Literary Reading: "Mu’izz, The Glory of Our Time" and "Imam, You are the One…"

Among the arts, the cultivation of poetry was especially encouraged by the Fatimid Caliph-Imams. As was customary with most ruling Muslim dynasties, the Fatimids maintained a staff of a few professional poets, ranked according to their skills, who performed important roles in the court rituals and public ceremonials.

The most famous of the court poets was Muhammad ibn Hani al-Andalusi, who entered the service of the Fatimids in 958, after fleeing from persecution in Muslim Spain where his verses in support of batini philosophy incurred the hostility of the Umayyad rulers. He was reputed as the foremost Arabic poet of the Maghrib (present-day Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and his poetry was widely admired.

When he was 27, he contacted Jawhar, the Fatimid military commander, but then wandered along to the courts of other rulers. When his poetic talents became recognized, he was was attracted by the generous patronage of Imam Mu’izz, whose retinue he joined. He remained throughout with the Imam in Mansuriya and accompanied him on his journey to Egypt. On the way at ‘Barqa he was found dead at the sea-side. He was killed by some enemy who could not be traced.. Imam Mu’izz was extremely sad at this unfortunate happening and remarked that Ibn Hani was one of the greatest poets of the East in whose service he took pride.

Ibn Hani left behind a Diwan which is edited by Dr. Zahid Ali. It contains about 246 pages. Most of the poems are in praise of Imam Mu’izz and the Fatimid Dynasty. His extreme love for the Imam and his followers is shown by the poet in his compositions.

Mu’izz – The Glory of Our Time

O Mu’izz li-Din Allah!
the outstanding glory
and greatness of our time
is surely due to you

By you is the universe
honoured and allotted
its provisions, epochs
and respites of time

When the turbid depths
were purified for you
the waters became sweet
and mouths became fragrant.

Your qualities are beyond
the tongue’s description
beyond what the truthful
and the garrulous say

God has bestowed on you
the book and His grace
but alas, my verses
are not worthy of you!

____________________________

Imam, You are the One….

Command what you will
not what the fates ordain
for you are the one
the overpowering one

You are the one, the heir
to Muhammad’s legacy
and your helpers are like
those who supported him

You are the one of whom
glad tidings were given
by learned men in their
books and traditions

You are the one, Imam
of the righteous, by whom
tyranny and disbelief
are wholly subdued

You are the one, Imam
whose love and affection
salvation is forseen
and our burdens removed

You are the one on whose
intercession we depend
when tomorrow brings forth
the Day of Resurrection

____________________________

References:
1. Poems from Shimmering Light: An Anthology of Ismaili Poems, ed. Faquir M. Hunzai and Kutub Kassam, pub. I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 1997
2. Articles adapted from Shimmering Lights and Muhammad ibn Hani al-Andalusi, a famous court poet during the Fatimid era by Mahmoud Darwish

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