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“It Eclipsed Cairo and Outshone Baghdad!”: Ibn Rashīq’s Elegy for the City of Qayrawan

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Ibn Rashīq’s popularity in the Arab world as one of the most distinguished classical Maghribi poets owes much to what is often called in Arabic school textbooks “Nūniyyat Ibn Rashīq fī rithāʾ al-Qayrawān,” or simply “Nūniyyat Ibn Rashīq.” Ibn Rashīq composed his city-elegy, the nūniyyah while living in exile to lament the destruction (kharāb) and desolation (khalā̄ʾ) of Qayrawan in the wake of the Hilālī sacking of the city in 1057 CE. A full English translation of Ibn Rashīq’s printed and standardized nūniyyah follows an introductory essay that enumerates salient linguistic and rhetorical features, and offers a manuscript and publication history for the poem. The essay pivots around the lack of elegiac and nostalgic representation of Qayrawan’s once majestic ‘cityscape’ and iconic worldly buildings in the nūniyyah, finding the mnemonic and nostalgic focus of the Maghrib’s most renowned city-elegy to be rather the loss of the city’s fuqahāʾ (Islamic scholars or jurisprudents).

Affiliations: 1: University of Virginia


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