Research Article

DOI :10.26650/jos.1057717   IUP :10.26650/jos.1057717    Full Text (PDF)

Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present

Mahmut Üstün

When considering Arabic literature, the first genre that undoubtedly comes to mind is poetry. In the age of Jahiliyyah, poetry has yet to complete its evolution but has become a tool that enables Arabic society to adhere to its values. Thanks to poetry, Arabians have recorded the successes they have achieved in wars in previous periods and preserved their customs, glory, and traditions. The fact that poetry has served as a media organ and that it has been used as the strongest tool of propaganda is the simplest proof of how important poetry is in Arabic society, especially in previous periods. Championing poetry as a source of pride, the encouragement of past period’s rulers, literary assemblies, and various competitions have ensured that poetry remains in high regard throughout all periods. Poems have transfigured from different types and shapes over time, as they have garnered raw material from general society. Arabic poetry has followed this same course. The needs of society and the relationships established with different nations in various regions have led to the emergence of different verse forms, such as al-Urjûza, el-Qasîde, ar-Ramal, al-Silsile, al-Dûbeyt, al-Kûmâ, al-Kâne and Kâne, el-Mavâliyâ, al-Muwashshah, az-Zajal, eş-Şi‘ru’l-Hurr and Kasîdetu’n-Nesr, where various meters and rhymes are used. Arabic poetry is assumed to have commenced with ar-Rajaz and al-Qasîd in the age of Jahiliyyah. In this study, various research has been sourced as to where and when the verse types used in Arabic literature from the past to present emerged for the first time, by whom the first examples were written, and in which meter and what rhyme scheme. This study aims to introduce these genres by presenting at least one example of each type of form.

DOI :10.26650/jos.1057717   IUP :10.26650/jos.1057717    Full Text (PDF)

Başlangıçtan Günümüze Arap Edebiyatında Kullanılan Nazım Türleri

Mahmut Üstün

Arap edebiyatı denilince akla ilk gelen tür hiç şüphesiz şiirdir. Henüz Câhiliye döneminde tekâmülünü tamamlamış olan şiir, toplumun değerlerine bağlı kalmasını sağlayan bir araç olmuştur. Araplar, şiir sayesinde şan ve şereflerini korumuş, önceki dönemlerde savaşlarda elde etmiş oldukları başarıları kayıt altına almış, örf ve adetlerini muhafaza etmişlerdir. Özellikle önceki dönemlerde şiirin basın-yayın organı görevini görmesi ya da başka bir ifade ile en güçlü propaganda aracı olarak kullanılması, şiirin Arap toplumunda ne derece önemli olduğunun en basit kanıtıdır. Şiirin övünç kaynağı olarak görülmesi, dönemin yöneticilerinin şiire olan teşviki, edebiyat meclisleri ve çeşitli müsabakalar ise şiirin bütün dönemlerde zirvede kalmasını sağlamıştır. Şiirler, genel manada hammaddesini toplumdan aldıkları için zaman zaman farklı türlere ve şekillere bürünmüştür. Arap şiiri de bu durumdan nasibini almıştır. Toplumun gereksinimleri ve çeşitli bölgelerde farklı milletlerle kurulan ilişkiler, Câhiliye döneminde er-Recez ve el-Kasîd ile başladığı var sayılan Arap şiirinde, çeşitli vezin ve kafiyelerin kullanıldığı el-Urcûze, el-Kasîde, er-Remel, es-Silsile, ed-Dûbeyt, el-Kûmâ, el-Kâne ve Kâne, el-Mevâliyâ, el-Muvaşşah, ez-Zecel, eş-Şi‘ru’l-Hurr ve Kasîdetu’n-Nesr gibi farklı nazım şekillerinin doğmasına sebep olmuştur. Bu çalışmada geçmişten günümüze Arap edebiyatında kullanılan nazım türlerinin ilk kez nerede ve ne zaman ortaya çıktığı, ilk örneklerinin kimler tarafından hangi bahir ve kafiye düzeni ile nazmedildiği gibi çeşitli bilgiler verilmiş ve her türden en az bir örnek gösterilerek bu türlerin tanıtılması hedeflenmiştir. 


Poetry, which has yet to complete its evolution in the age of Jahiliyya, has become a tool that enables Arabic society to adhere to its values. Through poetry, Arabians’ have preserved their glory, saved the heads they obtained in the past from being lost, and preserved their various knowledge, customs, and traditions. Poetry is seen as a source of pride and has been encouraged by each period’s poetry administrators, literary assemblies, and various competitions to ensure that poetry remain in high regard in all periods. Poems have morphed into different types and shapes over time, as they have gathered raw material from society. Poetry has a great place and importance in Arabic literature. The poems, which provide various information about the period in which they were prosecuted, have been shaped according to the society from which they came.

Arabic literature is generally discussed under five headings. The first is the Jahiliyya period which covers the period until the appearance of the Prophet (610). In this period, the first foundations of poetry, such as ramal, rajaz, and qasîd, were established, and Arabic literature’s unique odes, such as mu‘allakas, were written. Remels are poems that are beautiful in terms of meaning but are mismatched couplets in terms of meter. They are not a type of genre but are faulty poems. Rajazs are poems that the Arabic people of Jahiliyya sang while performing quotidian tasks in bazaars or to compel a camel to action and direct its movements. The first examples of rajazs were criticized and not considered high art. In the following periods, they gradually evolved and were written in a long form, like odes, and began to be known as urjûza. Qasîds are the product of labor verses or poems composed of two lines each, the last lines of which rhyme. An ode is defined as a type of poetry that contains more than fifteen couplets, which the poet revises and corrects after speaking aloud and with a certain emphasis. 

The second period is the Islamic period, which covers the time from 610 until the collapse of the Umayyad state in 750. The Islamic period is divided into two periods: the Sadru’l-Islam (610–661) and the Umayyad (661–750). There were no newly invented poetry genres during this period.

The third period is the Abbasid period, which lasted from 750 to 1258. During this period, many political and social changes and developments occurred, and this is reflected in literary activities. Caliphs, state dignitaries, and literary assemblies encouraged poetry as a means of gain. Freedom of speech and thought enabled poetry to attain a different identity and experience its peak. Arabic peoples cohabitated with others of different nationalities more than they had ever before and marriages with non-Arabic peoples occurred. Coexistence between Arabs, Persians, Turks, Greeks, Negroes, and other minorities sometimes symbolized unity and sometimes brought differences. Although most of the non-Arabic nationals chose to become Islamized, they did not easily abandon their native cultures. These cultural differences also showed themselves acutely in the field of poetry. New verse types, such as al-Silsile, al-Dûbeyt, al-Kûmâ, al-Kâne and Kâne, and el-Mavâliyâ, were created. Al-Silsila is a rare type of poetry and was invented by the Baghdadians during the Abbasid period, but there is no information regarding when it was first pronounced. Sources show that poems versed in the al-Silsila style were written especially to express sad feelings. Al-Dûbeyt is a type of poetry consisting of two couplets or four lines. The first examples were created by Persians and this genre passed from Persian literature to Arabic literature. The feature that distinguishes this genre from other genres is not the subject, but the form which is based on a double rhyme scheme. Al-Kûmâ are poems were invented by Baghdadians and were written to raise the population to sahur during the month of Ramadan. In this genre, grammatical rules are not adhered to; it is mostly written in the local language and it is quite common. Al-Kâne and Kâne are also a new type of verse invented by the people of Baghdad. Although the exact date is unknown, it is rumored that in earlier periods, the words “al-Kâne and Kâne,” which mean “was and once upon a time,” were used in this genre, whose purpose was to tell stories and relay superstitions, hence the name.

The fourth period is the ‘Asru’d-Duveli’l-Mutetabi‘a, called the Decline period (el-‘Asru’l-Inhitât), which according to some sources, spans the years of 1258–1798. Although no new of verse forms were introduced in the Inhitat period, it is one of the richest periods of poetry in terms of subject matter.

The fifth period is the modern period, which began with Napoleon’s French campaign in Egypt (1798), and has been accepted as the beginning of modernization in the Arab world and includes the present day. Modern schools were established in Arabic countries, educators from European countries were introduced to the Arabic world, and scholarship students from Arabic countries were sent to study in Europe. This scholastic, exchange relationship between Eastern and Western nations led to the emergence of different types of poetry, such as al-Şi‘ru’l-Hurr and Qasîdetu’n-Nesr (prose poetry) in the modern era. Al-Şi‘ru’l-Hurr is a type of poetry in which single line lengths are not fixed, and the number of tef’île can change from line to line, depending on which arûd string is being versed. Kasîdetu’n-nesr is a verse style whose intention is poetic but is written in prose where meter is not required.

When Arabic literature periods are examined, it is evident that Andalusia is not included in any period. However, Andalusia’s location, natural beauty, and service as a host to many nations, enabled the invention of new verse genres in Andalusian poetry, such as al-Muwashshah and az-Zajal. Muwashshah can be defined as, “... new special type of poetry in which the nature and social structure of Andalusia is led by the nature and social structure of Andalusia, some of them are versed according to arûd meters, while some of them do not comply with arûd meters.” Zajal is a type of poetry that was first versed in the local language in Andalusia, is reminiscent of Muwashshah in its rhyme and verse style, and borrows most of its words from local dialects and Barbarî language.

Rajaz- and qasîd-type poems, which can be considered as two of several nuclei of Arabic poetry, developed in parallel with society and over time became known as urjûza and qasîde, respectively; they have preserved their validity from the first periods until today. These verse types, which were written with different meters, such as al-Silsile, ad-Dûbeyt, al-Kûmâ, al-Kâne and Kâne, which were invented during the Abbasid period, have remained as types of poetry specific to certain periods, even though they found representatives in the later periods. However, the al-Mavâliyâ genre, which was written with a basît meter, has managed to remain to this day as a song genre, even though it has undergone partial changes. This success may be due to the spring used in this type of poetry and the themes in which mostly stunned emotions are divulged. It can be said that al-Muwashshah- and az-Zajal-type poems ruled like the Muslims who remained in the Iberian peninsula during the Islamic rule (in other words, in Andalusia), and then became a source of inspiration for different nations and assimilated over time but remained, like a memory. Nothing about the permanence or continuity of the genres al-Şi‘ru’l-Hurr and Qasîdetu’n-Nesr, which are the products of the modern period, can be declared. However, it is a fact that should be established that both types of poetry experienced their peak before the 2000s. When we look at the different verse forms used in Arabic literature from the age of Jahiliyya to the modern period, it would not be wrong to say that urjûze and qasîde form the backbone of Arabic poetry, while other genres remain specific to a certain period or community. Although there are a few exceptions, there are many similarities in terms of theme and form across all genres. The best method to be employed when distinguishing these poetic types from each other is to regard the meter and rhyme form used in the poems. 

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Üstün, M. (2022). Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present. Journal of Oriental Studies, 0(40), 117-144.


Üstün M. Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present. Journal of Oriental Studies. 2022;0(40):117-144.


Üstün, M. Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present. Journal of Oriental Studies, [Publisher Location], v. 0, n. 40, p. 117-144, 2022.

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Üstün, Mahmut,. 2022. “Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present.” Journal of Oriental Studies 0, no. 40: 117-144.

Chicago: Humanities Style

Üstün, Mahmut,. Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present.” Journal of Oriental Studies 0, no. 40 (Jun. 2022): 117-144.

Harvard: Australian Style

Üstün, M 2022, 'Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present', Journal of Oriental Studies, vol. 0, no. 40, pp. 117-144, viewed 30 Jun. 2022,

Harvard: Author-Date Style

Üstün, M. (2022) ‘Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present’, Journal of Oriental Studies, 0(40), pp. 117-144. (30 Jun. 2022).


Üstün, Mahmut,. Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present.” Journal of Oriental Studies, vol. 0, no. 40, 2022, pp. 117-144. [Database Container],


Üstün M. Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present. Journal of Oriental Studies [Internet]. 30 Jun. 2022 [cited 30 Jun. 2022];0(40):117-144. Available from: doi: 10.26650/jos.1057717


Üstün, Mahmut. Poem Types Used in Arabic Literature from the Beginning to the Present”. Journal of Oriental Studies 0/40 (Jun. 2022): 117-144.


Published Online28.04.2022


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