ABSTRACT

The appearance of the ghazal, i.e. love-poetry as an independent thematic unit apart from the nasīb, the amatory prelude of the qaṣīda, is one of the few revolutionary developments generally conceded to Arabic literary history. 1 Although some research has been done on the genre, a considerable number of problems remains to be solved. Whether the ghazal originated exclusively from the nasīb, or whether other poetic models must be taken into account, is still open to discussion, and there is also difference of opinion as to the dominant external factors promoting its development and giving rise to the new concept of love inherent in it. Is it primarily religion, monotheism and/or Qurʾānic ethics, as has been emphasized by Muslim scholars in particular? Or does it seem more plausible to consider economic and social conditions, the disintegration of bedouin society, leisure and luxury in the pilgrim towns, want and poverty among tribes of the Hijaz in a nomadic or semi-nomadic condition? This leads us to the question of how to differentiate between the urban ghazal of ʿUmar ibn Abī Rabīʿa (d. about 93/712) and the so-called ʿUdhrī ghazal of Jamīl (d. about 82/701) and other elegists. Form and content of the new genre, its motifs and techniques are not sufficiently studied either. The poets of the 7th century introduced new themes and concepts, but they also made use of conventions, sometimes subtly changing their meaning or employing them in unusual combinations. As a result, we observe a curious synthesis of tradition and innovation that has not been adequately described until today. Some of these questions could be answered with more precision. I believe, if we were able to define the basic difference between the ghazal and the nasīb with its stylized image of the bedouin hero and his lost beloved, the aristocratic representatives of tribal norms and ethics. 2