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First page of a Manuscript in the Biblio- theque Nationale, with the Caption THE BOOK OF LAYLA AND MAJ- NUN BY SHEIK NIZAMI Frontispiece 2. Layla and. Source: The Story of Layla and Majnun, by Nizami. Trans. R. Gelpke. Omega Publications, Darrow Road, New Lebanon, NY I liked this sweet little thing. Not well known in the West, Layla and Majnun were the “Romeo and Juliet” of Iran. The portrait of Majnun (who went mad over his.

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The Story of Layla and Majnun, by Nizami. By gleaning various details from these poems, a legend was gradually built up which imagined their story. Nizami, writing in Persian rather than Arabic, long after the legend had reached its definitive form, rendered it into an ornate romance a long narrative of love or adventure. The original is in verse, though our translator has rendered into prose.

If the writing seems rather more dense and elaborate that a modern novel, remember that this is not a novel, but a long poem. The setting, even then, was exotic. Nizami was writing for a sophisticated urban audience in one of the richest and most sophisticated empires in the world, about a long-ago imaginary past of nomadic Arab life.

One of your tasks is to analyze majnunn a love story functions in a culture which discourages real-life love affairs. A Bedouin is a nomad. A zephyr is a wind. What is the one thing lacking to make the Sayyid happy? Remember how important this is when you read the rest of the story. This sort of writing is often compared to Islamic art, elaborate patterns entirely covering the surface of the decorated object. For the story of Joseph nizaml the pit, see Genesis Does this mean that he loves her more than she loves him?

Keep asking yourself these questions throughout the story. In Medieval Persian and European thought alike, lovesickness was a disease, clinically described in medical textbooks. The tradition that links madness and poetic inspiration goes back at anr to the ancient Greeks.

Much Muslim literature reflects deep beliefs in fate. Note the musical metaphors. Why are candles and torches appropriate metaphors here?

Layla and Majnun – Wikipedia

What does the last line of the chapter mean: It spread with Persian culture to North India and is still widely popular.

What does it suggest about the relationship between love and marriage in this culture? How is his objection ironic? How does Majnun proclaim his rejection of all human authority? What are the two opposing kinds of reactions that other people have to him? The Book of Life records all living souls: According to Nizami, what is the difference between true and false love?

The Story of Layla and Majnun

This ancient shrine was reputedly niazmi by Abraham, cleansed of its idols by Muhammad, and is the goal of pilgrimage hajj of every pious Muslim. What does Majnun pray nizzami when he is at the Kaaba? His reaction would have been seen as not merely rebellious but wildly blasphemous.


Parsley was supposed to have medicinal effects. The exaggerated terms in which Majnun addresses his father are not meant to be blasphemous. How does he use the concept of fate to argue with his father?

The fable that Majnun tells resembles the famous Aesop fable of the fox and the crow, but it is only loosely connected to the boy. How does he explain what the fable means to him?

Note the violent, predatory majjun attached to Layla at the beginning of this chapter. What attitudes do they seem to reflect? How do you think a society holding such attitudes would be liable to treat young women?

Is Layla blamed for the harm she does? In what way does she suffer more than he? How annd their unhappiness cause happiness? How are the nature images in the second paragraph rather unusual? What quality do they have in common? In Islamic thought Paradise is literally a garden. Why is Layla so hurt by the poem she overhears?

How is it different? Majnun thoughtlessly commits even the sin of drinking wine in his absorption with thoughts of Layla. How does Nawfal try to heal Majnun? What causes him to be so fanatically devoted to this cause? Why is it insulting to call someone a glass bottle? The metaphor of wine as blood is a common one, especially in the Hebrew Bible.

Think of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. What finally tires the combatants? Why would her father rather let Layla be killed than married to Majnun?

Layla and Majnun (Nizami Ganjavi poem)

How has he changed in his attitude toward Majnun? It is not so much the failure he blames Nawfal for as the hope. Earlier it was said that Majnun had become alienated from hunting. Now we see how this change has developed. Why does Majnun identify with the stag? The theme is a familiar one: Friday is the holiest day of the week in Islam, when preaching as well as praying is done at the mosque.

Note the dramatic crescendo of images of blackness. Insane people were often kept in chains and beaten in the Middle Ages, both East and West, under the impression that the demons possessing them might be forced to flee if they were treated badly enough. How does Majnun turn his chains into a metaphor when he is crying out to Layla?

Is Layla a coward for not speaking out to her father? Go-betweens are routinely used to negotiate marriages in cultures where arranged weddings are standard. Muslims believe that Jesus could raise the dead, though they reject the Christian belief that he is the son of God.


He is merely one of the greatest of the prophets.

Byzantium to the west, China to the east; Europe is over the horizon. What does the final paragraph tell us about the values of these people? Note that Layla literally has no say in her marriage. That a man would marry a woman without her consent should not be surprising: Note that in this romance there are no villains: Why do you think Layla can defy Ibn Salam in private although she could not reject him in public?

The idea that women are more driven by desire than men is a standard feature of this image. This was directly contradicted during the Victorian age when it came to be believed that men were much more sexual than women.

How do you think the earlier idea arose, and what effects would it have had on the treatment of women? It is suggested in the opening of this chapter that this figure may be a demon rather than a human.

What evidence is there to support this idea? What does the last line of his poem mean: Note that although racial prejudice is somewhat milder in the Islamic world, where many of Believers are dark-skinned, nevertheless, black is still used as a symbol of evil, just as in the West. Note that Islamic propriety does not allow even the mad Majnun to go completely naked.

What do you think of his advice to Majnun? What amazing influence does Majnun exercise over the animals that surround him in the wilderness?

How does it influence your feelings about Majnun? This chapter represents a typical narrative technique from traditional Islamic World literature: What is the lesson that the king is taught in this story? In both the Christian and Islamic worlds, knowledge of and belief in astrology was widespread, though both Christian and Islamic theologians were often hostile to it.

Belief in fate is widespread in Islam, but the planets are not to be worshipped as gods, as Majnun is doing. Majnun learns the lesson of a good Muslim that the stars can grant nothing.

The king of whom Layla speaks is, of course, God. A pious Muslim will always begin a letter with praise for God, and this is an particularly elaborate example. The cucumber referred to is globe-shaped.

The tearing of clothes is an ancient and widespread act of ritual mourning. Note that it is taken for granted that one can be a great poet without writing. This is essentially an oral culture. What is his reaction to her letter?