The Unique Necklace
Contributions by: Issa J. Boullata
Al-'Iqd al-Farid (The Unique Necklace) is one of the classics of Arabic literature. Compiled in several volumes by an Andalusian scholar and poet named Ibn 'Abd Rabbih (246-328 A.H. / 860-940 C.E.), it remains a wealth of information about various elements of Arab culture and letters during the four centuries before Ibn 'Abd Rabbih's death. Essentially, it is a book of adab, a term understood in modern times to specifically mean literature, but in earlier times its meaning included all that a well-informed person had to know in order to pass in society as a cultured and refined individual. This meaning later evolved and included belles letters in the form of elegant prose and verse that was as much entertaining as it was morally educational - such as poetry, pleasant anecdotes, proverbs, historical accounts, general knowledge, wise maxims, and even practical philosophy. Ibn 'Abd Rabbih's imagination and organization saved his encyclopedic compendium from becoming a chaotic jumble of materials by conceiving of it as a necklace composed of 25 'books,' each of which carried the name of a jewel. Each of the 25 'books' was organized around a major theme and had an introduction written by Ibn 'Abd Rabbih, followed by his relevant adab selections of verse and prose on the theme of the 'book.' Volume I of this translation of al-'Iqd al-Farid contained four of its 25 'books.' The present volume, Volume II, contains two more.
Publication Date: 3/17/2009