Islamic Studies Nizar Qabbani
Ahmad Barakat
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 June 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0272


Nizar Qabbani was a Syrian poet, publisher, and diplomat. He was largely considered Syria’s national poet, and one of the most prominent contemporary figures in the Arab world. Born in Damascus on 21 March 1923, he studied law at Damascus University. After graduating in 1945, he worked for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, serving in several capital cities, including Beirut, Cairo, Istanbul, Madrid, and London. By the time he tendered his resignation in 1966, he had established a publishing house in Beirut, which carried his name. He died in London on 30 April 1998, and was buried in Damascus. His work was featured not only in his two dozen volumes of poetry and in regular contributions to the Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat, but also in lyrics sung by Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Iraqi, and other vocalists who helped popularize his work. He is one of the major Arab writers to have sparked major controversy and instigated change in Arab societies.

Life and Poetic Influences

Qabbani’s personal life, love of the city of Damascus, and the political conditions of his time were powerful muses in his poetry. Qabbani channeled his grief and sorrow over death and loss into his poems. When he was fifteen, his sister died in unclear circumstances. While some sources claimed it was suicide because she refused to marry a man she did not love, others stated it was a heart attack because the man she loved married another woman. During her funeral, Qabbani decided to fight the social conditions he saw as causing her death. The 1967 Six-Day War also influenced his poetry and his lament for the Arab cause. In further tragedy, his son, Tawfiq, a medical student in Cairo, died in 1973. Qabbani eulogized him in a famous poem, “To the Legendary Damascene, Prince Tawfiq Qabbani.” The death of Qabbani’s second wife, Balqis al-Rawi, in the 15 December 1981 Iraqi embassy bombing in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, had severe psychological effects on the poet, and his grief was expressed in his famous poem Balqis, blaming the entire Arab world for her death. The works listed here deal with the entirety of his life and poetic influences.

  • AlKhalil, Muhamed. Nizar Qabbani: From Romance to Exile. PhD diss., University of Arizona, 2005.

    The subject of this study is the life achievement of Nizar Qabbani. It follows two tracks: a literary track focusing on the poetry and biography of the poet, and a historical track focusing on the social developments in the Arab world in the 20th century.

  • Gabay, Zvi. “Nizar Qabbani, The Poet and His Poetry.” Middle Eastern Studies 9 (1964): 207–222.

    DOI: 10.1080/00263207308700241

    A study of the life and poetry of Nizar Qabbani.

  • Al-Haffar Kuzbari, Salma. Dhikrayat isbaniyah wa-Andalusiyah maa Nizar Qabbani wa-rasailuh. Al-Tabah, Saudi Arabia: Dar al-Nahar, 2001.

    Research about the memories of Nizar Qabbani in Spain.

  • El-Hage, George Nicolas, trans. Nizar Qabbani: My Story with Poetry; “An Autobiography.” Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017.

    This volume traces Nizar Qabbani’s journey in life as a student, a son, a man, a lover, a revolutionary rebel, a diplomat, a patriot, an ambassador, a world traveler, a citizen of the world, a literary critic, a champion of women’s rights, and a Don Juan.

  • Najm, Khristu. Narcissism in the Literature of Nizar Qabbani. Beirut: Al-Raed al-Arabi, 1983.

    An authentic study, analyzing the psychology of Nizar Qabbani, expressing resentment of narcissism and male chauvinism. Qabbani noted that this author understood him better than he understood himself.

  • Qabbani, Nizar. Samba. Beirut: Mansurat Nizar Qabbani, 1949.

    This book describes the dance of Samba inspired by the poem of Khalil Mardam Bey, in a musical style and poetic passages. It was first published in 1949 in Arabic: سامبا.

  • Qabbani, Nizar. Drawing with Words. Beirut: Mansurat Nizar Qabbani, 1966.

    This book is of love and feminism, and reflects the influences of Andalusia and Granada on his poetry. It was first published in 1966 in Arabic: الرسم بالكلمات.

  • Qabbani, Nizar. A Poem For Balqis. Beirut: Mansurat Nizar Qabbani, 1982.

    This book is an epitaph of the whole Arab world, not only Balqis. A very sad book, expressing the agony Nizar Qabbani suffered because of the death of Balqis. It was first published in 1982 in Arabic: قصيدة بلقيس.

  • Qabbani, Nizar. Balqis. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.

    This poem is dedicated to Balqis, his spouse. It reflects the love and sorrow of the remaining partner after she had left him alone.

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