Independent Pages / Wave #4 Essay April 2021

The Oration of the Wife of Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali

Moad Musbahi

Abu al-Aswad al-Du’ali is credited with introducing many modern techniques utilised to teach the correct annunciation of Arabic. He was considered to be one of the most influential grammarians and linguistics of his time and was the royal poet in the court of Muawiyah the First, the Islamic Caliph who reigned for a few decades after the death of the prophet and was the founder of the Umayyad Caliphate. The Oration recited in this video is attributed to his unnamed wife. Upon the end of the case, she is no longer a wife, and thus, her identity becomes lost to us.

This story was recorded by Ibn Abi Tahir Tayfur (d. 893CE/ 279AH) in his anthology, The Book of Poetry and Prose (Kitab al-Manthur wa al-Manzum), a collection of historical texts considered to be a faithful record of the orations and poems that were known at that time. This particular example is an important clue to the politics and possibilities of speech across gender in early Islam.

The woman utilises saja’, a type of speech between poetry and prose that is imbued with a musicality specific to Arabic. The style of the oration is typical of the tradition. The ‘he said', which is repeated without attribution to the three main characters, is the voice of Abu Muhamed al-Qashari narration of the story, which was heard by Abu Salah Zakariyah, who is re-narrating it to us, in the present.


Single Channel, 9 minutes, Arabic with English Subtitles, 2021.

Voiced by: Nagia Iyada
Camera, Edit, Colour: Moad Musbahi
Translation: Moad Musbahi with Abdul Salem
with thanks to Mazen Rabia

The Oration of the Wife of Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali in The Book of Prose and Poetry by Ibn Abi Tair Tayfur (d. 893CE / 279AH)

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