The first part traced intellectual elements for a particularist environment-determined Bahrayni national identity articulated since independence. Remotest pagan antiquity was mustered to suggest the continuity of the Bahrayni nation throughout history. But the rediscovery and restoration of the cultural heritage of the classical Arabs has directed Bahraynis as well to a wider Gulf or peninsular Arabian identity, one that in turn can connect out into the 'Iraq with which the Bahraynis were already linked during Sumer. Some dichotomization of Gulf Arabs against Persians, Turks, Mongols and extreme Shi'ism-derived movements under classical Islam could suggest a modern pan-Arab identity. West-influenced literary criticism published in Bahrayn seeks to integrate the impact of modernity from the West with the life, concerns and literary sensibility of their late-classical and then pre-British forbears. Dr Ahmad Musa Al-Khatib found that when 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni eulogized local leaders whose blood and class he shared, describing their local triumphs and defeats, his poetry throbbed with vitality and a class-venom against other groups seeking to claw their way up at his elite's expense. This vigorous engagement makes it aesthetically merit a long-term life in a modernized Arab culture.
Something rather like classical Arabic has survived as the literary language of Bahrayn's new post-independence elite; it has maintained some continuity of consciousness and aesthetic experience with the classical Arabs of the Gulf and 'Iraq. Such residual neo-classicism puts limits upon how far the Bahrayni government and establishment can give linguistic expression to these islands' particularities to restrict pan-Arabism.
Bahrayni Intellectuals and the Recreation of a Gulf-Centered National Past and History
The Gulf in the Classical Arab's History
While the journal has in the first place promoted the growth of a historiography of the Gulf centered around Bahrayn, Al-Wathiqah is also fostering literary criticism of Arabic works and high culture that once expressed that identity and past. Among articles that have synthesized literary criticism with attunedness to the texts' context of classical Arab history and social change was Dr Ahmad Musa Al-Khatib's "An Objective and Aesthetic Study: the Poet 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni". The serialized study (1993-1996) copiously excerpted verses by Ibn Al-Muqarrab that read as the vigorous responses of a gifted individual to social disintegration. Dr Al-Khatib, though, was most intent to extrapolate from them the history of the Gulf's Arabic-speaking coastal lands as a quasi-state or sub-state under the late-classical Al-'Uyuni family, which for 150 years from the early 13th century ruled the areas making up today's Kuwayt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrayn, Qatar and the Al-Ahsa' province of Sa'udi Arabia (all together termed "Bahrayn" in the period). While Ibn Al-Muqarrab's vibrant voice has its own life in the long research article, the study also shows the assumptions about community and identity that recent Gulf elite intellectuals have carried with them to the study of their region's Arabic literature.
While the 'Uyunids and the poet who immortalized them with the narrative sweep and mordant acuteness of his verse asserted an autonomous state-entity of "Bahrayn", this remained affiliated formally and in affect to the much-weakened Sunni Caliphate of the Arab 'Abbasids centered in Baghdad and 'Iraq. As a late twentieth-century Gulf intellectual, Ahmad Musa Al-Khatib carries forward the sense among 10th-14th century Gulf Arabs of close relationship with Baghdad and 'Iraq, and of the Gulf's affiliation to the ideal of a wide Arab-Islamic political system that would extend to, and take in, faraway Egypt. Beside proto-pan-Arabism, other community issues of relevance today are how much importance Al-Khatib gives to the difference between Arab and non-Arab Muslims, and to Sunni-Shi'ite distinctnesses in Gulf history.
Abbasid Ethnic Groups
Overall, Al-Khatib, mainly prompted by the ethos of his late-classical precursors, sees non-Arabic-speaking Persians and Turks chiefly as a source of problems and dysfunctionality in Arab societies of the Gulf, Sa'udi Arabia and 'Iraq. In a way reminiscent of the Egyptian Arabist historian Ahmad Amin in his coverage of the relative decline of the Arab element in 'Abbasid 'Iraq, Al-Khatib mainly interprets later 'Abbasid history in terms of a triangular conflict for power between the Arabs who first spread Islam, the Persians and the Turks. Al-Khatib does allow that the Persians were a people possessed of an ancient civilization and inherited body of knowledge that they duly diffused in the Arab Empire as first the partners of the 'Abbasid Caliphs and then as a people with ascendancy over "the Arab Nation" - in contrast to the Turks who carried no civilization with them when the Arabs brought them into 'Iraq as soldiers to checkmate the Persian officials. Both Persians and Turks, though, were "sickness that entered the body of the Arab Nation", contracting the power of the Arab Caliphs and ethnic element [Al-Khatib, "Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 1993 94-95].
Ahmad Musa Al-Khatib was like the Arabism-oriented ideologues and historians of Egypt and the Fertile Crescent in his assumption that a single spoken language should fashion a single strong state out of all of the territories in which it was current, overarching homelands. He shared the attitude of the Arabist ethno-linguistic nationalists that the break-up of the wide 'Abbasid empire amounted to deterioration, and the loss of the natural wide Arab state.
He accordingly lamented that at the outset of the seventh Islamic century the Arab world in general, and 'Iraq in particular, were wracked by disturbances and chaos, as the lands (_amsar_) in the 'Abbasid empire became independent, and its Arab Caliphs became mere playthings in the hand of the non-Arab (_a'ajim_) Turks and Saljuqs who were "destroying the Arab nationhood/nationality." The heart of the empire, 'Iraq , was itself disintegrating due to the collapse of the last authority of the Caliphs, disputes between army commanders over pay, violent conflict between Shi'ites and Sunnites, the prevalence of confiscations of properties and assaults, and the destruction of freedoms and justice. The common people, too, fell prey to ethical degeneracy and social corruption promoted by intruder alien elements that had divided them against themselves into warring sects and movements, each of which formed an alliance with one of the neighboring states, until Arab collective solidarity got completely lost. The plots and intrigues of the Persians and the Turks, Isma'ili atheists, and the Mongols thus "played a great part in producing this fragmentation and corruption" of 'Iraq and Arab Gulf society ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 94-97].
Ongoing Gulf Interaction with 'Iraq
Yet, Al-Khatib's study has nuances and shadings about the Arab lands of the age of 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni that supplement the negativity against non-Arabs entailed by his Arab nationalist sense that "the political, social, economic and cultural life of the Arab Nation must be an indivisible whole however distant the land-units (_aqtar_) may be" ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 94]. Egypt's particularists of the 1920s and its moderate pan-Arabs in the 1930s and 1940s had been prepared to consider ways in which the break-up of the large classical Arab empires had _stimulated_ economic life, culture and literate thought by increasing the political centers that could offer patronage. While the growing proportion of non-Arabs in government were less liable to patronize Arabic poetry than their Arab predecessors, Al-Khatib imaged, many scholars and legists were encouraged to write on the religious and linguistic sciences in 'Iraq and throughout the diverse new power-centers of the Islamic East. Al-Khatib also refers to the role of the contending sects that made high culture and scholarship a means to promote their political aims: their competition thus helped stimulate an increased production of learned books. Now that there was less promotion of poetry, talented individuals tended to gravitate more to Islamic religious law, Sufism and other religious sciences ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 99-100].
The decentralization and fragmentation of the later 'Abbasid empire did not always harm its economic coherence in all its areas. The 6th and 7th Islamic centuries, Al-Khatib reflected, saw agricultural progress which in turn stimulated the emergence of new industries based on agricultural products and mineral wealth. Internal commerce revived as did commercial exchanges between the towns of 'Iraq and the lands of the whole "Islamic East" ("_Al-Mashriq Al-Islami_"), given the construction of roads. Higher agricultural yields and the progress made by industries lowered prices so that people's living standards improved. The Gulf sub-state ("Bahrayn") benefited from the economic revival of an 'Iraq with which it always maintains such close links. Iraq's iron products appealed to outside merchants who exported them out to their homelands ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 98].
The poet 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni took part in this trade. He bought iron from Baghdad which he took down towards the 'Iraqi port of Al-Basrah. He was, however, stopped on the way at Wasit by an internal customs collector who took a fee from him that amounted to half the price. This rapacity led Al-'Uyuni to satirize the town in some characteristically vigorous verses:
"Consign Wasit to distance and forsakenness
Leave movement through it to the Day of Judgement
That is a land administered by a son of a pagan Sabian woman
Its hair was blanched white by Unbelief at its most insolent."
Al-'Uyuni likened the harsh injustice with which the impost was extracted from him to robbery by highwaymen. "You stepped over all bounds in oppressing God's creatures. You have helped highwaymen to reduce merchants to beggary and make their travel fruitless by charging half the price of goods as an impost. You have betrayed the Caliph who entrusted his subjects to you." ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 98]
Thus, 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni's anger at official exactions in 'Iraq did not make him break with the Sunni Islamic ideology that legitimized (a) the reign of the 'Abbasid Caliph over it and (b) that Baghdad Caliphate's still substantial suzerainty over "Bahrayn". He projected to the authorities in 'Iraq the same critical engagement he voiced to the 'Uyunid amirs who ruled the Gulf sub-state: a sense that denunciation of malfunctions and abuses could reform Sunni Arab systems and make them work. When another collector at Al-Basrah tried to coax more taxes out of him, 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni wrote an ode to its governor, Shams Al-Din Batkin, that assumed he was unaware of the abuses, and would stop them when informed. The poem is relaxed if fast, and colloquial in structure and tone although not in grammar ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" p. 98-99]. For a minute the mist of the centuries lifts, and we overhear a self-confident Gulf aristocrat complaining as an equal to a governing-elite 'Iraqi. (Batkin had started as a Christian Byzantine male-slave or _mamluk_ of the daughter of the 'Abbasid Caliph Al-Mustanjid Billah, who appointed him governor of Al-Basrah: Batkin skilfully developed its economy for 23 years, becoming learned and a pious Muslim). 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni's good-humored seriousness would come from a monied member of a sort of citizenry of the 'Abbasid Empire. Made up of officials, commanders, aristocrats, merchants and scholars, this citizenry, though, must have been only a small minority in that Empire's populations as a whole.
The current Gulf nationalist intellectuals are right to highlight the verse of 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni which does indeed offer a voice from a real past as distinct from some government-subsidized concoction. However, his links to 'Iraq, a presence that towers over the Gulf Arab statelets today, underscores the problems this heritage and the past pose for political demarcation of state-units at the end of the 20th century.
The association of the lands that had constituted the wide 'Abbasid empire at its height progressively loosened up. But the sense of taking part in a shared wide Sunni history symbolized by the Baghdad Caliphate continued among such Sunni Gulf Arabs as Al-'Uyuni. The Qaramitah (Carmatians), an extremist offshoot of Sevener Shi'ah Isma'ilism, founded a statelet in Al-Ahsa' in the Gulf that was finally crushed by Sunnite tribes in 1077-1078, but only after the sect waged repeated devastating raids across the Fertile Crescent and even threatened Egypt. In 930, the Gulf Qaramitah had raided Mecca and carried off the Black Stone, which they restored only under pressure from Egypt's Shi'ite Fatimid Caliph.
Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni highlighted the role of his family in the war against the destructive sect in verse that had a sense of the whole Middle East as the theatre of the conflict and indeed the community at stake, and which throbbed with ideological hatred:
"Ask the Qaramitah who cleaved their skulls into splinters/ And left them --- after they had enjoyed supremacy --- mere servants/ After all Bahrayn had regarded them with awe/ After they caused Syria and the Holy Sanctuary in Mecca to tremble in fear of their raids/ That heyday when the hoofs of their horses used still to pound across the lands of Iraq... / They stopped the five daily prayers, violated/ the month of fasting, and set up an idol:/ They never built any mosque directed to God that we heard of/ But rather tore down any they came upon" ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" p. 101].
Thus, a wide religio-political Sunni ideology was important in the poetry of 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni as an ethos rooted in local antagonisms with other groups. It was, though, a solidarity that worked for a wide community extending across the Arab Middle East, far beyond his immediate territoriAl-political unit of "Bahrayn" (i.e. the Arab Gulf). The sense of wide pan-Arab Middle Eastern community that 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni's verses nourish today is more aesthetic in its motivation, for those members of the Bahrayn elite whose attention to some specifics of traditional doctrinal elaborations (whether Sunnite or Shi'ite) is waning within modernity.
Abdallah Bin Khalid: The Qaramitah and Sunni Wide States vis-à-vis Bahrayn Identity
Ibn Al-Muqarrab's poetry on his period, and some of his recent analysts and restorers, offer an indigenous past centered more on the Arab Gulf's littoral. But some Bahrayni historians have analysed the perhaps non-Muslim Qaramitah, who threatened Ibn Al-Muqarrab's state, from a focus much more on Bahrayn the isles. Responses by Bahraynis - classical or modern - to the Carmatians provide indexes to how much scope Bahrayni Arab ethnicity awards to Islam, and what is the content of Arabo-Islamic ideologies on the island then and now.
One 2000 Al-Wathiqah item on the Qaramitah by the veteran historian Shaykh 'Abdallah Bin Khalid Al Khalifah is a measure for both 20th century and classical affect among Bahraynis to the Sunni central tradition of classical Islam once headed by the 'Abbasid Caliphs. The first frame-paragraph somewhat relativized Islam: it related Muslim Bahraynis to a formation as "Dilmun, the land of immortality" and the successive passing civilizations that Bahrayn took up. Overlooking Shi'ite Bahraynis of Iranian descent, Shaykh 'Abdallah noted that Bahrayn then re-exported the civilizations it processed to "its mother the peninsula of the Arabs". Then his characterization traced how then "Bahrayn remained loyal to its Islam and its Arabism staying subjects to the Islamic Caliphate in the eras of the Rashidi Caliphs, the [Damascus-centered] Umayyad Empire and the [Baghdad-centered] 'Abbasid State" [all Sunni-led].
How far was Bin Khalid's Sunni perspective qualified by the account he took of extreme heresies (notably, the Qaramitah) in Gulf history - and of drives other than religions in Arab World societies? Drawing on the classical Arab historian Ibn Al-Athir, Bin Khalid constructed an acidic portrait of the ambitious figure who with displays of piety and asceticism launched the Carmation movement in 'Iraq (Kufah), and then almost abolished Islamic rituals. From Bahrayn, the Qarmati leader Abu Sa'id Al-Jannabi incorporated Al-Ahsa' on the peninsular littoral and Al-Qatif (current Sa'udi Arabia) - some supra-Bahrayn Gulf unit again. For Bin Khalid in 2000, the Caramatians were "among the main causes that worked to weaken the 'Abbasid Empire over a long period". As regarded Shi'ism, Bin Khalid noted that the evolution of the Qaramitah took them away from their original Isma'ilism of which they had started as a missionary branch: they fought the Isma'ili Fatimid state centered in Cairo as they did others. As against welcoming leftist and Arab modernists, Bin Khalid characterized that the Carmatians' initial calls for social justice and Reason soon degenerated into terror, tyranny, mass-murder, the cultivation of superstitions and "the cult of the individual" (a communist-like tyrant). Like Ibn Al-Muqarrab, Bin Khalid blasted the Carmatians' sack of Mecca and abduction of its Ka'bah stone. This modern Sunni Bahrayni, then, does place the tenets and political and social system of the Carmatians outside the parameters of Islam as his group visualizes it.
The bulk of 'Abdallah Bin Khalid's article traced the overthrow, after two centuries, of Qarmati rule in Bahrayn by Al-'Awwam Ibn Muhammad Bin Yusuf Al-Zajjaj and by Yahya Ibn Al-'Ayyash and his son Zakariya. In this 2000 account, all had drives to establish a state-entity affiliated to the 'Abbasids in Baghdad that would unite the islands of Bahrayn with the littoral as had the Qaramitah. But Sunnism was only one among a range of motives for expelling the Qaramitah, in Bin Khalid's 2000 reconstruction. True, the Qaramitah's destruction of all mosques still rankled after two centuries in a 1066/458 letter by Al-'Awwam in which he mentioned his tribe's early aid to the Prophet Muhammad and to the Rightly Guided Caliphs and to "the call" of the 'Abbasid state that he wished would endure "eternally". But if this insurgent called Al-Jannabi "the accursed [Pharoah-like, pagan] Sabian" and raged that the sect had [once] burned Qur'ans and mosques, the descendants of the two groups in Bahrayn had adjusted to each other with a fair bit of pragmatism on each side. al-'Awwam was himself a tax-collector for the Qarmati state, and the Sunnis around him were through him pressing the island's constructive Qarmati governor to allow one Sunni mosque to be built again because that would make trading Persians and pilgrims to Mecca likelier to stop over again, increasing the inhabitants' commerce but also the Qarmati state's revenues from a coming entrepot. The governor wrote in support to the Qarmati government in Al-Ahsa', and the building or rebuilding started. But then Al-'Awwam's brother as imam delivered the sermon at the mosque's Friday collective prayer in the name of the 'Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad. In mutually pragmatic negotiations, the central Qarmati government [far from the incendiary attitudes of its bygone founders] said that it did not object to their Sunnism in itself which would draw the Persians with their money, and in the end it allowed even a formalistic mention of the name of the Sunni Caliph in Baghdad. Thereafter, commerce (and Carmatian revenues) flourished. But the final uprising of the Sunnis in Awal (current Bahrayn) came after they tried, advised by their amiable neighborhood Qarmati governor, to avoid paying an increase in taxes ordered by the Qarmati central government. That government's replacement of the laid-back governor with a strict one finally provoked them to rise and end the Carmatian rule [Bin Khalid, "Awal…" (2000) 15-21].
Sunni Islamic grievances and rejection of the Carmatians' tenets thus smouldered and then sustained a final uprising in the Sunni Bin Khalid's 2000 Bahrayni nationalist reconstruction. As clearly, though, personal and economic relationships within the Gulf and with the wider Muslim world greatly determined the course of events. So long as the Qarmati state provided responsive government and fostered prosperity, the Bahrayni Sunnis were prepared to put up with major restrictions on their distinguishing religious life. Nor are Arab tribesmen who might aid the Qarmati or the Sunni-Bahrayni side for coins much explicated as motivated by religious loyalties by this 2000 text. Ideological meaning of Sunni political community in history breaks down in Bin Khalid's images of Yahya Al-'Ayyash vanquishing Al-'Awwam in a fight for territory, and in Yahya's fighting with forces commanded by Saljuk Turkish vassals of the 'Abbasids that were supposed to have been sent to aid in the war against the Carmatians but looked as though they might take over ["Awal" 25-6].
Overall, the Shaykh 'Abdallah Bin Khalid looks to have significant Bahrayn-centric layers. Among these are his drive as a veteran cultural leader in the Bahrayni establishment to provide youth with government-reinvented folklore as an antidote to the pervasive Americanizing effects from globalization. In contrast was distaste from elite pan-Arabs for official scope for dialects in the "small identities" that regimes of the Gulf states have promoted since the departure of the British around 1970 [Khalid, "Turath" (2000) 8-13]. The aesthetic affiliation to the homogenizing classical Arab tradition that Bin Khalid fueled with the scraps from those ancient texts he recycles into his "heritage" articles is real, but qualified by Bahrayni specificities and by the lack of any comprehensive Islamist ideology that would exclude the West and its values.
Social Disintegration in the Gulf?
'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni wrote poetry in an era of transition in the history of the 'Uyunid dynasty. In the earlier part of his career, he enjoyed the friendship and patronage of strong, decisive amirs he eulogised with sincerity and eloquence. However, a succession of amirs of lesser calibre, conflicts and plots within the ruling family, and the pressure and attacks from desert tribes, in tandem caused the territory the 'Uyunid amirate controlled to shrink. As a public poet who was a sort of laureate of a specific state-entity, 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni's verse now admonished, warned and advised: in the upshot, though, his attempts to articulate courses for reform and revival of the state earned him bouts of imprisonment and exile.
The growing factionalization and weakness of the 'Uyunid ruling class opened the way for poorer and more marginalized Arab groups to increase their input into the politics of the state - a shift and diffusion of power that 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni with his royal blood lamented. One writer's social disintegration, though, can be an opening-up of the system, democratization and overdue opportunities for a wider range of groups (and authors linked to them) once lower in the pyramid of power - the strata whose voices have not reached us. One feels the elite class affiliations of both 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab and his modern biographer Ahmad Musa Al-Khatib in their joint laments that the amirate became very weak as the common people "appointed whoever they wanted as rulers: as soon as one of them came to power he would drive out all people of virtue and honor from the country" [=members of the old aristocracy who skilfully intrigued to bring the old system back?] The treasuries of the state became depleted, and it no longer had the capacity to raise armies. This emboldened the subjects, each of whom wanted to conduct the monarchy himself. They made their first aim the liquidation of the ruling family, causing the poet to exclaim that "the lords of noble lineage [are] either expelled away into the lands of enemies, or if they stay at home pinned down by shackles" ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 114].
It would have been hard, though, for this elitist poet to become an insurrectionist who would fight the new order with arms. Admonition and denunciation was as far as 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni could go without himself contributing to the disintegration. The Amir Muqdam Ibn Gharir Ibn Al-Hasan Ibn Shukr Ibn 'Ali, who had come to the position with violent support from the refractory 'Abd Al-Qays tribe, arrested a number of leaders of lineage, and plundered their treasuries. Al-'Uyuni promptly came to him and denounced his deeds; the ruler, though, only swore that he had not known what was happening at the time and attributed it to one of the leaders of Al-Ahsa'. This caused the poet to satirize the people of the 'Abd Al-Qays tribe and their acquiescence to the intrigues of the enemies. "Men of 'Abd Al-Qays: how often I summon you to glory and virtuous deeds but you remain dead so that I fall silent. Were your heads created with no ears? For how long will you allow yourself to be degraded as you meekly submit to the eunuchs on whom you now rely? My torment for brethren and neighbors! The people are eating you up while you gulp each other down like predatory fish" ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 115].
The value of 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni's verse in the ideological structure that Al-Khatib gives it as a Gulf nationalist historian and critic, is the glimpses it offers of the obliterated world of the cultivated, urban or sedentary, lineage-obsessed elite that had long run that lost pan-Gulf state of "Bahrayn". This urban elite - whatever the poetical images it might have cultivated about its own nomad blood-antecedents - had little affinity to the Arab nomads who continued, as always, to press in from the interior onto the Gulf's fertile coastal strip. Ibn Al-Muqarrab decried the increasing influence of the bedouin, and the unwise policy of winning them over by granting them payments and gardens. "No nomad puts on a turn without you saying 'seize such and such a person's wealth and pay it to him to conciliate him'. Know that once a dam is opened, a flood must follow." In this category of poems, the poet tried to make the traditional elite of his people grasp the ill-advised nature of their policies, and the consequences they would bring upon them if they did not change them. "Whoever hands over to his enemy his armor and his sword will soon find himself garbed in comprehensive humiliation. He who puts his enemies in charge of his affairs, that is the one who will be derided as a grief-stricken pauper. Whoever seeks a long life by self-humiliation and stupidity is sure - later, if not sooner - to see death speed towards him. Whoever chooses for his defenders strangers, ...whoever bends to the designs of his enemies... will roast slowly in the degradation of the flames they kindle" ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 115].
Another factor in the decline and fall of the 'Uyunid state that 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni and Al-Khatib highlight was the divisive struggles for power between the ruling family's princes. These finally culminated in bloodshed in the last days of their state. Their enemies amongst the bedouin took great pains to fan this competition and disunity, setting up assassinations of some of the princes ["Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 1" 119]. Such nomads moving out into the Gulf system may have been integrating themselves into it via somewhat destructive procedures in this formulation by Al-Khatib. Yet the pattern imaged still tends to somewhat accord with Dr 'Alawi Al-Hashimi's characterization of such groups as comparatively well-off and sophisticated sectors among desert-born populations that had sized up the life and structures of the more sedentary populations along the coast, and could devise the long-term procedures and strategies to install themselves into that much wealthier world, cosmopolitan in its way.
The verse of 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni as Al-Khatib excerpts it for the purposes of his Arabist Gulf national past is for the most part highly functional, spare and fast-moving: needless ornamentation seldom slows it. Al-Khatib saw the loss of patronage for Arabic poetry in later 'Abbasid 'Iraq as more and more political offices came to be held by non-Arabs as having impoverished it. Now poets did not compose poetry so often in expectation of rewards or payment or in rivalry for the favor of those holding political power, but rather to express their poetical gifts for their own sake. As Al-Khatib's paradigm ran, 'Iraqi and Gulf poets came to direct most of their concern to the verbal aspect, so that their verse became imitative.The verse of Ibn Al-Muqarrab, though, establishes that in such heavily Arab outlying areas as the Gulf strong Arab leaders remained willing and able to subsidize promising young poets, so that they could go on to develop a high creativity. As in the earlier, great, Arab-led 'Abbasid and Umayyad empires, poets remained crucial for getting the wishes and professed Sunni ideology of the Arab leadership class across to the masses - essential to legitimize the elite's title to lead and extract. While grammatically and stylistically erudite poetry such as Ibn Al-Muqarrab composed could hardly have been penned in a society in which there were not a lot of books and substantial urban centers, there were no newspapers in those days. The rhymes and strong meters of the public poetry of such authors as 'Ali Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni made it easy to memorize, so that it could circulate among the population, offering all classes data on topical political changes and trends.
But gifted, confident poets could carve out a role more independent than mere propagandists or journalists for an elite and a state. Al-'Uyuni had some of the functions and meticulous political power that an investigative journalist or syndicated opinion leader might exercise in the USA of the 1970s and 1980s - and as the state disintegrated was becoming more like an activist politician than a laureate. He was conservative in the sense that he wanted to help strengthen and maintain or revitalize the regime of the ruling elite of "Bahrayn" as a social member of it with title to address its leaders in an equal - where needed, critical - way. Ibn Al-Muqarrab Al-'Uyuni's critical verse addressed to various 'Uyunid amirs amounted to editorials or leading articles that urged the classes and sectors most associated with the regime to apply pressure on elite leaders to change their policies and approaches to the range of groups active in overall society and politics. However, his political verse had the paradoxical or double role of any conservative critic who in making public the specific malfunctions of the system he wants to force towards reform may only complete its final loss of legitimacy among the subjects.
Aesthetic Westernization and the Classical Legacy
In the era of high oil prices, many members of today's Gulf literary elites went to well-funded local schools of a fair quality, and a good number of them then went on to universities in the West. The West's impact has been deep and fundamental even in the most intimate areas of the psyches of these writers, including what types of literary product they are likeliest to appreciate. The impact of modernity from the West is the most glaring instance of the sharp discontinuities in life-style and culture over the millennia that place in question the feasibility of the project of a nationalist historiography intent to reintegrate all periods of "the Bahrayni people" into a continuous sensibility. The standard literary Arabic has survived, but today's Bahrayni/Gulf nationalist authors are very far indeed from the life and concerns of their late-classical or even pre-British forbears. Dr Ahmad Musa Al-Khatib's attempt to sum up and assess Ibn Al-Muqarrab's "poetical experience" was underlaid by some modern - in origin West European and American - assumptions about what is good poetry, albeit these assumptions had often been mediated for him in youth through the writings of literary critics first published in Cairo in the monarchical and Nasserite periods. Like the Egyptian critic Muhammad Husayn Haykal in the earlier 1900s, Al-Khatib showed impulses to reject the sensibility, subjects, vocabulary and above all the qasidah structure of most classical Arab poetry. Al-Khatib dichotomized (a) the demand of Stephen Spender that quality poetry had to represent the real innermost being of the poet with concentration against (b) what he and other twentieth century modernist Arabs saw as the diffuse mechanical succession of unconnected subjects that classical Arab poets had to cover in the formal qasidah ode. Al-Khatib had a dissatisfied, unsure tone comparable to the young Haykal's: the classical Arab poets were too engulfed in sectional ideas and feelings to respond authentically to the major events around them that could have granted them a long poetical life. Their wider public audience, Al-Khatib added, also shared the blame for the poetical failure: ordinary Arabs could not feel human life and the cosmos with enough sensitivity to want self-reflection and self-insight: caught up in narrow, stereotyped daily lives, they rather wanted and got a poetry that avoided "deep experience."
However, Al-Khatib somewhat excepted Ibn Al-Muqarrab: "most of his poetry does have sincerity, one that springs from his poetry being the mirror of his being and his thoughts. The most important aspect of originality innovated in his verse is the personal rhythm, which is his signature that throbs through the bulk of his poems." While not hostile to social or community concerns of Al-'Uyuni that he may not share as a modern, Al-Khatib sought out more self-aware impulses of the poet that could burst out of the categories of classical forms and have some affinities to modern individualism. Al-Khatib faulted eulogy poetry that Al-'Uyuni directed to a variety of powerful and rich people in 'Iraq and the Gulf from whom he sought money, posts or opportunities, and which he filled with a recurring repertoire of stereotyped praise-motifs. Eulogy was often not an effective means to a livelihood for Ibn Al-Muqarrab: he was apt to draw out the preliminary lines in which the poet exalts himself and his tribe. Al-Khatib excerpted instances, including a eulogy to the 'Abbasid Caliph Al-Nasir li-Din Allah. Instead of the usual pro forma brief self-introduction, Ibn Al-Muqarrab directed thirty lines to exalting his own decisiveness and martial skills and to unconventionally lamenting the misguided intrigues against him of the kinsfolk he loved. It was only then that he turned to praising the Caliph. Given his assumption that he was at least the equal of those he praised, Ibn Al-Muqarrab often got overshadowed by more complaisant eulogists. But where he eulogized local 'Uyunid leaders whose blood he shared, and who as a class were an extension of himself, describing their vivid parochial triumphs and defeats, the poetry throbs with vitality [and perfectly integrates the poet-individual with the individuals and the community he eulogizes].
Al-Khatib quoted the radical poetic innovator T.S. Eliot that poetry knows no such thing as a complete originality that owes nothing to the past; and also Paul Valery's view that a [written] language was the supreme creation of a people. Valery's sense of a literary language made up of layers accumulated over time from which new authors should draw widely at will, his commitment to very old forms of language including the Latin that begat French, could well direct new Gulf litterateurs and scholars to classical Arab poets who were remote in concerns and style.
Al-Khatib left no doubt that in Ibn Al-Muqarrab his compatriots had a poet able to draw on all layers of the antique Arabic language. The critic quoted classical Arab critics who disapproved when poets dredged up and used the most outlandish and rare words from pre-Islamic Arabian dialects.
Al-Khatib quoted spates of jaw-breakers of that kind by Al-'Uyuni bizarrely outside Arabic's usual trilateral vocabulary - yet had to concede that the "rugged" and incomprehensible words the poet recurrently mustered throughout his career "resound strongly." The neo-classicist poetical ethos at the 'Abbasid court, and the philologists and grammarians whose endorsements he courted, pushed Ibn Al-Muqarrab towards recondite centuries-old words. Yet, when dealing with his most intimate and personal concerns - his more desperate laments at the disintegration of his 'Uyunid elite and polity, and, in a different way, his graceful, naturAl-sounding love-poetry - his verse can suddenly become much more fast-moving and emotionally direct [Al-Khatib, "Ibn Al-Muqarrab - 6" 122-148].
Dr Ahmad Musa Al-Khatib's literary criticism favored those aspects of Ibn Al-Muqarrab most congenial in oil-rich areas of the Arab World that have been transformed by influences from the West. The range of subjects, concerns, tones, styles and vocabulary strata Ibn Al-Muqarrab could so dazzlingly alternate acquire in the end an architectonic bulk. The clear stature of the poet speaks across the centuries yet in the end Al-Khatib does not proceed to subject to West-derived literary criteria a sensibility from a world that is too different from what his own Gulf has become. It remains problematical today if the Gulf nationalist historical and cultural enterprise really can reconnect the periods of the region's history now. Al-Khatib could not really synthesize from the Western poets and critics he cites superficially a coherent critical frame with which to reevaluate pre-colonial high Arabic literature, yet his general stance of dissatisfaction in the name of the West instances how a self-contained indigenous literature can no longer fully satisfy some of the best minds in the Gulf.