Arabic Poet Al-Mutanabbi: A Maslovian Humanistic Approach

Article excerpt

This paper is concerned with the Maslovian "real self" of al-Mutanabbi, a great poet of the Abbasid period (750-1258 AD). I have made an effort to discover the deeper aspects of al-Mutanabbi's personality, which constitute an important aspect of his artistic expression. The study I've undertaken here - a humanistic psychological approach to Arabic poetry - will deal with some general ideas about humanistic psychology and al-Mutanabbi's poetry. I will employ Maslovian theory to consider al-Mutanabbi as a self-actualizing person. This attempt is made to see how humanistic psychology can open the door to a new world in the study of Arabic poetry and help us to understand the greatness and insight of the works of al-Mutanabbi. In spite of his great poetic achievement, particularly during the Abbasid period, Maslovian theory reveals the poet to us as a complex and fascinating human being.

keywords: al-Mutanabbi, Abbasid, Maslow

url: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/2007_razak01.shtml

Introduction

Abu al-Tayyib Ahamad Ibn al-husayn Ibn al-Hassan Ibn Murra Ibn Abd al-Jabbar known as al-Mutanabbi, a poet of the Abbasid era (750-1258 AD), occupies a place of supremacy in the annals of Arabic poetry. Readers of Arabic culture acknowledge that his Diwan (collection of poems)1 along with the Quran and the Maqamat (writings) of al-Hariri constitute the pinnacle of Arabic writing, all three venerated in the same way that English readers treasure the King James version of the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. Most of his poems could be classified as poems of praise and satire and most were composed for and dedicated to his patrons. Al-Mutanabbi's work is still read and appreciated to this day in the Arabic speaking world. His poetry is considered unique in the history of classical Arabic literature and serves as the vehicle for his immortality.

Even though al-Mutanabbi has been the subject of a considerable number of studies from a variety of perspectives, in both the East and the West, not much attention has been paid to the humanistic aspect or to the psychology of the man himself, with the exception of a 1995 article by J.E. Montgomery entitled "Al-Mutanabbi and the Psychology of Grief." No great effort has been made to dig beneath the surface in order to examine his strong and forceful personality. Many modern studies of Arabic poetry have focused on al-Mutanabbi's verses, concentrating on the construction of the poems and the instruments employed by the poet to compose his polythematic poetry, while ignoring the man's psychological makeup (Van Gelder 5).

Arabic literature, in particular poetry, and especially during the Abbasid period, is a vast repository waiting for psychological insight. Jung comments that the most fruitful subject for the psychologist is the poet who has not yet committed to paper a psychological interpretation of his own character. The poet leaves ample room for the psychologist to analyze, examine, and interpret his poetry. According to Jung,

An exciting narrative that is apparently quite devoid of psychological exposition is just what interests the psychologist most of all. Such a tale is built upon a groundwork of implicit psychological assumptions, and, in the measure that the author is unconscious of them; they reveal themselves, pure and unalloyed, to the critical discernment. (Modern 178)

I have undertaken this psychological study of al-Mutanabbi in order to continue the efforts that have been made to examine the nature of artistic creativity, which is still one of the most ambiguous and incomprehensible issues in the realm of psychology. The various aspects of poetic creativity in general may also be applied to other art forms, for the arts have many features in common, emerging from one source, namely the human psyche. Jung acknowledges the intangible character of artistic creation:

Creativeness, like the freedom of the will, contains a secret. …