You are on page 1of 24


(11,230 words)
Article Table of Contents
1. Sources
2. Origins of the Word
3. Etymology
4. The 1st/7th Century
5. The 2nd/8th Century: Abd al-amd al-Ktib and Ibn al-Muqaffa
6. The 3rd/9th Century
7. Adab and Language
8. al-Tankh, the Second Half of the 4th/10th Century
9. Adab in the Genre of al-Masin wa al-Masw (Virtues and Vices)
10.Ethical Adab
11.The Adab of Love
12.Religious and Mystical Adab
13.Philosophical Adab
14.Ab ayyn al-Tawd, 4th5th/10th11th Century
18.Literary Adab
19.Politico-Ethical Adab
20.Religious Adab from the 5th/11th Century Onwards
Adab, an Arabic word prevalent in Middle Eastern and Islamic culture, of obscure origin. Although the
word has not been discovered in pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, it is frequently found in mukharam poetry
(i.e. spanning both the pre-Islamic and Islamic eras), and in adth literature. The original sense of
adab was rather limited but during the 2nd/8th century, in the wake of the rapid changes brought about
by the Islamic conquests, it acquired the meaning of ethics, particularly practical ethics, and morals. In
the 3rd/9th century its connotations expanded to encompass a remarkable range of meanings: social
behaviour, individual comportment or modes of proper conduct, excelling in extra-religious matters,
knowledge of the Arabic language and poetry, literary excellence, formal correctness and rhetorical
eloquence. It thus came to be applied to the sum of knowledge that made a man cultured and civilised.
This all-embracing, if at times superficial, body of knowledge then became part of common culture and
was adopted by most strata of society. At the same time it was also used to signify elegance, civility,
courtesy, etiquette, manners, decency and refinement. Since the shara also regulates the conduct of

the believer, religious scholars applied the concept to the whole range of etiquette and codes of
appropriate behaviour pertaining to various fields of religious education and instruction. In later
centuries the word adab was mostly used to signify the refined knowledge of language and the literary
sciences. The focus of the present article, however, is limited to the articulation of the principle of adab
in the Arab and Persian world in the classical period.

In its wider sense, adab has not been the subject of copious recent research. Before the publication of
Igncz Goldzihers short study on the subject (see Goldziher, Adab), Western scholars only
occasionally alluded to the older and broader meaning of the word. After Goldziher, Nallino afforded it
comparatively better treatment in his La littrature arabe (see pp. 726), which was the basis for two
more useful articles, one by F. Gabrieli (Adab) and the second by Charles Pellat which appeared, in
Arabic translation, in al-Bustns encyclopaedia. Other writers, in accordance with their respective
fields of interest, have also made valuable contributions to the subject, such as A. Miquels La
gographie, M. Bergs Ab ayyn and F. Meiers Ein Knigge fr Sufis. The following articles are
also of particular importance: Adab by J. Khaleghi-Motlagh; and Ebn Qotayba by F. Rosenthal.
Leaving aside the detailed but rather disorganised article in Dihkhuds Lughat-nmah, nothing of the
required amplitude is available in Persian.

Origins of the Word

Mukharam poetry (see al-Baghdd, 9/431432, musical poetry) and the works of the poets of the
early Islamic period indicate that the word adab was first used in the sense of sunna, i.e. the wonts,
habits, hereditary norms of conduct and customs that constituted the materials for education and
instruction in pre-Islamic Arabia. Consequently, inculcating these qualities in an individuals
personality, was, by extension, also referred to as adab (see Nallino, 1011).
The word adab is frequently used in adths. In al-Majliss major work of Shii adths, Bir alanwr, the verbal form addaban (he inculcated me with adab) appears nine times and in the Sunni
collections, the verbal noun tadb (inculcating discipline or adab) is used eleven times, while the
expression adab appears in six adth reports (see Wensinck, 1/3637). In these texts it is used, mostly,
in the sense of sunna as described above.
It is evident that to undertake the tadb of someone (such as subordinates or children) meant refining
their morals, undertaking ethical training and instructing them in the praiseworthy manners and
customs of the Arabs, and probably in certain new ways and modes that were a result of the appearance
of Islam. The word also signified divine revelation and prophetic teaching, as is indicated by such
statements as hdh al-adth yanbagh an yu li-al-muaddab (it is appropriate for this statement to
be given to one who has been taught adab); al-Qurn adab Allh (the Qurn is the adab of God;
see Wensinck, 1/3637); or the famous adth cited above, addaban rabb.

Another adth indicates a very specific use of the word: tadb al-rajul farasahu (see Wensinck, 1/36),
which means simply training a horse, though the original sense of the word is retained in that the
trainer is inculcating appropriate and agreeable behaviour in his steed.

The early Arabic lexicographers were fully acquainted with the noun al-adab and its derivatives, and
said that it had two basic connotations: firstly, a marvel or a marvellous thing, secondly an invitation of
hospitality. It is thus that its derivatives like maduba, madaba, udduba all carry the meaning of
something that is prepared for guests (see al-Khall, 8/85; Ibn Durayd, 2/1180, 3/1304; Ibn Fris,
Mujam, 1/7475; al-Jawhar; see also E. W. Lane who classifies the various meanings of the root).
Moreover, the words dib or adb signify ib al-madaba, namely, the host. Like many others after
him, al-Azhar (d. 370/980) (14/209), who was perhaps the first to discuss the meaning of adab,
regarded this sense of the word to have been derived from the meanings mentioned earlier. He says:
Adab is something that the adb teaches to others. The reason that he is given the name adb is that
(like someone who provides his guests with excellent food) he calls people to something good (alBaghdd, 9/432; cf. Nallino, 13).
These explanations, however, do not convince contemporary scholars. There is widespread acceptance
of the view, put forward by Vollers and elaborated by Nallino (p. 13), that the word dab, meaning habit
or custom and thereby a near synonym for sunna, and which has no plural form, had been put into the
plural as db, followng the paradigm br from bir. With the passage of time the plural db gave
birth to its singular adab, and hence addaba and adb (Vollers, 180, note). This view, however, has not
been universally accepted by academics, especially scholars of Persian studies. The first to voice his
disagreement was the Lebanese linguistic scholar, Anastas al-Karmal (18661947), who believed adab
to be derived from the Greek construct eduepes (from edus, good, excellent, and epos, speech). Slightly
later, Yaqb arrf proposed that the word adb (marriage feast or banquet) was the origin of adab,
while Vollers proposed another Greek root edavos, meaning edible. At this point Muf diq Rfi
and Jabr awma, in response to Anastas al-Karmal, claimed to have traced the Semitic origins of the
word adb meaning something marvellous, citing the Old Testament as evidence (Mu abab,
Adab wa adb, 36). h usayn (pp. 2225), in his critique of Nallino, added nothing new to the
debate except to claim that all the adth reports where the word adab is used should be repudiated
since none of them meet the required standards of reliability on the basis of linguistic analysis. Mu
abab, however, believes that the words adab and adb are derived from the Persian root dp and
dib, meaning to write (Mu abab, Adab wa adb, 78).
The word adab, in any case, enters the vocabulary of Islamic culture from the times of the Umayyads,
and its meaningthe learning of poetry, ancient Arab history, tribal traditions and culturewas also
established through usage and oral tradition (Mu abab, Adab wa adb, 36).

The 1st/7th Century

Throughout the 1st/7th century, there is no evidence that the word adab was employed in any nuanced

sense and it appears only rarely. It might therefore be assumed that its meaning was limited to the
following two areas: 1) customs of ancient Arabia; character traits deemed praiseworthy in the eyes of
the pre-Islamic Arabs, and hereditary norms of conduct among the Arabs; 2) divine revelation and
teachings as well as the ethical and social models and instructions derived from the Prophetic sunna.
This definition of the word became widespread from the 3rd/9th century onwards, leading to the
appearance of written religious adab (al-adab al-dn).
Despite the term adab being used in only a limited sense during the 1st/7th century, and its subject
matter being relatively ignored, at the beginning of the 2nd/8th century it suddenly acquired a meaning
that had to do with morality and was only loosely connected to religion. Then the concept of adab
underwent a remark- able development that held sway over a large part of the Islamic world. This
regeneration of interest in adab can only be explained by the appearance of some great historical
personages with an excellent command of both the Arabic and Persian languages. These scholars were
responsible for re-shaping Iranian ethics, traditions and codes of conduct in an Arab mould, bringing
them into the fold of Islamic civilisation and establishing the foundations of a culture that maintained
an uninterrupted existence for the following five hundred years.

The 2nd/8th Century: Abd al-amd al-Ktib and Ibn alMuqaffa

Modern scholars consider Abd al-amd al-Ktib (d. 132/750) and, to a greater extent, Ibn alMuqaffa (d. 139/756) to be the founders of adab as an ethical discipline. Abd al-amds pioneering
effort consists of two small prose treatises that initiated the move away from the ancient Arab style and
towards giving advice, teaching good morals and etiquette and directing the reader to elements that
were considered necessary for the refinement of personality and vocation. These two treatises were: 1)
An epistle addressed to Abd Allh b. Marwn, crown prince of the Umayyad caliph, giving general
advice, imparting instructions on political affairs, government, manners and proper conduct for
leadership and martial training (Risla f naat wal al-ahd, 139146 et passim); 2) An epistle to
writers, whom he describes as the people of adab and the refined qualities of manliness, listing all
the knowledge that they need to acquire, including ethical principles, knowledge of the Qurn, sunna,
language and literature, Arab history, the chronicles of the rulers and a degree of mathematics (see
Pellat, passim; al-Bustn, Adab al-lugha, pp. 6878). This represented the first time that the adab
al-ktib (etiquette of writers) was codified, something which, in turn, provided an enduring basis for
adab throughout the centuries.
The foundation of adab was the culture of the elite and the rulers, and if Abd al-amd turned his
attention to writers it was merely because they had access to centres of power, and he was concerned
with inculcating the appropriate manners and etiquette that enabled a person to be worthy of being in
the company of a ruler. It would be one or perhaps two centuries before works on cultural issues, both
in general literature and especially in religious literature, addressed the ordinary man.
Abd al-amds work, whether on the ethics or codes for good government, or the way the state
should operate, must have drawn heavily on Persian ethics and culture, using works in the genre of the

Mirror for Princes or n-nmahs, Tj-nmahs and Shhnmahs, as there was no precedent for this
genre in pre-Islamic Arabian culture or in the first century of Islam. Indeed, Ab Hill al-Askar
explicitly states that Abd al-amd translated the Persian amthl (proverbs) into Arabic (Dwn alman, 2/89, Kitb al-inatayn, 51).
After Abd al-amd, the writer who paid most attention to ethical adab was the short-lived Ibn alMuqaffa, born ca. 102/720 in Jr (present-day Frzbd) in Frs. In his al-Adab al-aghr (pp. 15
46), Ibn al-Muqaffa defines adab in terms of moral intelligence: Peoples purpose in life is to live
decently on earth and in the Hereafter, and the means to this end is none other than a sound intellect
(al-aql al-salm), and the proof of a sound intellect is that it prefers what is right and good in every
matter and exercises discernment and insight.
In the opinion of Ibn al-Muqaffa adab is superior to knowledge and more valuable, since it guides the
seeker of adab to realise that the acquisition of knowledge is a process whose foundations are the
wholesomeness of body and soul, courage, magnanimity, the art of letters and that the quintessence of
all those subjects provides the foundation of ethical adab (see al-Adab al-kabr, 5758). In his own
words, Ibn al-Muqaffas aim in compiling works on adab was to fortify the heart, clear the sight,
revive thought, establish good government, and lead the person towards good works and sound moral
character traits (al-Adab al-aghr, 24).
In what might be termed an early form of humanism, the characteristic that Ibn al-Muqaffa valued
most highly in an adb was refinement (al-Adab al-kabr, 114). The adb (a person who has acquired
the qualities of adab) should not be a slave to his appetites, should not desire what he cannot obtain,
and should not seek excess. His desire should not distort his intellect, rather, his intellect should prevail
over all his desires and guide the soul to lead an upright life of ethical propriety.
Ibn al-Muqaffas originality was in both form and content. He refrained from excessive rhetoric,
rhyming prose, literary embellishments and obscure expressions from the Jhil period, instead
developing a style marked by eloquence, charm and lucidity. From this starting point Arabic literary
prose acquired a fluency that developed in various ways over later centuries.
There is no single work by Ibn al-Muqaffa that focuses on a discussion of ethical adab; rather, this
theme is to be found throughout his works: al-Adab al-kabr in particular deals with the etiquette of
kings, the manners of courtiers and the subject of friendship. In al-Adab al-aghr he briefly speaks of
the politics of the Persian kings but the greater part of the work consists of advice on ethical and social
matters, and more particularly his attempt to convince his readers of the value of knowledge, etiquette
and friendship. His translation from Pahlaw of Kalla wa Dimna deals mainly with ethical adab.
Rislat al-aba, addressed to the Abbsid caliph al-Manr, consists of advice, suggestions and
even criticism of the official establishment of the caliphate. It is in this Risla that political adab, which
was occasionally manifest in the Khud-nmahs and n-nmahs, came to occupy centre stage.
Finally, in his work al-Maniq, also translated from Pahlaw into Arabic, the disciplines of arithmetic
and geometry are also referred to as ilm al-adab or the science of adab (see al-Maniq, 3). This term
was still in use two centuries later in the Rasil Ikhwn al-af where human sciences are divided
into three categories: adab (mathematics), shar (religious) and falsaf (intellectual) (1/266267).

The 3rd/9th Century

The 3rd/9th century writer al-Ji (d. 255/869) had a wealth of intellectual resources to draw upon in
Bara, including the works on Greek philosophy which had been translated into Arabic by his time,
Mutazil thought, an ever-increasing corpus of poetry and historical accounts of the Arabs that were in
the process of being transcribed, together with the growing body of the Islamic sciences and a newlycodified Arabic grammar. In the field of literature it was perhaps the enormous range of works on
ethical adab and Iranian db which had been translated into Arabic that were his most important
sources, and al-Ji drew heavily on these.
In his treatise al-Mad wa al-mash (p. 96), al-Ji emphasises that it is only through the assistance
of the acquired intellect that the natural intellect reaches its perfection. He adds, Adab is the wisdom of
others that is added to ones own wisdom (see also Shalat, 185).
Al-Ji describes a work in Ibn al-Nadms list of Persian books (pp. 377388) entitled Amthl-i
Buzurgmihr, with the following remarks, these amthl (proverbs) and the works of Ibn al-Muqaffa
have brought into being the adab-i ktib (Dhamm akhlq al-kuttb, 42; see also Brockelmann,
3/103105, who provides comprehensive lists of works translated from Persian). These remarks
indicate that al-Jis only sources on the adab or etiquette of writers of the royal courts, which
doubtless made up the largest part of the adab, were in Persian. Several scholars have suggested that alJi knew Persian (see Kurd Al, 2/318; al-Khafj, 111112 see also al-ayawn, 1/143 on the use
of ushtur-i gw palang = giraffe), and Persian verses appear in his works (for example the verses of Ibn
Mufarrigh in his al-Bayn 1/132, or passages in his al-Bukhal, 22, or the statement in Persian by
Abd Allh b. hir in his al-Masin wa al-add, 83; see also al-Khafj, 111112). In any event,
there are aspects of Persian culture in all of his works, especially al-Bayn (for details on this aspect
see Dhakwat Qarguzl, 5767).
However, the central point is that in the works of al-Ji the various meanings of adabwhether
ethical, literary, linguistic or religious and traditionalmerged together and were embraced by him, to
such a high degree that he became renowned in his milieu as a true adb. However, no onenot even
al-Ji himselfwas able to master all the relevant sciences, with the result that the learning of the
adb was broader but also less specialised than that of the scholar. A scholar was a specialist while an
adb had to be a polymath. Indeed, al-Ji himself believed that the disadvantages of specialising in
one sphere of knowledge far exceeded its benefits and he therefore advised the caliph: Educate your
children in such a manner that they acquire something from every adab, since if they devoted
themselves to merely one branch of learning they would never be able to give a satisfactory answer
when a query is put to them about other disciplines (int al-qawwd, 381).
He himself acquired an extremely wide range of knowledge and his works cover almost all the
branches of learning that existed in his day including theology, philosophy, adth, grammar,
literature, logic, social sciences, ethics, politics, history, botany, zoology, astrology and music. These
works were written in a unique prose style: flowing, lucid, eloquent and concise.

Ibn Qutayba, General Literature, Tendencies to Religious and Guild Literature

It was also in the 3rd/9th century, a time of considerable turmoil, that the third and most outstanding
representative of adab, namely, Ibn Qutayba (d. 276/889) emerged on the literary scene. Through him
some of the facets of the earlier understanding of adab, that were essentially a legacy of al-Ji,
acquired new form and colour.
Ibn Qutaybas sources of inspiration were similar to those of al-Ji and these can be categorised as
follows: 1) The ethical traditions and social and administrative laws and codes of ancient Iran that were
increasingly gaining ground in Iraqi society through the works of Ibn al-Muqaffa and a multitude of
other translations (see Lecomte, Ibn utayba, 845846; idem, Ibn Qutayba, 450). A survey of the
chapters of Uyn al-akhbr is sufficient to reveal the extent to which Ibn Qutayba absorbed and
promulgated Iranian cultural and artistic traditions. 2) He also clearly benefited from the philosophical
works of the Greeks, especially translations of Aristotle, which played a formative role in the
development of his scholarly personality. He studied philosophy during his stay in Bara (see Ibn
Qutayba, Uyn al-akhbr, 4/449) and later on, when he was confronted by philosophers or rationalist
thinkers, he countered their arguments using the same intellectual tools he had learnt from them. 3) His
access to a very large number of literary sources of the first magnitude, both poetry and prose. 4) The
Qurn, adth and the religious sciences in which Ibn Qutayba specialised.

Principal Works
1. Adab al-ktib: One of Ibn Qutaybas earliest works. It can be described as a handbook for scribes,
mostly Persian mawls who came to fill the positions created by the ever-expanding state bureaucracy.
The most important of these were the following: Ktib dwn al-rasil (scribe of the correspondence
office); Ktib dwn al-kharj (scribe of the finance office) who was required to know mathematics and
to have a grasp of finance and even elements of geometry (in order to calculate property values); Ktib
dwn al-jund (scribe of the department for military affairs); d) Ktib al-mana who looked after
matters of law and order; e) Ktib al-kim (scribe of the office for religious affairs) (see Lecomte, Ibn
Qutayba, 442). The scribe was thus turning into a figure central to his society and representative of its
culture and learning; he became the model of the courtier who happened to be elegant, artistic, a man
of letters and a connoisseur of literature (Sourdel, 375).
This work of Ibn Qutayba became so renowned that five hundred years later Ibn Khaldn (d. 808/1406)
was to declare, in his Muqaddima (pp. 553554), that four books formed the basis of literature and the
literary arts: Adab al-ktib by Ibn Qutayba, al-Kmil by al-Mubarrad, al-Bayn by al-Ji and alNawdir by Ab Al al-Ql.
In the introduction to Adab al-ktib, Ibn Qutayba describes his motivation for writing the work (pp. 9
12): when he realised that, like other people of his day, the ktibs were enamoured of comfort, sloth
and easy learning, he set his hand to writing Adab al-ktib for the benefit of all those who had
abandoned adab and given themselves over to less taxing pursuits. He then spells out the elements of
culture that the adb-ktib should acquire, besides the technical requirements of adab, in order to
become worthy of reading his book (p. 12): My books are not for such people who have received no

share of humanity except their human frame, nothing of writing but the title, none of the apparatus
except a pen and an inkpot! Rather it is for those who have studied grammatical inflection and
particles, the verbal noun, circumstantial clauses it is also necessary that they have some knowledge
of geometry. To this he added that whosoever has no knowledge of irrigation techniques, the
calculations of day and night, the movement of the sun, astrology, weights, the construction of bridges
and waterwheels, tools of the craftsmen and mathematics, his command over the scribal art will be
deficient (pp. 1213). At the end he also adds a degree of fiqh (religious law), adth and Arab history
to this list of prerequisites.
All these accomplishments, however, were dependant on a sound ethical basis that harks back to the
ethics of Ibn al-Muqaffa; Ibn Qutayba states (Adab al-ktib, 14): Whoever desires to read his (i.e. Ibn
al-Muqaffas) book should take care of the tadb of his soul before he turns to the tadb of his tongue,
and should purify his morals before attempt-ing to refine his use of language. His essential manliness
should not be defiled by the use of bad language. He should abstain from lies and avoid obscene
Aside from the introduction, Adab al-ktib is made up of three sections: the first section contains the
essential subject matter for every potential adb-ktib: matters pertaining to language and rhetoric,
nomenclature, astrology, chronologies, the weather and botany, knowledge of horses, anthropology,
food-stuffs and drinks, animals, costume, the professions, ornithology and herpetology. The second
section, taqwm al-yad, pertains to matters of writing and explains the written forms of words that are
not commonly known. The third section, taqwm al-lisn, is basically devoted to an elucidation of
verbs and nouns.
2. Uyn al-akhbr: Several years later Ibn Qutayba wrote another work on adab in which he perfected
his work on general literature, his aim was evidently to write something more comprehensive in its
scope but also more specific in its aim of providing the background material to produce the sort of adb
required by the Iraqi society he inhabited (1/-).
Although the work does not deal with the sunna, the shara and the lawful and the unlawful, it shows
the reader the way to achieving a good moral character. Ibn Qutayba also nominally addresses all strata
of society, as he says in the prologue, I have written this book so that the people without adab might
gain insight, the men of learning may use it as a means of remembrance, the rulers and nobles, as well
as their functionaries and the masses they rule, might learn adab from it and it may bring repose and
tranquillity to kings. I did not deem it proper to entirely devote the book to those seeking the world and
to turn a blind eye to the demands of the Hereafter, or to dedicate it to the elite while ignoring the
ordinary people, or to write it keeping only kings in view while disregarding the common man. I have
allocated to each type of person a part of the book (1/-).
Ibn Qutayba also mentions the tangible benefits of reading his book: eloquence of speech, acquiring the
art of literary excellence and formal correctness in writing learning the etiquette and manners
necessary to keep the company of the kings, entertaining guests with both humour and solemnity,
making effective arguments and thus winning debates and generally endearing oneself to every class

of people (1/). This is a definition that one can find in almost every work on adab throughout the

The last section of the Uyn al-akhbr is devoted to humour and jokes. Ibn Qutayba advises his
readers not to be discouraged by certain rude parables or obscene tales, nor to let grammatical errors
detract from them, since the appeal of the puns and jokes is their basis in grammatical errors (lan) (1/
The principal distinguishing feature of the adab of Ibn Qutayba is the religious content of his works.
This is more evident in Kitb al-zuhd (the sixth section of the Uyn) as well as in many parts of alMarif. His overall scheme is as follows: language and linguistics (in his Adab al-ktib), pure sciences
(in parts of Uyn and Kitb al-anw), history and reports (in al-Marif), ethics (in his Uyn),
religious culture (in the Uyn and al-Marif) and guild literature (in his Adab al-ktib).

Adab and Language

During, or perhaps shortly after, the time of Ibn Qutayba, a form of adab developed that concentrated
mainly on linguistic and grammatical matters. From the second half of the 3rd/9th century onwards,
books pertaining to this genre of adab-adabiyyt (literature/philology) became prevalent, of which Ibn
Qutaybas Kitb man al-shir is an excellent example. It presents in versified form a variety of topics
including horses, carnivores, hospitality, food, honey bees, wars, gambling and soothsaying, with notes
explaining the difficult words that occur in each of the verses.
The most outstanding example of this kind of adab is, however, the work by al-Mubarrad (d. 286/899),
al-Kmil, which as previously mentioned, was one of the four essential works of adab listed by Ibn
Khaldn. Al-Mubarrads work essentially focuses on an explanation of, and commentary on, difficult
and obscure words and expressions, but a large part is also devoted to ethical precepts and wisdom
literature, with each section containing quotations from the great writers on akhlq (ethics) and adab,
including Buzurgmihr: One who increases in adab also increases in worth and value (1/46) and other
great Persian figures such as Ardashr or Anshrwn, as well as the luminaries and sages of the Arabs.
Al-Mubarrad, like earlier authors, wanted the primary role of adab to be a source of pleasure to delight
the human soul, as he himself states: I will speak about things in this chapter that will bring delight to
the reader and transport him away from boredom (2/2).

After al-Mubarrad this kind of adab was further articulated through the 4th/10th and 5th/11th centuries
in the form of works in the genre known as aml (q.v.), dictations. The Aml of Muammad Yazd
(d. 310/922) is a collection of verse that continually refers to adab and ethics and the Aml of Ab Al
al-Ql (d. 356/967) is a sizable and amorphous collection wherein prose and verse rub shoulders in a
variety of narratives, accompanied by linguistic explanations and commentary. The Aml of al-Sharf
al-Murta (d. 436/1045) also belongs to the same genre with the interpolation of Qurnic verses,
adth reports and Qurn exegesis in the text.
The 3rd/9th century saw adab mm (general literature) reach its pinnacle in the works of Ibn Qutayba
and it continued to diversify in works such as the literary compendium, al-Iqd al-fard, by the
Andalusian scholar Ibn Abd Rabbih (d. 328/940). It also saw the rise of another genre known as almasin wa al-masw (of virtues and vices). Behaviourist or moral adab appeared in its highest of
forms: the amorous adab of the lyrical poets and the famous lovers of the Arabs became codified; the
linguistic adab of al-Mubarrad also continued to produce books of aml writings and, above all,
philosophical adab was now being articulated.

al-Tankh, the Second Half of the 4th/10th Century

General (non-religious) adab continued to develop in the works of al-Tankh (d. 384/994). In his
introduction to Nishwr al-muara, al-Tankh recounts the range of subjects that an adab writer
should know (1/19), these subjects constituting a legacy of wisdom that was, he says, in danger of
being lost to future generations: Different faiths, lands and dynasties, virtues, characteristics and vices
of the people, annals of the kings and the elders, reports of the men of noble lineage and outstanding
stature and of men of elegance, narrators of legends, companions, magnanimous people, jurists, men of
letters and authors, letter writers, singers of war songs, genealogists, linguists and grammarians,
teachers, mathematicians, secretaries to the government departments, soothsayers, tillers of the land,
travellers, sermonisers, story-tellers, mystic sages, reciters of the Qurn, vagrants, swordsmen,
jugglers, tricksters, beggars, swimmers, sorcerers

Adab in the Genre of al-Masin wa al-Masw (Virtues and

During the 3rd/9th century a genre emerged that consisted of describing the virtues and vices of a
certain group of things. This is first found in the works of al-Ji, especially his al-ayawn, and the
genre reached its apogee in al-Masin wa al-masw by Ibrhm b. Muammad al-Bayhaq. The
Manichaean nature of this concentration on the duality of good and evil has led researchers such as Zar
(pp. 12, on the authority of Inostranzev and Muammad), to postulate that the ancient Persian
religions influenced the development of this intellectual-literary style. This was particularly likely
given that Ibn al-Farrakhn had translated a work entitled Masin from Pahlaw into Persian, and
that there existed works in Persian and Pahlaw entitled Shist n shist, which had the same

conceptual framework as the works on ethical adab.

In the works of Ibrhm al-Bayhaq, a Twelver Shii, or perhaps Zayd, scholar, the religious and
philosophical aspects of this genre were, to a certain extent, refurbished and given a more ethicocultural configuration. The sort of opposing traits he discusses include: fidelity and infidelity; valour
and cowardice; faith and disbelief; eloquence and lack of grammatical perfection; reticence and
excessive talkativeness. In his al-Masin wa al-masw al-Bayhaq discusses masin al-adab or the
virtues of adab (p. 399) and in reference to a statement by Imam Al, he declares adab to be the
opposite of ignorance (jahl). Then he goes on to deal with the various meanings of adab. He writes: In
no other discipline or field of art does adab accumulate as it does in the art of writing, because whoever
wants to reach perfection in it has to apply himself to the practice of adab so as to gain a command of
rhetoric, formal correctness and eloquence in speech, insight in discourse, knowledge of religious law
and its rulings and politics as well as government (p. 400). Like Ibn Qutayba, Ibrhm al-Bayhaq
regards the work of the scribes attached to government departments as the best place for adab to
exhibit its full potential (pp. 417418).

Ethical Adab
The scope of both general adab, on the one hand, and ethical adab, on the other, can be clearly seen in
the important work Kitb al-arf wa al-uraf, also known as Kitb al-muwashsh by Muammad b.
Isq b. Yay al-Washsh (d. 325/936). He refers to the writer (adb) as the arf who is engaged with
arf; the meaning of these terms, however, is not clear, and the definitions that he gives for arf are
interchangeable with those which other writersfrom the time of Ibn al-Muqaffa onwardsgave for
an adb: Before he tries to obtain knowledge of what is unknown to him, a mutaaddab (a man versed
in adab) and mutaarraf (a man of wit and charm), who has the morals of the adbs (men of letters) and
the ornaments of the arfs, should attend to the meaning of arf, the code of manliness and the
definition of adab. A man without wit has no manliness, and he who has no adab has no manliness (p.
In his detailed chapter on udd al-adab (the parameters of adab) he states (p. 41) the first thing a man
of intellect (qil, which he considered synonymous with adb) should busy himself with is the
company of wise people, exploring the various disciplines of adab, reading books and chronicles,
attempting to narrate reports and poetry, formulating good questions, uttering good words, speaking in
due measure, giving reply to questions for which he knows the right answer and keeping quiet when the
question is not addressed to him. Indeed, the subjects of keeping silent and the virtue of reticence have
received detailed treatment in many works on adab, particularly the works on religious adab, and alWashsh devotes more than ten pages to them (pp. 4151).
In the last section of the book (p. 239 et passim), al-Washsh describes the character, behaviour and
individual comportment of an adb and lays down specific codes and modes of proper conduct for
every circumstance and situation, down to the minutest instructions on personal and social matters.
Food, drink and the manners of eating and drinking are also discussed in detail in the book. The adb
should eat his food by putting small morsels in his mouth, should select the food that is worthy of him,

and should eat with calm and composure and without showing impatience (p. 255) and he should
avoid foods such as locust, shrimps or lentils which cause flatulence. Intricate details on a host of
everyday matters are also specified.

The Adab of Love

Love, untainted by desire and unconsummated, was a well-known theme from the times of the preIslamic Arabs, chiefly transmitted through the legend of Antara. During the 1st/7th and the 2nd/8th
centuries certain poets came to be renowned for their lyrical love poetry. The lives of the couples
depicted in this poetry have striking similarities: the lovers invariably belonged to different tribes who
would not allow them to come together or who became the cause of their separation, and often the
beloveds burning desire would lead her to sacrifice her life. The names of the couples Majnn and
Layl, Qays and Lubn, Jaml and Buthayna, Kuthayyir and Azza are the best known in this genre.
These heart-rending tales of a mode of love which transcends the domain of the corporeal appeared in
Sufi literature. They also influenced the great works of adab-literature like Ab al-Faraj al-Ifahns
Kitb al-aghn (q.v.) and Ibn Dwds Kitb al-zahra and, afterwards, percolated into the code and
conduct of the adbs and the arfs. This subject became one of the most popular styles of literature in
the works of al-Washsh, for example, who dedicated more than seventy pages to it in his book (pp.

Religious and Mystical Adab

From the beginning of the 2nd/8th century, when the words and deeds of the Prophet were expressed in
various types of religious works, his sunna, or set of normative practices, increasingly came to
influence the developing culture within which adab was articulated. The sayings of the Prophet
furnished practical advice on matters like purity of faith, firmness of belief, adornment and decorum,
embellishment and dignity, refinement, good comportment, pleasant speech and truthfulness; they also
impinged upon personal habits, such as the cleanliness of the body and dress, and the etiquette of
clothing, eating and travelling. Even the Prophets way of brushing his teeth was included in these
texts, since the sunna of the Prophet was considered to be the comprehensive role model for all types of
etiquette (majma al-db; see Meier, p. 484 et passim).
This culture engendered a number of works in the 3rd/9th century, the most important of which is
perhaps al-Adab al-mufrad by al-Bukhr (d. 256/870). This work consists of 644 sections, containing
the sayings and deeds ascribed to the Prophet or one of his Companions on the subject of each section.
These precepts are usually directly related to a Qurnic verse.
The other major writer who became famous in the same period for compiling religious (and mystical)
adab was al-rith al-Musib (d. 243/857), a renowned early Sufi. His book db al-nufs may be
regarded as the first independent work in the genre of religious-ethical adab. He stressed the need to
return to the ethics and codes of behaviour of the earliest epoch of Islam, and to abstain from the
worldly aspects of the newly emerging Persian-inspired culture of Baghdad society (pp. 3539).

Abd al-Malik b. abb al-Andalus (d. 238/853), who lived in the western lands of Islam, collected the
ethical teachings of the Prophet that pertained only to women, and presented these in his work Adab alnis or al-Ghya wa al-nihya. The large number of adth reports, including some which are
unreliable, testify to the importance of women in Muslim society. Amad al-Nas (d. 303/915)
covered the same subject matter in his Ishrat al-nis.
Before the end of the 3rd/9th century, religious adab merged with general adab in a manner
exemplified by the innumerable works of Ibn Ab al-Duny (d. 281/894). Not simply an ascetic,
traditionist and a jurist, Ibn Ab al-Duny was also a man of immense learning in literature and poetry,
and the number of books attributed to him is somewhere between 100 and 300, of which about fifty
works fall within the domain of adab (see Ibn Ab al-Duny, introd., 87110). He dedicated a work, alamt wa db al-lisn (pp. 173 et passim), to two fundamental issues of adab: reticence at the right
times and refraining from vain talk.
As regards Sufi adab, this can only be said to have acquired a distinctive character from the time when
the ascetic discipline of zuhd, entailing long retreats, merged with the various codes and manners that
were termed al-db al-istisniyya (modes of edification). Sufi adab became connected, outwardly, to
such things as the donning of the mystical cloak (khirqa), the use of the staff (a), dance (raq),
audition (sam ), ecstasy (wajd), the etiquette of the Sufi lodge (rib, khniqh and zwiya; Hum,
108109; for the numerous works that exist of this genre see Meier, passim). However, the Sufis also
developed, in the medieval period, an esoteric notion of adab, which equated it with perfect spiritual
wisdom and exemplary virtue. For example, Ibn al-Arab (d. 638/1240) asserts in chapter 168 of his
al-Futt al-Makkiyya (2/284), dealing with the spiritual station (maqm) of adab, that the adb unites
within himself all the most noble virtues (makrim al-akhlq) and embraces all the degrees of
knowledge, giving to each spiritual station (maqm) and each mystical state (l) precisely what is
required by them. But insofar as adab presupposes another, to whom one must manifest adab, it is tied
to duality, and thus must be transcended at a particular stage of the mystical journey. This station is
termed tark al-adab (abandonment of adab). But this station, too, must be transcended in turn, as the
individual as such has to return to his essential condition, that of servanthood (ubdiyya) in relation to
God (Gril, 228231).

Philosophical Adab
In the 4th/11th century there appeared in Baghdad and Bara a group with philosophical tendencies
which, above all, concentrated on, and had as its aim, tahdhb al-akhlq (ethical refinement) in society.
In spite of their lofty and abstract ideals, this group, known as the Ikhwn al-af (Brethren of Purity),
was able to make inroads into the various strata of society, including craftsmen, professional guilds and
The philosophy of the Brethren, influenced to a significant degree by Ismaili thought, advocated
elementary codes of chivalry, magnanimity, rational behaviour and charity, and in so doing entered into
the domain of adab. In their Epistles (Rasil) a major part of the text is devoted to the science of adab.
It is to be noted that adab is referred to as riyiyya in their works (1/266), the same term as was used

by Ibn al-Muqaffa two centuries earlier (al-Maniq, 3).

Ab ayyn al-Tawd, 4th5th/10th11th Century

Adab continued to merge with philosophical approaches and Ab ayyn al-Tawd (q.v., d. ca.
414/1023), also made philosophy his concern (especially in his al-Imt wa al-munasa). At the
beginning of the 4th/10th century and the early years of the 5th/11th century, Ab ayyn was the most
outstanding writer of his age and bequeathed a number of literary masterpieces to Arab culture. He had
a volatile nature, was often outspoken and reckless, but was at the same time highly perspicacious.
Despite the obscurity and poverty of his family in Baghdad, he succeeded in gaining access to the
courts of high-ranking viziers such al-ib b. Abbd and Ibn al-Amd. He was, however, eventually
dismissed by all his patrons and spent the last years of his life writing in seclusion.
Among his works al-Bair wa al-dhakhir deserves special attention as an example of his approach
to the adab genre. At the start of the book, Ab ayyn enumerates the subjects that he is going to
discuss, these include poetry, proverbs, sermons, counsel, humour, as well as colourful and popular
tales to cheer the downhearted (1/5). Ab ayyn goes on to tell us about his sources: the works of alJi, al-Nawdir by Ibn Arb, al-Kmil by al-Mubarrad, Uyn al-akhbr by Ibn Qutayba, Kitb alMajlis by al-Thalab, a work by Ibn Ab hir (al-Manm wa al-manthr which remains
unpublished), al-Awrq by al-l, al-Wuzar by al-Jahshiyr and al-Jawbt by Qudma b. Jafar
(1/56). His aim in compiling his work was to cover the following subjects: 1) the Qurn 2) the sunna
3) wisdom 4) experience 5) the politics of the Persian world, and 6) Greek philosophy (for the
intellectual methodology of Ab ayyn and the difficulties of discerning it through his enormous
oeuvre, see Berg, 219225).
At this point some attention might be given to another remarkable and fascinating literary narrative,
entitled ikyat Ab al-Qsim al-Baghdd, attributed to Ab Muahar al-Azd (q.v.) and which, in all
probability, was written by Ab ayyn. This work is a treasure trove of information, full of insights
into adab. Presented in the form of a narrative like that of the maqmt genre, it casts an earthy light on
the affluent, corrupt, hedonistic and self-indulgent societies of Baghdad and Ifahn in the 4th/10th and
5th/11th centuries. The hero of the narrative is a wily and shameless shaykh. Muaf Jawd regards the
existence of Ab Muahar al-Azd as a myth and believes that the whole story is an invention of Ab
ayyn. According to Jawds investigation, numerous verbal and thematic parallels can be discovered
between the text of ikyat Ab al-Qsim al-Baghdd and the works of Ab ayyn, especially his
Kitb al-imt wa al-munasa (see h, 15). If Ab ayyn al-Tawd was in fact the author of
ikyat Ab al-Qsim al-Baghdd it would appear that his aim was to expose a corrupt and decadent
society that did not honour its illustrious men.

The greatest representative of general adab in the 5th/11th century was, without any shadow of doubt,
al-Thalib (d. 429/1038) who, in his al-Tamthl wa al-muara, presented a programme and a list of
the subjects that comprised adab. This work is Islamic and pre-Islamic, Arab and Persian, royal and

common, and consists of proverbs, narratives, lofty verse and prose, both humorous and serious, as
well as reports and tales of caliphs, kings and viziers, ascetics, sages, traditionalists, jurists,
philosophers, physicians, entertaining accounts of the arfs and pranksters, stories about farmers and
traders and men of various professions, minerals and plants, animals, utensils and instruments, as well
as dealing with virtues and vices (al-masin wa al-masw).
From this list it is apparent how the tradition of general adab perpetuated itself, by dealing with the
same subject-matter, in the works of al-Ji, al-Tankh and al-Thalib. After al-Thalib there
appeared no worthwhile book that was devoted to this subject and the life-span of general adab, which
took every aspect of society in its stride except religion, was drawing to a close.

The reason for regarding al-Thalib as the culmination of a long and illustri- ous chain of writers is
precisely because the first half of the 5th/11th century was overwhelmingly dominated by the religiousprofane-political adab of al-Mward (d. 450/1058). One of his great works that can be said to deal
with both ethical adab and general adab is Adab al-duny wa al-dn where religious trends figure
prominently alongside purely literary elements: the best of matters are those which lead us to the
wholesomeness of profane and sacred affairs and I have included in this book the etiquette of both of
these, being selections from the writings of the jurists and literary writings, but everything is within the
comprehension of ordinary people after that, in the following part I have quoted from the proverbs of
the sages and the db of the men of eloquence and pieces of poetry so that the heart might find delight
in it since the heart inevitably becomes weary of serious talk and requires variety and enjoyment
(Adab al-duny, 13).
In all these descriptions the influence of the writers of adab is quite evident. The following chapters of
the book make the same point in highlighting the superiority of the intellect, mans baser traits, the
adab of knowledge, of religion, and of this world and the soul. The section on the adab of the soul (pp.
229358) is in itself a complete book on ethical adab. The sources are exclusively religious but the
ethics of Ibn al-Muqaffa can also be discerned. One of the sections is dedicated to the etiquette of
speech and of reticence which are the prime subjects of ethical and religious adab. What al-Mward
says at the beginning of his section on various forms of etiquette (al-Mward, Adab al-duny, 347)
makes it still clearer that he had a strong inclination towards the genre of adab: know that it is not
possible to encompass and codify all types of db (etiquette), as circumstances and habits change
from place to place and over time, and thus everyone is obliged to learn the various form of etiquette of
his time to whatever degree is possible for him.

The 5th/11th century witnessed the birth of the first and most important work on general adab in
Persian. Unur al-Mal Kaykaws b. Iskandar, who died towards the end of the century, wrote the

Qbs-nmah for his son Gln Shh. This book of advice (p. 3) is entirely a work for the elite and
consists of the same topics that made up the works of general and ethical adab in Arabic. The book
opens with understanding God, the Transcendent and then proceeds to give wise counsel on
obedience, the rights of parents, humility, and proceeds to describe the everyday life of men of noble
birth, dealing with subjects such as the etiquette of wine drinking, of humour, of love, going to the
baths, hunting, polo and martial training, the accumulation of wealth as well as generalities such as
buying a slave, a horse or property, with the whole discourse culminating with the traditions of
chivalry. This work had significant influence on Persian language adab and writers such as al-San,
al-Awf, Nim and Ar quoted from it (see Unur al-Mal, 1921).

Literary Adab
In the first half of the 5th/11th century al-ur (d. 453/1061) took up the work of the lexicographers
and literary writers and produced a detailed compendium in this vein in his Zahr al-db. He elucidates
in his introduction (1/3) that he devoted most of his attention to aspects of language and literature. In
his preface to the edited edition (17/1), Mubrak remarks that Zahr al-db falls within the tradition of
works such as al-Kmil by al-Mubarrad, al-Bayn wa al-tabyn by al-Ji, Adab al-ktib by Ibn
Qutayba and al-Nawdir by Ab Al al-Ql, the difference being that al-ur had genuine literary
taste and his book ended up as an encyclopaedia of literature even though it deals with various other
subjects such as language and lexicography, reports and grammar and syntax.

Politico-Ethical Adab
Al-Thalib, firstly, and then al-Mward, provided the first half of the 5th/11th century with a larger
number of books composed on politico-ethical adab than any other era. Al-Thalib, who had become
renowned mostly for his poetry, knowledge of literature and biographical works, also wrote works on
politics, of which four are still available. Although a certain element of doubt exists about the
attribution of two works to him, db al-mulk and parts of Tufat al-wuzar are certainly the work of
his pen. db al-mulk, like a multitude of similar works, consists of advice and counsel on the
refinement of character, morals and the conduct of kings. His sources are mentioned throughout the
book and make it quite evident that he had studied the genre of Mirrors for Princes which is
concerned with the code of conduct of rulers. His sources include: Akhbr-i Anshrwn (p. 42),
Akhbr al-wuzar by al-Jahshiyr (pp. 45, 46, 129), al-Durra al-yatma by Ibn al-Muqaffa (p. 57 et
passim), Kalla wa Dimna (p. 58), Rislat Arasu il Iskandar (p. 86), Kitb al- n (p. 182).
The style of al-Mward, who died twenty years before al-Thalib, is entirely different from that of
the latter since he regarded politics as a technical matter and paid such attention to the minutiae of its
practical aspects that his books often went far beyond the confines of political adab. Al-Akm alsulniyya is mostly about the regulations of government and the administration of the state at various
levels, and pays little attention to the ethical improvement of the rulers themselves; al-Mwards Kitb
al-wuzar, despite its description of a few fundamentals of an ethical and religious nature pertaining to
the office of vizier, is very much like the works on politics. His only work that can be said to

approach adab is, perhaps, Tashl al-naar wa tajl al-afar because its first section deals with the
principles of theoretical ethics from a philosophical point of view (see al-Mward, al-Wizra, introd.,
During the second half of the 5th/11th century, the first important work on political adab in Persian was
composed. Khwjah Nim al-Mulk (d. 485/1092), in his unparalleled work Siysat-nmah, explored
the treasures of Arabic works and presented political-ethical adab in an extremely elegant language and
style. This is a work which is advice, wisdom, proverbs, a commentary on the Qurn, reports of the
life of the Prophet, stories of the prophets, annals and accounts of the kings who ruled with justice, a
history of bygone ages and a narrative of the present day, all at the same time. Nevertheless, it is of an
abridged length and worthy of the kings who would mete out justice and fair play (pp. 265266).
Towards the end of the 7th/13th century and at the beginning of the 8th/14th century the only work that
appeared on the subject was by the learned author Shihb al-Dn Amad b. Abd al-Wahhb alNuwayr (d. 733/1333) in which he embarked upon the task of codifying and even canonising the
discipline of adab. His celebrated work, Nihyat al-arab f funn al-adab, is a veritable encyclopaedia
of all the prevalent literary disciplines of his time; except for the fact that some of the topics and
themes that had come to be considered as a part of the literary canon were now regarded as
superfluous, and so al-Nuwayr avoided them. In any case, the general non-specialist manner in which
knowledge is presented to the readers places this work within the purview of adab.
The work refers to five disciplines (funn, sing. fann), the titles of which are: 1. al-Sam (heaven), the
celestial objects, the lower realms (which describes the years, months and seasons, the topography of
various regions and the morals of their inhabitants, the architecture of houses and palaces); 2. al-Insn
(man) which deals with love, lyrics, genealogy, proverbs, ancient Arab history, riddles, satire, humour,
music, slave girls and companions, kingship and the requirement and functions thereof, leading
personalities, imams, politics and legal matters; 3. al-ayawna detailed account of zoology; 4. alNabtbotany; 5. al-Tarkhhistory (ancient religious history and the history of Islam up to his own
After al-Nuwayr it was Ab al-Abbs al-Qalqashand (d. 821/1418) who carried forward the work of
encyclopaedia writing in the field of adab and compiled his grand synthesis known as ub al-ash.
He was himself a functionary of the Dwn al-insh (office of the Chancery) during the Mamlk
period and his intention was to explore all the affairs that pertained to that profession and to codify
them in writing. The objective of the book is similar to that of Adab al-ktib by Ibn Qutayba; it is very
useful for the fields of history, geography and especially administrative structures, and the postal
system in particular (see Pellat, Adab, 66).
Perhaps the last outstanding work composed in the field of general adab is the Mustaraf f kull fann
mustaraf by Amad al-Ibshh (d. 850/1446). His writings on such subjects as history, ephemerae,
annals, anecdotes and narratives, were taken from a large number of works by others, which he
assembled as an anthology. His aim was that these traditions, excellent accounts, subtle points, elegant
pieces of prose, verses, lexical information, seriousness and humour would alleviate the afflicted
heart (2/1).

Towards the end of the 9th/15th century and the beginning of the 10th/16th century, there emerged in
Egypt a remarkably learned scholar in the person of Jall al-Dn al-Suy (d. 911/1505). Given his
massive opus of more than four hundred works, he was knowns as Ibn al-Kutub, Son of Books.
He refers repeatedly throughout his books to the principles and ramifications of adab. Perhaps the
greatest of his works on lexicography is al-Muzhir in which he devotes a whole section to the db of
the man of language (2/302). This discussion, which may be regarded as professional literature,
includes the kinds of advice and wise counsel generally found in works on adab; for example his
treatment of the subject of ethical adabwith its stress on the need for reticence on particular
occasionsechoes what is expressed on this theme in previous works on adab (2/323).
During the days of Ibn Khaldn the confines of adab gradually became more limited and adab came to
signify literature only, that is, poetry, prose and the sciences of language. According to Ibn Khaldn
himself, adab is not a subject that has to be refuted or affirmed, rather the focus should be on the end
result, namely the process of gaining the mastery of prose and poetry. In order to achieve this,
collections of prose and poetry must be studied along with lexical information, grammar, the history of
the Arabs and genealogy. According to him, adab, therefore, is defined as: the preservation of poetry,
the history of the Arabs and learning from every branch of knowledge. He also argues that in his era the
arts of music and singing, initially considered to be a part of adab, fall outside the confines of adab (pp.
During the 11th/17th century Ibn Khaldns definition of adab was re-confirmed by Abd al-Qdir b.
Umar al-Baghdd (d. 1093/1682) writing in his Khiznat al-adab that adab consists of six divisions:
language, grammar, morphology, syntax, rhetoric and figures of speech (5/1). It is this tradition of adab
that has continued in centres of learning until today under the rubric of adabiyyt. The word adabiyyt
which is now used in Iran, Turkey and sometimes in the Arab world is, however, of a relatively fresh
vintage and came into vogue when the Ottoman Turks translated the French term littrature as
adabiyyt. Thereafter, this term became prevalent in most of the Arab countries that were under
Ottoman suzerainty, as well as in Iran. It gradually fell out of use in Arabic and the words adab and
db were again employed which, in the view of Charles Pellat, is a better translation for the western
world since the connotations of general adab, ethical adab and behaviourist or moral adab
approximated to those of littrature (see al-Bustn, 68; despite the fact that nowadays the word adab is
sometimes translated as culture, see Miquel, 1/38).

Religious Adab from the 5th/11th Century Onwards

From the first half of the 5th/11th century adab had an increasingly religious bent. Al-Mward, in his
work al-Amthl wa al-ikam for example, made religious rulings and advice the basis of his writings
on adab. Of the nine hundred reports that he included in his book, one third are adth reports and the
remaining two-thirds consist of aphorisms and poetry (see al-Mward, al-Wizra, introd., 23).
In the same period, Amad b. al-usayn al-Bayhaq (d. 458/1066) also wrote his work al-db in a
similar vein. The subjects dealt with in this work are directly comparable to the subject matter of alMuwashsh, for example, the morals of a civilised man, chivalry, magnanimity, truthfulness and many

points pertaining to everyday matters such as manners of eating, types of food, the etiquettes of
washing and bathing, wearing clothes, putting on jewellery, using perfume and hair dyes, but the writer
has re-located the models of all these matters within the sunna of the Prophet and judged the merits of
every action on the basis of appropriate adth reports. It can therefore be noted that the profane adab
of the 3rd/9th and 4th/10th centuries takes on a religious format and it was deemed necessary for the
manners and etiquette of the civilised man to accord with normative Islamic values (see p. 27 et
Among the works of Ab mid Muammad b. Muammad al-Ghazl (d. 505/1111), one should note
al-Adab f al-dn, the aim of which was to integrate the observance of religious rites and duties within a
framework defined by the dignity of a man of faith. He mentions approximately one hundred categories
of db including db of the believer, db of the writer, db of the scholar, student, teacher,
bathroom, religious festivals, traders, men, women, neighbours, servants, professionals and sultans (see
p. 13 et passim).
After a passage of sixty years, religious, ethical and professional adab reappeared in Adab al-iml wa
al-istiml by Abd al-Karm al-Samn (d. 562/1167) in which he states that the narration and writing
down of adth, the circles of teaching of the traditionists and their character and lifestyle or of those
who studied with them, their outward appearances, are all matters of importance that need to be
carefully fostered. The first section of the book deals with the rules for writing down adth reports.
Then it describes the dress, outward appearance and adornment of a adth scholar, how to use a tooth
pick, cut ones nails and keep the moustache trimmed, how to wind the turban, and which perfume
might be used, how to greet and look after visitors. These are followed by the etiquette of teaching, that
is, to sit facing the qibla, the necessity of teaching by reading from a written text and how to blend
stories and highlight moral points in ones discourse (pp. 2568). The db of the mustaml (the student
who takes down notes from the teacher, pp. 84108) and, at the end, the db of the writer of adth (p.
108) and even the description of his pen, ink pot and paper is given in remarkable detail.
In the following century Ibn al al-Shahrazr (d. 643/1245) composed his work Adab al-muft wa
al-mustaft on religious, behaviourist and professional adab. However it is clear that he imitated Ab
al-Qsim al-aymars work of the same title (see p. 137). In general, books of an educational nature
like this include a very wide spectrum of subjects. Works on education and instruction came into vogue
in the 5th/11th century and later in the works of al-Samn and al-Zarnj in the 6th/12th century and
Khwjah Nar al-Dn al-s (db al-mutaallimn) in the 7th/13th century, reaching their peak in the
works of al-Shahd al-Thn and al-Dawwn in the 10th/16th century.
Azartash Azarnoosh
Tr. Suheyl Umar

Abd al-amd Ktib, Risla il al-kuttb and Risla f naat wal al-ahd, in Rasil al-bulagh,
ed. Muammad Kurd Al (Cairo, 1331/1913)

Ab ayyn al-Tawd, Al b. Muammad, al-Bair wa al-dhakhir, ed. Ibrhm al-Kayln

(Damascus, n.d.)
idem, al-Imt wa al-munasa, ed. Amad Amn and Amad Zayn (Cairo, 1942)
idem, al-Hawmil, published with al-Hawmil wa al-shawmil, ed. Amad Amn and Amad aqr
(Cairo, 1370/1951)
idem, Mathlib al-wazrayn, ed. Ibrhm al-Kayln (Damascus, 1961)
idem, al-Muqbast, ed. Muammad Tawfq usayn (Baghdad, 1970)
idem, al-adqa wa al-iddq, ed. Al Mutawall al (Cairo, 1972)
Ab Hill al-Askar, asan b. Abd Allh, Kitb al-inatayn (Cairo, 1320/1902)
idem, Dwn al-man (Cairo, 1352/1933)
Ab Muahar al-Azd (attrib.), ikyat Ab al-Qsim al-Baghdd (Baghdad, n.d.)
Azarnoosh, Azartash, Rhh-yi nufdh-i Frs dar farhang-i zabn-i tz (Tehran, 1354 Sh./1975)
al-Azhar, Muammad b. Amad, Tahdhb al-lugha, ed. Abd al-Salm Muammad Hrn and
Muammad Al Najjr (Cairo, 1384/1964)
al-Baghdd, Abd al-Qdir, Khiznat al-adab, ed. Abd al-Salm Muammad Hrn (Cairo,
al-Baldhur, Amad b. Yay, Ansb al-ashrf, vol. 2, ed. Muammad Bqir Mamd (Beirut, 1974),
vol. 3, ed. Abd al-Azz al-Dr (Beirut, 1398/1978), vol. 4 (1), ed. Isn Abbs (Beirut, 1400/1979)
idem, Fut al-buldn, ed. M. J. de Goeje (Leiden, 1863)
al-Bayhaq, Amad b. usayn, al-db (Beirut, n.d.)
al-Bayhaq, Ibrhm b. Muammad, al-Masin wa al-masw (Beirut, 1390/1970)
Berg, M., Pour un humanisme vcu: Ab ayyn al-Tawd (Damascus, 1979)
Bonebakker, S. A., Adab and the Concept of Belles-lettres, in Cambridge History of Arabic
LiteratureAbbasid Belles-Lettres, ed. Julia Ashtiany et al. (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 1630
Brockelmann, Carl, Tarkh al-adab al-Arab, ed. Abd al-alm al-Najjr (Cairo, 1974)
al-Bukhr, Muammad, al-Adab al-mufrad, ed. Quay Muibb al-Dn al-Khab (Cairo, 1379/1959)
al-Bustn, Fud Afrm, Adab al-lugha, in Dirat al-marif, ed. Fud Afrm al-Bustn (Beirut,
18761900), vol. 8, pp. 6878
Dnishnmah-yi rn wa Islm, ed. Ehsan Yarshater (Tehran, 13541355 Sh./19751976)
Dihkhud, Al Akbar, Lughat-nmah (Tehran, 1325 Sh./1946)
Fakhr al-Mudabbir, db al-arb wa al-shuja, ed. Amad Suhayl Khwnsr (Tehran, 1346

Gabrieli, F., Adab, EI2, vol. 1, p. 175
Geries, I., Un genre littraire arabe: al-masin wa-l-masw (Paris, 1977)
al-Ghazl, Muammad, al-Adab f al-dn, ed. Muammad Kmil asan (Beirut, n.d.)
Goldziher, Igncz, Adab, EI, vol. 1, p. 122
Gril, Denis, Adab and Revelation, in Muhyiddin Ibn ArabiA Commemorative Volume, ed. Stephen
Hirtenstein and Michael Tiernan (Dorset, 1993), pp. 228263
Hum, Jall al-Dn, Ghazl-nmah (Tehran, 1342 Sh./1963)
usayn, h, F al-adab al-Jhil (Cairo, 1977)
al-ur, Ibrhm, Zahr al-db, ed. Zak Mubrak and Muammad Taq al-Dn Abd al-amd (Cairo,
Ibn Abd al-Barr, Ysuf, Bahjat al-majlis, ed. Muammad Murs al-Khl (Beirut, 1981)
Ibn Abd Rabbih, Amad b. Muammad, al-Iqd al-fard, ed. Amad Amn et al. (Beirut, 1402/1982)
Ibn Ab al-Duny, Abd Allh, al-amt wa db al-lisn, ed. Najm Abd al-Ramn Khalaf (Beirut,
Ibn al-Arab, Muy al-Dn, al-Futt al-Makkiyya (Cairo, 1911)
Ibn Durayd, Muammad, Jamharat al-lugha, ed. Ramz Munr al-Baalbak (Beirut, n.d.)
Ibn Fris, Mujmal al-lugha, ed. Zuhayr Abd al-Musin Suln (Beirut, 1406/1986)
idem, Mujam maqys al-lugha, ed. Abd al-Salm Muammad Hrn (Cairo, 1389/1970)
idem, al-ib, ed. Amad aqr (Cairo, 1977)
Ibn Khaldn, Abd al-Ramn, al-Muqaddima, ed. Al Abd al-Wad al-Wf (Cairo, 1387/1967)
Ibn al-Muqaffa, Abd Allh, al-Adab al-kabr (=al-Durra al-yatma), in Rasil al-bulagh, ed.
Muammad Kurd Al (Cairo, 1331/1913), pp. 40106
idem, al-Adab al-aghr, in Rasil al-bulagh, ed. Muammad Kurd Al (Cairo, 1331/1913), pp. 1
idem (trans.), Kalla wa Dimna (Beirut, 1965)
idem, al-Maniq, ed. Muammad-Taq Dnishpazhh (Tehran, 1357 Sh./1978)
Ibn al-Nadm, al-Fihrist
Ibn Qutayba, Abd Allh, Adab al-ktib, ed. Muammad al-Dl (Beirut, 1406/1986)
idem, Uyn al-akhbr (Beirut, 1343/1925)

al-Ibshh, Amad, al-Mustaraf (Cairo, 1306/1889)

al-Ji, Amr, al-Bayn wa al-tabyn, ed. asan al-Sandb (Cairo, 1351/1932)
idem, al-Bukhal, ed. h al-jir (Cairo, 1990)
idem, Dhamm akhlq al-kuttb, in al-Ji, Thalth rasil, ed. Joshua Finkel (Cairo, 1344/1925)
idem, al-ayawn, ed. Abd al-Salm Muammad Hrn (Cairo, 1385/1965)
idem, al-Mad wa al-mash, in al-Ji, Rasil, ed. Abd al-Salm Muammad Hrn (Cairo,
1364/1948), pp. 87134
idem, int al-qawwd, in al-Ji, Rasil, ed. Abd al-Salm Muammad Hrn (Cairo,
1364/1948), pp. 375394
idem (attrib.), al-Masin wa al-add, ed. Fawz Aw (Beirut, 1969)
al-Jawhar, Isml, al-i, ed. Amad Abd al-Ghafr al-Ar (Beirut, 1375/1956)
al-Khafj, Abd al-Munim, Ab Uthmn al-Ji (Beirut, 1402/1982)
Khaleghi-Motlagh, Jall, Adab, i. Adab in Iran, EIR, vol. 1, pp. 432439
al-Khall b. Amad, al-Ayn, ed. Mahd al-Makhzm and Ibrhm al-Smarr (Qumm, 1405/1985)
Kurd Al, Muammad, Umar al-bayn (Cairo, 1337/1919)
Lane, E. W., An Arabic-English Lexicon (repr. Beirut, 1968)
Latham, J. D., Ibn al-Muqaffa and Early Abbasid Prose, in Cambridge History of Arabic
LiteratureAbbasid Belles-Lettres, ed. Julia Ashtiany et al. (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 4875
Lecomte, G., Ibn utayba, Ab Muammad Abd Allh b. Muslim al-Dnawar, EI2, vol. 3, pp. 844
idem, Ibn Qutayba: lhomme, son uvre, ses ides (Damascus, 1965)
MacKenzie, D. N., A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary (London, 1971)
al-Majlis, Muammad Bqir, Bir al-anwr (Beirut, n.d.)
al-Mward, Al, Adab al-duny wa al-dn, ed. Muammad ab (Beirut, 1986)
idem, al-Wizra, ed. Muammad Dwd Sulaymn (Alexandria, 1396/1976)
Meier, Fritz, Ein Knigge fr Sufis, RSO, vol. 32 (1957), pp. 485524
Metcalf, Barbara, Moral Conduct and AuthorityThe Place of Adab in South Asian Islam (Berkeley,
CA, 1984)
Miquel, A., La gographie humaine du monde musulman jusquau milieu du 11e sicle (Paris, 1967)
al-Mubarrad, Muammad, al-Kmil, ed. Muammad Amad al-Dl (Beirut, 1406/1986)

Muammad, Muammad, al-Tarjama wa al-naql (Beirut, 1384/1964)

al-Musib, rith, db al-nufs ed. Abd al-Qdir Amad A (Beirut, 1408/1987)
Mu abab, Muammad, Adab wa adb, mzish wa parwarish, 9, 1 (1318 Sh./1939), pp. 28
idem, Chand nukta darbrah-yi adab wa adb, yandah, 12 (1365 Sh./1986), pp. 211214
Nallino, Carlo, La littrature arabe (Paris, 1950)
Nim al-Mulk, al-asan, Siysat-nmah, ed. Muammad al-Qazwn and Murta Mudarris Raaw
Chahrdah (Tehran, 1344/1925)
al-Nuwayr, Amad, Nihyat al-arab (Cairo, 1342/1933)
Pellat, Charles, Adab, in Dirat al-marif, ed. Fud Afrm Bustn, vol. 8 (Beirut, 1969), pp. 62
idem, Adab ii. Adab in Arabic Literature, EIR, vol. 1, pp. 439444
Dhakwat Qarguzl, Al Ri, Zindig wa thr-i Ji (Tehran, 1367 Sh./1988)
Rasil Ikhwn al-af, ed. Burus Bustn (Beirut, 1957)
Rosenthal, Franz, Ebn Qotayba, EIR, vol. 8, pp. 4547
Sajjdiyya, Muammad Al, Chand nuktah darbrah-yi adab wa adb, yandah, 12 (1365 Sh./1986),
pp. 217219
al-Samn, Abd al-Karm, Adab al-iml wa al-istiml, ed. Max Weisweiler (Beirut, 1401/1981)
Shahd al-Thn, Zayn al-Dn, db-i talm wa taallum dar Islm (a Persian translation of Munyat almurd), translated by Muammad Bqir ujjat (Tehran, 1359 Sh./1980)
al-Shahrazr, Ibn al-al Uthmn, Adab al-muft wa al-mustaft, ed. Muwaffaq Abd Allh Abd alQdir (Beirut, 1407/1986)
Shalat, Vktr, al-Nuza al-Kalmiyya f uslb al-Ji (Beirut, 1986)
Sourdel, D., Le vizirat abbside (Damascus, 19591960)
al-Suy, Jall al-Dn, al-Muzhir f ulm al-lugha wa anwih, ed. Muammad Amad Jd al-Mawl
Beg et al. (Cairo, 1406/1986)
al-abar, Tarkh
h, Abd al-Wid Dhannn, Mujtama Baghdad min khill ikyat Ab al-Qsim al-Baghdd,
al-Mawrid, 3, 4 (1394/1974), pp. 1425
al-Tankh, al-Muassin, al-Faraj bad al-shidda, ed. Abbd al-Shlj (Beirut, 1398/1978)
idem, Nishwr al-muara wa akhbr al-mudhkara, ed. Abbd al-Shlj (Beirut, 1391/1971)
al-Thalib, Abd al-Mlik, db al-mulk (Beirut, 1990)

idem, al-Tamthl wa al-muara, ed. Abd al-Fatt Muammad al-ulw (Cairo, 1381/1961)
idem, Yatmat al-dahr, ed. Muammad Muy al-Dn Abd al-amd (Beirut, n.d.)
idem, Tatimmat al-Yatma, ed. Abbs Iqbl shtiyn (Tehran, 1353/1934)
Unur al-Mal, Kaykaws, Qbs-nmh, ed. Ghulm-usayn Ysuf (Tehran, 1347 Sh./1968)
Usma b. Munqidh, Lubb al-db, ed. Amad Muammad Shkir (Cairo, 1354/1935)
Vadet, Jean-Claude, Lsprit courtois en Orient dans les cinq premiers sicles de lhgire (Paris, 1968)
Vollers, K., Katalog der islamischen, christlich-orientalischen, jdischen und samaritanischen
Handschriften der Universitts-Bibliothek zu Leipzig (repr. Osnabrck, 1975)
al-Washsh, Muammad, al-arf wa al-uraf, ed. Fahm Sad (Beirut, 1405/1985)
Wensinck, A. J., al-Mujam al-mufahras li al-alf al-adth al-Nabaw (Leiden, 1936)
Yqt, Udab.