8717071911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1 — Abu-l-'AtahiyaGriffithes Wheeler Thatcher

ABŪ-L-‛ATĀHIYA [Abū Isḥāq Ismā‛īl ibn Qāsim al-‛Anazī] (748–828), Arabian poet, was born at ‛Ain ut-Tamar in the Hijāz near Medina. His ancestors were of the tribe of ‛Anaza. His youth was spent in Kufa, where he was engaged for some time in selling pottery. Removing to Bagdad, he continued his business there, but became famous for his verses, especially for those addressed to ‛Utba, a slave of the caliph al-Mahdī. His affection was unrequited, although al-Mahdī, and after him Harūn al-Rashīd, interceded for him. Having offended the caliph, he was in prison for a short time. The latter part of his life was more ascetic. He died in 828 in the reign of al-Ma’mūn. The poetry of Abū-l-‛Atāhiya is notable for its avoidance of the artificiality almost universal in his days. The older poetry of the desert had been constantly imitated up to this time, although it was not natural to town life. Abū-l-‛Atāhiya was one of the first to drop the old qasīda (elegy) form. He was very fluent and used many metres. He is also regarded as one of the earliest philosophic poets of the Arabs. Much of his poetry is concerned with the observation of common life and morality, and at times is pessimistic. Naturally, under the circumstances, he was strongly suspected of heresy.

His poems (Diwān) with life from Arabian sources have been published at the Jesuit Press in Beirūt (1887, 2nd ed. 1888). On his position in Arabic literature see W. Ahlwardt, Diwān des Abu Nowas (Greifswald, 1861), pp. 21 ff.; A. von Kremer, Culturgeschichte des Orients (Wien, 1877), vol. ii. pp. 372 ff. (G. W. T.)