Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Abbasid Caliphate

Did you know the "golden age" of Baghdad was during the 9th century? It's when the Arabian Nights mostly take place. It's when Islam had pretty strong control over the region and most of North Africa and Central Asia. You might have known this. But did you know the Arabs were prolific poets? And that in the Abbasid court, they had poets just as they did in the heyday of Venice, who called out spontaneous poems of love and loyalty to their current rulers? And that wine was often freely drank, late into the night?

Yes. They were Muslim rulers, and they drank wine. And the people knew it.

But most importantly, their court poets wrote about love. And someone, somewhere down the line, felt compelled to write the poems down, and then rewrite them when the papyrus fell apart and paper became common. And so now we're left with volumes and volumes (only parts in English, sadly) of poems like this:

You pages, pour me out a potion
Pour me to drink her soft, sweet kisses
I suffer drought; its healing draught
Is drinking from her moist fresh lips.
The smiling corners of her mouth are brilliant as chamomile;
Her speech is like embroidery, a mantle with embroidery
Lodged in the core and kernel of
My heart, she is insatiable.
She said to me: 'I'll meet with you a few nights hence.'
But day and night will wear away, and nothing new will come myw ay.
She is content without me; my
Portion is sighs to gnaw a heart of steel.
~ Bashshar ibn Burd, medieval Islamic poet

Beautiful. And the images. *shiver*

This one made me chuckle:

Of all garments
God blast the veil

it hides the young

and masks the vile
to urge us on.
God blast the veil.
~ Dhu'l-Rumma
(696?-735?) (I.E., a LONG ass time ago.)

And one that is anonymous:

It's true.
I have left my mistresses and wine behind
and love's delirium. and have abandoned myself to my Lord.

My pleasures were long-lasting
but now He firmly holds my hand
within His law.

Today, wine is a crime,
and you,
are against His law;
but when I remember
this and that ... and your smile,
I must leave my Lord behind for ever.

Makes you wonder what transpired in those dots, eh?

And after at least a thousands years, I can feel the anguish and love the author must have felt. And because of his words, he and I are connected. (In a weird "transcendence of time and space" sort of way, I guess.)

If only I could travel back and hear the music sung late at night, while the caliph sat behind a curtain with his women, drinking and laughing. None of the music survived the ages. The lyrics and instruments, yes, but the Arabs had no way of marking musical notes, so when the singers died, and their songs were forgotten, they disappeared. What would happen if we lost our sheets of music collected the past 500 years, and then today's musicians died. Our grandchildren wouldn't know a tenth of what had been sung or played. The world would be silent.


anna said...

What a beautiful, evocative collection of words and images and you narrate them so beautifully too. I love your blog!

Mary Witzl said...

This is so lovely -- how did I miss it?

When I taught Turkish and Arabic students, I was amazed at how many of them openly stated that they drank. Only a few hardliners insisted they never did, but even a few of them indulged in alcohol from time to time -- I saw them. Just as there are Christians who believe the Bible states that you cannot drink, there are Muslims who interpret the Koran in different ways. I've heard people insist that putting on the veil is unequivocally ordered by the Koran and those who say that women are simply asked to dress modestly, not veil themselves.

How sad that the music did not survive! I can't help think that it must have been passed down in families and is still sung, plucked or strummed -- somewhere.

Isis said...

Look up Ishtar Antares Slovenia to see pictures of Cobra and his old facebook page. Read the reviews on sites from people who followed ishtar years ago and documented his transformation into cobra. That's partly why he disguises his voice. You are being duped.



Missy Pixi said...

read here:

Anonymous said...

all those images are Victorian, they are western artists, most probably English, painting dreamworlds up, not at all what the real thing would have looked like, the art of that time, if it was Islamic, had no figures, or if there were figures, they would be 2D

Anonymous said...

Hi, can you tell more, please? Thank you!