literary Themes of the Poetry of Mu ammad ibn Dawud al-I fahani in Kitab al-Zahra
Mu ammad ibn Dawud al-I fahani (d. 297/909) was a judge of the ahirite madhhab of Islamic law, but his only surviving work is Kitab al-Zahra (The Book of the Flower), an anthology of poetry, including some of Ibn Dawud’s own poems. The biographical tradition names Ibn Dawud’s motivation for writing Kitab al-Zahra and his poetry therein as his unrequited love for a male friend, and this love story became much more famous than the poetry Ibn Dawud actually wrote. This dissertation argues that the subject of Ibn Dawud’s poetry was not erotic love as is typically described in love poetry, but brotherhood (ikha’), friendship among males of similar age and social status, which was frequently a topic of discussion in `Abbasid literature, although Ibn Dawud may be the only poet of the Arabic language to make it the central theme of his work. A survey of other early Arabic works that deal with brotherhood, including pre-Islamic poetry, treatises on courtly etiquette, and philosophical writings influenced by the Aristotelian tradition, will provide insight into the cultural construct of brotherhood to which Ibn Dawud’s poetry constantly returns. Close readings of Ibn Dawud’s poetry show how he employed various conventions of Arabic poetry, such as intertextuality and a level of diction more appropriate to the entertainments and debates of the majlis than to the ceremonial ode (qa ida), in order to convey his ideas about brotherhood.
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