A Victory Celebration after a Military Defeat? Al-Mutanabbī’s ‘Ayniyyah of 339/950
By Majd Yaser Al-Massar
Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol.40:1 (2009)
Abstract: This paper analyzes al-Mutanabbī’s ‘Ayniyyah, one of the poet’s early odes in the court of Sayf al-Dawlah al-Hamdanī (d. 356/967), presented to the emir in the year 339/950. The ode in question is composed after a battle that the historical sources refer to as “ghazāt al-Musibah” (the battle of the disaster), a major military defeat that Sayf al-Dawlah suffered at the hand of the Byzantines. Taking into account the akhbār (anecdotes) and historical documents associated with this ode, the paper argues that al-Mutanabbī composes his poem in the context of celebrating victory in court ceremonial. The main purpose was to legitimize Sayf al-Dawlah’s position in the community by means of his military victory despite the fact that the emir was defeated in this battle. The paper analyzes the poem’s structure, rhetorical strategies and allusions, showing that al-Mutanabbī’s poetic build-up is rooted in the Jāhilī pre-Islamic ethos of blood vengeance, used as a call for a new beginning and a quest for the Muslim polity’s fertility and renewal.