الوقوف على الأطلال
STOPPING BY THE RUINS, 22
Currently exhibiting at King Abdulaziz center for world culture, Ithra
The Hijrah Exhibition
These words are taken from the opening lines of a famous pre-Islamic poem by Imru Al Qays where he stops and reflects on the vestiges of at a ruined campsite in the desert. It reads: “Stop, oh my friends, let us pause to weep over the remembrance of my beloved...’’ When writing out these verses, I deeply felt the importance of the place including its physical or emotional dimensions. This scene of stopping and remembering is famous among the Arabs. Known as wuquf 'ala al-atlal, or ‘stopping by the ruins’, it is found throughout pre-Islamic poetry, finding new life in the work of a generations of artists and writers including my own. I’ve heard it say that this poem was grouped together with the best works of other celebrated pre-Islamic poets which collectively comprised a group of seven long Arabic qasidas (odes or verses) called ‘Al Mu’allaqat’ meaning suspended or hanging poems. The customary explanation behind its name was that these poems were hung on or in the Ka’ba in Makkah.
While the atlal theme was prevalent in pre-Islamic poetry within the oral tradition of the ancient Arabian Peninsula, it took on a new type of intensity with the advent of Islam and the death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ particularly in the works of early Muslim poets who found solace in seeking out reminders of the Prophet ﷺ in the landscape and monuments connected to his life.
As an artist interested in contemporary Arabic calligraphy, writing out these verses is special because I believe they represent the heights of the Arabic poetry and embody the spirit of the Arabic language even today.