1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mofaḍḍalīyāt

MOFAḌḌALĪYĀT, strictly MUFAḌḌALĪYĀT, an anthology of ancient Arabic poems, which derives its name from al-Mufaḍḍal, son of Muḥammad, son of Ya‛lā, a member of the tribe of Ḍabba, who compiled it some time between A.D. 762 and 784 in the latter of which years he died. Al-Mufaḍḍal was a contemporary of Ḥammād ar-Rāwiya and Khalaf al-Aḥmar, the famous collectors of ancient Arab poetry and tradition, and was somewhat the junior of Abū ‛Amr ibn al-‛Alā, the first scholar who systematically set himself to preserve the poetic literature of the Arabs. He died about fifty years before Abū ‛Ubaida and al-Aṣma‛ī, to whose labours posterity is largely indebted for the arrangement, elucidation and criticism of ancient Arabian verse; and his anthology was put together between fifty and sixty years before the compilation by Abū Tammām of the Ḥamāsa (q.v.).

Al-Mufaḍḍal was a careful and trustworthy collector both of texts and traditions, and is praised by all authorities on Arabian history and literature as in this respect greatly the superior of Ḥammād and Khalaf, who are accused (especially the latter) of unscrupulous fabrication of poems in the style of the ancients. He was a native of Kūfa , the northernmost of the two great military colonies founded in 638 by the caliph ‛Omar for the control of the wide Mesopotamian plain. In Kūfa and Baṣra were gathered representatives of all the Arabian tribes who formed the fighting force of the Islamic Empire, and from these al-Mufaḍḍal was able to collect and record the compositions of the poets who had celebrated the fortunes and exploits of their forefathers. He, no doubt, like al-Aṣma‛ī and Abū ‛Ubaida, also himself visited the areas occupied by the tribes for their camping grounds in the neighbouring desert; and adjacent to Kūfa was al-Ḥīra, the ancient capital of the Lakhmid kings, whose court was the most celebrated centre in pre-Islamic Arabia, where, in the century before the preaching of the Prophet, poets from the whole of the northern half of the peninsula were wont to assemble. There is indeed a tradition that a written collection (dīwān) existed in the family of an-Nu‛mān, the last Lakhmid king, containing a number of poems by the Fuḥūl, or most eminent poets of the pagan time, and especially by those who had praised the princes of the house, and that this collection passed into the possession of the Omayyad caliphs of the house of Marwān; to this, if the tradition is to be believed, al-Mufaḍḍal probably had access.

The date of al-Mufaḍḍal’s birth is unknown; but he lived for many years under the caliphs of the Omayyad line until their overthrow by the ‛Abbasids in 749. In 762 he took part in the rising led by Ibrāhīm ibn ‛Abdallāh ibn al-Ḥasan, the ‛Alid, called “The Pure Soul,” against the caliph al-Manṣūr, and after the defeat and death of Ibrahim was cast into prison. Al-Manṣūr, however, pardoned him on the intercession of his fellow tribesman Musayyab ibn Zuhair of Ḍabba, and appointed him the instructor in literature of his son, afterwards the caliph al-Mahdī. It was for this prince that, at al-Manṣūr’s instigation, al-Mufaḍḍal compiled the Mufaḍḍalīyāt.

The collection, in its present form, contains 126 pieces of verse, long and short; that is the number included in the recension of al-Anbārī, who had the text from Abū ‛Ikrima of Ḍabba, who read it with Ibn al-A‛rābī, the stepson and inheritor of the tradition of al-Mufaḍḍal. We know from the Fihrist of Muḥammad an-Nadīm (A.D. 988) that in his time 128 pieces were counted in the book; and this number agrees with that contained in the Vienna MS., which gives an additional poem, besides those annotated by al-Anbārī, to al-Muraqqish the Elder, and adds at the end a poem by al-Ḥārith ibn Ḥilliza. The Fihrist states (p. 68) that some scholars included more and others fewer poems, while the order of the poems in the several recension’s differed; but the correct text, the author says, is that handed down through Ibn al-A‛rābī. It is noticeable that this traditional text, and the accompanying scholia, as represented by al-Anbārī’s recension, are wholly due to the scholars of Kūfa, to which place al-Mufaḍḍal himself belonged. The rival school of Baṣra, on the other hand, has given currency to a story that the original collection made by al-Mufaḍḍal included a much smaller number of poems. The Berlin MS. of al-Marzūqī’s commentary states that the number was thirty, but a better reading of the passage, found elsewhere,[1] mentions eighty; and that al-Asma‛i and his school added to this nucleus poems which increased the number to a hundred and twenty. It is curious that this tradition is ascribed by al-Marzūqī and his teacher Abū ‛Ali al-Fārisī to Abū ‛Ikrima of Ḍabba, who is represented by al-Anbārī as the transmitter of the correct text from Ibn al-A‛rābī. There is no mention of it in al-Anbārī’s work, and it is in itself somewhat improbable, as in al-Asma‛i’s time the schools of Kūfa and Baṣra were in sharp opposition one to the other, and Ibn al-A‛rābī in particular was in the habit of censuring al-Asma‛ī’s interpretations of the ancient poems. It is scarcely likely that he would have accepted his rival’s additions to the work of his step-father, and have handed them on to Abū ‛Ikrima with his annotations.

The collection is one of the highest importance as a record of the thought and poetic art of Arabia during the time immediately preceding the appearance of the Prophet. Not more than five or six of the 126 poems appear to have been composed by poets who had been born in Islam. The great majority of the authors belonged to the days of “the Ignorance,” and though a certain number (e.g. Mutammim ibn Nuwaira, Rabī‛a ibn Maqrūm, ‛Abda ibn aṭ-Ṭabīb and Abū Dhu’aib), born in paganism, accepted Islam, their work bears few marks of the new faith. The ancient virtues—hospitality to the guest and the poor, profuse expenditure of wealth, valour in battle, faithfulness to the cause of the tribe—are the themes of praise; wine and the game of maisir, forbidden by Islām, are celebrated by poets who professed themselves converts; and if there is no mention of the old idolatry, there is also little spirituality in the outlook on life. The 126 pieces are distributed between 68 poets, and the work represents a gathering from the compositions of those who were called al-Muqillūn, “authors of whom little has survived,” in contrast to the famous poets whose works had been collected into dīwāns. At the same time many of them are extremely celebrated, and among the pieces selected by al-Mufaḍḍal several reach a very high level of excellence. Such are the two long poems of ‛Alqama ibn ‛Abada (Nos. 119 and 120), the three odes by Mutammim ibn Nuwaira (Nos. 9, 67, 68), the splendid poem of Salāma ibn Jandal (No. 22), the beautiful nasīb of ash-Shanfarā (No. 20), and the death-song of ‛Abd-Yaghūth (No. 30). One of the most admirable and famous is the last of the series (No. 126), the long elegy by Abū Dhu’aib of Hudhail on the death of his sons; almost every verse of this poem is cited in illustration of some phrase or meaning of a word in the national lexicons. Only one of the poets of the Mu‛allaqāt (see Mo‛allakāt), al-Hārith, son of Ḥilliza, is represented in the collection. Of others (such as Bishr ibn Abī Khāzim, al-Ḥādira, ‛Āmir ibn aṭ-Ṭufail, ‛Alqamah ibn ‛Abadah, al-Muthaqqib, Ta’abbaṭa Sharrā and Abū Dhu’aib) dīwāns or bodies of collected poems exist, but it is doubtful how far these had been brought together when al-Mufaḍḍal made his compilation. An interesting feature of the work is the treatment in it of the two poets of Bakr ibn Wa’il, uncle and nephew, called al-Muraqqish, who are perhaps the most ancient in the collection. The elder Muraqqish was the great-uncle of Tarafa of Bakr, the author of the Mu‛allaqa, and took part in the long warfare between the sister tribes of Bakr and Taghlib, called the war of Basūs, which began about the end of the 5th century A.D. Al-Mufaḍḍal has included ten pieces (Nos. 45–54) by him in the collection, which are chiefly interesting from an antiquarian point of view. One, in particular (No. 54), presents a very archaic appearance. It is probable that the compiler set down all he could gather of this ancient author, and that his interest in him was chiefly due to his antiquity. Of the younger Muraqqish, uncle of Tarafa, there are five pieces (Nos. 55–59). The only other authors of whom more than three poems are cited are Bishr ibn Abī Khāzim of Asad (Nos. 96–99) and Rabī‛a ibn Maqrūm of Ḍabba (Nos. 38, 39, 43 and 113).

The Mufaḍḍalīyāt differs from the Ḥamāsa in being a collection of complete odes (qaṣīdas), while the latter is an anthology of brilliant passages specially selected for their interest or effectiveness, all that is prosaic or less striking being pruned away. It is of course not the case that all the poems of al-Mufaḍḍal’s collection are complete. Many are mere fragments, and even in the longest there are often lacunae; but the compiler evidently set down all that he could collect of a poem from the memory of the rāwīs, and did not, like Abū Tammām, choose only the best portions. We are thus presented with a view of the literature of the age which is much more characteristic and comprehensive than that given by the brilliant poet to whom we, owe the Ḥamāsa, and enables us to form a better judgment on the general level of poetic achievement.

The Mufaḍḍalīyāt is not well represented by MSS. in the libraries of the West. There is an imperfect copy of the recension of al-Marzūqī (died 1030), with his commentary, in the Berlin collection. A very ancient fragment (dated 1080) of al-Anbārī’s recension, containing five poems in whole or part, is in the Royal Library at Leipzig. In the British Museum there is a copy made about a century ago for C. J. Rich at Bagdad of a MS. with brief glosses; and at Vienna there is a modern copy of a MS. of which the original is at Constantinople, the glosses in which are taken from al-Anbārī, though the author had access also to al-Marzūqī. In the mosque libraries at Constantinople there are at least five MSS.; and at Cairo there is a modern copy of one of these, containing the whole of al-Anbārī’s commentary. In America there are at Yale University a modern copy of the same recension, taken from the same original as the Cairo copy, and a MS. of Persian origin, dated 1657, presenting a text identical with the Vienna codex. Quite recently a very interesting MS., probably cf the 6th century of the Hegira, but not dated, has come to light. It purports to be the second part of a combination of two anthologies, the Mufaḍḍalīyāt of al-Mufaqldal and the Aṣma‛īyāt of al-Asma‛ī, but contains many more poems than are in either of these collections as found elsewhere. The commentary appears to be eclectic, drawn partly (perhaps chiefly) from Ibn as-Sikkīt (died 858), and partly from Abu-Ja‛far Ahmad ibn ‛Ubaid ibn Nasih, one of al-Anbārī’s sources and a pupil of Ibn al-A‛rābī; and the compilation seems to be older in date than al-Anbārī, since its glosses are often quoted by him without any name being mentioned. This MS. (which is the property of Mr F. Krenkow of Leicester) appears to represent one of the recension’s mentioned by Muhammad ag-Nadim in the Fihrist (p. 68), to which reference has been made above.

In 1885 Professor Heinrich Thorbecke began an edition of the text based on the Berlin codex, but only the first fasciculus, containing forty-two poems, had appeared when his work was cut short by death. In 1891 the first volume of an edition of the text, with a short commentary taken from al-Anbārī, was printed at Constantinople. In 1906 an edition of the whole text, with short glosses taken from al-Anbārī’s commentary, was published at Cairo by Abū Bakr b. ‛Omar Dāghistāni al-Madanī; this follows generally the Cairo codex above mentioned, but has profited by the scholarship of Professor Thorbecke’s edition of the first half of the work. A complete edition of al-Anbārī’s text and commentary, with a translation of the poems, undertaken by Sir C. J. Lyall (see J. R. A. S., April 1904) was in the press in 1910.  (C. J. L.) 

  1. In the dhail or supplement to the Amālī of al-Qali. (Edn. Cairo 1324 H., p. 131).