He was considered the greatest neoclassical poet of al-Andalus. He reinvigorated the impassioned lyrics in Arabic by infusing it with more personal and sensual tones of experience. This supposed him to be considered the best of the loving poets of the Muslim Hispania and to become a model for all subsequent Western Arab poetry. His love affair with the princess and poet Wallada and his exile inspired many of his poems.

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There she offered instruction in poetry and the arts of love to women of all classes, from those of noble birth to slaves purchased by Wallada herself. Some of the great poets and intellectuals of the time also visited. She also was somewhat controversial, walking out in public without a hijab and in the fashion of the harems of Baghdad , she wore transparent tunics and embroidered her verses on the trim of her clothing.

Her behavior was regarded by the local mullahs as perverse and was strongly criticized, but she also had numerous people who defended her honor, like Ibn Hazm , the famous author of The Ring of the Dove.

Wallada gained recognition for her skill, particularly as a woman in what was almost entirely a male competition. For I believe night is the best keeper of secrets. I feel a love for you that if the sun had it, it would not shine, nor the moon rise, nor the stars begin their nightly journey. Eight of the nine poems preserved from Wallada were written about their relationship, which apparently ended under contentious circumstances.

Written as letters between the two lovers, the poems express jealousy, nostalgia, but also a desire to reunite. Another expresses deception, sorrow and reproach. The verse was as follows: You know that I am the moon of the skies But, to my disgrace, you have preferred a dark planet. Some say that the lover was a slave girl purchased and educated as a poet by Wallada, while others speculate that it could have been a male. A third possibility is that the poem was written in response to the times, as infidelity with black lovers was a common theme in Islamic poetry.


Ibn Zeydoun



Wallada bint al-Mustakfi


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