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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.

In: Journal of Arabic Literature