Elias Agel

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Since this study is concerned with a comparative study of the Rubaiyyat in both Arabic and English poetry, and since the main purpose is to arrive at some understanding of the Rubaiyyat through a knowledge of the Islamic literature, it is essential here to give a short introductory note of some technical terms and facts about the Arabic language and Arabic poetry in particular. In general, there is a great difference between the structure of Semitic languages and Indo-European languages, and hence between English and Arabic. The most characteristic feature of the Arabic language is that the great majority of its words are built up from roots of three consonants (triconsonantal root). By using these roots as a base and by adding prefixes, infixes, and suffixes according to certain patterns, the actual words are produced. The triconsonantal root is equated with the infinitive in English. There are two basic types of sentences: verbal and nominal. The dominant type is the verbal sentence which is always introduced by a verb. Thus, in a verbal sentence, one says: "Reads Ken the book,” not “Ken reads a book." A nominal sentence is one that is introduced by a noun. Thus, the sentence “The man is tall" would be expressed as "'The man tall.” Furthermore, Arabic is one of the most difficult languages because of its wide range of vocabulary. Any attempt to discuss Islamic literature could not be adequately and honestly done without some understanding of the Islamic culture. It may be well to mention here that Islamic literature does not mean Arabic literature only, but also the literature of other Islamic countries like Persia, Turkey, and Pakistan. The spread of Arabic and Persian languages over wide areas of the Northern and Western parts of Africa and the Western and Southern parts of Asia through many generations helped also in developing this homogeneity. And the fact that many of the leading literary figures of Islam were bilingual (Arabic and Persian) testifies to this feature. Islamic literatures, as mentioned earlier, have not been discussed in the West until very recently. The reason for this goes back to the thirteenth century during the co-existence of Islam and Christianity, when both religions exhibited no intellectual curiosity about one another. However, when Islamic literature began to be discussed in the West it was studied in most cases badly. Sometimes these studies have distorted the facts because of mere prejudice and distaste for its literature. But in most cases the real damage has been done through translation. No one denies the hardships that every translator encounter, for to avoid inaccuracy and bowdlerization the translator often becomes a victim to the harshness of literalism. Thus, many examples of awkward translations from Islamic literature can be cited here. A. J. Arberry who has provided English readers with more translations from Islamic literature than anyone else is another victim of such conditions.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Omar Khayyam. Rubaiyyat



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University