Three Shadow Plays by Muhammad Ibn Daniyal. Poetry & Literature. Author: Paul Kahle Year: ISBN: Language: English Paperback. While Ibn Daniyal is known to have entertained powerful men with his humor and antics, inchding the sultan al-Ashraf Khalil (r. ) and the emir Sayf. Badawi believed that Ibn Daniyal’s plays played an essential role in the formation of Arabic drama. He analysed three of them: Tayf alkhayal, ʻAjib wa-gharib.
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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. The Satiric Method of Ibn Daniyal: Morality and Anti-morality in Tayf al-Khayal. The play’s compIex satiric response to such reforms is the subject of this study. Contemporay theories of satire, especially Frank Palmeri’s approach to narrative satire, are used to shed light on Ibn Diiniyll’s method of con- shucting a sense of satiric ambiguity.
Yet no less significant than that, the three extant plays of Ibn DiiniyBl allow us to observe society in the early Mamluk period from a telling perspective, namely that of satire.
MOIII-oe,whose encouragement and insight made this undertaking possible. Thanks are aho due to three anonymous reviewers for JAL, whose suggestions occasioned a considerable revision of this paper. A kbn of scholars, writing in response to the publication o f the plays in uncensored form for the first time, have pointed to the considerable promise that these plays hold for stu- dents of a number of relevant danijal. Rowson, the Journal of rhe American Oriental Society 1 While Ibn Daniyal is known to have entertained powerful men with his humor and antics, inchding the sultan al-Ashraf Khalil r.
Yet, on the other hand, the play undermines its own moral sug- gestions by celebrating everything antithetical to righteous conduct. We will explore, in this paper, the ways in which Ibn Daniyiil constructs and takes advantage of a certain satiric ambiguity to comment on the social and polit- ical atmosphere of his age and the ways in which his technique fits into studies of satire at large.
This ambiguity stems mainly from a tension running almost entirely throughout the play, between the morally established and the morally depraved, where a backdrop of forced moral reform is contrasted with char- acters who rejoice at extreme decadences3This tension relies in part on the technique of inversion, including an inversion of the holy vocabulary of Ibn Diiniyd’s day, associated with Islam and with Islamic mysticism.
Khartoum University Press,pp. The argument here differs from that of Francesca M. These two trends reflect the two faces of a single con- science, one open minded and tolerant and the other radical and dogmatic.
The balanc- ing of these two conflicting tendencies has always been the result of a restless struggle.
AIthough Corrao has correctly sensed a conflict of moral interpretation in the works of Ibn DgniyB1, I would argue that the extremes presented in his play do not reflect tlle actual state of things in the society around him. Societies, whether Islamic or not, are always more com- plex than that which can be expressed in a comprehensive and binary division.
The two poles of Tayf al-Khaydl are, instead, exaggerations, literary depictions constructed with a satiric objective.
General trends in human morality are, in this work, pushed to humorous extremes. These tendencies are derived not only from society at large, but also from opposite inclinations that exist within every person acting as a moral agent.
By depicting Cairo as such, the author lets his audience know that such extremes are laughable, ridiculous, and thus undesirable. Since the author presents this tension without manifestly favoring either side, or-better put-since he frames his play in an exhaustively satirical language, one that is critical of everything, his real satirical objective remains hidden. By ridiculing these two opposing social tendencies and by failing to express openly a desirable third option, Ibn Daniygl leaves his audience with a clear idea of what is ridiculous but with- out a definitive rnoraf stance.
The reader or viewer must accept Ibn Daniyal’s satiric work as a complicated presentation of the issues at hand, one lacking manifest corrective intentions and thus indicating a subtler satiric aim. The Plot of the Play While the plot of the play is simple, one can see that, even in summary form, it centers on and complicates moral issues, including arguably the very foundation of moral living-marriage.
The play begins with the death of Iblis or Satan and ends with the death of a procuress and marriage bro- ker, Urnm Rashid, before whom “Iblis kisses the ground daily,” a descrip- tion that fulty associates the procuress with her diabolical c0l1eague. Urnm Rashid arranges for the prince to marry a woman who-as Wi I discovers on his wedding day-not only has a laugh like the braying of a donkey, a nose like a mountain, lips like a camel, teeth like a crocodile, and breath like a latrine, but also has a grandson obsessed with private parts.
Paul Kahle, et al. Gibb Memorial,p.
All translations of the play are tentative and my own but are largely indebted to Danigal T. Monroe’s unpublished translatian of the text. A11 other translations in this paper are mine unless otherwise indicated. There is some confusion in the text regarding the nature of the bride’s offspring, whether he is her son or her grandson, but-when Everett K. Rowson’s correction is considered-the monster is definitely her grandchild.
The Historical Background of the Play The play is so concerned with moral contradiction that even in our very first encounter with a daniyxl puppet, w e as an audience learn of a moral conflict taking place in Cairo, or at least in the satiric “Cairo” that the play presents. The first character to appear, Tayf al-KhayBl himself, tells us that, now that he has repented and has taken leave of his companion Emir Wi l, the once morally decadent environment of Egypt has met with severe reform: When, however, I repented of these [poor] character traits, said farewell to my comrade Wisll, and returned from Mosul to the confines of Egypt during the Zghiri dynasty.
I found old familiar places unwelcorning and what was once daiyal, gone. This was because the com- mand of the sultan had destroyed the army of Satan. The tongues of sinners were held still, and wine-bowls and wine-jugs were shattered. Depravity was suffering the utmost hardship, and a wine-seller was crucified with a wine-jug around his neck. Conditions had-become quite harsh. In other words, Tayf al-KhayGI has encountered a campaign of moral refom that, even for a self-avowed repentant soul, has gone too far.
One detects, in Tayf al-KhayW’s monologue and throughout the play, a comic represen- tation of social animosity, a standoff between those trying to enforce a stricter moral code and those who freely ignore even the laxest interpreta- tion of the moral code. It is difficult to determine the degree to which Ibn DBniyBl’s humorous depictions should be seen to ieflect the historical situa- tion in Cairo. Still, many real connections a k quite apparent.
The play expressly depicts and mocks the campaign undertaken by Sultan al-Ziihir Baybars r. Tayf al-Khayiil’s monologue quoted above, for example, can be compared to a similar passage by Ibn Dsniyiil found in the chronicles of the Daniya historian Muhammad ibn Ahmad danyial IySs d. According to Ibn IyBs, during the sultan’s purge of vice, hashish was burnt, taverns were destroyed, sodomites were called to repent, and, perhaps strangest of al1, a man named Ibn al-Kiizariini was arrested on the charge of intoxication, dragged through the streets of Ibh with a wine-jar and wine-bowl around his neck and crucified at BBb al- Nasr.
I0 As Ibn Diiniyal correctly points out in a short poetic passage found in Ibn IyBs’ work as well as in Tayf al-KhayaE, with slight differencesthe Islamic penalty for public intoxication is flogging and not execution, so that this is a case where “the punishment al-had4 has exceeded the limit al- hadd.
I2 Badci’i’ al-zuhur fi-waqaJi’ al-duhur, Vol. While the verb salaba used by both Ibn Iyls and Ibn Daniyd to describe the execution of Ibn al-Kiizariini has been interpreted as meaning “to hang,” I have here opted to translate it in its literal sense, as “to crucify,” based on Robert Irwin’s discussion of Marnllk methods of capital punishment.
It seems that crucifixion and bisection lengthways or sideways were common during the reign of the Marnliiks. Hanging was deemed a more honorable form of execution, so that–considering the role of public humiliation in the case of Ibn al-K8zafini- crucifixion is probably the case here.
Croorn Helm,pp. We should also consider here Everett K. Rowson’s analysis of the use of the word muquma, as applied to Khalil ibn Aybak al-Safadi’s d. Al-Safadi himself would probably have called it an epistle risiila. Columbia University Press,p.
Georg Jacob and Jacob M. Muhammad al-Wathiq offers the later and more convincing time span of AHcorresponding to the reign of Ijusiirn al-Din L5jin al-Mansuri, a sultan depicted negatively in Ibn Daniyiil’s poeuy. Since passages in the play seem to have appeared before the work’s composition, in presumabIy different historical contexts, the themes pre- sented in the play might have been, at one time, a reaction to specific his- torical incidents and, at another time during the production of the play, for examplea reaction to a general trend among Mamliik rulers.
After all, both the age of Baybars I and the age of Lajin saw sultans who were eager to impress the ‘ulamd’ and their subjects with their devotion to Islam, strin- gent in their misapplication of the sharr’a, and inclined to marginalize the religious minorities over whom they ruled. The exact historical circum- stances matter less here than the manner in which Zbn DBniyal as a satirist portrays forceful attempts to reform the society around him and portrays as well the manner in which that society reacted.
The hedonistic elements of the play also have their historical equivalents, corresponding quite likely to another cultural force in the early Mamlilk era. New York University Press,pp. Inn exactly Ibn Iyls meant by his description of this passage as dajiyal “maqdma” might help us better understand the process by which Ibn Diiniyill composed his plays, a topic that deserves further study, l3 One possible motivation for this negative depiction is that L5jin r.
AI-Wathiq provides a convinc- ing argument for assuming that the play was written during the reign of Lajin while also sum- marizing the view of Ibj and his predecessor Jacob. See A History of Arabic Drama, pp. Cambridge University Press,pp.
The term “Coptic Nawriiz,” commonly used to indicate these Egyptian Nile festivals, should not indicate any final determination about the festival’s his- torical source, a perplexing issue discussed in detail by Shoshan. Aberrations of the Past? I5 However infrequent, such gatherings can be taken as grand-scale, carnivalesque displays of a more generally occurring theme: While the author’s representations may be exaggerated, the fictional Cairo of this play–one that is at once morally depraved and yet haunted by an aura of dogmatism-must somehow be related to the actual Cairo within which it was performed.
Genre and Form Before any discussion of Ibn Daniyal’s satiric method can take place, the ‘ question of genre must be addressed. Tayf al-Khaydl is, undoubtedly, a shadow play first. It is aIso, and equalIy as important, a play dominated by satiric Ianguage. Yet, while Ibn Diiniyiil uses satiric Ianguage throughout the play, we cannot categorize his work as “narrative satire” or even as “satire,” for satire-as Paul Simpson has convincingly argued-is not a genre at all.
It is, instead, a mode of speech, one that affects genres: As satire therefore has the capacity to sub- sume and assimilate other discourse genres, it can only be appropriately sit- uated in a position beyond that established for genre.
Molan argues that the aura of car- nival and inverted morality in Tayf al-Khaycl.
Studia Arabo-Islamica Mediterranea, Vol. Towards a stylistic model of satirical humour Amsterdaml Philadelpia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, p. The work ceases to be sathicar, but remains a shadow play. We will, however, refer to danoyal work as “satire” and to its writer as a “satirist,” bearing in mind that the first term corresponds to the play as a work dominated by satirical language, while the second corresponds to the playwright in his capacity as one who has created an inverted world from such language.
In terms of genre, moreover, it is difficult to labe1 Ibn DaniyaI’s work a drama in its common sense. It is certainly a play, but it reads like a maqdrna, especially since the play’s stage directions or producer’s notes are written in the same rhyming prose or saj’ that characterizes the maqama. The prose is interspersed with an amalgam of forms, poetic forms including the classical qasida, muwashshaha, and zajal, which comprise most of the spoken lines of the play’s characters.
This rhyming prose, written daaniyal much artistic attention, carries forth almost all the action of the play, so that the play might be considered a dramatic m a q h a or a maqama-esque drama. As indicated in the playwright’s introduction, in which he describes his project contradictorily as “plays of shamelessness” and yet daniyyal as “high, rather than low, literature,” referring to his application of classical styles to l8 In fact, Paul Simpson’s study on satire, as stated in his preface, focuses on “satire’s sta- tus as a culturally situated discursive practice,” since-the author argues-“continued interest over the decades in canonically literary examples has tended to draw a veil aver the day-to- day functions of satire in contemporary social and discourse contexts.
AI-Wathiq pre- sents Ibn Diiniyll’s plays as dramatic descendants of the maqama, see especially p. Rowson offers another suggestion: Light is cast from behind the puppet, so that the dyed figure’s colored shadow projects onto a screen. The overall visual effect made enough of an impression on those who saw it for the shadow play to become a metaphor, especially among mystics, for the wondrous and iIlusory nature of human life ibbn this transient world.