Ibn Isḥaq al-Nadīm's c.10th biography of al-Aṣma’ī follows the “isnad” narrative or ‘chain-of-transmission’ tradition. Al-Nadīm reports Abū ‘Abd Allāh ibn Muqlah's written report [n 2] of Tha’lab's report, giving Al-Aṣma’ī‘s full name as ’’‘Abd al-Malik ibn Qurayb ibn ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Ali ibn Aṣma’ī ibn Muẓahhir ibn ‘Amr ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Bāhilī.’’’
The celebrated c.13th biographer Ibn Khallikān calls al-Aṣmaʿī “a complete master of the Arabic language,” and “the most eminent of all transmitters of the oral history and rare expressions of the language.”. His account includes collected anecdotes of numerous adventures.
His father was Qurayb Abū Bakr from ‘Āṣim and his son was Sa’īd. He belonged to the family of the celebrated poet Abū ‘Uyaynah al-Muhallabī.[n 3] Al-Aṣma’ī was descended from Adnān and the tribe of Bahila. The governor of Basra brought him to the notice of the caliph, Harun al-Rashid, who made him tutor to his sons, Al-Amin and Al-Ma'mun. It was said Al-Rashid was an insomniac, and that he once held an all-night discussion with al-Asmaʿi on pre-Islamic and early Arabic poetry. Al-Aṣma’ī was popular with the influential Barmakid viziers  and acquired wealth as a property owner in Basra. Some of his protégés attained high rank as literary men. Among his students was the noted musician Ishaq al-Mawsili.
His ambitious aim to catalogue the complete Arabic language in its purest form, led to a period he spent roaming with desert Bedouin tribes, observing and recording their speech patterns.
Rivalry between Al-Aṣma’ī and Abū ‘Ubaida
His great critic Abū ʿUbaida was a member of the Shu'ubiyya movement, a chiefly Persian cultural movement. Al-Aṣma’ī, as an Arab nationalist and champion of the Arabic language, rejected foreign linguistic and literary influences.
Al-Nadīm cites a report of Abū ‘Ubaida that al-Aṣma’ī claimed his father travelled on a horse of Salm ibn Qutaybah.[n 4] Abū ‘Ubaida had exclaimed,
“Praise be to Allāh and thanks to Allāh, for Allāh is greater [than His creatures]. One boasting of what he does not own is like a person wearing a false robe and, by Allāh the father of al-Aṣma’ī never owned any animal other than the one inside of his robe!"
Ubaida’s reference here to al-Asma’ī’s father seems to relate to the story given by Khallikān about al-Asma’ī’s grandfather, Alī ibn Asmā, who had lost his fingers in punishment for theft.
A corollary to 'Ubaida’s anecdote is related by Khallikān, that once al-Faḍl Ibn Rabī, the vizier to caliph al-Rashid, had brought forth his horse and asked both Al-Aṣma’ī and Abū 'Ubaida (who had written extensively on the horse) to identify each part of its anatomy. Abū 'Ubaida excused himself from the challenge, saying that he was an expert on Bedouin culture not a farrier; When al-Aṣma’ī then grabbed the horse by the mane, named each part of its body while, at the same time, reciting the Bedouin verses that authenticated each term as proper to the Arabic lexicon, Al-Faḍl had rewarded him the horse. Whenever after this, Aṣma’ī visited Ubaida he rode his horse.  Al-Aṣma’ī, was a perennial bachelor and when Yahya, a Barmakid vizier of the caliph, presented him with the gift of a slave girl, the girl was so repulsed by Al-Aṣma’ī's appearance, Yahya bought her back.
Shaykh Abū Sa’īd reported that Abū al-‘Abbas al-Mubarrad had said al-Aṣma’ī and Abū ‘Ubaida were equal in poetry and rhetoric, but where Abū ‘Ubaida excelled in genealogy, al-Aṣma’ī excelled in grammar – “al-Aṣma’ī, [like] a nightingale [would] charm them with his melodies”
Al-Aṣma’ī died, aged 88 years in Baṣra[n 5], ca. 213/828 - 217/832, in the company of the blind poet and satirist Abū al-‘Aynā'.[n 6] His funeral prayers were said by his nephew and poet ‘Abd al-Raḥmān:[n 7] "To Allāh we belong and to Him we return."[n 8]
Al-Aṣma’ī's magnum opus Asma'iyyat, is a unique primary source of early Arabic poetry and was collected and republished in the modern era, by the German orientalist Wilhelm Ahlwardt. Al-Sayyid Muʻaẓẓam Ḥusain's English translation of selected poems taken from both the Aṣma’īyyat and Mufaddaliyyat- the larger important source of pre-Islamic Arabic poetry- is available online. Most other existing collections were compiled by al-Aṣma’ī's students based on the principles he taught.
Of al-Aṣma’ī's prose works listed in the Fihrist about half a dozen are extant. These include the Book of Distinction, the Book of the Wild Animals, the Book of the Horse, and the Book of the Sheep, and Fuḥūlat al-Shu‘arā a pioneering work of Arabic literary criticism.
Disposition of Man or Humanity (كتاب خلق الانسان) - Kitab Khalaq al-Insan
Categories (كتاب الاجناس)
Al-Anwā’ (كتاب الانواء) – “Influence of the stars on the weather”
He memorised thousands of verses of rajaz poetry and ed a substantial portion of the canon of Arab poets, but produced little poetry of his own. . He met criticism for neglecting the ‘rare forms’ (nawādir - نوادر) and lack of care in his abridgments.[n 20]
^For translations of some of these ancient poems, Mufaḍḍal and Abū Tammām
^note on various translation in Flügel and Beatty MS.
^Compare this list with Aṣma’ī, Fuḥālat al-Shu‘arā’.
^Nickname of many poets. (i) Al-Nābighah al-Dhubyānī, Ziyād ibn Mu‘āwiyah, a protégé of the princes of al-Ḥīrah and Ghassān. (ii) Al-Nābighah, ‘Abd Allāh ibn. Al-Mukhāriq. A man of the Banū Shaybān, patronized by the caliphs ‘Abd al-MaIik and al-Walīd (685-715). 
^Authority on rajaz poetry and Arab folklore; lived at al-Baṣrah; died as a fugitive soon after 763. 
^His lineage was a branch of the Tamīm Tribe; he was the famous court poet, first with caliph al-Ḥajjāj in Iraq, after with ‘Abd al-Mālik (685-705) at Damascus. He died in 728/729. 
^For life of Aṣma’ī, see Ibn Khallikān, Biographical Dictionary, translated from the Arabic by McG. de Slane (Paris and London, 1842), vol. ii. pp. 123-127. *For his work as a grammarian, G. Flügel, Die grammatischen Schulen der Araber (Leipzig, 1862), pp. 72-80.
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Mufaḍḍal (al-), ibn al-Ḍabbī (1921) . Lyall, Charles J. (ed.). Die Mufaddalīyāt: An Anthology of Ancient Arabian Odes (Ar. text with En. transl.). Vol. 2. Translated by Lyall, Charles J. London: Clarendon Press.
Mufaḍḍal (al-), ibn al-Ḍabbī (1924). Bevan, A. A. (ed.). Al-Mufaddalīyāt (Index). Vol. III. London: Luzac (E. J. W. Gibb Memorial New Series).
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