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Modern Arabic Literature. Introduction. The Nahdah (Renaissance): New departure Linked to Classical Arabic Lit Product of a meeting of two forces: Indigenous tradition Imported western forms. Factors that Contributed to The Nahdah. Decline of The Ottoman Empire

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Modern Arabic Literature

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  • The Nahdah (Renaissance):
    • New departure
    • Linked to Classical Arabic Lit
    • Product of a meeting of two forces:
      • Indigenous tradition
      • Imported western forms
factors that contributed to the nahdah
Factors that Contributed to The Nahdah
  • Decline of The Ottoman Empire
  • French Expedition into Egypt (1798)
the ottoman period 16 th c early 20 th c
The Ottoman Period (16th c. – early 20th c.)
  • Arabs steady decline started with theTurks’ conquests:
    • Syria 1516
    • Egypt 1517
    • Algeria 1516
    • Libya 1555
    • Tunisia 1574

Only central Arabia and Morocco remained independent.

organization of arab territories
Organization of Arab Territories
  • Division of territories into Provinces each governed by an Ottoman Pasha.
  • Each Ottoman Pasha was helped by officials, tax collectors and shariah judges.

In Egypt, Mameluke acted as nominal governor.

decline of the ottoman empire
Decline of the Ottoman Empire
  • In the 18th century the Ottoman empire was weakening. People suffered from heavy burdens of taxation as well as oppression by corrupt officials and tax farmers which were caused by the local ruler's bloody struggles for power.
There were periodic raids by Bedouin tribesmen, however, people continued to form an integrated society. The Arabs felt that they constituted the Muslim Ummah and that the Ottoman rulers as defender of the sacred Law of Shariah had the right to be obeyed. Although Arabs were isolated from the West, they were convinced that the Muslim Civilization was superior.
arabic literature during the ottoman period
Arabic Literature During the Ottoman Period

During the Ottoman period Arabic literature was characterized by the absence of creativity. However, there was a considerable portion of commentaries where writers commented on texts. Also by the 18th century one could find that prose writers and poets paid more attention to manner than to matter. Their work was artificial and lacked seriousness.

Those who cared for the content of their writing tended to employ undistinguished prose that was devoid of literary merit. In creative writing the themes were conventional: Magamah - like prose epistles, pious verses in praise of the prophet, or empty panegyrics addressed to local notables, or passionless love poems.

Landless peasants and urban proletariat provided themes of much of the 20th century Arabic literature.

the french campaign
The French Campaign
  • Napoleon Bonaparte Invaded Egypt in 1798.



  • Egypt was a strategic country. France wanted to cut off Britain's route to India.
  • Bonaparte presented himself as a champion of Islam, a liberator of Egypt from the tyrannical rule of the Mamelukes
direct consequences of the french campaign positive effects
Direct consequences of the French campaign: (positive effects)
  • l'Institut d'Egypte: a survey of Egypt and its resources, conducted scientific experiments and established a periodical in the French language.
  • Legislation system: Ulema and notable reforms
  • Arabic printing press
  • Road construction
  • Factory construction
direct consequences of the french campaign negative effects
Direct consequences of the French campaign: (negative effects)
  • The Egyptians felt humiliated to be ruled by the infidels (Frenchmen).
  • In response to the blockade imposed upon them by the Anglo-Ottoman fleets in the Mediterranean. The French forces during the occupation had to resort to harsh means of taxation. The Egyptians led by the Azhar mosque (school) rebelled
indirect consequences of the french campaign
Indirect consequences of the French campaign

Egyptians were exposed to Western learning and science:

  • The French Campaign ended the isolation of the Arab world.
  • It signaled the beginning of a process of Western expansion and colonization that resulted in practically the whole Arab world falling under the domination of Western powers. (France, Gr. Britain, etc.)
The East/West conflict was a leading theme in Arabic literature.
  • The search for identity. Arab writers for many generations tried to define themselves in relation to others.
  • Writers were obsessed by the nationalist struggle for independence.
  • After independence, Arab countries remained within the sphere of western influence for a long time until Jamal Abd Al-Nasir and the Egyptian Army revolution of 1952. This in turn helped to push Arabic literature in other directions.
the rise of muhammad ali
The rise of Muhammad Ali
  • Modern Arabic literature would have been totally different if it had not been for one indirect result of the French Campaign.
  • In 1805 Ali filled the void by becoming the ruler of Egypt. (1805-1848). He created a dynasty which ruled Egypt until King Farouk.
ali s achievements
Ali’s Achievements
  • Military reform.
  • Superior and well organized armies.
  • Imposed state ownership of land.
  • Abolished the old system of tax farming.
  • Maintained a monopoly of trade for cotton cultivation.
  • Improved irrigation, transportation and marketing.
  • Imported Western forms of education.
  • Opened technological and military schools (sciences and languages)
ali s achievements cont
Ali’s Achievements (cont.)
  • Ordered an Arabic printing press.
  • Sent an educational mission to Europe to study printing
  • Established a government press: translation of European works: scientific, technological, literary translation and Arabic classics.
  • Published the first periodical, an official gazette al waqa i al-Mesriyyah (1828). This was the birth of journalism.
other contributors to the development of arabic literature
Other Contributors to the development of Arabic Literature
  • Rifaah Rafi al Tahtawi (1801-1873), editor of the gazette, was then director of the Cairo school of languages (English, French & Italian).
  • 1835. European and American missionaries were sent to Egypt and Syria
  • Graduates of the American University of Beirut and a Jesuit college (Univ of St. Joseph) were pioneers in the process of westernization.
Marun al Naqqash wrote the first play in Arabic (1847).
  • Salim al Bustani wrote the first novel (1870). He also wrote the first Arabic encyclopaedia.
  • Faris al-Shidyaq launched the important newspaper al-Jawaib.
  • Sarruf and Nimr founded al Muqtataf in Beirut in 1876 -- contained information about Western thought , science and technology.
  • Juriji Zaydan's periodical al-Hilal (1892) is still in publication until today.