The Excellence of the Arabs

9781479809578: Hardback
Release Date: 4th April 2017

9781479899265: Paperback
Release Date: 18th September 2019

Dimensions: 152.4 x 228.6

Number of Pages: 400

Series Library of Arabic Literature

NYU Press

The Excellence of the Arabs

Written by
Ibn Qutaybah
Translated by
Sarah Bowen Savant
Edited and translated by
Peter Webb
Edited by
James E. Montgomery
Hardback / £34.00
Paperback / £12.99

The Excellence of the Arabs is a spirited defense of Arab identity—its merits, values, and origins—at a time of political unrest and fragmentation, written by one of the most important scholars of the early Abbasid era.

In the cosmopolitan milieu of Baghdad, the social prestige attached to claims of being Arab had begun to decline. Although his own family originally hailed from Merv in the east, Ibn Qutaybah locks horns with those members of his society who belittled Arabness and vaunted the glories of Persian heritage and culture. Instead, he upholds the status of Arabs and their heritage in the face of criticism and uncertainty.

The Excellence of the Arabs is in two parts. In the first, Arab Preeminence, which takes the form of an
extended argument for Arab privilege, Ibn Qutaybah accuses his opponents of blasphemous envy. In the second, The Excellence of Arab Learning, he describes the fields of knowledge in which he believed pre-Islamic
Arabians excelled, including knowledge of the stars, divination, horse husbandry, and poetry. And by incorporating extensive excerpts from the poetic heritage—“the archive of the Arabs”—Ibn Qutaybah aims to demonstrate that poetry is itself sufficient corroboration of Arab superiority.

Eloquent and forceful, The Excellence of the Arabs addresses a central question at a time of great social flux at the dawn of classical Muslim civilization: what did it mean to be Arab?

Ibn Qutaybah (d. 276/889) was a renowned judge and writer known for many influential works on a wide range of subjects, including Qur'anic exegesis, poetry and poetics, and statecraft.

Sarah Bowen Savant is Professor at The Aga Khan University, London, and the author of The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran.
Peter Webb is Lecturer in Arabic Literature and Culture at the University of Leiden and the author of Imagining the Arabs: Arab Identity and the Rise of Islam.
James E. Montgomery, author of Al-Jahiz: In Praise of Books, is Sir Thomas Adams’s Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity Hall. His latest publications are Loss Sings, a collaboration with the celebrated Scottish artist Alison Watt, and Dīwān ʿAntarah ibn Shaddād: A Literary-Historical Study.