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The Arabian Nights Essay

Arabian nights which known as “ Alf Layla Wa Laylah” have a huge impact and relation to Arab culture. Arabian nights are a collection of old stories include pre-Islamic culture, historical tales, love, crimes, poetries, music and literature. These stories were derived from the west and south Asia where a lot of translators and scholars collected the work over many centuries. The tales themselves are affected back to the ancient Arabic, Persian, and Indian traditions and cultures. The frame story was originally narrated by Shahrazad who was the wife of the Persian king Shahriyar.

She used the stories to save her life from death. The king at that time used to kill the women he married after one day of their marriage, this because his brother’s wife and his wife were unfaithful. The minister, vizier, couldn’t provide him any virgins at that time so his daughter Shahrazad offered herself as to be the king’s wife. On their marriage night, Shahrazad started to narrate a story to her husband which had no conclusion. This made the king curious to know the end of the story, because of leaving each tale unfinished until the next night.

Each time she ended a story she started a new one which made the king postponed her execution to the next day to hear the ending. This situation last for one thousand and one nights. Shahrazad earned a reputation because of her narration and her imagination that helped her to escape from the execution. According to Ulrich and Richard, Shahrazad was as a quintessential storyteller, the human embodiment of narrative and the symbol of creative power and imagination. However, the story of the king Shahriyar and his brother was the general collection of the frame story to other scholars.

The story of the king and his brother serves an introduction of what circumstances the storytelling began and who was involving. this story create the imagination of 1001 stories. Many scholars after knowing the original story started to create and form the stories of Arabian nights. Several translators, authors and scholars have been collected the stories of Alf Layla Wa Laylah over many centuries from West, North Africa and South Asia. According to Dwight Reynolds, there are many different times,places and individuals who bears the imprints of Alf Layla Wa Laylah.

For example, Ibn Al- Nadim (Muhammad ibn Ishaq) the Baghdadi bookseller and scholar offered the oldest, pieces of the Arabian nights, and historical evidence in Arabic texts which have been found in the 10th century. These pieces appeared in Arabic literature in his Kitab al Fihrist (Catalogue of books). There was a section dealing with Stoy-tellers and Raconteurs (al musamirun wal-mukђarrifun). Ibn Al- Nadim stated that ancient Persians people were the first people who collected and preserve ( Kђurafat). Many of these translations were translated into Arabic.

However, he stated that the first book written was a collection known in Persian as the Hazar afsan (the thousand Stories) which gives the famous frame story of Alf Layla Wa Laylah. Ibn Al- Nadim noted that the first person enjoyed evening stories was Alexander, a Sassanid ,Kings of Iran, who had a group of companions to make him laugh . Beside Kitab al Fihrist, the Arab scholar and historian Mas‘udi publiched a Muruj al –adhahab (Meadows of Gold ) contains few of references regarding the Arabian Nights. He also refered to the “ Hazar afsan “ the Arabic translation is Alf Khurafa.

This book is generally referred to as Alf Layla. ” This showed the link with the early history of the Arabian nights and theory of a Persian origin of the Arabian nights such as the story collections of Jali‘ad and Shimas, the book of Sindbad and the Arabic story of Khurafa. Although the Arabian nights were translated from Persian into Arabic, the authors looked at the origin of the work which was the Indian literature. They found that the structure of the stories is placing stories within each other by having character in the story narrating another story.

Also, the stories represent talking animals which was used as the protagonist of didactic fables. For example, the falcon in the story of king Sindbad and his Falcon is a simple of faithfulness. This has reflected on the adab, where many stories depict social life. Arab literature was focused in the behavior that reflected Islam, these stories were added to it adab to remind people about the moral, ethical and good manners that Islam command Muslims to do. Beside of these, adab works contained several tales like generosity of Arab people like “ Hatim al-Ta’i” which were added later on the 8th Century by Egyptian recension.

However, one of the famous uses of adab is in poetry. Poetry is a speech full of feeling that the poet express in rhetoric way toward the noble. It included, also, history, grammar and lexicography art of speech. Poetry was expressing adab as a particular attitude toward life. ‘Abd al-Malik ib qurayba al-Asma‘i, was a philologist at the Abbasid court who was renowned for his refined manners and graceful speech, was the first scholar who have the spirit of adab. He wrote on animals and the Bedouin, he was mentioned in the Arabian Nights as one of Harun al- Rashid’s companions; he was sent for to tell stories.

The poetry in the Arabian nights reflected the link between narrative and the poem. The Arabian night’s stories provide a part of custom and manner of daily life. Poetries include challenges, criticizing elements of life, and Expressing feelings. Poets mentioned in the stories like Abu Nuwas who made his appearance in various short tales such as “Abu Nuwas and the three boys”. Moreover, Qamar Al-Zaman who was standing outside the castle wants to inform Queen Bodour of his arrival. He wraps his ring in a paper and hands it to the servant who delivers it to the Queen.


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