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Arab poets have been the most exalted in Middle Eastern society beside scientists for centuries – respected masters of Arabic’s complexities, the ultimate emissaries of beautifully expressed sentiment and the voices of dissatisfaction and revolution.

The 11th century gave birth to Al Ma’arri, a boy who grew blind at the age to 4 and began writing poetry in late childhood. Outspokenly anti-religious and a vegan in a God fearing society of meat eaters, he left home and travelled the Middle East to further his studies writing all the while. He returned to Syria after the death of his mother where he decided remained as a respected member of society. Present religious governments and communities may recoil at his unabashedly unorthodox writings – for which he would most likely be arrested for under the old Morsi government. Almost an anarchist, his charged poetry continues to prove relevant to many in modern society.

His contempt for religion (or the blindly religious) is clear in his poetry. In ‘The two universal truths’ he states: “Humanity follows two world-wide sects:  One, man intelligent without religion, The second, religious without intellect”

‘I no longer steal from nature’ was another radical notion for his time.

“You are diseased in understanding and religion.

Come to me, that you may hear something of sound truth.

Do not unjustly eat fish the water has given up,

And do not desire as food the flesh of slaughtered animals,

Or the white milk of mothers who intended its pure draught

for their young, not noble ladies.

And do not grieve the unsuspecting birds by taking eggs;

for injustice is the worst of crimes.

And spare the honey which the bees get industriously

from the flowers of fragrant plants;

For they did not store it that it might belong to others,

Nor did they gather it for bounty and gifts.

I washed my hands of all this; and wish that I

Perceived my way before my hair went gray!

Al-Ma’arri”

He even left a note for future dictators.

EGY

Noora Ismail

To read more of his poetry in English:

http://www.humanistictexts.org/al_ma’arri.htm

To read further about his life:

Baelein, H.(1914)  Abu’l Ala, The Syrian

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