Ibn Sallam al-Jumahi’s Contribution to Arabic Literary Criticism: An Analysis in the Context of “Tabaqat”Yusuf Seller
Tabaqat Fuhul Al-Shu‘ara (Classes of Champion Poets) of Ibn Sallam AlJumahi, one of the leading examples of literary criticism, is commonly referred to as a biography or literary history book. Although Ibn Sallam’s work contains a lot of historical data with objective and clear criteria, he debates topics like originality and imitation in the introduction of his book, and the idea of the classes of champion poets indicates that he basically implemented an activity of pure literary criticism. Based on this inference, our study aims to test the claim that Tabaqat is a primary source that had been applied in the art of literary criticism, and accordingly, it analyzes Ibn Sallam’s contribution to Arabic literary criticism. Therefore, a qualitative research method was used, and data were analyzed through content and descriptive analysis. Thus, the data on the aspect of Tabaqat, being related to literary criticism, were collected and evaluated from a different perspective than in previous studies.
İbn Sellâm el-Cumahî’nin Arap Edebi Eleştirisine Katkısı: Tabakât Özelinde Bir AnalizYusuf Seller
İbn Sellâm’ın edebi eleştirinin ilk numunelerinden biri olarak karşımıza çıkan Tabâkat’ı, yaygın kabule göre bir biyografi ya da edebiyat tarihi kitabı olarak anılmaktadır. Eser, mukaddimesindeki meseleler ve şairler hakkındaki anekdotlar bakımından tarihi bir belge niteliği taşısa da tespit ettiğimiz bulgular bu kitabın edebi eleştiri sanatının pratik icrasından doğan bir ürün olduğunu göstermektedir. İbn Sellâm her ne kadar Tabakât’ıyla tarihi verileri bir yöntem çerçevesinde sunduğu izlenimi verse de aslında onun eserinin mukaddimesinde ele aldığı konular ve tabaka fikri bir edebi eleştiri faaliyeti gerçekleştirdiğini akla getirmektedir. Bu çıkarımdan hareketle çalışmamız, Tabakât’ın edebi eleştiri sanatının tatbik edildiği ilk eserlerden biri olduğu iddiasını test etmeyi ve İbn Sellâm’ın eseri özelinde edebi eleştiriye yaptığı katkıyı analizi hedeflemektedir. Bu amaç doğrultusunda çalışmamızda sosyal bilimler araştırma yöntemlerinden nitel araştırma yöntemine başvurulmuştur. Böylelikle Tabakât’ın ihmal edildiği düşünülen edebi eleştiriyle ilgili olma yönüne dair veriler bir araya getirilip meseleye mevcut çalışmalardakinden farklı bir bakış açısıyla yaklaşılmıştır.
Ibn Sallam Al-Jumahi (d. 231/845) is among the first grammarians, linguists and literary scholars of the Arabic language. His work, Tabaqat Fuhul Al-Shu‘ara, is one of the most eminent presentations of the literary materials in his era. His work includes a number of critical discussions such as the definition of literary criticism, originality, and imitation in Arabic poetry; classification of both Islamic and pre-Islamic poets; the falsification in the poetry transmitted by the rawis from pre-Islamic and early Islamic times; standards for literary works; and the phenomenon of plagiarism.
Evidently, Ibn Sallam developed criticism in the broadest sense based on a long-term literary practice and deep knowledge. Perhaps, as a result of his intellectual background, he determined that a literary critic must meet the requirements of criticism by gaining literary knowledge and performing it on his subject. Otherwise, talent alone does not cover the needs of literary criticism, which must be enhanced by professional experience and long duration, as well as successful studies.
Ibn Sallam noticed the possibility of manipulations in pre-Islamic poetry and focused on identifying the originality of poetical materials. He emphasized the discrimination of artificiality from literary ingredients that would provide drastic changes in the criticism activity. Thus, he severely censured Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, a historian that included fabricated poetries in his book and attributed the origin of Arabic language to Ad and Samuud peoples in the ancient times, and Hammad ar-Rawiyah, a transmitter of the ancient poetry who had spoiled poetical texts to his delight. Subsequently, Ibn Sallam replied to the claims of Ibn Ishaq by referring to Ismail Ibn Ibrahim as the origin of the Arabic language by indicating some Quranic verses and rational inferences. In addition, he refused the poetry transmitted by Hammad and accused him of being a liar.
In the light of what is mentioned above, it might be said that Ibn Sallam played an effective role in developing literary progress and showed a special interest in the issues of errors in transmission, piracy, distortion, and intentional fabrications. By recording these matters in the introduction of his work, he made a noticeable effect on Arabic literary criticism. It might seem that it is the first major contribution to the next generations of Arabic literary criticism. In other words, his work gathered, organized, studied, and analyzed poetical materials following the consensus and dissensus of its period. Thus, it became a unique model for the next studies on literary criticism.
The most notable aspect of his contribution to literary criticism is the classification of champion poets. According to a vast majority of researchers, Ibn Sallam tried to classify the champion poets with regard to time, such as pre-Islamic and Islamic; the place of origin, such as Medinah, Makkah, Taif, Bahrain, and Yemamah; and genre, such as elegy and rajaz. This categorization of champion poets is evident in his book without any need to investigate. However, recent studies on Ibn Sallam’s work do not focus on the reason behind Ibn Sallam’s categorization of the poets in the aforementioned order.
Ibn Sallam pursued a strategy in his classification, which is quality in poetries. This allowed him to select the poets best fit in their classes. This meter, quality, obviously means a basic standard for the literary criticism field. Nevertheless, recent studies ignore this fundamental measure in the categories of champion poets; therefore, in this article, we analyzed Ibn Sallam’s moves about his preferences among the poets. For instance, Ibn Sallam considered the inability to cross beyond the monotony in the composition of the odes as a situation that degrades the value of a poem. Ibn Sallam’s evaluations on the style of the poetries are another of his attitudes that can be associated with literary criticism. Given this kind of moves, it can be said that he implemented an exact, pure literary criticism activity in his book. In addition, he prioritized making connections between the news he delivered and the qualities of poets. By synthesizing his literary knowledge and critical talent, he created his classification of champion poets. Accordingly, in this article, we aim to focus on Ibn Sallam’s contribution to Arabic literary criticism and illuminate the relationship between his criticism moves and literary knowledge on the categorization of champion poets.