al-Azdī's Ḥikāyat Abī al Qāsim al-Baghdādī: placing an anomalous text within the literary developments of its time
The Hikayat Abi al-Qasim al-Baghdadi , by Abu al-Muṭahhar Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Azdi, is a narrative, seemingly fictional prose work written in the late 4th/10th or early 5th/11 th century. Although two editions of it have been published, it has generally been passed over by researchers due to its obscenity, the difficulty of its language and its apparent deviation from the standard literary forms of its period.Al-Azdi specifies that his work is a ḥikaya , or imitation, of a typical Baghdadi man. A vagrant, Abu al-Qasim, is the representative Baghdadi whose phrases and idioms are to illustrate the moral character, classes, and customs of the people of that city. He is introduced as educated and skilled, but without morals or restraint. He enters the gathering uninvited and satirizes the attendees according to their professions. He ends that subject by informing the Isfahanis that they are deficient in cultured manners and linguistic and literary skills. After describing typical attendees of a gathering, he moves on to describe high quality material goods and excellent behavior at a gathering as represented by Baghdad and the matching negative phenomena as represented by Isfahan. He embeds a qaṣida 's structure in prose to shape the discussion. Abu al-Qasim begins with a prose nasib praising Baghdad as his beloved. He treats the raḥil as a journey through a gathering. First he contrasts the high and low quality material goods used by the literate classes of Baghdad and Isfahan. He then recites a variety of examples from anecdotal literature performed at gatherings in Baghdad, but which are not found in Isfahan. In the third section of the qaṣida , he provides an example of desirable behavior by participating in the gathering as though he were a guest. When he does not receive a large reward, he reverts to his confrontational behavior. He alternates fakhr (boasting) on his lifestyle and hija' (satire) on the attendees. Finally, he passes out drunk. He arises the next morning, recites the same pious phrases which gained his entrance the night before and leaves, apparently to repeat the process.