Layla and Majnun

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Depiction of Layla and Majnun on a tile panel.

Layla and Majnun (Arabic: مجنون ليلى) is an old story from Arabia about two lovers, Qays and Layla. Qays loved Layla very much, but her father didn't want them to be close to each other.[1][2] Qays loved Layla so much that he couldn't stop thinking about her, and people started calling him "Majnun," which means "crazy". This story became popular in many countries like Persia, Turkey, Pakistan, and India. A Persian poet named Nizami Ganjavi wrote a famous poem about their love story in the 12th century. In the poem, Qays and Layla fall in love when they're young, but they can not be with each other. Many other poets were inspired by Nizami's poem and wrote their own stories about them.[3][4]

Some of these stories became very popular in places like Turkey, Pakistan and India. Sufi mystics, who are people who have special beliefs about God and spirituality, also told stories about Majnun to explain ideas like love and giving up things for someone else. Nizami's poem has been translated into many languages.[5][6][7]

Story[change | change source]

A Mughal miniature of Amir Khusro's version; Walters Art Museum.

Qays ibn al-Mullawah loved Layla al-Aamiriya very much. He wrote poems about her and people called him "Majnun" (crazy) because he couldn't stop thinking about her all the time. When he asked to marry Layla, her father said no because he thought Majnun was crazy. Layla got married to another man named Ward Althaqafi. Majnun was heartbroken and ran away to the desert, where he wandered alone. His family left food for him, but he was lost in his own world, reciting poetry and writing in the sand.[8][9]

Majnun's love for Layla was so strong that he disconnected from reality and searched for divine love in the desert. He didn't even recognize Layla when they met. Layla moved with her husband and became ill, eventually dying. Some say she died of a broken heart. Majnun was found dead near her grave, where he had carved poetry on a rock.[10]

Their story is similar to Romeo and Juliet, where their love story is very sad and doesn't have a happy ending. There are many other stories like theirs in Arabian literature, where love isn't fulfilled, like the story of Qays and Lubna. This idea of love that can't come true is found in stories from all around the world, including South Asian literature like Urdu poetry.[11][12]

History and Influence[change | change source]

According to Arab stories, Qays and Layla were born in Al-Aflaj province, Saudi Arabia, where there's a town named after Layla.[13]

Jabal Al-Toubad is in Al-Aflaj, Saudi Arabia, 350 km southwest of Riyadh. The place called Jabbar, near Al-Ghayl village, is where the love story of Qais bin al-Mulawwah and Laila al-Amiriya happened in 685 AD.

In the 11th century, the Persian poet Nasir Khusraw visited Layla's town and described it, including Jabal Al-Toubad. He talked about how the region was poor and troubled by conflicts.[14]

Influence[change | change source]

The story of Layla and Majnun was known in Persia a long time ago, starting from the 9th century. Persian poets like Rudaki and Baba Taher talked a lot about the lovers.[15]

Layla visits Majnun in the wilderness; South Asian art held by the Bodleian Library.

Although the story was known in Arabic literature in the 5th century, it became very famous in Persian literature because of Nizami Ganjavi's masterpiece. Nizami got inspiration from different sources and created a detailed picture of the lovers. Many other Persian poets were influenced by Nizami's work and wrote their own versions of the story. They were influenced by ancient Persian stories and love poetry too.[16]

In the story, Layla and Majnun fell in love when they were young, but they couldn't be together because of a family disagreement. Layla's family made her marry someone else. Many poets tried to write their own versions of Layla and Majnun, but Nizami's work was considered the best.[17]

In Azerbaijani literature, Fuzuli's poem Leyli and Majnun, written in 1535, became very popular. It was known for its emotional and beautiful writing style. It's seen as one of the greatest works of Turkic literature.[18] The first opera in the Islamic world, also named Leyli and Majnun, was composed by Uzeyir Hajibeyov in 1908, based on Fuzuli's work.[19]

The story of Layla and Majnun has influenced many writers, especially Sufi writers who see Layla as a symbol of their beloved. The word "Majnun" means "a crazy person" in Arabic, and the story has inspired expressions in Turkish and Arabic languages. The tale has also been translated into English, making it accessible to more people.[20][21]

In Pakistan, the story of Layla and Majnun is very popular. This influence came to South Asia due to Sufism. Many movies have been made on it in both Pakistan and India.[22]

Layla has also been mentioned in works by the English poet Aleister Crowley, including The Book of Lies.[23]

References[change | change source]

  1. Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature. Margaret Obank. 2003.
  2. Foundation, Encyclopaedia Iranica. "Welcome to Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  3. "A two-colored brocade: the imagery of Persian poetry". Choice Reviews Online. 30 (07): 30–3725-30-3725. 1993-03-01. doi:10.5860/choice.30-3725. ISSN 0009-4978.
  4. The Islamic Review & Arab Affairs. Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust. 1970.
  5. Bruijn, Johannes Thomas Pieter de (2009). General introduction to Persian literature. A history of Persian literature. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-886-0.
  6. Ph.D, Evans Lansing Smith; Brown, Nathan Robert (2008-07-01). The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Mythology. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-101-04716-3.
  7. Badawī, Muḥammad Muṣṭafá (1987). Modern Arabic Drama in Egypt. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-24222-6.
  8. Ganjav, Nizami (2021-12-28). The Story Of Layla And Majnun. Mizan Publishing. ISBN 978-602-441-233-3.
  9. Nizami, Ganjavi; Rogers, Louis (2002). The Fire of Love: The Love Story of Layla and Majnum. iUniverse. ISBN 978-0-595-23228-4.
  10. Nizami, Syekh (2020). Layla Majnun (in Indonesian). DIVA PRESS. ISBN 978-602-391-900-0.
  11. Point, Urdu Shayari (2022-09-10). "laila majnu Shayari and Poetry in Urdu, Hindi and English". Archived from the original on 2024-02-07. Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  12. Sinha, Lalita (2008). Unveiling the Garden of Love: Mystical Symbolism in Layla Majnun & Gita Govinda. World Wisdom, Inc. ISBN 978-1-933316-63-5.
  13. "Layla Aflaj: a Saudi Arabian village that tells the immortal love story of Laila and Majnu". Onmanorama. Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  14. "The Vision That Transformed Nasir Khushraw". Simerg - Insights from Around the World. 2009-03-23. Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  15. Foundation, Encyclopaedia Iranica. "Welcome to Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  16. "Arabic Literature: The Immortal Love Story of Qays and Layla | ArabiCollege". 2018-08-21. Archived from the original on 2018-08-21. Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  17. "Layli and Madjnun in Persian literature". Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  18. Foundation, Encyclopaedia Iranica. "Welcome to Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  19. Sözlüğü, Türk Edebiyatı İsimler. "FUZÛLÎ". Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  20. Skilliter, S. A. (1972). "Sofi Huri (tr.): Leylᾱ and Mejnūn, by Fuzūlī, translated from the Turkish. With a history of the poem, notes, and bibliography by Alessio Bombaci (translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Dairies). (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works, Turkish Series.) 350 pp. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1970. £4". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 35 (1): 156–157. doi:10.1017/S0041977X0010758X. ISSN 0041-977X.
  21. Sinha, Lalita (2008). Unveiling the Garden of Love: Mystical Symbolism in Layla Majnun & Gita Govinda. World Wisdom, Inc. ISBN 978-1-933316-63-5.
  22. Sengar, Resham SengarResham. "A place near Indo-Pak border called Binjaur wherein lies the tomb of Laila-Majnu". The Times of India. ISSN 0971-8257. Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  23. "Love in the Middle East; Layla and Majnun". Retrieved 2024-02-07.