The essay and debate (al-risāla and al-munāẓara)

Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Risala is a loosely used term in medieval Arabic literature. Writing risālas belongs to ‘ilm al-inshā’, ‘the science of composition’. A special section of ‘ilm al-inshā’ is ‘ilm al-tarassul, ‘the science of epistolography’ in a strict sense, a science of how letters should be written. In belles-lettres, riSāla is a rather general concept, partly overlapping with other, more easily definable genres, as can be seen from the confusion between different titles. The genres which come closest to risala are munāzara, maqāma; and khutba. Ibn Kamāl-Pāshā also wrote a series of technical risālas on wine, opium and other products which were suspect in Islamic eyes. The literary risālas also show a wide variety. Among the features common to all is what might be called the risala style, including a prolific use of rhymed prose and full use of the lexical possibilities of the classical Arabic language. Literary debates have two different structures, with slight variation in the elements being possible.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArabic Literature in the Post-Classical Period
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781139053990
ISBN (Print)9780521771603
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Al-munazara
  • Al-risāla
  • classical Arabic language
  • Ibn kamāl-pāshā
  • Islamic society
  • literary debates
  • Maqama
  • old genre


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