32. How Abu Nuwas (757-815) used sex jokes to critique Islamic society

One of the most influential and lauded (though not uncontroversial) Arabic poets of all time, Abu Nuwas, regularly employed sexually graphic and borderline blasphemous imagery in his own brand of “Islamic satire” that resonates to this day.

Writing from Baghdad during the zenith of the Abbassid period — the Islamic empire that lasted from roughly the mid-8th to mid-13th centuries — Abu Nuwas drew on profane and offensive imagery as a way to subvert the authority of the caliph and mock the excesses of the court. Despite his critique of those in power, he himself was a court poet, providing him with an elite audience.

Often, his words directly targeted the institutions of Islam. In one colorful verse, for example, he calls sodomy the “true jihad.” Playing on the meaning of the word “Islam” as submission (to God), he draws on the word’s sexual connotations to suggest that Muslims should get non-Muslims to “submit” through sex.

In another of his verses, two young boys fall in love, and in lieu of praying five times, they fornicate five times a day when the Muslim call to prayer.  / Marya Hannun, Washington Post

Gedichte mit homoerotischen Themen von Abu Nuwas hier, hier und hier (englisch)

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