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“As You Are Now”: Ibn Isrā’īl’s Elegies for His Daughter

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The 7th/13th century Damascene poet Muḥammad Ibn Isrā’īl (d. 677/1278) was noted for his dedicated discipleship to the controversial Sufi ʿAlī al-Ḥarīrī and for his elegant mystical Arabic verse. Based on his belief in Divine Oneness, Ibn Isrā’īl claimed that all of his poems were in praise of God. This article will closely read two elegies that Ibn Isrā’īl composed following the tragic death of his adult daughter. In them, Ibn Isrā’īl drew from both the classical Arabic elegiac tradition and Muslim beliefs in immortality to forge a rhetoric of transformation, which denies the ultimate finality of his daughter’s death and reaffirms her continued life in God’s presence, where they may yet meet again. Moreover, these elegies for a daughter are indicative of new trends in Arabic poetry in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods—namely, a focus on more personal matters—only rarely seen in pre-Islamic or classical Arabic verse.

Affiliations: 1: University of Rochester


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