American University of Beirut

  • Volume 69


    By AJ Naddaff

    It comes as no surprise that the forthcoming volume of Al-Abhath (69​, 2021) features a range of scholarship, following the ethos of previous publications. Yet perhaps this issue distinguishes itself in both its coverage of classical and modern periods, its many book reviews and its bold presentation of thought-provoking arguments.

    Once again, original articles range from an array of various subfields of Arabic and Islamic Studies, notably: philology and literary analysis, linguistics and lexicography, early Islamic historiography and biography, Ottoman-era Arabic literature, the maqāmāt of al-Hamaḏhānī's, and Leo Strauss' reception in modern Arabo-Turkish space.

    Some of the articles are a breath of fresh air in their willingness to challenge conventional norms and put forth new material. Take, for example, Haci Osman Gündüz's article on Ottoman-era Arabic literature which concludes by calling to “unearth the many literary riches of the period." For her part, Renate Jacobi, a veteran scholar in the field of early Arabic poetry, provides evidence on debunking a claim to authenticity, arguing that al-Shanfarā of the Lāmiyya and the historical al-Shanfarā, the alleged author of a qaṣīda transmitted in the Mufaḍḍaliyyāt, are two different poets. As she wrote over email, Jacobi hopes that the article “will contribute to the realization among scholars that even in the early periods classical Arabic poetry changed considerably on account of social and cultural developments, an aspect that has, to some extent, been neglected in modern research."

    Maurice Pomerantz and co-editor of Al-Abhath Bilal Orfali, who have a forthcoming scholarly book on the Maqāmāt of Badīʿ al-Zamān al-Hamadhānī, contribute with a literary analysis of the al-Hamaḏhānī's Maqāma Šāmiyya in addition to the first scholarly edition of the text. It was previously expurgated in the first modern edition published by Muḥammad ʿAbduh.

    Moreover, Hassan Hamze, Head of the Linguistics and Arabic Lexicography Program at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, produces an article that challenges the “consensus in lexicography to regard circularity as a defect of the definition."

    Some scholarly articles stem from surprising realizations. Such is the case with Malik Mufi. He was motivated to write an article on Leo Strauss because of the following question: How is it that Leo Strauss, the political philosopher responsible perhaps more than any other individual for the revival of interest in the political philosophy of the falāsifa in the West today, has barely been studied in contemporary Arabic or Turkish scholarship? As such, he wrote the article, “in the hope that it will spur a more serious look at [Strauss'] thoughts on the subject (including of course translations of his writings), and thus also a more serious reconsideration of what the falāsifa have to teach us today." 


    Another impressive study is presented by Maher Jarrar, Professor, Civilization Studies Program and Department of Arabic & Near Eastern Languages at AUB and one of a small group of international authorities in this field of early material about the life and career of Prophet Muhammad. His study applies “a source-critical methodology on a small bundle of variants that go back to one alleged authority, that of ʿUrwa ibn al-Zubayr, that reach back to him through three lines of transmission." Above all, Jarrar who has supported Al-Abhath since the early 1990s, hopes that his study, like the other studies, will not be stuck in an echo chamber, but will provoke dialogue, calling to a wider range of scholars whose research depends on collaborative interdisciplinary efforts. “Seen in its context, this is not an isolated piece of research, but it rather opens discourse with the latest results of research in the last two decades by the experts in this field. Moreover, it opens new desired grounds of investigation."


    Lastly, authors expressed their desire to publish in Al-Abhath because of its position as a flagship academic journal in the Arab world and in a global context more broadly. Kirill Dmitriev recommended to Renate Jacobi that she reach out to Al-Abhath as an excellent choice for publishing her article. “One of the arguments for me was the assumption that a journal appearing in Beirut will be accepted widely in the Arab world, and not only read by scholars in Western countries," she wrote.


    Noah Hassan Taj, who contributed one of five book reviews on Mohammed Rustom's Al-Ghazālī on the Condemnation of Pride and Self-Admiration, wrote that he was led to Abhath because of “its publications and reputation amongst academic journals across various institutions."

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