Zuhair ibn Abi Sulma was a poet of the Banu Muzaina tribe best known for his long poem in the Muʿallaqāt collection, which means The Suspended Odes or The Hanging Poems.
Hailed as one of the greatest Arabian poets, he was raised in a home popularly known for Arabic poetry. His father and brother-in-law were also poets, and he was blessed with two children who also became well-known poets: Ka’b and Bujair.
Zuhair lived a long life until about 90 years of age. He was a wise man with a lot of experience and truthful thoughts. He died shortly before the final prophet of Islam, Nabi Muhammad ﷺ, brought the message of the Quran to mankind.
In one of Zuhair’s poems, he said:
سَئِمْتُ تَكَالِيفَ الحَيَاةِ وَمَنْ يَعِشْ
ثَمَانِينَ حَوْلاً لاَ أَبَالَكَ يَسْأَمِ
وَأَعْلَمُ عِلْمَ اليَوْمِ وَالأَمْسِ قَبْلَه
وَلَكِنَّنِي عَنْ عِلْمِ مَا فِي غَدِ عَمِ
I am bored of life difficulty, he who lives
For 80 years will surely be fed up
I know of today and yesterday before
But knowledge of tomorrow I do not
Difficulty or Stress
Bored or Fed up
The Boredom of Life
Zuhair, who was more than 80 years old at the time of writing this poem, was lamenting how he was bored of the difficulties, stresses and responsibilities that a long life brings.
The poem eloquently captures how there is no eternal enjoyment in this life. If pleasure is found in something, it is found in the hope for more because the desired result has not reached its peak.
Such is the nature of the human being. He will hope for something and strive to get it. Yet, as soon as he gets what he strives for, he becomes fed up with it. Yet, not everyone has the grit to even reach this point. Many don’t have the enthusiasm to suffer through the burden and responsibilities to obtain what they desire. They, too, become bored.
The Gift of Knowledge & Wisdom
The wisdom of this poem underlines how no pleasure or suffering is permanent. The poem is an acute observation of life born out of wisdom from a man who has had vast life experience.
As for the person who does not attain wisdom from his childhood till old age, nothing more is expected from him other than death. It is said, “A fool at 40 is a fool forever”.
Zuhair has also expressed this sentiment in another one of his poems:
وَإِنَّ سَفَاهُ الشَّيْخِ لَا حِلْمَ بَعْدَهُ
وَإِنَّ الفَتَى بَعْدَ السَّفَاهَةِ يَحْلُمِ
An elderly’s foolishness has no prudence
As for the foolish boy then comes prudent
That is why Zuhair said he had the knowledge of today and yesterday; he had lived to witness them and could speak about them. But the knowledge of tomorrow is unknown to everyone except Allah SWT. Allah says in the Quran:
قُل لَّا يَعْلَمُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۚ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ
Say, “None in the heavens and earth knows the unseen except Allah, and they do not perceive when they will be resurrected.”
He who lives to witness tomorrow will see the knowledge that day holds for him, while the knowledge of the unseen is gifted only to the chosen messengers.