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Abu Nuwas
Abu Nuwas, as drawn by Khalil Gibran in 1916.
Abu Nuwas, as drawn by Khalil Gibran in 1916.
Born 756
Died 814 (aged 57–58) - Baghdad
Occupation Poet

Abū Nuwās al-Ḥasan ibn Hānī al-Ḥakamī (variant: Al-Ḥasan ibn Hānī 'Abd al-Awal al-Ṣabāḥ, Abū 'Alī ( الحسن بن هانئ بن عبد الأول بن الصباح ،ِابو علي), known as Abū Nuwās al-Salamī (أبو نواس السلمي) or just Abū Nuwās (أبو نواس Abū Nuwās); c. 756 – c. 814) was a classical Arabic poet, and the foremost representative of the modern (muhdath) poetry that developed during the first years of Abbasid Caliphate. He also entered the folkloric tradition, appearing several times in One Thousand and One Nights.

Early life

Abu Nuwas was born in the province of Ahvaz (modern Khuzestan Province) of the Abbasid Caliphate, either in the city of Ahvaz or one of its adjacent districts. His date of birth is uncertain, he was born sometime between 756 and 758. His father was Hani, a Syrian or Persian who had served in the army of the last Umayyad caliph Marwan II (r. 744 – 750). His mother was a Persian named Gulban, whom Hani had met whilst serving in the police force of Ahvaz. When Abu Nuwas was 10 years old, his father died.

In his early childhood Abu Nuwas followed his mother to Basra in lower Iraq where he attended Qur’an school and became a Hafiz at a young age. His innate charisma attracted the attention of the Kufan poet, Abu Usama Waliba ibn al-Hubab al-Asadi, who took Abu Nuwas to Kufa as a young apprentice. Waliba recognized in Abu Nuwas his talent as a poet and encouraged him toward this vocation.


Abu Nuwas wrote poetry in multiple genres. His great talent was most recognized in his hunting poems. He also participated in the well-established Arabic tradition of satirical poetry.

Imprisonment and death

He died during the Great Abbasid Civil War before al-Ma’mūn advanced from Khurāsān in either 199 or 200 AH (814–816 AD). Because he frequently indulged in drunken exploits, Nuwas was imprisoned during the reign of Al-Amin, shortly before his death.

The cause of his death is disputed: four different accounts of Abu Nuwas’s death survive. 1. He was poisoned by the Nawbakht family, having been framed with a poem satirizing them. 2. He died in a tavern drinking right up to his death. 3. He was beaten by the Nawbakht for the satire falsely attributed to him; wine appears to have had a role in the flailing emotions of his final hours—this seems to be a combination of accounts one and two. 4. He died in prison, a version which contradicts the many anecdotes stating that in the advent of his death he suffered illness and was visited by friends (though not in prison). He most probably died of ill health, and equally probably in the house of the Nawbakht family, whence came the myth that they poisoned him. Nuwas was buried in Shunizi cemetery in Baghdad.


Verses of Abu Nawas, copied by Mirza Kuchik Visal, Qajar Iran, 10 May 1824
Manuscript of Abu Nawas's verses. Copied by Mirza Kuchik Visal, Qajar Iran, dated 10 May 1824


Nuwas is one of a number of writers credited with inventing the literary form of the mu‘ammā, a riddle which is solved "by combining the constituent letters of the word or name to be found". He also perfected two Arabic genres: Khamriyya (wine poetry) and Tardiyya (hunting poetry). Ibn Quzman, who was writing in Al-Andalus in the 12th century, admired him deeply and has been compared to him.


The city of Baghdad has several places named for the poet. Abū Nuwās Street runs along the east bank of the Tigris River, in a neighbourhood that was once the city's showpiece. Abu Nuwas Park is located on the 2.5-kilometer stretch between the Jumhouriya Bridge and a park that extends out to the river in Karada near the 14th of July Bridge.

In 1976, a crater on the planet Mercury was named in honor of Abu Nuwas.

The Abu Nawas Association, founded in 2007 in Algeria, was named after the poet.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Abu Nuwas para niños

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