The seven Mu'allaqat, as well as the poems that accompany them, represent nearly every form of ancient Arabian poetry. Tarafa's lyric provides a detailed anatomical description of his camel, which is usual in pre-Islamic poetry. It also contains some philosophical reflections on life and death.
Tarafa was a Persian prince who converted to Islam and settled in Arabia. He is regarded as one of the greatest poets of the Arab world for his poetic descriptions of nature. His verses are often accompanied by paintings done by different artists from all over the Arab world. These paintings can still be seen in modern museums today.
During the Islamic era, many poets wrote about their love for God and their longing for paradise. One of these poets was Abu al-Qasim al-Shirazi (867-941). He is known as the "nightingale of Baghdad" because of his beautiful songs. Unlike most other poets of his time who used outdated forms of Arabic, Shirazi adopted new ways of expressing himself that were popular in Iraq at the time. For example, he used French and Turkish words mixed together without any distinction, which made his work very innovative at the time.
Another famous poet from this period is Abd al-Rahman al-Khawaja (897/98-971), better known as "The Poetical Prophet".
Al-Mu'allaqat is a compilation of seven pre-Islamic Arabic qasidahs (odes), each regarded as the finest work of its creator. Because the authors are among the dozen or so most prominent poets of the sixth century, the selection holds a special place in Arabic literature, reflecting the best of early Arabic poetry. The term comes from a verse in one of the odes that introduces various types of birds.
The poems in question are those of Anusim. They were not originally odes but rather incipits (opening lines) to poems by other poets. The names of these other poets are sometimes included in al-Mu'allaqat although this feature was probably added later. These anawis (poets) include Abū Nuwās and al-A'sṭāfī.
Each al-Mu'allaqat contains three anawis. This means that there are 21 al-Mu'allaqat in all. They vary in length from few lines to more than one hundred. The first two al-Mu'allaqat were composed by Abū Nuwās.
A multi-lined strophic verse poem composed in classical Arabic, generally consisting of five stanzas, alternating with a refrain with a flowing rhyme, constitutes the poetic form. It was originally used by medieval Arab poets to express their feelings and thoughts. The term "muse" means inspiration or mind in Greek. Thus, a muse is someone who gives you ideas for poems.
Each line of a quatrain (a section of a poem containing four lines) typically has a different feeling or tone. They often describe scenes from daily life or things that have been seen, but they can also be abstract or philosophical. Lines 1 and 4 usually contain the information about subject and mood, while lines 2 and 3 expand on this information.
The refrain goes back and forth between two notes, which must be identical in sound but not necessarily in spelling. This allows many different words to be used as refrains. For example, "O my love!" or "Lovely lady!" could be the refrain for a poem written about a beautiful woman.
In classical Arabic poetry, each poem consisted of several saj' (قصطی) - roughly equivalent to our stanzas - that were independent of one another.