The Thin Line between Lying and Using Linguistic Possibilities

Tawriyah or double-entendre in Maqāmāt al-Ḥarīrī

  • Asmaa Essakouti Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, Berlin, Germany
Keywords: data collection period, maqāmāt, tawriyah, essence, appearence, moral judgment, aesthetics, ambiguity


For two centuries, during the data collecting period or ʿaṣr al-tadwīn, philologists wandered the desert seeking a reliable informant; mostly an illiterate Bedouin who lives far away, to provide them with rare original words. Later, this quest for words will make its way to adab; but this time the philologist will pursue a trickster, who travels from one city to another, armed by ambiguity only. Thus, was the maqāma genre born; as a parody of a vain quest; where terms were prioritized over meaning. Consequently, I suggest in this paper a new reading of Ḥarīrī’s Maqāmāt; as a collection that was produced within a unique linguistic context, marked by a lexical abundance, need for a new form and training for ambiguity. To illustrate this point, I limit myself in this paper to a single literary figure and its multiple uses within the book; I mean tawriyah or double-entendre, as a literary figure that shares the same enjeu as the maqāma; meaning the clash between appearance and essence; which can be read aesthetically or morally.