Philology was more than a scholarly tool in the system of classical Arabo-Islamic writing; it was a cognitive model. This cognitive model was embodied by scholars and repeatedly performed by them in oral and written expression. It can be understood as a habitus. This article takes seriously pre-modern critiques of a revisionist darling al-Ṣafadī’s masterful commentary al-Ghayth al-musajjam fī sharḥ «Lāmiyyat al-ʿAjam» to consider the cognitive logic of this philological habitus and the ways in which modern scholarly agendas manipulate the chronological plane of Arabic literary history.
In 1748, the monk Arsāniyūs Shukrī al-Ḥakīm (1707–1786), a member of the Lebanese Maronite Order in Mount Lebanon, was sent to Catholic Europe, tasked with securing financial support and the protection of the French King for his indebted order. The literary byproduct of this journey through the Christian lands of Western Europe was an extensive travel account. Based on recent manuscript findings, the present contribution examines the different versions in which this ego-document has been transmitted, including the original travel journal written en route by Arsāniyūs himself, copies by contemporaries who turned the travel journal into a travelogue, an excerpt included in an anthology dating to the 1870s, and finally the edition by the Jesuit scholar Ferdinand Taoutel (1887–1977). The account of the journey, it is argued, remained the object of a philological engagement that was meant to guarantee the continuity of its relevance and use in changing contexts.
This article examines the social meaning of philology in Arabic from the perspective of a contemporary Indian Shīʿī Muslim community, known as the Alawi Bohras. Rather than approaching philology as a tradition of canonical texts, it considers philology as a social act: a set of practices that are imbedded socially in the community. We focus on the community’s khizāna, or manuscript treasury, and investigate its social role as a sacred site of philology, its Arabic manuscripts being only accessible to the highest clerics. Even though inaccessible to believers, the khizāna manuscripts have rich social lives as objects of concealment, agency, and healing. These social lives precisely lay bare the encounter between the philological and the community. As a study in social codicology that explores this encounter, the case of the Alawi Bohras is an invitation to rethink the social meaning of philology and manuscripts in Muslim societies.
The article examines the efforts of Muḥammad al-Mahdī al-Fāsī (d. 1605) and his readers in the Ottoman domains to reconstruct an authoritative version of Muḥammad b. Sulaymān b. Abī Bakr al-Jazūlī’s (d. 1465) Dalā’il al-khayrāt. In his commentary on the Dalā’il, al-Fāsī recorded his collation of multiple versions of al-Jazūlī’s work. The commentary and its contribution to a notion of an authoritative and authorial version of Dalā’il al-khayrāt accompanied al-Jazūlī’s text in its journey to the eastern parts of the Islamic world and helped readers there bridge a two-century gap in the transmission of the work. The article studies the manners in which Ottoman readers/reciters of Dalā’il used al-Fāsī’s commentary to create a channel to al-Jazūlī and the divine. In so doing, the article seeks to draw attention to additional functions of the genre of the commentary in the Islamic tradition. Moreover, by focusing on the textual practices of al-Fāsī and his Ottoman readers, the essay argues that the act of collation of the multiple versions of Dalā’il al-khayrāt was in and of itself an ethical act of devotion that manifested the readers’/reciters’ quest for proximity to al-Jazūlī.
This article explores how the encounter of Arabic with Tamil discourses on language limited as well as enabled a particular instantiation of Islamic discourse. It argues that, rather than allowing a hyperglossic extension of Arabic grammatical and poetical discourses to Tamil, Muslim Tamil poets clearly demarcated the respective domains of Tamil and Arabic grammar, thereby making each relevant only to the language it originally defined. The prime space of interaction between the two languages was afforded by Arabic vocabulary, as Tamil grammar implicitly permitted the utilization of Arabic words in Tamil poetry. The equalization of the two languages in the realms of grammar and poetics was, however, threatened both by Arabic’s simultaneous status as a divine language and by the porousness of the boundary between the two languages occasioned by ignorance of the system of equivalences created through learned discourse.
This article takes part in the recent project of reevaluating the place, role, and importance of different forms of engagement with Arabic and Arabic manuscripts in seventeenth-century Spain, and more broadly in Europe, by focusing on a single institution—the royal library of San Lorenzo of the Escorial. I examine if, and how, the Escorial fits within the new narrative of the history of Arabic in seventeenth- century Spain. Did the presence of an exceptionally sizeable collection of Arabic texts facilitate, hinder, or have no effect on the new Orientalism of the seventeenth century? More specifically, the article explores four questions: (1) What did Spanish and European scholars think about the collection of Arabic manuscripts in the Escorial? (2) What did the Hieronymites, the friars in charge of the library, do with its Arabic manuscripts? (3) What did the Hieronymites think about the study of Arabic? and (4) What access to the collection, if any, did Spanish and European scholars have? The answers to these questions suggest that the Escorial became a shrine of Arabic knowledge, to which scholarly pilgrims sought access, and that during seventeenth century Spain preserved its reputation among European orientalists as an important site for the study of Arabic.
This article draws from historical treatises on Arabic grammar, alongside modern theories of untranslatability and translation ethics, to argue for both the practical feasibility and the ethical potential of accounting for the grammatical Arabic dual inflection in English translations of Arabic literature. It considers the dual to possess certain formal qualities—of sound, sense, affective impact, and ontological significance—that require a correspondingly material and embodied mode of engagement from the translator, which is described here with reference to my own published translation of a contemporary Lebanese novel. Ultimately, I propose that such an approach enables new and more ethical ways of reading from an Anglophone audience.
By producing certain types of knowledge and discourse and rendering medieval sources such as Ibn Khaldūn into the terms of that discourse, colonial Orientalists delimited what it was possible to know about both the medieval and modern Maghrib. Concerned with the narrative of the “Arabization” of the Maghrib distilled out of Ibn Khaldūn by colonial scholars, the field of Arabic dialectology attempted to use linguistic research on modern Arabic to buttress this narrative while employing it to categorize its results. This article examines how particular categories such as divisions of “Bedouin” dialects originated through this type of colonial scholarship, and how they have lived on until now as the categories into which current research is fit.
The article traces the transformations in Arabic editorial practices from the mid-19th century through the early decades of the 20th-century. Focusing on the publishing world of Cairo, the article examines some of the major political, cultural and technological conditions that shaped editorial choice and technique. The article explores continuities as well as ruptures with traditional Arabic-Islamic editorial practice, and assesses the impact of 19th-century European philological and historical scholarship. Particular attention is given to examining innovation in editorial practice, textual form, and modes of research over the course of a century.
This article aims to highlight sociolinguistic aspects of an Arabic text from the sixth/twelfth century, its reception, and the commentaries on it. Soon after its publication, the linguistic treatise Durrat al-ghawwāṣ fī awhām al-khawāṣṣ by al-Ḥarīrī (d. 516/1122) became a model for discussing the subject of laḥn (solecism) in Arabic, and remained so throughout the following centuries. Rather than attributing this to fixed practices of premodern commentary culture, the article seeks to explain the scholars’ lively and nuanced engagement with Durrat al-ghawwāṣ by focusing on their identification with the social group of the khāṣṣa, which distinguishes itself through language mastery, and by connecting the interest in linguistic treatises to sociocultural developments in the Arab-Islamic realm during the Mamlūk and Ottoman periods.