This article recovers a dissonant voice from the nineteenth-century nahḍa. Antonius Ameuney (1821–1881) was a fervent Protestant and staunch Anglophile. Unlike his Ottoman Syrian contemporaries, who argued for religious diversity and the formation of a civil society based on a shared Arab past, he believed that the only geopolitical Syria viable in the future was one grounded in Protestant virtues and English values. This article examines Ameuney’s complicated journey to become a Protestant Englishman and his inescapable characterization as a son of Syria. It charts his personal life and intellectual career and explores how he interpreted the religious, cultural, political, and linguistic landscape of his birthplace to British audiences. As an English-speaking Ottoman Syrian intellectual residing permanently in London, the case of Antonius Ameuney illustrates England to have been a constitutive site of the nahḍa and underscores the role played by the British public in shaping nahḍa discourses.
This article focuses on the Arabic manuscript collection of the Near Eastern School of Theology (NEST). The NEST library contains several manuscripts that were donated, copied, or read by important Christian-born intellectuals of the nahḍa. Given these men’s role in the emergence of modern publishing in the Middle East, I examine the intersections between their scribal and printing activities. I also discuss works of grammar, logic, and rhetoric in the NEST’s collection. Most of these are by late medieval and early modern authors and contain extensive commentaries and glosses. This commentary culture was a key site of learning throughout the early modern Ottoman Empire and endured among Christian as well as Muslim intellectuals of the nahḍa movement. The persistence of these scribal and intellectual traditions reveals a longue durée of Islamicate scholarly traditions that is only beginning to be understood by historians of Arab modernity.
What is the language of heaven? Is Arabic the only language allowed in the eternal world of the virtuous, or will Muslims continue to speak their native languages in the other world? While learned scholars debated the language of heaven since the early days of Islam, the question gained renewed vigor in seventeenth century Istanbul against the background of a puritan reform movement which criticized the usage of Persian and the Persianate canon as sacred text. In response, Mevlevī authors argued for the discursive authority of the Persianate mystical canon in Islamic tradition (sunna). Focusing on this debate, this article argues that early modern Ottoman authors recognized non-legal discourses as integral and constitutive parts of the Islamic tradition. By adopting the imagery of bilingual heaven, they conceptualized Islamic tradition as a diverse discursive tradition. Alongside diversity, another important feature of Persianate Islam was a positive propensity towards innovations.