Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Notes on Poetry in Islam

I am currently working on a research group examining how Aristotle's Poetics was read in Medieval Islamic, Jewish, and Christian settings. I am particularly interested in how Averroes read the Poetics in his two commentaries on that work and the dangers he may have encountered in his outlook on poetry. Yes, I said dangers. And, as an indication that such dangers are still present today, here is an excerpt from the end of an article, written by someone from Australia on Islamic forms of poetry:
I hope that this short essay will help you to remove from your mind the cobweb that you might have regarding poetry in Islam. If we go by the Islamic rules then only Hamd and Naat (some of them written by the great Islamic poet Golam Mostafa) are the only poems allowed in Islam. Almost all the poems written in Bangladesh are unIslamic and all most all the poets are engaged, in many cases, in blasphemy acts whether they realise this or not. Although there is no specific hudud punishment specified in Sharia for writing poetry, please know that if a poetry is considered grossly offensive and/or blasphemous then the punishment is death by beheading.

As one can see, the message is now very clear. Most of the poets of Bangladesh (or any other country) are the potential targets for capital punishment if an Islamic Paradise is established and ‘real Islam’ is practiced in Bangladesh.

Yikes! If the situation in 13th century Spain was anything like the one described here, Averroes was really living on the edge by discussing and praising Homer and pre-Islamic poetry.

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