Alfred J. Naddaff
Founded in 1948, al-Abhath, a bi-lingual peer-reviewed academic journal released by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the American University of Beirut (AUB) has since published every year without exception, despite the upheaval that Lebanon and the University have faced. This past year, despite the many and ongoing challenges, proves no exception, as the journal published its newest edition, volume number 67, which Co-Editor Bilal Orfali called “the labor of true love.”
Indeed, peer-reviewed academic journals in the Arab world are few and far between. As such, al-Abhath distinguishes itself for its high quality scholarship and rigorous editing process, which includes a blind peer-review process led by a board of international experts across the field of Middle East Studies. In 2018, Al-Abhath also signed with Brill, an international academic publisher provided primary source materials in the humanities and social sciences, to be included in their database and to carry Brill’s name. The journal will also soon be found in the JSTOR database, a digital library of academic articles, which also includes the full-search feature in Arabic language, allowing for one to search keywords or sentences in Arabic as one would in English.
Volume 67 consists of seven articles and a book review, two of which are in English and the rest are in Arabic. Contributors to this issue hail from universities across Kuwait, Egypt, the U.S., Qatar, the U.K., and Lebanon, and the articles tackle a variety of original topics spanning across eclectic fields ranging from linguists to music to translation science to Jewish and Islamic studies.
Hassan Hamze, Head of the Linguistics and Arabic Lexicography Program at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, published an Arabic paper at the intersection of translation and terminology science. “These two sciences were among my research interests when I was director of the Department of Lexicography, Terminology and Arabic Translation at the Center for Research in Terminology and Translation at the University of Lyon 2 in France for over 20 years,” wrote Hamze over email.
In the English language, one of the articles builds off the author’s fieldwork in North Africa and provides an annotated list of the most important known manuscripts, handwritten notes and printed books pertaining to the texts of al-āla, an unofficial classical music of Morocco that is among the most notable living reminders of the Islamic period in Iberia. The other proposes a revised timeline for the Qur’an based on mean verse lengths calculations using the medina 1 counting system, supporting the formation of a Qurʾanic nucleus at an early stage in Mecca.
The author of that article, Raymond Farrin, professor of Arabic at the American University of Kuwait, is using the chronology as the basis for a new book project focusing on the early Meccan Qur’an.
“Since my days as a graduate student at UC Berkeley in the early 2000s, I have been familiar with al-Abhath as an outstanding journal in Middle Eastern and Arabic studies,” he said. “I thought it would be a great journal in which to publish my study on the refined inner-Qur'anic chronology, and I am proud to see my article appearing in volume 67 of this journal.”
In Arabic, there is an article on the study of the Arabic introduction of Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishna, a medieval Jewish philosopher who commented on one of the most sacred texts in Judaism; other articles include findings in philology, language and identity, lexicography and grammar, deriving from centuries of scholarship and often times suggest pathways for future studies.
Dr. Ramzi Baalbaki, Co-Editor of al-Abhath and renowned for his research in the field of Arabic philological studies, offers two contributions. In his article, he expands upon the results published of his recent book The Arabic Lexicographical Tradition from the 2nd/8th to the 12th/18th Century. He reveals that certain authors as of the 5th/11th century devised another mode of internal arrangement within each root known as the semantic principle.
Dr. Baalbaki also wrote a book review of Muhammad Hassan Al-Tayyan’s The Arabic Dictionary: A Study of the Dissonance of Letters in Arabic Roots, which he described as an indispensable reference on the topic of dissonance and harmony of Arabic letters, and the compilation of phonetic laws from old grammar manuscripts.
Al-Abhath is a vital reference for anyone interested in and engaged in the scholarship of the Arab World and the Middle East. It always encourages prospective authors these fields to submit original articles in either English or Arabic. The Journal is edited by Ramzi Baalbaki and Bilal Orfali of the Department of Arabic and Near Eastern Languages at the American University of Beirut and published jointed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at AUB and Brill publishers.