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Sperl, Stefan (2022) 'Stages of Ascent: Neoplatonic Affinities in Classical Arabic Poetry.' In: Sperl, Stefan and Dedes, Yorgos, (eds.), Faces of the Infinite: Neoplatonism and Poetry at the Confluence of Africa, Asia and Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 93-130.

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This chapter argues that the Arabic poetic tradition possesses certain structural, thematic and prosodic features which were combined with the Qur’anic message in order to give expression to notions of the soul’s ascent which may be recognised as Neoplatonic. The Plotinian distinction between civic virtues manifest in ‘good human beings’ and purificatory virtues which aim at assimilation with God serves as analytical framework. The argument begins with a brief outline of a pre-Islamic poem centring on the virtue of tribal generosity and leads on to a survey of points of convergence between the Plotinian and the Qur’anic concepts of divinity. This is followed by a ninth-century Islamic panegyric in which princely virtues feature as earthly manifestations of divine attributes. A critique of the poem’s author Abū Tammām by al-Kindī, the philosopher who commissioned the Arabic adaptation of the Enneads, leads to observations on Neoplatonism and the arts in the period involved. The paper ends with a poem by Ibn ʿArabī whose traditional themes and structure trace the emergence of a ‘religion of love’ in which Qur’anic and Neoplatonic concepts seamlessly converge.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: Arabic Poetry, Qur’an, god-likeness, transcendent function, ascent, civic virtues, purificatory virtues, monorhyme, Abū Tammām, Ibn ʿArabī
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics
ISBN: 9780197267257
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2022 16:37

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