Each oration forms the substance of a Maqāma, while the Maqāmas themselves are united to one another by the constant meetings of narrator and scholar. Harīrī (q.v.) quite eclipsed the fame of his predecessor in this department, and his Maqāmas retain their influence over Arabian literature to the present day. As late as the 19th century the sheik Nāṣīf ul Yāzījī (1800-1871) distinguished himself by writing sixty clever Maqāmas in the style of Harīrī (ed. Beirut, 1856, 1872). While this class of literature had devoted itself chiefly to the finesses of the language, another set of works was given to meeting the requirements of moral education and the training of a gentleman. This, which is known as “Adab literature,” is anecdotic in style with much quotation of early poetry and proverb. Thus government, war, friendship, morality, piety, eloquence, are some of the titles under which Ibn Qutaiba groups his stories and verses in the ‛Uyūn ul Akhbār. Jāhiz (q.v.) in the 9th century and Baihaqī (The Kitāb al-Maḥāsin val-Masāwi, ed. F. Schwally, Giessen, 1900-1902) early in the 10th, wrote works of this class. A little later a Spaniard, Ibn ‛Abdrabbihi (Abdi-r-Rabbihi), wrote his ‛Iqd ul-Farīd (see section Anthologies). The growth of city life in the Abbasid capital led to the desire for a new form of story, differing from the old tales of desert life. This was met in the first place by borrowing. In the 8th century Ibn Muqaffa‛, a convert from Mazdaism to Islam, translated the Pahlavi version of Bidpai’s fables (itself a version of the Indian Panchatantra) into Arabic with the title Kalīla wa Dimna (ed. Beirūt, various years). Owing to the purity of its language and style it has remained a classic work. The Book of the 1001 Nights (Arabian Nights) also has its basis in translations from the Indian through the Persian, made as early as the 9th century. To these stories have been added others originating in Bagdad and Egypt and a few others, which were at first in independent circulation. The whole work seems to have taken its present form (with local variations) about the 13th century. Several other romances of considerable length are extant, such as the Story of ‛Antar (ed. 32 vols., Cairo, 1869, &c., translated in part by Terrick Hamilton, 4 vols., London, 1820), and the Story of Saif ibn Dhī Yezen (ed. Cairo, 1892). (G. W. T.)
Historical Literature.—Arabian historians differ from all others in the unique form of their compositions. Each event is related in the words of eye-witnesses or contemporaries transmitted to the final narrator through a chain of intermediate reporters (rāwīs), each of whom passed on the original report to his successor. Often the same account is given in two or more slightly divergent forms, which have come down through different chains of reporters. Often, too, one event or one important detail is told in several ways on the basis of several contemporary statements transmitted to the final narrator through distinct lines of tradition. The writer, therefore, exercises no independent criticism except as regards the choice of authorities; for he rejects accounts of which the first author or one of the intermediate links seems to him unworthy of credit, and sometimes he states which of several accounts seems to him the best.
A second type of Arabian historiography is that in which an author combines the different traditions about one occurrence into one continuous narrative, but prefixes a statement as to the lines of authorities used and states which of them he mainly follows. In this case the writer recurs to the first method, already described, only when the different traditions are greatly at variance with one another. In yet a third type of history the old method is entirely forsaken and we have a continuous narrative only occasionally interrupted by citation of the authority for some particular point. But the principle still is that what has been well said once need not be told again in other words. The writer, therefore, keeps as close as he can to the letter of his sources, so that quite a late writer often reproduces the very words of the first narrator.
From very early times story-tellers and singers found their subjects in the doughty deeds of the tribe on its forays, and sometimes in contests with foreign powers and in the impression produced by the wealth and might of the sovereigns of Persia and Constantinople. The appearance of the Prophet with the great changes that ensued, the conquests that made the Arabs lords of half the civilized world, supplied a vast store of new matter for relations which men were never weary of hearing and recounting. They wished to know everything about the apostle of God. Every one who had known or seen him was questioned and was eager to answer. Moreover, the word of God in the Koran left many practical points undecided, and therefore it was of the highest importance to know exactly how the Prophet had spoken and acted in various circumstances. Where could this be better learned than at Medina, where he had lived so long and where the majority of his companions continued to live? So at Medina a school was gradually formed, where the chief part of the traditions about Mahomet and his first successors took a form more or less fixed. Soon men began to assist memory by making notes, and pupils sought to take written jottings of what they had heard from their teachers. Thus by the close of the 1st century many dictata were already in circulation. For example, Ḥasan of Baṣra (d. 728 A.D.) had a great mass of such notes, and he was accused of sometimes passing off as oral tradition things he had really drawn from books; for oral tradition was still the one recognized authority, and it is related of more than one old scholar, and even of Ḥasan of Baṣra himself, that he directed his books to be burned at his death. The books were mere helps. Long after this date, when all scholars drew mainly from books, the old forms were still kept up. Ṭabarī, for example, when he cites a book expresses himself as if he had heard what he quotes from the master with whom he read the passage or from whose copy he transcribed it. He even expresses himself in this wise: “‛Omar b. Shabba has related to me in his book on the history of Baṣra.” No independent book of the 1st century from the Flight (i.e. 622-719) has come down to us. It is told, however, that Moawiya summoned an old man named ‛Abid ibn Sharya from Yemen to Damascus to tell him all he knew about ancient history and that he induced him to write down his information. This very likely formed the nucleus of a book which bore the name of that sheik and was much read in the 3rd century from the Flight. It seems to be lost now. But in the 2nd century (719-816) real books began to be composed. The materials were supplied in the first place by oral tradition, in the second by the dictata of older scholars, and finally by various kinds of documents, such as treaties, letters, collections of poetry and genealogical lists. Genealogical studies had become necessary through Omar’s system of assigning state pensions to certain classes of persons according to their kinship with the Prophet, or their deserts during his lifetime. This subject received much attention even in the 1st century, but books about it were first written in the 2nd, the most famous being those of Ibn al-Kalbī (d. 763), of his son Hishām (d. 819), and of Al-Sharqī ibn al-Quṭāmī. Genealogy, which often called for elucidations, led on to history. Baladhuri’s excellent Ansāb al-Ashrāf (Genealogies of the Nobles) is a history of the Arabs on a genealogical plan.
The oldest extant history is the biography of the Prophet by Ibn Isḥāq (d. 767). This work is generally trustworthy. Mahomet’s life before he appeared as a prophet and the story of his ancestors are indeed mixed with many fables illustrated by spurious verses. But in Ibn Isḥāq’s day these fables were generally accepted as history—for many of them had been first related by contemporaries of Mahomet—and no one certainly thought it blameworthy to put pious verses in the mouth of the Prophet’s forefathers, though, according to the Fihrist (p. 92), Ibn Isḥāq was duped by others with regard to the poems he quotes. The original work of Ibn Isḥāq seems to be lost. That which we possess is an edition of it by Ibn Hishām (d. 834) with additions and omissions (text ed. by F. Wüstenfeld, Göttingen, 1858-1860; German translation by Weil, Stuttgart, 1864).
The Life of the Prophet by Ibn Oqba (d. 758), based on the statements of two very trustworthy men, ‛Urwa ibn az-Zubair (d. 713) and Az-zuhri (d. 742), was still much read in Syria in the 14th century. Fragments of this have been edited by E. Sachau, Berlin, 1904. We fortunately possess the Book of the Campaigns of the Prophet by al-Wāqidī (d. 822) and the