“The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts: those with brains but no religion, and those with religion but no brains,” was said not by Richard Dawkins but by Abu al-Ala’ al-Ma’arri (973-1057), the blind Syrian poet, philosopher, rationalist and hermit who was both a vegan and an early advocate of extreme birth control, that is, that humans should not reproduce at all.60 Despite the strident and uncompromising irreverence of this statement, al-Ma’ari was actually an extremely humble, hospitable, generous and forgiving ascetic. This Syrian was a highly respected scholar of his day, who is still admired by secularists in Syria, and, after a brief period in Baghdad, turned his small hometown of Ma’ara, near Aleppo, into a magnet for poets, philosophers, students, princes and other legion admirers. A cynic in the original Greek sense of the term, al-Ma’ari was a study in contrasts. He was reportedly wealthy but lived the frugal life of a hermit. He was a recluse, yet received his many admirers with an open heart. He rejected all religion, yet was regarded as a spiritual guru, even by the religious he derided in his verse. Although he was one of the biggest pessimists history has known, the maverick al-Ma’ari was, throughout his long life (he lived to 84), admired as one of the greatest poets Arabic has ever known and as an accomplished, incisive philosopher who worshipped reason, and did so wittily.61 In a verse typical of his scepticism, al-Ma’ari describes faith thus: Now this religion happens to prevail Until by that religion overthrown, Because men dare not live with men alone, But always with another fairy-tale.