Abu Nuwas Biography
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Abu Nuwas (750?–813?) was an early Arabic language poet, probably
born at Ahwaz in Persia of Arab and Persian parents. His real
name was Hasin ibn Hani al Hakami, Abu Nuwas being a pen name.
Due to the protection of powerful patrons, among whom the Barmaki
family, enlightened advisors to caliph Harun al-Rashid, Abu Nuwas
was able to celebrate wine and the love of youths, pleasures tolerated
in Islamic society only when tasted quietly. This tolerance is
often presented as an example of the tolerance of the Islamic
religion. However, Nuwas was also severely persecuted, had to
go into exile for a period of time after the fall of the Barmakis,
and allegedly died a violent death in prison.
His commissioned work, the 'mu'annathat', includes poems on the
topic of hunting, the love of women, and panegyrics to his patrons.
The majority of his work is refered to as 'mudhakkarat' and 'mujuniyyat',
and it is addressed to males. There are also two distinct sub-categories
of poems: the first about young girls who disguise themeselves
as boys, the 'ghulamiyyat'; and the second wine & drinking songs,
He is generally regarded as one of the greatest of classical
Arabic poets, if not the very best. Abu Nuwas has entered the
folkloric tradition, and he appears several times in The Book
of One Thousand and One Nights.
His freedom of rhetorical expression, and his celebration of
transgressive love, continues to excite the animus of censors.
In January 2001 the Egyptian Ministry of Culture burned 6,000
books of poetry by Abu Nuwas, after pressure from Islamic fundamentalists.
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