Aba Mohammed Kasem Ben Ali Hariri, an Arabian poet, born in Bassorah about 1050, died there in 1121 or 1122. The name Hariri, "dealer in silk," is believed to refer to the occupation of the poet or one of his ancestors. For a while he held a political office, having the title of sahab al-khabar (news officer). He had passed the age of 50 when Syria and a part of Mesopotamia were conquered by the Christians of the first crusade, and an incident of this expedition is said to have inspired him with the idea of writing the Makamat (plural of makama, resting place, assembly). A detachment of crusaders surprised the town of Seraj, pillaged and burned it, massacring the men and carrying away the women. Among the few who escaped was Abu Seid, who appeared in rags before Hariri and his friends, and made a deep impression upon the poet by the elegance of his recital. This man served as a model for the hero of the Makamat, who received his name, Abu Seid of Seraj, while the poet seems to have painted himself in the person of the narrator, Hareth ben Hammam. Abu Seid, who appears in the 50 tableaux or novelettes of the poem, is a scholar and poet, eager to enjoy life, careless of the restrictions of custom, and nowise ashamed of his poverty. The Arabs regard the makamat as the great treasury of their language.
Having consecrated his last makama to the glorification of his native city, and to the recollections of his youth, Hariri makes his Abu Seid, now grown old, vow repentance and devotion to the cares of eternity. He continued, however, to revise and correct his work till his death. He is also the author of numerous grammatical works, of which the Molhat al-Irab is a versified essay on the syntax of the Arabian language. Of this, as well as of Dorrat al-Gawas, on idioms, fragments are contained in Sylvestre de Sacy's Anthologie grammaticale arabe. Single maka-mas of Hariri have been translated by Golius, Albert Schultens, Reiske, Rosenmuller, Jahn, Sylvestre de Sacy, Munk, Theodore Preston, and others. The work of the last mentioned translator, containing 20 makamas in English, appeared in London in 1850, and another collection by T. Chenery in 1867. A complete Latin translation was published by Peiper (2d ed., Leipsic, 1836). But neither of these equals the German translation of the Makamat by Friedrich Ruckert, entitled Die Verwandlungen des Abu Seid von Sarug, oder die Makamen des Hariri, in freien Nachbildungen (2 vols., Stuttgart, 4th ed., 1864). One of the best editions of the original is that of Sylvestre de Sacy (2 vols., Paris, 1821-,2), with a commentary mostly collected from Arabian writers; others have been published at Calcutta (3 vols., 1800-14), at Cairo, with notes (1850), and by Reinaud and Dernburg (l)erembourg) at Paris (2 vols., 1847-'53). Partial editions with notes are numerous.