Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Story Of Abu Nawas

Hantu Laut

Some of you would probably have read about Abu Nawas.The Malay version of the story, somehow, differed from the Arabic version which appeared a number of times in the '1001 Arabian Nights'.I read this book when I was about 12 years old.

In Arabic he is called Abu Nuwas, one of the greatest classical Arabic and Persian poet.He openly wrote about things that Islam forbade.The joy of drinking wine and the love for women and young men.Most of his poetry were on homoeroticism.He constantly gets into trouble with the rulers.As recent as January 2001 the Egyptian Ministry of Culture ordered the burning of 6,000 books of his homoerotic poetry.

The two versions of Abu Nawas stories in the Malay language are as below:
  • Islam-Indian origin- A book entitled "Hikayat Abu Nawas" published in Singapore in 1917. Pustaka Antara Kuala Lumpur published another book using the same title in 1966 by Wan Shamsuddin.
  • Persian-Arabic origin- "Cerita Abu Nawas" published in series in Majalah Seri Pustaka by Balai Pustaka, Jakarta in 1922. Dozens of reprints are produced subsequently.
Abu Nawas is a nickname. Rather, it was Abu Nuwas or "father of lock of hair" given to well known Arab classical poet al-Hasan ibn Hani al-Hakami ( ca. 756-813 ) because of his long hair. Abu Nuwas was indeed witty and humorous, not in solving problems, but in writing poems extolling wine and sexual intercourse with boys. You will find him listed in a number of homosexual references...

Unlike the Malay version Abu Nawas, the original Abu Nuwas was not too good in getting out of trouble. For instance, he went into exile for incurring the wrath of his royal patron Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Harun's successor, al-Amin who favoured Abu Nuwas also had him imprisoned. During the reign of Amin's successor, al-Ma'mun, he was imprisoned again and it is said finally poisoned. Most of Abu Nuwas' legacy of poetries remained untranslated.

"For young boys, the girls I’ve left behind
And for old wine set clear water out of mind.
Far from the straight road, I took without conceit
The winding way of sin, because [this horse]
Has cut the reins without remorse,
And carried away the bridle and the bit."--Abu Nuwas al-Hasan Hani al-Hakami.

That's the (short)story of Abu Nawas, correctly Abu Nuwas.

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