How to Write an Arabic Poem

The formal elements of classical Arabic poetry

Farid Alsabeh
9 min readJul 3, 2023
al-Farahidi, an Arab scholar who greatly standardized the study of poetry in the 8th century

Subscribe to my email list to receive notifications about future articles

Every work of art is a balance, a mindful negotiation, between convention and creativity. Too much convention, and the artist’s vision is stifled by restrictions. But without adherence to style, creativity risks becoming too freeform and self-indulgent.

Classical Arabic poetry is a masterful fusion of convention and creativity. Its formal structure places stringent requirements on the composer. But these are tempered by the fact that Arabic comports very well to them, leaving the poet with many avenues for artistic expression.

The result is an unmatched cultural achievement, equally satisfying to the ears and the heart, which has rightfully made poetry the ‘register of the Arabs’. In this article, we’ll explore the main features of Arabic poetry, including:

  • Their titles: What are Arabic poems called?
  • Their lines: How are Arabic poems organized?
  • Their rhythms: What meters do Arabic poems use?
  • Their rhymes: How do Arabic poems use rhyming?

The title