Edited by Arjan van Dijk
Riḥlah bayna al-jibāl fi maʿāqil al-thāʾirīn was serialized in the Jaffa newspaper Al-Jāmiʿah al-Islāmiyyah towards the end of the 1936 Palestine revolt. Under the guise of a reportage by a Western journalist, the series successfully defied British censorship and published interviews with guerrilla commanders and rank-and-file rebels, and one of Fawzī al-Qāwuqjī’s communiqués. Following the main trend of literary reportage at that time, the author adopted a viewpoint focused on the rebels’ cause and emphasized the ability of the Arabs of Palestine to face the challenges of modernity. The narrator comments on the skills and virtues of rebel leaders and common people, rejecting the dehumanizing image that colonial officials and Western newspapers were making of them, and romantically depicting the nighttime Palestinian landscape. At the same time, the description of the insurgents’ organization projects the picture of an orderly society, equipped with the institutions and symbols that typically define modern states.
Abū al-Faraj al-Iṣbahānī’s (d. 971) Kitāb al-Aghānī chapter on Majnūn Laylā (“Akhbār Majnūn Banī ʿĀmir wa nasabuh”) confronts its audience with unresolving divergent knowledge about Majnūn. We are left not only wondering about his name, his origin, and his mental state, but also his being—does he even exist? This paper examines the potential impact of Iṣbahānī’s selection and presentation of akhbār in this Aghānī chapter, making a case for a literary approach to Iṣbahānī’s text fitting with the medieval concept of adab. It asserts that the line of questions we are compelled to ask about Majnūn implicates us in his madness and the madness of the text, which disrupts and complicates that which appears most essential to his story.