virtues of loyalty, honor, friendship, bravery and chivalry

The last great poet of the Abbasid period was Abu al-'Ala' al-Ma'arri (973-1057). While al-Ma'arri's poetry reflects the pessimism and skepticism of his particular era, he nevertheless transcended his age to become one of the major figures of Arabic literature, as well as a special favorite of western scholars.
Towards the end of the ninth century, history began to form a part of belles-letires. The necessity for collections of data on the countries of the Abbasid empire stimulated geographical writing, mixed with travelers' observations and tales of marvels. Idrisi, in twelfth century Sicily, was commissioned to compile the Book of Roger for the Norman King of Palermo, with accompanying maps. Yaqut (d. 1229) wrote a large geographical dictionary, gleaned from many sources.

  The basis of Arab writings of history was provided by accounts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Since the compilation of such biographies was determined by the Arab system of isnad-that is, of quoting all available authorities and establishing their reliability-Arab history-writing was generally characterized by accuracy rather than by creative handling or interpretation of available materials. It, thus, provides the modern historian with a most accurate and comprehensive source of material. Yet, the Arabs produced the man whom modern scholars consider the true father of modern historiography and of the science of sociology. This was Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406).
A native of Tunisia, a government official at the Arab courts of Granada, Morocco and Algeria, Ibn Khaldun became the chief justice of the Mamluk sultans of Egypt. It was in the Maghreb, before settling in the Middle East, that he spent several years in retreat composing his great work: Muqaddimah. While before Ibn Khaldun, historiography was concerned mainly with rulers, battles and straightforward accounts of main events, the great Arab thinker was the first to recognize that events did not happen in vacuum but depended upon an endless variety of factors previously neglected by historians, such as climate, social customs, food, superstitions and so on. Thus, in his Muqaddimah, he deals extensively with subjects such as the nature of society and occupation, labor conditions, climate and methods of education.
Modern scholarship acknowledges that, thanks to him, latter~day historiography changed fundamentally. Of his truly revolutionary work Arnold Toynbee wrote, "Ibn Khaldun has conceived and formulated a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time." In a similar vein, Professor George Sarton has said of the Muqaddimah "I do not hesitate to call it the most important historical work of the Middle Ages."
Arab influences in European literature began to appear in the poetry of the early Spanish and Provencal troubadours, and, in the thirteenth century, in the French fabliaux and contes



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