The Arab Nahdah

The Arab Nahdah: The Making of the Intellectual and Humanist Movement

Abdulrazzak Patel
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt5hh2zz
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  • Book Info
    The Arab Nahdah
    Book Description:

    To understand today's Arab thinking, you need to go back to the beginnings of modernity: the nahdah or Arab renaissance of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Abdulrazzak Patel enhances our understanding of the nahdah and its intellectuals, looking back to its origins in the 1700s and taking into account important internal factors alongside external forces. He explores the key factors that contributed to the rise and development of the nahdah, he introduces the humanist movement of the period that was the driving force behind much of the linguistic, literary and educational activity. Drawing on intellectual history, literary history and postcolonial studies, he argues that the nahdah was the product of native development and foreign assistance and that nahdah reformist thought was hybrid in nature. Overall, this study highlights the complexity of the movement and offers a more pluralist history of the period.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7790-0
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Series Editor’s Foreword
    (pp. vi-viii)
    Rasheed El-Enany

    The Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature is a new and unique series which will, it is hoped, fill in a glaring gap in scholarship in the field of modern Arabic literature. Its dedication to Arabic literature in the modern period, that is, from the nineteenth century onwards, is what makes it unique among series undertaken by academic publishers in the English-speaking world. Individual books on modern Arabic literature in general or aspects of it have been and continue to be published sporadically. Series on Islamic studies and Arab/Islamic thought and civilisation are not in short supply either in the...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Preface
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Introduction: Perspectives, Paradigms and Parameters
    (pp. 1-11)

    This book is an intellectual history dealing with an aspect of Arab-Islamic culture. The first question one must thus raise is with regard to the meaning and nature of intellectual history. What are its main characteristics and central disciplinary concerns? Intellectual history is interdisciplinary in nature and as such intellectual historians do not work on the assumptions of a shared specific method. According to Kelly, primary topics of inquiry include: philosophy, literature, language, art, science and other disciplines, and each has its own tradition of historical inquiry.¹ Intellectual history thus lacks one overriding concern. In terms of hermeneutics it is...

  7. 1 Contemporary Interpretations of the Nahḍah: Tradition, Modernity and the Arab Intellectual
    (pp. 12-35)

    This chapter challenges some of the standard paradigms on the origins and development of thenahḍahwith particular reference to the position of Arab Christian intellectuals, who have traditionally been regarded as its pioneers and as constituting a transposable unified community different and alienated from their Muslim counterparts, but inherently attracted to the West. The chapter also examines contemporary interpretations of thenahḍahin the light of the ongoing debate on tradition and modernity in Arab intellectual and literary circles. It critiques the views of a number of leading Arab intellectuals who, in viewing modernity as a magnificent homogeneous phenomenon...

  8. 2 The Reintegration of Pre-modern Christians into the Mainstream of Arabic Literature and the Creation of an Inter-religious Cultural Space
    (pp. 36-74)

    The period beginning with the Ottoman conquest of 1516–17 until Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 is generally thought to be one of unrelenting intellectual and cultural decline in both Arabic and Western studies of Arabic literature. Our knowledge of this period is far from complete, but one of the most conspicuous developments of this period is clear: ‘the reintegration of Christian writers into the mainstream of Arabic literature’.¹ This chapter focuses on the context and history of this period, and in particular on Christian writers like Isṭifān al-Duwayhī (1630–1704), Jirmānūs Farḥāt (1670–1732) and Niqūlā al-Ṣā’igh (1692–...

  9. 3 Guardians of the Pre-modern Arab-Islamic Humanist Tradition: Legends without a Legacy, a Tradition without Heirs
    (pp. 75-101)

    While it was the Christian clerics of the Syrian monasteries who prepared the ground for thenahḍahin Lebanon, it was the Muslim shaykhs of perhaps the greatest institution of Muslim learning, the al-Azhar in Cairo, who led the way in Egypt. An inevitable consequence of the paradigm of decline for the study of Arabic thought and culture in the centuries preceding 1798, however, has been the almost total neglect in modern scholarship of this important institution, its scholars, their vast output and activities. This chapter begins by considering the role of al-Azhar and reveals a picture of an intellectual...

  10. 4 Language Reform and Controversy: The al-Shartūnīs Respond in Defence of the Pre-modern Humanist Tradition
    (pp. 102-126)

    One of the most significant features of thenahḍahwas the importance that was placed on the Arabic language. Nearly all intellectuals took an active interest in the language, and the majority of debates that characterised thenahḍahcentred on issues related to it as scholars engaged one another on practically every aspect, from its qualities and shortcomings, its function and importance in society, to its various problems and need for reforms. These debates involved all the major intellectuals of thenahḍah, albeit that different linguistic, religious, ideological and even political impulses motivated these scholars, which often meant that they...

  11. 5 Arabism, Patriotism and Ottomanism as Means to Reform
    (pp. 127-158)

    The emergence of the ethnic nationalistic movements that eventually destroyed the idea of political unity among Muslims, Christians and others within an Ottoman context was a development that belonged largely to the early decades of the twentieth century. Prior to this, most Arab Christian and Muslim thinkers were leading their communities to a closer union with the ultimate aim of seeking reform, progress and civilisation, while not inciting revolution. The following themes which permeate the intellectual thought of thenahḍahare indicative of the aspirations of prominent Christian and Muslim thinkers in the propagation and diffusion of these ideas: (1)...

  12. 6 Arab Intellectuals and the West: Borrowing for the Sake of Progress
    (pp. 159-180)

    Arab thinkers were convinced that the desired renaissance of their societies required some borrowing from Europe. This chapter examines the views of key Arab intellectuals and looks at how they rationalised the importation of Western secular knowledge in order to reform their societies. The chapter argues that while Arab thinkers accepted certain ‘enlightened’ Western epistemological principles for reform, they also maintained alternative paradigms (e.g., Arabism) in order to give their identity a stable historical dimension and a moral synthesis that would enable them to modernise without losing their identity. This same tendency is furthermore discerned in translated works of the...

  13. 7 Education, Reform and Enlightened Azharīs
    (pp. 181-200)

    No matter hownahḍahintellectuals differed, they all agreed that ignorance was one of the main reasons for the stagnation (jumūd) and decline (inḥiṭāṭ) of their people, and that knowledge and education would pave the way for progress and civilisation. Moreover, they all insisted that the cultivation of humanistic learning (i.e., grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history and moral philosophy) was the basic formula for cultural and moral renewal, and adopted a methodology towards educational reform that involved the importation of modern Western learning, the simultaneous revival of classical Arab-Islamic traditions, and the dissemination of the knowledge thus acquired through the curricula...

  14. 8 Enacting Reform: Local Agents, Statesmen, Missionaries and the Evolution of a Cultural Infrastructure
    (pp. 201-223)

    Besides the writing of pedagogical works and the printing of Arabic classics and original works, Arab thinkers believed that the establishment of a strong cultural infrastructure was necessary to introduce, promote and facilitate the learning of imported modern Western and native revived knowledge at all levels of society. Building on the previous section on education, this chapter describes a rapidly expanding cultural infrastructure of schools, presses, periodicals and societies that emerged in the later part of the nineteenth century with a particular focus on Lebanon. The chapter also highlights the role ofnahḍahintellectuals and humanists who supplied this infrastructure...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 224-233)

    The story of thenahḍahis highly complex and inadequately understood. At present, there is a real need for new works of synthesis that capture its broader outlines: how thenahḍahemerged, how it was understood and its impact into the contemporary period. Existing overviews, no matter how good, are now largely outdated. The various versions of thenahḍahhave mainly been an account of the different mappings of the complex relationship between the Arab world and the West following the French invasion of Egypt in 1798. The encounter with colonialism in the nineteenth century gave rise to new scholarly...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 234-250)
  17. Index
    (pp. 251-260)