Whenever a poet emerged in an Arab tribe, other tribes would come to congratulate, feasts would be prepared, the women would join together on lutes as they do at weddings, and old and young men would all rejoice at the good news. The Arabs used to congratulate each other only on the birth of a child and when a poet rose among them. In his ’Uyun al-Akhbar, Ibn Qutayba defined poetry as follows:
Poetry is the mine of knowledge of the Arabs and the book of their wisdom, the archive of their history and the reservoir of their epic days, the wall that defends their exploits, the impassable trench that preserves their glories, the impartial witness for the day of judgement.
Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), a notable scholar of the fourteenth century, remarked on the importance of poetry in Arab life:
It should be known that Arabs thought highly of poetry as a form of speech. Therefore, they made it the archives of their history, the evidence for what they considered right and wrong, and the principal basis of reference for most of their sciences and wisdom.
Almost four centuries earlier, Ibn Faris (d. 1005) elaborated on the same theme, but went further to comment on the quality of the poetry that was composed during the pre-Islamic era:
Poetry is the archive of the Arabs; in it their genealogies have been preserved; it sheds light on the darkest and strangest things found in the Book of God and in the tradition of God’s apostle and that of his companions. Perhaps a poem may be luckier than another, and one poem sweeter and more elegant than another, but none of the ancient poems lacks its degree of excellence.
"Any natural distribution of kinds of creatures on the earth includes five percent of those called pathfinders, pioneers, or elites. They have a penetrating glance, and the capability to push societies forward. This special trait is not limited to human societies... it is also found among animals, birds, and even tiny insects... The existence of this five percent is inescapable; it plays a real part among the members [of the group to which it belongs] in the continuation of the life of every species, and in dealing with the challenges that these groups face from time to time...
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