Qaṣīda is an ancient Arabic word and form of writing poetry, often translated as ode, passed to other cultures after the Arab Muslim expansion. The word qasidah is still used in its original birthplace, Arabia, and in all Arab countries.
The classic form of qasida maintains a single elaborate metre throughout the poem, and every line rhymes on the same sound. It typically runs from fifteen to eighty lines, and sometimes more than a hundred. The genre originates in Arabic poetry and was adopted by Persian poets, where it developed to be sometimes longer than a hundred lines.
Arabic qaṣīda means "intention" and the genre found use as a petition to a patron. A qaṣīda has a single presiding subject, logically developed and concluded. Often it is a panegyric, written in praise of a king or a nobleman, a genre known as madīḥ, meaning "praise".
In his ninth-century "Book of Poetry and Poets" (Kitab al-shi'r wa-al-shu'ara') the Arabian writer Ibn Qutaybah describes the (Arabic) qasida as being constituted of three parts:
- the nasīb: a nostalgic opening in which the poet reflects on what has passed. A common theme is the pursuit by the poet of the caravan of his beloved: by the time he reaches their camp-site they have already moved on.
- the raḥīl or travel section: a release or disengagement (takhallus), often achieved by the poet describing his transition from the nostalgia of the nasīb to contemplating the harshness of the land and life away from the tribe.
- the message of the poem, which can take several forms: praise of the tribe (fakhr) or a ruler (madīḥ), satire about other tribes (hija) or some moral maxim (hikam).