Rebel Poet: Benjamin Zephaniah discusses the life of Abul ʿala Al-Maʿarri (أبو العلاء المعري), the medieval Arab vegan philosopher poet
Rebel Poet: The Life of Al-Ma’arri
A thousand years ago, Al-Ma’arri was writing Arabic poems of extreme complexity, promoting a rational ideal and most remarkably, making an ethical case for veganism. We tell the story of his life in conversation with fellow vegan rebel poet Benjamin Zephaniah.
I will finish editing our next show – about rebel poet Al-Ma’arri, with Benjamin Zephaniah – this weekend. Other commitments intervened, and I’m sorry not to send it your way in February. Just a few more days to go.
Our next show is going to be a contrast. It’s about a blind medieval middle eastern poet with an extraordinary personal philosophy and revolutionary poetic style.
Contemporaries called him “the son of the sublime”. Whilst he strove to be a recluse, students and academics came from all over the Arab world to learn at his feet.
Two centuries before Dante, he wrote an Arab Divine Comedy. Seven centuries before the Enlightenment, he promoted rationalism over revelation. And – why he’s so interesting to us – nine centuries before the word “vegan”, he refused to exploit other animals.
Can you imagine what is was like to encourage others to renounce meat, dairy, and honey in eleventh century Syria?