DUBAI: This Valentine’s Day, we explore some of the Middle East’s legendary poetry about love and longing. From Lebanese great Gibran Khalil Gibran to the Syrian wordsmith Nizar Qabbani, these verses have stood the test of time and offer up a poignant look at what it means to be in love.
‘I hadn't told them about you’ by Nizar Qabbani
“I hadn't told them about you,
But they saw you bathing in my eyes.
I hadn't told them about you,
But they saw you in my written words.
The perfume of love cannot be concealed.”
Legendary poet Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998) was born in Damascus, Syria and was one of the most popular Arab poets of the 20th century.
‘Do You Love Me?’ by Rumi
Do you love me?
A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself more
than you love me?
The beloved replied,
I have died to myself
and I live for you.
I’ve disappeared from myself
and my attributes.
I am present only for you.
I have forgotten all my learning,
but from knowing you
I have become a scholar.
I have lost all my strength,
but from your power
I am able.
If I love myself
I love you.
If I love you
I love myself.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī was a 13th-century Persian poet and Islamic scholar and remains popular to this day.
‘Which is more important?’ by Gibran Khalil Gibran
One day you will ask me which is more important? My life or yours? I will say mine and you will walk away not knowing that you are my life.
Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist.
‘Because my love for you’ Nizar Qabbani
Because my love for you
Is higher than words,
I have decided to fall silent.
Nizar Qabbani makes the list again for his simple, poignant and powerful verse.
‘Layla’ by Qays ibn Al-Mulawwah
I draw a picture of her in the dust
and cry, my heart in torment
I complain to her about her: for she left me
lovesick, badly stricken
I complain of all the passion I have
suffered, with a plaint toward the dust
Love makes me want to turn to Layla’s land
complaining of my passion and flames in me.
Late 7th century poet Qays ibn Al-Mulawwah’s legendary poems of love for his Layla bint Sa’d earned him the nickname Majnoun Layla, or crazy about Layla. The pair fell in love when they were young, but she was forced to marry another, driving the heartbroken man into the desert. Their love story ends with them both dying in 688.