HAMMĀD AR-RĀWIYA [Abū-l-Qāsim Ḥammād ibn Abī Laila Sāpūr (or ibn Maisara)] (8th century A.D.), Arabic scholar, was of Dailamite descent, but was born in Kufa. The date of his birth is given by some as 694, by others as 714. He was reputed to be the most learned man of his time in regard to the “days of the Arabs” (i.e. their chief battles), their stories, poems, genealogies and dialects. He is said to have boasted that he could recite a hundred long qasīdas for each letter of the alphabet (i.e. rhyming in each letter) and these all from pre-Islamic times, apart from shorter pieces and later verses. Hence his name Hammad ar-Rawiya, “the reciter of verses from memory.” The Omayyad caliph Walīd is said to have tested him, the result being that he recited 2900 qasīdas of pre-Islamic date and Walīd gave him 100,000 dirhems. He was favoured by Yazīd II. and his successor Hishām, who brought him up from Irak to Damascus. Arabian critics, however, say that in spite of his learning he lacked a true insight into the genius of the Arabic language, and that he made more than thirty—some say three hundred—mistakes of pronunciation in reciting the Koran. To him is ascribed the collecting of the Moʽallakāt (q.v.). No diwan of his is extant, though he composed verse of his own and probably a good deal of what he ascribed to earlier poets.
Biography in McG. de Slane’s trans. of Ibn Khallikān, vol. i. pp. 470-474, and many stories are told of him in the Kitāb ul-Aghāni, vol. v. pp. 164-175. (G. W. T.)