A legendary poet-knight slightly preceding Islam, Hātim al-Tā’ī is a proverbial model of generous hospitality not only in Arab literature but also throughout the Islamic world. Of the very many texts in which his name occurs, we have chosen to translate almost integrally one of the most ancient sources: the entry dedicated to him in the Book of Poetry and Poets by Ibn Qutayba (d. 889), which summarizes the main traits of Hātim’s figure in a few pages of crisp, direct prose. We have also taken into account the more long-winded parallel narration in the Book of Songs, the great poetico-musical encyclopaedia compiled by Abū l-Faraj al-Isfahānī (d. 967).
[This article is published in Oasis no. 24. To read all the contents buy a copy or subscribe]