Solomon and Mythic Kingship in the Arab-Islamic Tradition: Qaṣīdah, Qurʾān and Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ

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This article contrasts techniques from non-narrative, poetic and Qur'ānic texts with the narratives of Qisas al-anbiyā (the Stories of the Prophets) in order to interpret passages on Sulaymān/Solomon in pre- and early Arabic-Islamic texts. Beginning with the renowned non-narrative Sulaymān passage in the pre-Islamic poet al-Nābighah al-Dhubyānī's ode of apology to the Lakhmid king al-Nu'mān ibn al-Mundhir and several Qur'ānic passages concerning Sulaymān, the article compares these to the eminently narrative prose renditions of Solomonic legend that appear in Qur'ānic commentary and the (related) popular Stories of the Prophets (Qisas al-anbiyā'). I argue that verbal structures and rhetorical techniques characteristic of non-narrative forms such as poetry and the Qur'ān have the effect of preserving and stabilizing the essential panegyric (poetic) or salvific (Qur'ānic) message in a manner that the constantly mutating popular narrative forms neither strive for nor achieve.

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... Here I would concur with Suzanne Stetkevych's criticism of Aziz al-Azmeh and argue that "Judaic kingship", at least in this mythic form, was a very tangible influence on Islamicate monarchy. 89 This has a further consequence for Ottoman and Islamic historiography. Perhaps the search for the roots of Ottoman political thought in Turko-Mongol, Persian, and classical Islamic political theories of khanate, pādishāhī and caliphate misses something important. ...
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Several works focusing on the complex figure of Solomon appeared between 1450 and 1580, each offering variations on the themes of empire-building, sedentarization, sacral kingship, and technological change.The Dürr-i Meknun, written around the time of the conquest of Constantinople, uses Solomon to illustrate the risks of urbanization, imperial hubris and potential tyranny. The second, the Süleyman-name by the technically inclined author Uzun Firdevsi, portrays Solomon in the image of Sultan Bayezid II. The prophet, using his bureaucratic capacities, enacts Ottoman dreams of control over the eastern Mediterranean. Finally, the accounts given of the deeds of Sultan Süleyman, notably the reconstruction of the Temple Mount and the construction of the Süleymaniye complex in Istanbul, show the Solomonic myth consciously enacted by the state itself. These sources trace a trajectory whereby anxieties surrounding the transformations of early modernity are expressed and worked through by means of the vocabulary of a prophetological sacred history.
Although it is generally thought that Muslims paid little attention to pre-Islamic antiquity, the Damascene scholar ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī visited and described the Roman ruins of Baalbek twice, in 1689 and 1700. He interpreted the site, however, not as a temple but as a palace built by jinns for Solomon. Nābulusī was very likely aware of the site's Roman past but purposefully played with its historicity to highlight Syria's innate sanctity. His interpretation of Baalbek reveals an antiquarian project in the Ottoman Empire that was constructed along variant but parallel lines to the better known one in Renaissance Europe.
This article argues that the pre-Islamic poet Ilba' b. Arqam al-Yashkuri used humor in his poem Asma'iyya no. 55 in order to mitigate the wrath of King al-Nu'man III (580–602 AD). He did so in order to seek mercy for the killing of a ram that the king had ordered should not be harmed. This article presents an analysis of the poem’s content and structure and surveys the anecdote that relates the story of Ilbaʾs offence. It explains why certain elements in the poem should be read as humorous and connected to an Abbasid-era comic poem by Abu Dulama (d. 161/778). As the poem is highly challenging lexically, an annotated edition of the Arabic text, as well as a full English translation, will be provided.
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