Theses Doctoral

Medieval Arabic-Islamic Poetics: The Transformation of the Amatory Prelude

Ullah, Sahar Ishtiaque

The dissertation investigates the medieval poetics of the amatory prelude beginning with the thirteenth century Qaṣīdat al-Burdah – or The Mantle Ode – by the poet Muhammad ibn Sa'īd al-Būṣīrī (d. 1294). Poets expanded the trope of the abandoned ruins to include urban space; incorporated sacred beloveds as poetic beloveds; and foregrounded the self-conscious authorial voice within the prelude. The first chapter locates the thirteenth century Qaṣīdat al-Burdah within the larger Arabic poetic legacy that extends to the ancient pre-Islamic period. The second chapter considers the discursive formation of sacred poetic beloveds, such as the Prophet Muhammad, incorporated among the repertoire of the amatory prelude’s classical and ancient poetic beloveds. The third chapter analyzes the authorial voice and role of the lyric “I” in the preludes of Shaʻbān al-Āthārī (d. 1425) and ʻĀʼishah al-Bāʻūniyyah (d. 1517) who pay homage to their literary predecessors including Ibn al-Fāriḍ (d. 1235), al-Būṣīrī, and Ṣafī al-Dīn al-Ḥillī (d. 1349) by mirroring their metrical composition. The fourth chapter interrogates the intersection of poetics and literary criticism in the medieval Arabic-Islamic devotional invocation that is the hallmark of medieval prolegomena. The preludes within the genre of instructive poems on rhetoric known as the badīʿiyyāt encapsulated literary criticism’s definition of “ingenious beginnings.” Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn al-Ṣafadī (d. 1362) demonstrates this intersection in his prose introduction to al-Ghayth al-Musajjam fī Sharḥ Lāmiyat al-ʿAjam. I conclude by returning to modern iterations of al-Būṣīrī’s Qaṣīdat al-Burdah in literary texts in order to further challenge and raise questions about the discontinuity of medieval Arabic poetics in modern culture.


  • thumnail for Ullah_columbia_0054D_14328.pdf Ullah_columbia_0054D_14328.pdf application/pdf 12 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Al-Musawi, Muhsin
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 17, 2017