Kitab al-Aghani

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Illustration from Kitab al-Aghani (Book of Songs), 1216-20, by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani.

Kitab al-Aghani (Arabic: كتاب الأغاني‎, The Book of Songs), is an encyclopedic collection of poems and songs that runs to over 20 volumes in modern editions by the 10th-century Arabic litterateur Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani (also known as al-Isbahani).[1][2] Abu al-Faraj claimed to have taken 50 years in writing the work, which ran to over 10 000 pages. It can be seen as having three distinct sections: the first dealing with the '100 Best Songs' chosen for the caliph Harun al-Rashid, the second with royal composers and the third with songs chosen by the author himself.[3] It spans the period from the Jahiliyya to the end of the 9th century CE. Abu al-Faraj importantly included performance directions for many of the songs included in Kitab al-Aghani. Due to the accompanying biographical annotations on the personages in Kitab al-Aghani, the work is an important historical and literary historical source; it is also useful for those interested in the sociology of Arabic literature.[4]


The prominent 14th-century historian Ibn Khaldun called The Book of Songs the register of the Arabs: "It comprises all that they had achieved in past of excellence in every kind of poetry, history, music, etc. So far as I am aware, no other book can be put on a level with it in this respect. It is the final resource of the student of belles lettres and leaves him nothing further to be desired".[5]


  • al-Iṣbahānī, Abū al-Faraj ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn (1900). Kitāb al-Aghāni (in Arabic). 1–7.
  • al-Iṣbahānī, Abū al-Faraj ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn (1900). Kitāb al-Aghāni (in Arabic). 8–14.
  • al-Iṣbahānī, Abū al-Faraj ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn (1900). Kitāb al-Aghāni (in Arabic). 15-21.
  • al-Iṣbahānī, Abū al-Faraj ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn (1900). Kitāb al-Aghāni (in Arabic). 22.
  • al-Iṣbahānī, Abū al-Faraj ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn (1868). Kitāb al-Aghāni. 21. Leiden: Brill.
  • al-Iṣbahānī, Abū al-Faraj ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn (1900). Tables alphabétiques (Kitāb al-Aghāni). Leiden: Brill.
  • al-Iṣfahīnī, Abū al-Faraj. Kitāb al-Aghānī; 21 parts & Index in 9 vols., equiv. to Cairo ed., 1322/1905–5. Dār al-Fikr.
  • al-Iṣfahīnī, Abū al-Faraj (2004). Kitāb al-Aghānī. 25. Beirut: Dar Sader Publishers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani, 25 vols., Beirut, Dar Sader Publishers: 2004.
  2. ^ Thatcher, Griffithes Wheeler (1911). "Abulfaraj" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 79.
  3. ^ Kilpatrick, Hilary (2010). Making the great Book of songs: Compilation and the Author's Craft in Abû I-Faraj al-Isbahânî's Kitâb al-aghânî. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415595841.
  4. ^ Kilpatrick, Hilary (1997). "Abū l-Faraǧ's Profiles of Poets: A 4th/10th Century Essay at the History and Sociology of Arabic Literature". Arabica. 44 (1): 94–128. JSTOR 4057271.
  5. ^ Sawa, George Dimitri (2016). Erotica, Love and Humor in Arabia : Spicy Stories from The Book of Songs by al-Isfahani. McFarland & Company. p. 2. ISBN 9781476663654.