Quṭbaddīn an-Nahrawālī’s (917-990/1511-1582) Treasure of Names and Other Ottoman-Era Arabic Treatises on the Art of the Muʿammā
In Timurid times Persian littérateurs devised a new kind of logogriph (muʿammā) that differed considerably from the muʿammā as was known in the Arabic tradition. The most salient feature of the new, Persianate muʿammā, which is normally a couplet, is that it has two levels of meaning: an obvious or surface meaning (‘the poetic meaning’), and an encoded ‘riddle meaning’, which gives the clues to the solution of the riddle. Since the 16th century the new, Persianate muʿammā became very popular with Ottoman Turkish and Arabic littérateurs as well. In fact, to judge by the available evidence, it appears that the new muʿammā gradually became the most popular kind of literary riddle in Arabic. The present paper presents Quṭbaddīn an-Nahrawālī’s (917-990/1511-1582) Treasure of Names, the most influential Arabic treatise on the new muʿammā, which is modelled on earlier Persian treatises. It discusses the growth of the new muʿammā in Arabic, describes the rules applying to it as presented in an-Nahrawālī’s treatise, analyses several Arabic muʿammayāt cited in that treatise and concludes by mentioning some additional Ottoman-era Arabic treatises on the riddle that testify to the great popularity of the new muʿammā in Arabic until the late 19th century.
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