Abstract and Keywords
This article offers an overview of Arabic literature of the pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods. Although a wide range of examples and genres—proverbs, maxims, etiological tales, folk and religious lore—is discussed, the chapter focuses on the preeminent early Arabic literary genre, the originally orally composed and transmitted ode (s. qaṣīdah, pl. qaṣāʾid) of the mostly Bedouin Arab tribes, prior to the coming of Islam. Through its elegiac nasīb depicting the abandoned campsite and lost beloved; the raḥīl, desert journey by she-camel; and its compelling madīḥ, praise of the patron’s virtues, the qaṣīdah encoded and preserved the ethos of the warrior aristocacry of the pre-Islamic period and together with the Qurʾān formed the literary-cultural foundation for the most extensive of the Semitic literatures, that of Arab-Islamic civilization.