A big thanks to KaBoem, who put me on to this topic. Cheers, sir!
Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri was an Arabic poet of the 11th century, of a profoundly pessimistic disposition, who rejected religion and condemned procreation. The poems and writing quoted below are taken from Reynold Nicholson’s 1921 book, Studies in Islamic Poetry and Mysticism, available to download online at the following address: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL7029984M/Studies_in_Islamic_poetry.
If you enjoy what’s below, there’s plenty more in the book.
Nicholson describes the poet’s themes as being ‘the pain of life, the peace of death,
the wickedness and folly of mankind, the might of Fate and the march of Time, the emptiness of ambition, the duty of renunciation, the longing for solitude and then to rest in the grave. The pessimism of the Luzum [the poetry collection] wears the form of an intense pervading darkness, stamping itself on the mind and deeply affecting the imagination. It is an old philosophy and its poets have been many, but I can think of none who in sincerity, individuality, and eloquence has surpassed Al-Ma'arri.’
The words Luztimu md Idyalzam signify "The obligation of that which
is not obligatory", which is how Al-Ma’arri saw the business of living.
If ye unto your sons would prove
By act how dearly them ye love
Then every voice of wisdom joins
To bid you leave them in your loins
The rich man desires a son to inherit his wealth, but were the fathers intelligent no children would be born. Procreation is a sin, though not called one. A father wronged by his sons pays the just penalty for the crime which he committed against them. To beget is to increase the sum of evil...It is better for a people, instead of multiplying, to perish off the face of the earth. The first condition of happiness is that no woman should have been created.
This world, O my friend, is like a carcase unsepulchred,
And we are the dogs that yelp around it on every side.
A loser is he, whoso advances to eat thereof;
A gainer is he, whoso returns from it hungry still.
If any be not waylaid by calamities in the night,
Some ill hap of Time is sure to meet him at morningtide
This world is such an abode that if those present here
Have their wits entire, they will never weep for the absent ones.
Would that a lad had died in the very hour of birth
And never sucked, as she lay in childbed, his mother's breast !
Her babe, it says to her or ever its tongue can speak,
"Nothing thou gett'st of me but sorrow and bitter pain."
'Tis God's will a man should live in torment and tribulation,
Until those that know him cry,
" He hath paid now the lifelong
Give joy to his next of kin on the day of his departure,
For they gain a heritage of riches, and he of peace
O Death ! be thou my guest : I am tired of living,
And I have tried both sorts in joy and sorrow.
My morrow shall be my yesterday, none doubts it;
My yesterday nevermore shall be my morrow
Nor birth I chose nor old age nor to live :
What the Past grudged me shall the Present give?
Here must I stay, by Doom's both hands constrained,
Nor go until my going is ordained.
You who would guide me out of dark illusion,
You lie your story does but make confusion.
For can you alter that you brand with shame,
Or is it not unalterably the same?
Ah, let us go, whom nature gave firm minds and courage fast,
To meet the Fates pursuing us, that we may die at last.
The draught of Life, to me it seems the bitterest thing to drain.
And lo, in bitter sooth we all must spew it out again
Were I sent out to explore this world of thine by a band
Migrating hither, from me no liar's tale would they hear,
But words like these: '"Tis a land whose herbs are sickness and
Its sweetest water distils a bane for generous souls.
Oh, 'tis the torment of Hell ! Make haste, up, saddle and ride
To any region but that ! Avoid it, camp ye not there !
Abominations it hath ; no day or part of a day
Is pure and clean. Travel on, spur fast and faster the steeds !
I tell you that which is known for sure, not tangled in doubt;
None drawn with cords of untruth inveigle I to his harm."