This study explores the relationship between the extraordinary poetic achievement of Sharīf al-Raḍī (d. 406/1016) in his highly lyrical and influential Dīwān, on the one hand, and the literary-religious accomplishment of his unrivalled compilation of the sermons, epistles, and sayings of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, Nahj al-balāghah, on the other. It examines the interplay among the contemporary Mutanabbī-dominated literary scene, the Imāmī Shīʿite dominated Baghdādī politico-religious scene, and, in Islamic scholarship generally, the increasingly balāghah- (rhetoric)-focused theological discourse on iʿjāz al-Qurʾān (the miraculous inimitability of the Qurʾān). Finally, the paper attempts to connect al-Raḍī’s sense of alienation and dispossession from his hereditary right to rule—one that he has found so strikingly expressed in the sermons of his forefather ʿAlī—and the extraordinary lyrical-elegiac strain in his own poetry.
This article discusses the performative function of enumeration in Arabic prose. Bringing together a great variety of word lists from classical to modern prose (including the 1001 Nights, al-Tawḥīdī, al-Suyūṭī, al-Shidyāq, and Darwīsh), it unveils their often neglected importance to literature by drawing from an emerging scholarship on enumeration. Focusing on “enumerative games” (Mainberger), the article does not ask what the enumerated elements mean, but how the act of enumerating produces meaning. In the first part, the article discusses elements central to the poetics of the enumerative (including items, length, arrangement, and frame). In the second part it deals with the politics of enumeration in the example of al-Shidyāq’s al-Sāq ʿalā al-sāq fī mā huwa al-Fāriyāq (1855). The article seeks to provide a basic approach to enumeration and argues that enumerative games in literature perform acts of cultural politics.
This article analyzes comparisons between Arabic and Turkish literatures in literary histories from the late Ottoman period, with a particular focus on works by Jurjī Zaydān (1861-1914). Drawing upon Alexander Beecroft’s concept of “literary biomes,” it argues that these comparisons overlooked intersections of Arabic and Turkish literatures in the “Ottoman literary biome” and depicted them as belonging to two separate “biomes.” I define the “Ottoman literary biome” as the transcultural space of the Ottoman Empire that allowed the circulation of a multilingual textual repertoire and cultivated a cultural elite. Through foregrounding the transcultural context of Ottoman literary biome, I demonstrate that modern Arabic and Turkish literatures morphed in a reciprocal entanglement. My work finally calls for the fields of Arabic literature and comparative literature to further flesh out the diversity of literary biomes in which Arabic texts circulated.
This article studies the use of adab and related terminology among medieval Jewish authors with particular attention to shifts in cultural and religious sensibilities, matters of group cohesion and self-definition, and the contours of adab discourse across religious boundaries. The article demonstrates that, although Jews in the Islamic East in the tenth century internalized adab as a cultural concept, it was in al-Andalus that Jews first self-consciously presented themselves as udabā. The article focuses on works of Judeo-Arabic biblical exegesis, grammar, and poetics as well as Hebrew poetry composed after the style of Arabic poetry.
The following remarks intend to re-examine the linguistic-epistemic relationship that Arabists have been accustomed to establishing between the terms adab and daʾb since Vollers and Nallino. I propose in this study to return to the hypothesis of Vollers and Nallino in order to examine the validity of the link of linguistic-epistemic descent between the words daʾb and adab. We believe that the establishment of this relationship of parentage and linguistic kinship between these two terms constitutes a real epistemological obstacle that prevents us from understanding and defining the concept of adab in a way that is both fair and complex. It is the purpose of this paper therefore to reconsider this question by proposing an analysis that attempts to show how and why the term daʾb and the concept adab refer to two different domains of experience and proceed from two different and separate thought systems.
The modernist epistemic disconnect from the “medieval Islamic republic of letters,” Muhsin al-Musawi argues, is attributable both to the incursion of Enlightenment-infused European discourse and a failure to read the import of the republic’s significant cultural capital. This article explores the effects of Eurocentric incursions on transformations in literary value in two of the earliest known works of comparative Arabic literary criticism: Rūḥī al-Khālidī’s Tārīkh ʿilm al-adab ʿind al-ifranj wa-l-ʿarab wa-fiktūr hūkū (The History of the Science of Literature of the Franks, the Arabs, and Victor Hugo, 1902) and Aḥmad Ḍayf’s Muqaddimah li-dirāsat balāghat al-ʿarab (Introduction to the Study of Arab balāghah, 1921). I employ the various theoretical formulations of the decolonial school of thought, primarily Walter Mignolo’s coloniality/modernity complex, in tracing these epistemological shifts in literary value and focus on the internalization of Eurocentric critiques of Arabic literary capital. I also discuss the politics involved in such processes, presenting a decolonial perspective on these modernists’ engagement with their Arabic critical heritage.