About Kushājim

Kushājim (c. 902 – 970 CE) is a celebrated 10th century Shiʻite Muslim Arab court poet, master chef, and polymath. Originally from Ramla in Palestine near contemporary Tel Aviv, Kushājim lived during the turbulent war-ridden period of the Middle and Late Abbasid Caliphates, which caused him to move between Jerusalem, Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo before finally settling in Aleppo. His known works include an influential collection of poems, a collection of epistles, and the books Adab an-nadīm, Kitāb al-maṣāyid wa-l-maṭārid, and Khaṣā’iṣ aṭ-ṭarab, which translate to Etiquette of the Boon-Companion, Book of Snares and Game, and The Characteristics of Music, respectively.

During his lifetime, Kushājim was considered the epitome of excellence in literature so much so that he was part of the circle of Sayf al-Dawla (the founder and ruler of the Emirate of Aleppo from 945 to 967 and arguably the most famous ruler in Islamic history, known for his military victories, lavish lifestyle, and cultural influence, where he surrounded himself with the best poets and polymaths of his time). Along with Kushājim, al-Dawla’s circle also included some of the most influential poets in the Arabic language, such as al-Mutanabbī, ’Abū Firās al-Hamdanī, and al-Farābī.

It comes as no surprise, thus, that Kushājim was highly commended by the literary critics of his time both for his poetic works and intellectual faculties. The famous 10th century author and food critic, Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq, commended his poetry, quoting at least ten of his gastronomic poems in Kitāb al-ṭabīkh (The Book of Cookery), one of the oldest surviving Arabic cookbooks. Additionally, many acclaimed Arab and Persian literary critics and polymaths, such as ʻAlī ibn ʻAbdul ʻAzīz al-Jurjānī (d. 1001) and ’Abū Bakr al-Khwārazmī (d. 1012), put Kushājim on par with some of the most prominent classical Arab poets, such as Zuhayr ibn ’Abū Sulmá, al-Nābighah al-Dhubiyānī, and ’Abū Nuwwās al-Salamī. Al-Khwārazmī even went as far as to say that he preferred Kushājim’s use of metaphor over al-Mutanabbī’s, the most prominent Abbasid poet in Sayf al-Dawla’s court and, arguably, in the entire Classical Arabic canon.