This article focuses on the engagement of three scholars of the nineteenth century, later to be called scholars of the nahḍa, with an Arabic grammar manual titled Baḥth al-maṭālib wa-ḥathth al-ṭālib (“The Pursuit of the Questions and the Encouragement of the Student”), supposedly written in 1705 by the Maronite monk Jibrīl (later Jirmānūs) Farḥāt (1670–1732). The scholars considered in this contribution are Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq (d. 1887), Buṭrus al-Bustānī (d. 1883), and Saʿīd al-Khūrī al-Shartūnī (d. 1912). They engaged with this text by editing and printing it, and by making it available for use in Ottoman public schools. Through a close reading of representative excerpts from their printed editions, this article explores the three scholars’ philological engagement with Baḥth al-maṭālib and its multiple uses in nineteenth-century schools. The ways in which they worked on the text, it is argued, illustrate their different pedagogical approaches towards the teaching of the Arabic language.
The article explores continuities between manuscript and print culture by way of an investigation into the book-related practice of three members of the Ḥanbalī al-Shaṭṭī family. By using a diverse set of sources, it presents a view on the turn from manuscript to print during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that moves beyond technological determinism. By examining authorship, manuscript collections, and print publication, it proposes to include the institution of the family as well as the emerging global market for Arabic manuscripts into research of this medial shift.
Using the Jesuit scholar Louis Cheikho’s (1859–1927) work on pre-Islamic and early Islamic ascetic poetry as a focal point, this article examines two strategies which contemporary and later scholars accused Cheikho of using to falsify the Arabic literary heritage. Cheikho de-Islamized Arabic language texts through editorial interventions, as evinced by his edition of the Dīwān of the Abbasid ascetic poet Abū al-ʿAtāhiya. Furthermore, he overtly laid claim to the past by Christianizing pre-Islamic poetry. In his work al-Naṣrāniyya wa-ādābuhā bayna ʿarab al-jāhiliyya, Cheikho tried to establish the “origins” of Arabic cultural and literary production in Christianity. He did so in response to Arab and European intellectuals who challenged the Christian contribution to Arabic. Above all, he rejected racist ideas embedded in nineteenth-century European philology, notably the denigration of Semitic languages and their speakers based on the “Aryan”/“Semite” binary in Ernest Renan’s (1823–1892) work.
The subject of this article, Father Anastās Mārī al-Kirmilī (1866–1947), is a central figure in the Iraqi nahḍa. Although a Carmelite monk, he devoted his life in a non- confessional spirit to the study and reform of the Arabic language and the development of a specifically Iraqi historical and cultural consciousness. He wrote on linguistics, history, and folklore, he edited texts, published a journal and corresponded with Arab and European scholars. He is still a figure of reference for Iraqi intellectuals. By presenting his work in some detail, this article seeks to integrate him into the society of the nahḍawīs while demonstrating his particular contribution.
This introduction to the special issue “The Past and its Possibilities in Nahḍa Scholarship” reflects on the role of the past in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century nahḍa discourse. It argues that historical reflection played a pivotal role in a number of scholarly disciplines besides the discipline of history, notably philosophy and logic, grammar and lexicography, linguistics, philology, and adab. Nahḍawīs reflected on continuities with the past, the genealogies of their present, and the role of history in determining their future. The introduction of print gave new impulses to the engagement with the historical heritage. We argue for a history of the nahḍa as a de-centred history of possibilities that recovers a wider circle of scholars and intellectuals and their multiple and overlapping local and global audiences. Such a history can also shed light on the many ways in which historical reflection, record-keeping practices, and confessional, sectarian, or communalist agendas are entwined.
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.
On a trip to South India in the early 1850s, the German missionary Karl Graul collected a library of Tamil books. His library contains some of the first books that Tamils edited and published for Tamil audiences. This article analyses the Shaiva and Vaishnava works in this collection, arguing that in this early period of Tamil publishing, Tamil Hindus turned to print in part to counter Christian evangelisation. They edited and published texts previously transmitted on manuscripts, in order to build a corpus of Shaiva and Vaishnava printed books that would challenge the Christian monopoly of Tamil print. The article focuses on the editing activities and institutional affiliations of Tamil Shaiva editors, most importantly the prominent scholar Vedagiri Mudaliyar.