Abu Nuwas

Abu Nuwas (Abu Nowas, Abu Nu’as) (747?– ca. 813) Arab (Madagascar, Mauritius, Tanzania, Zanzibar) An eighth-century Persian poet who became a trickster-hero in areas of East Africa where Arabic cultural influences were felt. The historical Abu Nuwas (whose full name was Abu Nuwas al-Hasan ibn Hani al-Hakami) was born in al-Ahwaz, Persia (now Ahvaz, Iran). He gained the favour of the caliphs Harun al-Rashid and his son, al-Amin, and enjoyed great success at court in Baghdad until his death. Abu Nuwas is considered one of the great poets of the golden age of Arabic literature. His verse was creative and marked with humor and irony. This sense of humor and the poet’s lifelong pursuit of pleasure may account for his appearance in hundreds of tales as a jester and trickster. Abu Nuwas appears as a character in The Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment), a collection of ancient tales from Persia, India, and Arabia. The following tale Demonstrates how Abu Nuwas’s cleverness amused his sponsors. One day, Abu Nuwas went to the sultan, sobbing, and told him that his wife had died. The sultan told Abu Nuwas that he would get him another wife. The sultana, the sultan’s wife,  Abradi had the perfect maiden in mind. Abu Nuwas and the maiden agreed to marry. The sultan gave them many presents and 1,000 gold pieces as well. Abu Nuwas and his new wife gave no thought to the future and spent the money freely until nothing was left. Abu Nuwas thought of a clever plan. He went to the sultan and told him that his new wife had died, but he had no money with which to bury her. The sultan gave him 200 gold pieces. Then Abu Nuwas’s wife went to the sultana and told her that Abu Nuwas had died, but she had no money with which to bury him. The sultana gave her 200 gold pieces. When the sultan saw the sultana that evening, she told him that Abu Nuwas was dead. He responded that it was not Abu Nuwas who was dead but his wife. To settle the matter, they sent a servant to Abu Nuwas’s house to determine who actually had died. Abu Nuwas had his wife lie down. Then he covered her with a sheet like a corpse and showed the servant his “dead” wife. The sultana refused to believe the servant’s report, so she sent a second servant to Abu Nuwas’s house. This time, Abu Nuwas pretended to be dead. The sultan and sultana decided to find out the truth for themselves. When they reached the house of Abu Nuwas, they found the couple lying still as corpses under a sheet. The sultan declared that he would give 1,000 gold pieces to anyone who could tell him the truth about the matter. At that point, Abu Nuwas sat up and told the sultan to give the money to him. Both the sultan and sultana burst into laughter at the way they had been fooled, and the sultan sent the money to Abu Nuwas.

Taken from African Mythology A to Z – Library Binding – May 1, 2010- Second Edition – Written by Patricia Ann Lynch (Author), Jeremy Roberts Dr (Editor) – Copyright © 2004, 2010 by Patricia Ann Lynch