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Poetry Magnum Opus

A guide to numerical prosody


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Michael Adeeb said:" ancient and recent prosody books lack the analysis of the mental process which enabled AlXalil to achieve this mathematical summit feasible only to the genius"

Maling, Joan Mathilde mentioned in her thesis"The theory of classical Arabic metrics"



These two statements exceptionally express the deep understanding of al-Xalil's , role, thinking and system; unlike the general attitude of the vast majority of Arab and non Arab scholars.

Besides giving an idea about numerical prosody, I hope to clarify my conviction that there will never be new Arabic meters outside AlXalil's Meter Clock, just like there will never be new elements outside Mendeleev's periodic table. This is based on the hereunder proved concept that Arabic meters are parts of a mathematically designed architectural structure. The feet (tafaeel) are parts that were designed to fit in that structure. The introduction of any new part or the use of the existing parts against the system instructions will spoil the rhythm.

This subject is based on the Arabic origin: https://sites.google.com/site/alarood/r3/Home/daleel

Being aware of the various backgrounds of those who may read it, I will try to make it as easy as possible.

I always express my opinion that the metrics of Arabic poetry is a precise manifestation of the mathematical nature of Arabic rhythm which can be viewed as a program followed by the Arabs subconsciously.

Arabic prosody as a science was started and completed by AlXalil Ben Ahmed. One of the greatest mentalities in History. He produced it on two scales:

the 1st is the general Abstract mathematical scale, on which the only left the key for its door is ( the circles) . He did not elaborate on it because people were and still are not ready to understand it. The circles were inviting people for centuries to use them and enter.

The 2nd is the detailed mnemonic special sets of rules each of which is applicable to one of his 15+1 meters. Needless to say that all these partial rules are just resulting subsets of that program.

Here are some preliminary definitions.

consonant = c ,

short vowel = v

Long vowel = V or vv

cv= 1 (bu in but) called in linguistics short syllable (s) ,light syllable (l) and indicated by / or u. 1 is analogous to unstressed

cvv =2 like (ma –n man) called in linguistics long syllable (L) or heavy syllable (H) indicated by (/0) or _

or cvc like (but).2 is analogous to stressed.

When it comes to Arabic prosody, there are two prosodic syllables

2 called sabab = cvv = cV or cvc

3 called wated = cv – cvc and cv-cvv/cV = 12 every 12=3

They are defined as “Sabab” (the tent-rope) is composed of two letters, a vowelled and a quiescent consonant as “Lam.” [ or a consonant and a long vowel " laa=lA لا"] The “Watad” or tent peg [or mountain] of three letters a foot in which the two first consonants are moved by vowels and the last is jazmated or made quiescent by apocope as “Lakad لَقـَدْ " [or a long vowel cvv = cV as halaa =halA هَـــلا]

They form the special basic vocabulary of the special Arabic poetic metrics. 2 is the same as defined above.

Thou 3 = 1 +2 = This monolithic prosodic syllable 3 composed of the inseparable couple of accoustic syllables short 1 and long 2 (12) characterizes Arabic prosody. Remembering and considering this particular unique prosodic syllable 12=3 as one unit is a MUST to understand and feel Arabic meters the way an Arab does

Short vowels are not counted for our purpose.Only consonants and long vowels are counted.

Sabab counted letters =2. Watad counted letters =3 the number of letters is the symbol.

(f a ' u = 3 ) ( l u n = 2 ) fa'u = 3 lun =2 fa'ulun = 3 2

Mutaqareb = fa'ulun fa'ulun fa'ulun fa'ulun =3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2


Let us move to another meter Hazaj

We may add up even numbers

Hazaj = 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 = 3 4 3 4 3 4 3 4

Ist rule : added even numbers (sababs) and the odd 3 (wated) alternate. There is no 3 3

Let us compare the patterns of mutakareb and hazaj syllables









Mutaqareb and Hazaj having a degree of similarity, interfere to produce a new meter ,Taweel





As you see we have three patterns resulting from the alternation of 3 wated and an even number 2 = sabab 2/22=4 two sababs as shown in the table at the bottom right of the above shape. this relation represents not only these three meters but their circles as well, which covers 8 meters of the 16 Arabic meters.
We mean by circle the meter alternating numbers distributed on the perimeter of a circle. each number represents a probable start of a certain meter as shown in the following three figures


Every syllable on this clock is defined by its circumfurancial and diagonal position. This reminds us of Latitude and longitude lines. the two dimensions of the sabab 2 define its metric characteristics.
Taweel as an example to be compaired to its syllables in the clock:

Let us develop our symbols so that only capital letters will count. All small letters are short vowels which do not count in Arabic since a short vowel sounds deeply united with the ever preceding constant

The subject may be edited, and will be continued on :
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David W. Parsley

Fascinating treatise, khasan. I only had time to browse the content, but found it profound. I will return when I have time to give it due consideration.


Thank You!

- Dave

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Fascinating treatise, khasan. I only had time to browse the content, but found it profound. I will return when I have time to give it due consideration.


Thank You!

- Dave


Dear David , I am pleased that you found this interesting. I suggest you have a look on : https://sites.google.com/site/alarood/r3/Home/comparative-metrics


Thank you.

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