Poetry has always been central to the spiritual life of Islam, particularly among the Sufis and other esoteric traditions of the faith. Through the ages, it has been composed in classical languages and local dialects to express love and devotion for God, and for Prophet Muhammad. Although a large body of the great poetry of Islam has been translated into English, the poetry of the Ismailis, which includes Ginans, except for a small portion, is still only accessible in the original languages.
Among the arts, the cultivation of poetry was especially encouraged by the Fatimid Caliph-Imams. As was customary with most ruling Muslim dynasties, the Fatimids maintained a staff of a few professional poets, ranked according to their skills, who performed important roles in the court rituals and public ceremonials. The most famous of the court poets was Muhammad ibn Hani al-Andalusi, who entered the service of the Fatimids in 958, after fleeing from persecution in Muslim Spain. He was reputed as the foremost Arabic poet of the Maghrib (present–day Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and his poetry was widely admired. He was the official court poet of Imam al-Mansur and Imam al-Mu’izz.
Prince Tamim, the eldest son of Imam al-Mu’izz (ca. 948-984), was dedicated to the pursuit of literary and cultural pursuits until his premature death.
Shimmering Light: An Anthology of Ismaili Poetry tr. By Faquir M. Hunzai, London, I.B. Taurus, 1996
Compiled by Nimira Dewji