Sahar Ishtiaque Ullah is a PhD candidate of Arabic and Comparative Literature and a Public Humanities Fellow for Humanities New York. She is currently completing her dissertation “The Amatory Prelude in Medieval Arabic-Islamic Poetics." She also has research interests in representations of Islam and Muslims in early modern European literature and representations of the classical in modern Arabic literature. A Literature Humanities Core Preceptor Teaching Award Recipient, Sahar is also a Senior Lead Teaching Fellow at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Columbia University.
In Homage of Adab and the Adīb: al-Ṣafadī’s Introduction to Lāmiyyat al-ʿAjam
The introductions to medieval Arabic texts have often been treated as formulaic embellishment that is not particularly meaning generating but reflective of a conventional structure inherited from a literary tradition. On the other hand, fourteenth century Arabic-Islamic rhetoricians understood that how a statement or verse is expressed has implications for the meanings of the text. Thus, they considered the prolegomena to be literarily significant for both poetry and prose. Arabic-Islamic literary theory significantly impacted the style of pre-modern prolegomena across disciplines of literature. In this paper, I will consider the intersection of the fourteenth century Mamluk biographer, critic, and litterateur Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn Khalīl ibn Aybak al-Ṣafadī’s (d. 1362) introduction to his commentary Al-Ghayth Al-Musajjam fī Sharḥ Lāmiyat Al-`Ajam with the concept of “ingenious beginnings” as conceptualized by the poet-rhetorician Ṣafī al-Dīn al-Ḥillī’s (d. 1350) poem’s Al-Kāfiyyah Al-Badī’iyya. Specifically, I will address how Al-Ṣafadī as a writer constructs through his style of praising adab and the adīb the lens through which he wants his audience to understand the significance of his contribution and his legitimacy as a commentator. By doing so, Al-Ṣafadī deploys the introduction of his work as a space of rhetorical performance while conveying the themes of the text demonstrating his familiarity with the discipline of rhetoric and its sub-discipline`ilm al-badī’ encapsulated by al-Ḥillī.