Ḥilm and Tawba
Whilst a tension existed in the rift between Islam and the hedonistic ethic of the khamriyya, this was consistently defused by either: (i) the contrived and literary or (ii) the apparently sincere abstinence/repentance (tawba) of the poet. The posturing of abstinence/ repentance provided balance within the bacchic tableau. Thus whilst wine and indulgence were eulogized, they were equally subject to a formal and conventional restraint; sometimes they were even unequivocally abandoned. Chapter 3 has shown that wine could be vehemently criticized in poetry and that the roots of this criticism are to be found in the pre-Islamic canon. Similarly abstinence was affected as a specifically Islamic doctrine by the ethics absorbed into the new community--at least through its poetry-- from the jāhiliyya. Islamic tawba was not unrelated, in a sense, to the fulfilment of muruwwa. Indeed, Abū Nuwās' phrase--almasjidu l-jālmi¼u l-muruwwata wa-l-dīna1--suggests that an association between the ethical values of muruwwa and din had at last come to be recognized.
The ensuing discussion will initially illustrate a distinction between abstinence, formulated in a way which merely reiterated sentiments of the ancient canon, and repentance/tawba which was new and peculiarly Islamic. This entails a brief discussion of ḥilm, the quality of character which predicated pre-Islamic abstinence. Whilst ḥilm largely retained the ethical significance which it had had in the jāhiliyya, it was also celebrated as an important value in the Islamic period and in certain cases it even facilitated the expression of specifically Islamic tawba. Thus already in the nascent Islamic period abstinence was formulated in two qualitatively distinct ways, though it was probably perceived by successive generations simply as tawba.____________________