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- For the film, see Leyli o Majnun (1936 film).
Layla and Majnun, also known as The Madman and Layla - in Arabic مجنون و ليلى (Majnun and Layla) or قيس وليلى (Qays and Layla), in Persian: لیلی و مجنون (Leyli and Madjnun), (Leyli və Məcnun) in Azeri - is a classical Arabic story of star-crossed lovers. It is based on the real story of a young man called Qays ibn al-Mulawwah (Arabic: قيس بن الملوح) from the northern Arabian Peninsula during the Umayyad era in the 7th century. In one version, he spent his youth together with Layla, tending their flocks. In the other version, upon seeing Layla he fell passionately in love with her. In both versions, however, he went mad when her father prevented him from marrying her; for that reason he came to be called Majnun-e Layla (Persian: مجنونِ لیلا), which means "Layla's Lunatic."
Qays ibn al-Mulawwah ibn Muzahim, was a Bedouin poet. He fell in love with Layla bint Mahdi ibn Sa’d from the same tribe, better known as Layla Al-Aamiriya. He soon began composing poems about his love for her, mentioning her name often. When he asked for her hand in marriage her father refused as this would mean a scandal for Layla according to Arab traditions. Soon after, Layla married another man.
When Qays heard of her marriage, he fled the tribe camp and began wandering the surrounding desert. His family eventually gave up on his return and left food for him in the wilderness. He could sometimes be seen reciting poetry to himself or writing in the sand with a stick.
Layla moved to present-day Iraq with her husband, where she became ill and eventually died. Qays was later found dead in the wilderness in 688 A.D. near an unknown woman’s grave. He had carved three verses of poetry on a rock near the grave, which are the last three verses attributed to him.
Many other minor incidents happened between his madness and his death. Most of his recorded poetry was composed before his descent into madness.
Among the poems attributed to Qays ibn al-Mulawwah, regarding Layla:
|“||I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla |
And I kiss this wall and that wall
It’s not Love of the houses that has taken my heart
But of the One who dwells in those houses
In India it is believed that Layla and Majnu found refuge in a village in Rajasthan before breathing their last. The 'graves' of Layla and Majnu are believed to be located in the Bijnore village near Anupgarh in the Sriganganagar district. According to rural legend there, Layla and Majnu escaped to these parts and died there. Hundreds of newlyweds and lovers from India and Pakistan, despite there being no facilities for an overnight stay, attend the two day fair in June.
There is also a Layla-Majnu tomb in Al-Hofuf, Saudi Arabia.
Another variation on the tale tells of Layla and Majnu meeting in school. Majnu fell in love with Layla and was captivated by her. The school master would beat Majnu for paying attention to Layla instead of his school work. But some sort of magic happened. Majnu was beaten but Laila would bleed for his wounds. Word reached their households and their families feuded. Separated at childhood, Layla and Majnu met again in their youth. Layla's brother, Tabrez, would not let Layla shame the family name by marrying Majnu. Tabrez and Majnu quarreled; stricken with madness over Layla, Majnu murdered Tabrez. Word reached the village and Majnu was arrested. He was sentenced to be stoned to death by the villagers. Layla could not bear it and agreed to marry another man if Majnu would be kept safe from harm in exile. Layla got married but her heart longed for Majnu. Hearing this, Layla's husband rode with his men to the desert towards Majnu. He challenged Majnu to the death. It is said that the instant Layla's husband's sword pierced Majnu's heart, Layla collapsed in her home. Layla and Majnu were said to be buried next to each other as her husband and their fathers prayed to their afterlife. Myth has it, Layla and Majnu met again in heaven, where they loved forever.
History and influence
Persianization of the story
From Arab and Habib folklore the story passed into Persian literature. The story of Lili o Majnoon was known in Persian at least from the time of Rudaki who mentions the lovers.
Although the story was somewhat popular in Persian literature in the 12th century, it was the Persian masterpiece of Nezami Ganjavi that popularized it dramatically in Persian literature. Nezami collected both secular and mystical sources about Majnun and portrayed a vivid picture of the famous lovers . Subsequently, many other Persian poets imitated him and wrote their own versions of the romance . By collecting information from both secular and mystical sources about Majnun, Nizami portrayed such a vivid picture of this legendary lover that all subsequent poets were inspired by him, many of them imitated him and wrote their own versions of the romance. Nezami uses various characteristics deriving from 'Udhrite love poetry and weaves them into his own Persian culture. He Persianises the poem by adding techniques borrowed from the Persian epic tradition, such as "the portrayal of characters, the relationship between characters, description of time and setting, etc.".
In his adaptation, the young lovers become acquainted at school and fell desperately in love. However, they could not see each other due to a family feud, and Layla's family arranged for her to marry another man . It is a tragic story of undying love much like the later Romeo and Juliet.[5 ]
This type of love is known in Arabic culture as "Virgin Love" (Arabic: حب عذري), because the lovers never married or made love. Other famous Virgin Love stories are the stories of "Qays and Lubna", "Kuthair and Azza", "Marwa and Al Majnoun Al Faransi" and "Antara and Abla". The literary motif itself is common throughout the world, notably in the Muslim literature of South Asia, such as Urdu ghazals.
According to Dr. Rudolf Gelpke: Many later poets have imitated Nizami's work, even if they could not equal and certainly not surpass it; Persians, Turks, Indians, to name only the most important ones. The Persian scholar Hekmat has listed not less than forty Persians and thirteen Turkish versions of Layli and Majnun.. According to Vahid Dastgerdi, If one would search all existing libraries, one would probably find more than 1000 versions of Layli and Majnun.
The Azerbaijani language adaptation of the story, Dâstân-ı Leylî vü Mecnûn (داستان ليلى و مجنون; "The Epic of Layla and Majnun") was written in the 16th century by Fuzûlî. Fuzûlî's version was borrowed by the renowned Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, who used the material to create what became the Middle East's first opera. It premiered in Baku on January 25, 1908. The story had previously been brought to the stage in the late 19th century, when Ahmed Shawqi wrote a poetic play about the tragedy, now considered one of the best in modern Arab poetry. Qays's lines from the play are sometimes confused with his actual poems.
The enduring popularity of the legend has influenced Middle Eastern literature, especially Sufi writers, in whose literature the name Layla refers to their concept of the Beloved. The original story is featured in Bahá'u'lláh's mystical writings, the Seven Valleys. Etymologically, Layla is related to the Hebrew and Arabic words for "night," and is thought to mean "one who works by night." This is an apparent allusion to the fact that the romance of the star-crossed lovers was hidden and kept secret. In the Persian and Arabic languages, the word Majnun means "crazy." In addition to this creative use of language, the tale has also made at least one linguistic contribution, inspiring a Turkish colloquialism: to "feel like Layla" is to feel completely dazed, as might be expected of a person who is literally madly in love.
This epic poem was translated into English by Isaac D'Israeli in the early 1800s allowing a wider audience to appreciate it.
Layla has also been mentioned in many works by the notorious Aleister Crowley in many of his religious texts, perhaps most notably, in The Book of Lies.
- The name "Layla" served as Clapton's inspiration for the title of Derek and the Dominos' famous album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and its title track. The song "I Am Yours" is a direct quote from a passage in Layla and Majnun.
- The tale of Layla and Majnun has been the subject of various films produced by the Indian film industry beginning in the 1920s. One, Laila Majnun, was produced in 1976. In 2007, the story was enacted as both a framing story and as a dance-within-a-movie in the film Aaja Nachle. There is a reference to the story in the song 'Laila' from the film Qurbani.
- The term Layla-Majnun is often used for lovers, also Majnun is commonly used to address a person madly in love.
- One of the panels in the Alisher Navoi metro station in Tashkent, Uzbekistan represents the epic on blue green tiles.
- In the book A Thousand Splendid Suns by Afghan author Khaled Hosseini, Rasheed often refers to Laila and Tariq as Layla and Majnun.
- On Gaia Online, a recent monthly collectible released an item under the names Majnun and Layla loosely based on the story.(see also: http://www.gaiaonline.com/ or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_Online)
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- ^ Loss of Meaning, Faraz Rabbani, Islamica Magazine No. 15/2006
- ^ • Zanjani, Barat. “Layla va Majnun-I Nizami Ganjavi: matn-I Ilmi va intiqadi az ru-yi qadimtari nuskha-hayi khatti-I qarn-I hashtum ba zikr-i ikhtilaf-i nusakh va ma’ani lughat va tarikbat va kashf al-bayat”, Tehran, Mu’assasah-I Chap va Intisharat-I Danishgah Tehran, 1369 Rudaki: مشوش است دلم از کرشمهی سلمی چنان که خاطره ی مجنون ز طره ی لیلی
- ^ a b c d e f Layli and Majnun: Love, Madness and Mystic Longing, Dr. Ali Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, Brill Studies in Middle Eastern literature, Jun 2003, ISBN 90-04-12942-1. excerpt:Although Majnun was to some extent a popular figure before Nizami’s time, his popularity increased dramatically after the appearance of Nizami’s romance. By collecting information from both secular and mystical sources about Majnun, Nizami portrayed such a vivid picture of this legendary lover that all subsequent poets were inspired by him, many of them imitated him and wrote their own versions of the romance. As we shall see in the following chapters, the poet uses various characteristics deriving from ‘Udhrite love poetry and weaves them into his own Persian culture. In other words, Nizami Persianises the poem by adding several techniques borrowed from the Persian epic tradition, such as the portrayal of characters, the relationship between characters, description of time and setting, etc.
- ^ ArtArena: "Layli and Madjnun in Persian Literature"
- ^ NIZAMI: LAYLA AND MAJNUN - English Version by Paul Smith
- ^ The Story of Layla and Majnun, by Nizami. Translated Dr. Rudolf. Gelpke in collaboration with E. Mattin and G. Hill, Omega Publications, 1966, ISBN #0-930872-52-5.
- Nizami, The Story of Layla & Majpoonun, ISBN 0-930872-52-5
- Nizami and Colin Turner, Layla and Majnun, ISBN 1-85782-161-0