Despite the legal condemnation of mind-altering substances crystallized in formulas such as “everything that intoxicates is like ḫamr and ḫamr is illegal (ḥarām)”, intoxicants are largely represented in the Arabic literary corpus. Wine in particular is even the central topic of the ḫamriyya, a poetic genre describing the liquor and its effects that flourished in the early-Abbasid era. From the Mamlūk period (1250–1517) onward, other non-fermented stimulants based on hemp, banǧ, opium etc. were also included in the poetic imaginary, without nevertheless rising to the status of a literary genre. In other words, while intoxication (sukr) as a literary motif did not cross the boundaries of the moral and socially acceptable, its function as transition was instead meant in the fictional text to mark an emotional shift and negotiate between imagination and reality.
In this article, I propose to work on hashish intoxication as a liminal stage, where the boundaries between rational and irrational, pleasure and pain, conventional beauty and unattractiveness are often blurred. To do so, I will first briefly explore the centrality of the ʿaql in Muslim thought and how sukr not only was considered a threat to the normal functioning of the mind, but also a danger to the divine order. Subsequently, I will focus on hashish and how it challenged the traditional views on intoxication. The central part of the paper will approach hashish consumption as a literary motif. I will extract poems and anecdotes describing the ambiguous psycho-physical experience of hashish from the Rāḥat al-arwāḥ fī al-ḥašīš wa-l-rāḥ of al-Badrī (d. 894/1488), the most comprehensive anthology of texts on hashish within Arabic tradition.
Simultaneously addressing the (Native) American and Palestinian/Israeli context, Maḥmūd Darwīš’s poem Ḫuṭbat al-Hindī al-aḥmar – ma qabla al-aḫīra – amāma al-raǧul al-abyaḍ (The ‘Red Indian’s’ Penultimate Speech to the White Man), published in 1992 to critically commemorate the ‘discovery’ of ‘America’ by Columbus in 1492, is a deep reflection about the violence of borders and frontiers created by white European invaders. In my article, I aim to answer the question of how the poem’s manifold boundaries (between colonizer and colonized; nature and culture; equality and hierarchization; the living and the dead; identity and otherness) are addressed and re-framed. Although partly essentializing cultural difference by drawing from a romanticized image of the “noble savage” (the “Red Indian”), the poem nevertheless finds a voice to raise crucial questions regarding the self-perception of European/western modernity, anticipating the recently discovered fact that (white) human agency has pushed ‘progress’ so far as to enable humanity to destroy itself, nature, and earth. In intertextual dialogue with key texts of de/coloniality and western modernity, I attempt to show how the poem confronts us with fundamental questions about humanity in the face of self-destruction.
As an urban structure, Mecca is inscribed with several layers of meaning. It is the place where the Divine revelation of Islam took place; it is the setting of the life and preaching of the prophet Muhammad; and it is the location of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage, with its sacred and ritual sites. These complex domains of signification are related/separated by various kinds of boundaries, which are made even more intricate by the strict Wahhabi regime of religiosity and social segregation and Saudi policies of urban reconstruction. All these influences result in a fragmented spatial structure, and, concomitantly, in a fragmented social structure, which are both to some extent hidden in the folds of the urban landscape. In this contribution, the boundaries between the various domains will be discussed as they are portrayed, and contested, in the novel Ṭawq al-ḥamām (The Dove’s Necklace) by the Saudi author Raǧāʾ ʿĀlim. It will be explained how several characters are described as either upholding, breaking, preserving, and challenging the diverse boundaries vested in Mecca as a container of a profound religious heritage.
This article is dedicated to the Iraqi novel al-Mašṭūr : Sitt ṭarāʾiq ġayr šarʿiyya li-iǧtiyāz al-ḥudūd naḥwa Baġdād (2017) by Ḍiyāʾ Ǧbaylī. Through an illegal journey of two characters in Iraq, this book presents a new literary approach of the sectarian conflict that tears apart the country. Intertextuality with the Italian novel The Cloven Viscount (1952), by Italo Calvino, works as a connecting thread in the story. The complex Iraqi identity and the conflicts that are related to it are depicted as the result of both the country’s geographical position and its history. The first part of the article focuses on the spatial configuration in the story and the way the concept of borders is used to define the Iraqi identity. The latter is also the object of the second part that attempts to discuss the close relationship that the novel suggests between the body of the martyr and the homeland.
In the early twentieth century, themes such as the emergence of a young, newly urbanized effendiyya, the idea of marriage nurtured by this new class, the choice of the bride, and the role of the wife and the husband within the family were crucial in the cultural and social debate in Egypt. Throughout the discussion of these themes, the relationship between genders and generations was established, and new social boundaries were negotiated.
After a short analysis of the trope of marriage in the first period of the Egyptian novel (1906–1945) this contribution focuses on Ḫiṭbat al-šayḫ (The šayḫ’s engagement), a text by the renowned Egyptian author and academic Ṭāhā Ḥusayn (1889–1973), published only in 2017 by Dār al-waṯāʾiq in Cairo. This novel, although unfinished, offers one of the first examples of epistolary novel in the Egyptian late nahḍa context. The text, which consists of fifteen letters of various lengths, written by five fictional characters, is fundamental in understanding the theme of marriage as a social positioning tool.
Indeed, through the mechanism of epistolography, Ḫiṭbat al-šayḫ mirrors the complex social debate, incorporating in its own structure the discussion of social boundaries by different social actors.