Hassan ibn Thabit, a True Mukhadram: A Study of the Ghassanid Odes of Hassan ibn Thabit
Boutz, Jennifer Hill
The seventh-century Madinan poet Hassan ibn Thabit is best known for his role as poet laureate of the Prophet Muhammad. His poetry composed in defense of Muhammad and the nascent religion of Islam has been widely studied, and it is in this context that Hassan appears in Arabic literary history. This dissertation argues that in addition to his role as an exemplar of poetry in the service of Islam, Hassan can be viewed as a true mukhadram. The mukhadramun (singular: mukhadram) were a class of poets whose lives spanned both the pre-Islamic and the Islamic periods. To appreciate Hassan's identity as a transitional figure, the poet's pre-Islamic compositions must be examined in greater depth. Prior to the rise of Islam, Hassan served as the primary court poet to the Ghassanids, a sedentary, Christian kingdom located in modern-day Syria and Jordan. This study analyzes Hassan's twenty-six Ghassanid poems and fragments. Although many of the selected poems date from the pre-Islamic period, several were composed near the end of Hassan's life when he nostalgically recalled his youth in the company of the Ghassanids. The method of analysis utilized in this dissertation relies on close reading and in-depth textual analysis of selected verses and poems.This study reveals Hassan to be a pioneer in the urbanization of Arabic poetry and a precursor to the poets of the later `Abbasid caliphate who replaced the desert themes and motifs prevalent in pre-Islamic poetry with those more appropriate to their urban environments. Hassan's compositions demonstrate not only a familiarity with the urban landscape of the Ghassanids but also a clear disdain for the pastoral lifestyle of the Arab nomads. Hassan's urbanism is one illustration of his status as a mukhadram. This study also examines the wine lyric within Hassan's Ghassanid poetry. The poet's verses in praise of wine date from both the pre-Islamic and the Islamic periods and are further evidence of Hassan's embodiment of the mukhadram predicament.