Arabic Literature: The Immortal Love Story of Qays and Layla

Layla and Majnun Arabic literature

Layla and Majnun is often called the Romeo and Juliet of the east.

Qyas and Layla is an immortal love story that has been living for over a thousand years. It is one of the greatest love stories  ever and one of the best pieces of Arabic literature.

It was first originated in the 5th century and was later adopted by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi. Many imitations of Nizami’s work sprung into life including Amir Khusrow Dehlavi’s Majnun o Leyli (completed in 1299). After the appearance of Nizami’s work, the popularity of romance stories increased rapidly in a fashion that wasn’t seen before. From the 12th century onwards people were so interested in themes and mystical concepts such as self-sacrifice and love-madness.

The story itself talks about Layla and Qays Ibn al-Mulawwah. Qays fell in love with Layla and began composing poems expressing his love for her and mentioning her name often. His over the top efforts to woo her made some of the locals call him Majnun (meaning madman or crazy in English). When he asked for her hand in marriage, her father refused because it would be a scandal to marry person referred to as mad and crazy. Later Layla was married to another noble and rich man who comes from a well-respected family whose name was Ward Althaqafi. He was called Ward by the Arabs; Ward means “rose” in Arabic. In most versions Layla dies from being heartbroken and separated from her lover and Qays goes to live in the wilderness. He had carved three verses of poetry on a rock near the grave, before he later died too near her grave.

The story of Layla and Majnun influenced a lot of other love stories whether they lesser known ones or masterpiece. Among the most famous works of literature inspired by Layla and Majnun is the German love story “Tristan und Isolde”, the French “Aucassin et Nicolette” and finally Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. The story of Layla and Majnun is one that has greatly influenced the genre of romance and increased its popularity.

The story of Layla and Majnun is an eternal and a tragic one that lived through the ages, travelled through the world, entered many cultures and influenced a lot of them.


By: Osama Waheib

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