Death Poem


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Abul ‘Atahiyah (Isma’il ibn al-Qasim) was a poet from the ‘Abbasid period. Born to a poor family, he developed love for poetry and literature which saw him travel to Baghdad and become a resident poet for the Rulers such as al-Mahdi, al-Hadi, Harun al-Rashid and al-Ma’mun. After reaching the age of 40, he began to contemplate over life and death leading him to eventually kick in his habit of praising the Rulers. Instead he turned to leading a more ascetic lifestyle and embarked upon giving Da’wah – calling others to the way of Islam. As a result, he was nicknamed Abul ‘Atahiyah, meaning ‘one overcome by madness’ as the people couldn’t comprehend the drastic change in him. This change was also due to him witnessing the downfall of the Muslims as the society he lived in plunged to lavishness and immodesty (a characteristic of the ‘Abbasid era) – gone were the days when piety and indifference to the life of this world was a common factor, and so he took to returning those golden days through his poetry. This is one such poem: Death

‫ا‬ ‫*** وأظ ا‬ ‫أزف ا‬ O my soul, indeed departure has drawn near And a great matter is shading over you (i.e. death) ‫ا ــ ا ـــ ــ‬ *** , ‫ـ ـ ـ‬ ‫ـ ھــ‬ So prepare yourself O’ soul and do not allow Long hopes to fool or deceive you ‫ـ‬ ‫*** ـ ـ ـ ـ ـ‬ ‫ا‬ ‫ا‬ You will surely be placed in a position Where even friends will forget each other (i.e. grave) ‫ــ‬ ‫ا ــ ـ ى‬ *** ‫ـــ‬ ‫ــ‬ ‫وـ ـ‬ And surely there shall be placed upon you Of dirt, that which is heavy and weighty ‫ل‬

‫ن‬ ‫ا ــ ــ و ا ــ‬ *** ‫ء‬ ‫ا‬ Death has become our companion and so none remain, either the great, nor the dishonoured ‫ى ـ‬ ‫ا‬ *** ‫إ ـ ك أن‬ ‫إ‬ I warn you from being misled by your desires Misled amongst those who are misled ‫ا ـ ـ ن ا ــ ــ ــ‬ ‫ـــــ *** ـ ـ ـ‬ ‫وا ـ ــــ ت آ ــــ‬ For indeed death is the final sickness That every sick body shall come to feel

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