medieval Arab poet and thinker
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Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri (26 December 9739 May 1057) was a blind Arab philosopher, poet, and writer from Maarat al-Numan (Syria).

The world holds two classes of men; intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence.


  • If you will do some deed before you die,
    Remember not this caravan of death,
    But have belief that every little breath
    Will stay with you for an eternity.
    • As quoted in The Diwan of Abu'l-Ala (1909) by Henry Baerlein, XLVII
  • They recite their sacred books, although the fact informs me that these are a fiction from first to last. O Reason, thou (alone) speakest the truth. Then perish the fools who forged the (religious) traditions or interpreted them!
  • The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts:
    Those with brains, but no religion,
    And those with religion, but no brains.
    • As quoted in The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (1984) by Amin Maalouf, p. 37
    • Original: اِثْنَانِ أَهْلُ الْأَرْضِ ذُو عَقْلٍ بِلَا دِينٍ وَآخَرُ دَيِّنٌ لَا عَقْلَ لَهُ
    • Variant translations:
    • The world holds two classes of men; intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence.
      • A Short History of Freethought Ancient and Modern (1906) by John Mackinnon Robertson, Vol. I, Ch. VIII: Freethought under Islam, p. 269
    • The world is divided into men who have wit and no religion and men who have religion and no wit.
      • This form of the statement has been most commonly misattributed — to Avicenna, in A Rationalist Encyclopaedia: A Book of Reference on Religion, Philosophy, Ethics, and Science (1950) by Joseph McCabe, p. 43, and later to Averroes, in The Atheist World‎ (1991) by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, p. 46.

Studies in Islamic Poetry

  • Hope as thou wilt in heat or cold,
    It matters not amidst the surge
    Of woes that whelmed thee from of old
    And whence thou never canst emerge.
    • Quoted in Studies in Islamic Poetry, Chapter 2, p. 43
  • How sad that I returned, how sad,
    Instead of dying at Baghdad!
    I say, whene'er things fall amiss,
    "My coming home hath brought me this."
    • As quoted in "The Meditations of Al-Maʿarri", in Studies in Islamic Poetry, Chapter 2, p. 46
  • And I, albeit I come in Time's late hour,
    Achieve what lay not in the ancients' power.
    • Saqt-uz-Zand, Chapter 1, p. 20, also quoted in Studies in Islamic Poetry, Chapter 2, p. 49
  • Do not unjustly eat fish the water has given up,
And do not desire as food the flesh of slaughtered animals,
Or the white milk of mothers who intended its pure draught
for their young, not noble ladies.
And do not grieve the unsuspecting birds by taking eggs;
for injustice is the worst of crimes.
And spare the honey which the bees get industriously
from the flowers of fragrant plants;
For they did not store it that it might belong to others,
Nor did they gather it for bounty and gifts.
I washed my hands of all this; and wish that I
Perceived my way before my hair went gray!
  • As quoted in "The Meditations of Al-Maʿarri", Studies in Islamic Poetry p. 134-135

Quotes about Al-Maʿarri

  • Abu'l-Ala is a poet many centuries ahead of his time.
  • His poems generally known as the Luzumiyat arrest attention by their boldness and originality as well as by the sombre and earnest tone which pervades them.
    • Reynold A. Nicholson, quoted in A History of the Arabs, also quoted The Luzumiyat of Abu'l-Ala, p. 1

See also

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