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Layla and Majnun

A leading medieval poet of Iran, Nizami of Ganje is known especially for his romantic poem Layla and Majnun Inspired by an Arab legend, Layla and Majnun is a tragic tale about unattainable love. It had been told and retold for centuries, and depicted in manuscripts and other media such as ceramics for nearly as long as the poem has been penned. Layla and Qays fall in love while at school. Their love is observed and they are soon prevented from seeing one another. In misery, Qays banishes himself to the desert to live among and be consoled by animals. He neglects to eat and becomes emaciated. Due to his eccentric behavior, he becomes known as Majnun (madman). There he befriends an elderly Bedouin who promises to win him Layla’s hand through warfare. Layla’s tribe is defeated, but her father continues to refuse her marriage to Majnun because of his mad behavior, and she is married to another. After the death of Layla’s husband, the old Bedouin facilitates a meeting between Layla and Majnun, but they are never fully reconciled in life. Upon death, they are buried side by side. The story is often interpreted as an allegory of the soul’s yearning to be united with the divine.


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