One of themost unusual books in classical Arabic literature, The Epistle of Forgiveness is the lengthy reply by the prolificSyrian poet and prose writer, Abu l-E AlaE al-MaE arri (d. 449 H/1057 AD), to aletter by an obscure grammarian, Ibn al-Qarih. With biting irony, The Epistle of Forgiveness mocks Ibnal-Qarih's hypocrisy and sycophancy by imagining he has died and arrived withsome difficulty in Heaven, where he meets famous poets and philologists fromthe past. He also glimpses Hell, and converses with the Devil and variousheretics. Al-MaE arri-a maverick, a vegan, and often branded a heretichimself-seems to mock popular ideas about the Hereafter. This second volume is a point-by-point reply to Ibnal-Qarih's letter using al-MaE arri's characteristic mixture of erudition,irony, and admonition, enlivened with anecdotes and poems. Among other things,he writes about hypocrites; heretical poets, princes, rebels, and mystics;apostates; piety; superstition; the plight of men of letters; collaborativeauthorship; wine-drinking; old age; repentance; pre-Islamic pilgrimage customs;and money. This remarkable book is the first complete translation in anylanguage, all the more impressive because of al-MaE arri's highly ornate anddifficult style, his use of rhymed prose, and numerous obscure words andexpressions.
Epistle of Forgiveness
Volume Two: Hypocrites, Heretics, and Other Sinners