(17th century CE), The greatest of Yemenite Jewish
poets. About 550 poems, hymns, and piyut
im of his are extant, written in Hebrew
, and Arabic
. In all of them his name appears in acrostic
form, either at the beginning of stanzas or in the poem itself. All that is known of his life is what can be deduced from his poems.
Shabazi lived in a time of persecution and messianic anticipations for Yemenite Jewry, and gave faithful expression to the suffering and yearning of his generation. It seems that he traveled in poverty throughout Yemen, and in legends he is described as the epitome of a righteous Jew (a zaddiq) and as a miracle-worker. He became a sort-of national poet for the Jews of Yemen, and his tomb at Taiz was considered holy and became a shrine where both Jews and Muslims prayed for relief from sickness and misery.
His poetry deals primarily with themes of exile and redemption, the Jewish people and God, wisdom and ethics, Torah, and the life to come. Many of his poems deal with the glorious past of Jews in their own land, Eretz Israel, from which he draws hope and faith for renewed greatness in the future.
He wrote piyutim and other poems dedicated to Sabbath and festivals, weddings and circumcisions. His ethical poems are outstanding for their teaching and gentle moralizing. Kabalah and mysticism based on works of the Kabbalists who preceded Rav Isaac Luria play an important role in his poetry. Academic and Medieval scientific themes are also frequently encountered in his poetry. His rare secular poems deal with discussions between concrete and abstract objects. His poems are not confined to any one theme, but usualy combine subjects in one and the same work. Their style, in comparison to to that of rabbinical literature, is prosaic and easy, making his poetry easily accessible to the masses.
His most famous poem is Im Nin'alu (If Locked), which has been made into a pop hit in the 1980's by Ofra Haza. The poem itself is a prayer for deliverance from God in a time of a great drought and famine.