The Poetry of Al-Ma’arri

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I no longer steal from nature - 1000 year old vegan poem by Arab poet and writer Al-Ma'Arri – Vegan Good Life Magazine

In his poem "I no longer steal from Nature", blind Arab poet Al-Ma'arri wrote what most likely is one of the first mentions of a vegan world view. His sharp mind and uncompromising words transport the idea of an unwaivering all-embracing compassion in a manner that feels mesmerizingly current. Find the poem and some additional information on the writer here.

Words: Eric Mirbach
Collage: Tina Tenkmann

As-Ma'arri was born in Ma'arra, south of Aleppo, in today's Syria. His full name was Abu 'L'Ala Ahmad ibn 'Abdallah al-Ma'arri and he achieved fame as one of the greatest Arab poets. Stricken with smallpox as a young child, Al-Ma'arri became blind but, as he grew older, was able to travel to Aleppo, Antioch and other Syrian cities to study the manuscripts preserved there. Before returning to his hometown again, Al'Ma'arri spent 18 months in Baghdad which, at the time, was the epicenter of poetry.

A sceptic or all religions, he was equally sarcastic of Christianity, Islam and Judaism and saw all religions as a human institution invented as a source of power and income for its founders and priesthood.

Instead, Al-Ma'arri believed in the sanctity of life and was invested in the idea that no living creature should be harmed. Most prominently, this shows in a poem he wrote on the use of animals by humans.

I no longer steal from Nature
You are diseased in understanding and religion.
Come to me, that you may hear something of sound truth.
Do not unjustly eat fish the water has given up,
And do not desire as food the flesh of slaughtered animals,
Or the white milk of mothers who intended its pure draught
for their young, not noble ladies.
And do not grieve the unsuspecting birds by taking eggs;
for injustice is the worst of crimes.
And spare the honey which the bees get industriously
from the flowers of fragrant plants;
For they did not store it that it might belong to others,
Nor did they gather it for bounty and gifts.
I washed my hands of all this; and wish that I
Perceived my way before my hair went gray!

Al-Ma'arri
Adapted from"Studies in Islamic Poetry" by Reynold A. Nicholson, Cambridge University Press, 1921 via humanistictexts.org

Want to learn more?

This poem was first mentioned in issue 7 of Vegan Good Life magazine, in our interview with German rap musician and dedicated vegan Moses Pelham, who credits Al-Ma'arri and his poem with giving him the final push to go vegan.

Read this and more inspiring stories from the realm of ethical veganism in our print collectable. Available now.


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