Adab is an Arabic word used to refer to literature. The word meaning refers to politeness, culture, and enrichment. And of a truth, Arabic literature is characterized by rich content and is presently known all over the world for their richness and moral quality. Today we have different translations for several prose and poetry works of different Arabic writers, even those of the classical period.
Arabic literature emerged sometime in the 5th century when there were only a few written languages here and there. What reigns at this time were chants, lore, folk, epics, and stories that had been passed from the previous generations (Allen, 200).
Although Arabic literature progressively grew in the Islamic Golden Age, it still has a dominant presence and influence in the present-day world of literature. The Holy Qur'an is one of the finest pieces of Arabic literature. The religious work has the greatest effect on the world over and not the Arab people (Allen, 1998).
The Holy Qur’an is one of the earliest pieces of literature of classical Arabic literature. This literature has had a huge influence on the spread of classical Arabic, the language in which it is written. The Arabic language has ever since evolved to become what it is now, a language with prestige, worldwide acceptance, and usage).
The Qur’an is also one of the first works of such volume to be written in Arabic literature. It has a somewhat complicated structure also than many of the works written before it. It contains 114 suras or chapters and 6,236 ayat or verses. It also contains different unique elements such as parables, narratives, injunctions, and divine instructions, directly from Allah, making it a “holy book”. The Qur'an is viewed as a divine or eternal work by Muslim believers around the world.
The Qur’an also seems to break the literary boundary of poetry and prose, containing different elements from both genres.
The classical Arab literature was mostly influenced by events that occurred around the time. Like many other kinds of literature, classical Arab literature is strongly based on the experience of time and space. Although there’s little evidence to show the original beginning of the classical times in Arab literature, the culture of this literary age is known to exhibit several styles and works of poetry, proverbs, prose, and narratives (Cachia, 2002).
It was at this period that Arab literature began to develop and flourish. It is said that there was no written language at the time to foster its development until the 7th century CE. During the 7th century, works from writers, usually referred to as Jahiliyya, started to appear.
Many of the pieces of literature of this time were characterized by narratives and proverbs aimed at teaching morals to the Arab people of that time. The materials of the time featured legends that involved clowns, skilled persons, cowards, and supernatural creatures. Many of them were orally transmitted because of the prestige the classical Arab people held for their literature. Before these pieces of literature were documented, they were initially transferred from one generation to another and could also have been reformed several times by individuals.
Two forms of literature were established during this period. The first was the marthiya; these are elegies specifically sung at funerals. The second is the quasida; these are works of poetry with structures and forms similar to the ode. The quasida would form the foundation on which the overall development of Arabic poetry is begun. This is because of its brilliantly unique tone and style (Jan van Gelder, 2012).
Despite the partial isolation of the Arab world from the world around it, authors of Arabic works have been said to adopt different foreign styles in their writings. There’s also the diversity of art forms and elements, especially a mix of the genres of different regions belonging to the Silk Roads.
These two forms continued to evolve, reflecting the communal concerns and beliefs as they also change and develop over time.
In the late 9th century, non-fiction works also began to appear, there were anthologies and compilations of different works earlier written by the Jahiliyyas. Folk tales and historical works were also created. Some of the topics on which most of the works of the time revolved around were sex, love, and religion.
Biographical works aside from that of the very first biographer of the Arab literature, Muhammed appeared in different forms and styles. There was the Kitab al-l’tibar, an autobiography detailing the life and experiences of Usamah ibn Munqidh, especially his activities during the Crusades.
Some many more styles and genres were introduced into Arab literature as time passed. In all, these forms, their message, originality, structure, content formed an exceptional period in the history of Arabic literature. Most of these works were formed with a lot of creativity and diversity, and this justifies the wide acclaim the literature has today in the present world.
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