Layers of Wordplay in a line of Al-Mutanabbi

I just realized that when the poet Al-Mutanabbī says هَلِ الحَدَثُ الحَمراءُ تَعرِفُ لوْنَها ("Does Al-Hadath the Red know her color?") he may be indulging in triplicate wordplay.

In Modern Literary Arabic, and in various Arabic vernaculars, there are a number of terms used for pale-skinned foreigners, ranging from the benevolent to the insulting. One of them is plain ابيض "white" calqued off of European usage.
In Classical and Medieval Arabic the term used for non-Arabs, especially Persians, Greeks or "Franks" who were seen as being of lighter complexion, was actually احمر "Red". (Greeks in particular could also be بنو اصفر "Yellowsons, Sons of the Yellow" usually in a demeaning fashion).
كل اسود منهم واحمر (All the blacks and reds among them) = "Every one of them, Arab and not". A saying attributed to Muhammad in Islamic mythology has it that "بُعِثْتُ إِلَى الأَحْمَرِ وَالأَسْوَدِ " (I was sent to the red and the black) of which the most straightforward interpretation is "to all mankind, Arab and not." The form Al-Ḥamrā' can be used as a collective term for "foreigners." What I just learned is that it could also refer to emancipated slaves.

Al-Hadath Al-Ḥamrā' "Red Hadath" is the traditional appellation of the city. For Al-Mutanabbi, it was previously a "red" (foreign, Greek) city because it was in the hold of the Byzantines, which it no longer is. It is now "red" (emancipated from slavery) now that Lord Realmsword (Sayfu l-Dawla) has relieved her of Byzantine hold. Despite her traditional appellation, she may not even know that she is red in one sense, and was red in the other, so completely has she now been redeemed to her proper place under Islamdom.

1 comment:

  1. eToro صفقات التداول المفتوحة في 227,585,248

    تداول من أي مكان وقتك ثمين. تداول من خلال الكمبيوتر أو الجوال أو الكمبيوتر اللوحي

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