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Tales of Love, Sex, and Danger$
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Sudhir Kakar and John Munder Ross

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780198072560

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198072560.001.0001

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Love in the Middle Eastern World: Layla and Majnun

Love in the Middle Eastern World: Layla and Majnun

(p.39) 3 Love in the Middle Eastern World: Layla and Majnun
Tales of Love, Sex, and Danger

Sudhir Kakar

John Munder Ross

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the story of Layla and Majnun, the quintessential lovers of the Perso-Islamic world. In this prototypical tale of love which captures the predicament of separation, Majnun (or Madman) pines in deep loneliness for a Layla who becomes a vision. Born of dreams rather than doctrines, wielding power through expressions of individual fantasy and not through social codes, Layla and Majnun, like the lovers of other similar legends, have set standards for the course of ‘true’ love and the aspirations of lovers. Majnun abstains and abjures the beloved’s physical presence so as to avoid destroying her through his omnivorous hungers and Layla’s subjecthood lies in the choosing of her fate rather than in the rebellion against social norms. The woman’s choice of death rather than a betrayal of her love is also celebrated in many later Islamic romances, such as those of Sohni and Mahinwal, and Heer and Ranjha.

Keywords:   Layla and Majnun, Perso-Islamic, separation, love, death, Sohni and Mahinwal, Heer and Ranjha, betrayal, fantasy

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