The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview

THE FUTURE OF CULTURE IN ARAB SOCIETY

by DR. MUHAMMAD KAMEL AYYAD

EVEN A CURSORY comparison between the present standards of culture in the Arab countries and those of half a century ago would show that very great progress has been achieved in this sphere of our life. This is apparent in the far greater number of literate people and of educational institutions, as well as in the greater volume of writing, translation, and publication; above all in the ever-growing variety of research methods, ways of thinking, and means of expression.

As is generally the case, however, with historical developments, this progress has not been absolute and all-embracing. It would not be difficult to cite examples of retrogression in some departments of our cultural life. For instance, we used to take more interest in our own religious and literary heritage fifty years ago than we do now. In the fields of religious reform and the study of Arab and Islamic history, we have nothing to match the movement of Imām Muhammed Abduh or the treatises of El-Alusi and Jurji Zeidan. In our poetic output, again, we do not find anything comparable in fertility and power to the works of Hafiz Ibrahim,1 Ahmed Shawqi,2 Ma'aruf Al Rusafi,3

____________________
1
Hafiz Ibrahim, 1871-1932. Born in Cairo of poor parents and studied in the Military Academy. He is considered one of the two best modern poets of Egypt, the other being Shawqi.
2
Ahmed Shawqi, 1868-1932. Born in Cairo and raised in the Court of Khedive Abbas II. He was called the Poet of Princes because most of his poetry was composed in praise of the royal family. Joined the nationalist movement and was regarded as the greatest of the period's poets.
3
Ma'aruf Al Rusafi, 1875-1945. Born in Baghdad, was known in Iraq, Istanbul, and Jerusalem. Famous for his political poetry, especially in criticism of the Hashemite court.

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