Arabic prosody

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ʿArūḍ or Arud (Arabic: العروضal-ʿarūḍ) is often called the Science of Poetry (Arabic: علم الشعرʿilm aš-šiʿr). Its laws were laid down by Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi (d. 786), an early Arab lexicographer and philologist, who did so after noticing that poems consisted of repeated rhythms in each verse. He wrote his first book, Al-Ard, describing 15 types of verses. It is said that he used to climb down into a well in order to enjoy the poems during his study. Later Al-Akhfash al-Akbar described a 16th meter, al-Mutadārik.

Al-Khalil was primarily a grammarian, and using the grammatical terminology of his day he employed the terms ḥarf mutaḥarrik "mobile letter" and ḥarf sākin "quiescent letter" to devise a classification of syllables. A ḥarf mutaḥarrik is a consonant which is followed by a vowel, and a ḥarf sākin is a consonant which is not followed by a vowel. He combined these as fundamental prosodic elements to define a number of prosodic sequences.[1]

ʿArūḍ is the study of poetic meters, which identifies the meter of a poem and determines whether the meter is sound or broken in lines of the poem. The study of ʿarūḍ is said to have begun within the first century AH in a region called ʿArūḍ near Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which is why it was called ʿarūḍ.

Prosodic elements[edit]

The ʿArūḍ spelling is based on the ḥaraka (حركة) (which indicates that the letter above or below which it is placed is followed by a short vowel, either a (fatḥah َ   ), u (ḍammah ُ   ) or i (kasrah ِ   )) and on the sukūn, also called sākin (سكون / ساكن) (which indicates that the letter above which it is placed is NOT followed by any short vowel).

The fatḥa, ḍamma and kasra vowels are represented by the mutaḥarrik (which is a short horizontal line), and the sukūn or sākin by the usual sukūn character (which is shaped like a circle).

There are mnemonic phrases that facilitate memorizing the ʿarūḍ patterns. One example of these mnemonic phrases is: (لم أر على ظهر جبل سمكة) (Literally meaning: I did not see a fish on top of a mountain)

For the purpose of identifying and writing out the ʿarūḍ, words are spelled out phonetically. For example, the word "al-karīm" ("the generous") is usually spelled "الكريم". In ʿArūḍ writing, it is written phonetically as "لكريم". The first letter after al- (the definite particle) is a so-called moon letter (harf qamari), meaning the word is pronounced lkareem, so it is written this way for the purpose of the ʿarūḍ.

Some words start with a sun letter (harf shamsi); in these the l of the article is assimilated to the first letter of the noun, as in the word "al-shams" الشّمس (meaning "the sun"), pronounced aš-šams. In ʿarūḍ writing, this would be written ششمس. That is to say, in ʿarūḍ writing, the šaddah, which symbolizes the doubling of a letter, is not written, and the letter on which it is normally put is written twice.


The Tafāʿīl are the metrical units in the Arabic poetry system. In most sonnets there will be eight of those: four in the first half of the verse and four in the second; in other cases, there will be six of them, meaning three in the first half of the verse and three in the second. There is also a case in which their number is less than three: when the verses are only taken from complete poems to make a citation.

Al-Khalīl ibn Ahmad Al-Farahidi (718 - 786 A.D.) identified fifteen meters, and his student Al-Akhfash (الأخفش) identified an additional one.

A line of poetry, known as a bayt, is composed of two half-verses, one of which is called the sadr (صدر) (literally "chest") and the other which is called the ʿajuz (عجز) (literally "belly"). They are called by these terms because they represent the first part and the second part of a bayt.

The ṣadr and the ʿajuz has two parts each: - The last word of the sadr is called the ʿarūḍ, and the rest of it is called ḥashū ṣ-ṣadr (حشو الصّدر) (meaning "the filling of the chest") - The last word of the ʿajuz is called the ḍarb (literally "the hit"), and the rest of it is called ḥashū 'ajuz (حشو العجز) (meaning "the filling of the belly").

A particularity of the ḍarb is that its last consonant and the vowel that comes after it (the two last letters) are called the rawiyy (رويّ) and its last two sākins, all the mutaḥarrik that are in between, and the last mutaḥarrik before them, is called the qāfīyah (قافية) or 'rhyme'.

The buhūr (meters), identified according to the traditional method, are the following:[2]

1 - Hazaj (هزج) Tafā'īl: Mafāʿīlun Mafāʿīlun (مَفاعيلُن مَفاعيلُن)
2 - Wāfir (وافر) Tafā'īl: Mufāʿalatun Mufāʿalatun Faʿūlun (مُفاعَلَتُن مُفاعَلَتُن فَعولُن)
3 - Muḍāri' (مضارع) Tafā'īl: Mafāʿīlu Fāʿilātun (مَفاعيلُ فاعِلاتُن)
4 - Ṭawīl (طويل) Tafā'īl: Faʿūlun Mafāʿīlun Faʿūlun Mafāʿilun (فَعولُن مَفاعيلُن فَعولُن مَفاعِلُن)
5 - Mutaqārib (متقارب) Tafā'īl: Faʿūlun Faʿūlun Faʿūlun Faʿūlun (فَعولُن فَعولُن فَعولُن فَعولُن)
6 - Ramal (رمل) Tafā'īl: Fāʿilātun Fāʿilātun Fāʿilun (فاعِلاتُن فاعِلاتُن فاعِلُن)
7 - Khafīf (خفيف) Tafā'īl: Fāʿilātun Mustafʿilun Fāʿilātun (فاعِلاتُن مُسْتَفْعِلُن فاعِلاتُن)
8 - Mujtathth (مجتثّ) Tafā'īl: Mustafʿilun Fāʿilātun (مُسْتَفْعِلُن فاعِلاتُن)
9 - Madīd (مديد) Tafā'īl: Fāʿilātun Fāʿilun Fāʿilātun (فاعِلاتُن فاعِلُن فاعِلاتُن)
10 - Rajaz (رجز) Tafā'īl: Mustafʿilun Mustafʿilun Mustafʿilun (مُسْتَفْعِلُن مُسْتَفْعِلُن مُسْتَفْعِلُن)
11 - Sarī' (سريع) Tafā'īl: Mustafʿilun Mustafʿilun Fāʿilun (مُسْتَفْعِلُن مُسْتَفْعِلُن فاعِلُن)
12 - Kāmil (كامل) Tafā'īl: Mutafāʿilun Mutafāʿilun Mutafāʿilun (مُتَفاعِلُن مُتَفاعِلُن مُتَفاعِلُن)
13 - Munsariħ (منسرح) Tafā'īl: Mustafʿilun Fāʿilat Muftaʿilun (مُسْتَفْعِلُن فاعِلاتْ مُفْتَعِلُن)
14 - Muqtaḑabb (مقتضب) Tafā'īl: Fāʿilatu Muftaʿilun (فاعِلاتُ مُفْتَعِلُن)
15 - Basīṭ (بسيط) Tafā'īl: Mustafʿilun Fāʿilun Mustafʿilun Fā'ilun (مُسْتَفْعِلُن فاعِلُن مُسْتَفْعِلُن فَعِلُن)
16 - Mutadārik (متدارك) Tafā'īl: Faʿilun Faʿilun Faʿilun Faʿilun (فَعِلُن فَعِلُن فَعِلُن فَعِلُن)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rina Drory, Models and Contacts: Arabic Literature and Its Impact on Medieval Jewish Culture, BRILL, 2000, p. 196.
  2. ^ Sorbonne released PDF file, summary of the method George Bohas used in preparing an agrégation question on al-Tibrizî.

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