What is it about?

Muḥammad b. Dāwūd al-Iṣbahānī’s poems appear under the pseudonym "A Man of Our Times" in his anthology, The Book of the Flower, written in Baghdad around 900 C.E. They describe an emotionally intense friendship between two educated gentlemen. The poems show the influences of other Arabic language poets, including Abu Tammam.

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Why is it important?

Prior scholarship on Ibn Dawud and the Book of the Flower has focused on Ibn Dawud's views as a legal scholar and literary critic. Although Ibn Dawud is famous for his legal judgment against the Sufi al-Hallaj and as a "martyr of love" who allegedly died from love for a man called Muhammad ibn Jami`, this is the first article in English to study the common characteristics of Ibn Dawud's poems and to discuss in detail their relationship to the work of other poets.

Perspectives

This article follows in the footsteps of works by Thomas Bauer and Khaled El-Rouayheb, among others, in its attempt to dispel stereotypes about male-male love in Arabic-speaking societies. Ibn Dawud is one of many poets whose work has not been frequently read in modern times but whose poems give insights into the society in which he lived, as well as containing timeless ideas. I hope that my article will inspire readers to explore Ibn Dawud's work and that of other little-known Arabic poets.

Jennifer Tobkin
George Washington University

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This page is a summary of: A Man of Our Times: Muḥammad ibn Dāwūd al-Iṣbahānī’s Pioneering Vision of Male Love, Journal of Arabic Literature, November 2021, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/1570064x-12341453.
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