Like ancient philosophy in Pierre Hadot’s conception, the polysemic notion of adab in the Arabic-Islamic tradition was a way of life, and not merely a scholarly discipline or cultural field. This essay explores this proposition in reference to the life and work of the Palestinian historian Ṭarīf al-Khālidī, where adab has been a central locus of reflection. Although steeped in present-day historical, literary, and philosophical discussions, we argue that al-Khālidī’s approach has an uncanny resemblance to classical conceptions of adab and thereby invites a re-examination of current scholarly practices, presaging an ethical turn in the study of history.
The monumental multi-volume work Ansāb al-ashrāf, authored by Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Balādhurī, represents an intellectual edifice recognized by many scholars. However, this paper endeavors to discuss in depth the first volume of it, which al-Balādhurī dedicated to the life of the Prophet Muḥammad, and attempts to show that the underlying reasons for writing another biography of the Prophet—in an age where the Sīrah of the Prophet was well established—were mainly political and personal, linked in particular to the rule of the ʿAbbāsids. It aimed to legitimize ʿAbbāsid rule by systematically and subtly enhancing the role of ʿAbbāsid symbols and ancestry in the formation of early Islam, mainly by linking the eponym of the ʿAbbasid dynasty, al-ʿAbbās b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib, to a positive image of the Prophet.
Both medieval Arab historians and modern Byzantinists have generally ignored the Arabophone cultural life of Antioch during its period under Byzantine rule from 969–1084 CE, preferring to equate Christian rule with Greek culture. Nevertheless, lay intellectuals closely connected to the Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch were active in promoting the translation of Greek patristic works into Arabic during this period. This article examines the career of the deacon ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Faḍl al-Anṭākī, whose translations, compilations, and original works evince close familiarity with contemporary intellectual trends in Baghdad and a desire to produce translations of high literary quality. Moreover, in Ibn al-Faḍl’s criticisms of local philosophers who had strayed from Christian dogma, we find further evidence for Byzantine Antioch as a center of Arabic literary and philosophical activity.
This essay explores the relationship between two geographical and literary genres, the diyārāt (Books of Monasteries), which disappeared in the 11th century, and the ziyārāt (shrine pilgrimage guides), which appeared in the 13th century. The relationship is discussed in the context of the transformation of the Syrian sacred landscape, which became thoroughly Islamized through the erection of Islamic public buildings including shrines and mausolea between the 11th–13th centuries. I argue that these two genres had a similar function of spatially inscribing the political order through the invitation to liminal practices in the marginal sites of the monastery and the Islamic shrine/mausoleum. The diyārāt registered the caliphal order and courtly culture, while the ziyārāt served to sanctify the professional scholar whose authority emerged in the post-caliphal sultanic age.
This essay presents a synoptic view and a critical synthesis of the activity of the Literary Forum at the University of Aleppo (1980–1986) with the aim of putting Aleppo on the map of modern Arabic literature. Serving as an intensive laboratory for literary and meta-literary production under political duress, the Forum is situated at a confluence of global cultural currents as well as at a turning point in the history of the Arabic prose poem. The Forum members devised literary strategies for coping with the deterioration of their city’s cultures while working within both an Arabic tradition of modernity and a global space of intellectual engagement. Well into the twenty-first century, the Forum’s legacies continue to shape the moral stances of poets facing disaster at home and the precariousness of statelessness abroad, and extend into forms of civilian solidarity and collective organizing.