Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Engaging Ancient Islamic Traditions in the Poetry of Saleha Ghabesh

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Engaging Ancient Islamic Traditions in the Poetry of Saleha Ghabesh

Article excerpt


This paper explores the integration of ancient Islamic heritage in Emirati literature, particularly the history of the rise and fall of the Muslim Empire in Andalusia, in an attempt to confront regional challenges and international transformations in the current era. Navigating the intersection between heritage and identity, the Emirati poet, Saleha Ghabesh, attempts to incorporate the ancient Islamic heritage in Andalusia as a dynamics of liberation in order to articulate domestic issues integral to the geopolitics of the United Arab Emirates and the Arab region in the age of globalization. Transforming the mythic history of Andalusia into a narrative of disclosure, the poet encounters a web of traditions and policies responsible for significant ramifications in the UAE and the Arab world. In a related context, the paper points out that the technique of adaptation, used by Ghabesh, which includes recollection rephrasing and re-writing of ancient heritage and Andalusian legacies to fulfill contemporary purposes, is part of the issue of hybridity and interculturation, characterizing the contemporary experience of political and cultural globalization. By assimilating heritage and historical traditions into contemporary Emirati literature, Ghabesh aims to link the past with the present reconstructing ancient narratives which shaped the cultural mythology of the Arab people.

Keywords: Saleha Ghabesh, Islamic heritage, Emirati literature, Andalusia


Capturing the catastrophic history of the Arab world at present, Ghabesh (2) reconstructs episodes from the history of Islamic Andalusia engaging intointer-textual dialogues with ancient Andalusian poetry in which narratives of exile, defeat and subordination occupy the foreground. As a whole, Ghabesh's poetry examines reconsiderations of contemporary problems of domination and hegemony playing a conspicuously prominent role in the formation and dissemination of notions of reform, on the political and social paradigms. Serving as a potential signpost in Emirati cultural criticism, and incorporating socio-political issues rooted in the collective consciousness of the Arab people, Ghabesh attempts to locate contemporary Emirati poetry in the context of current transformations in global relationships linking local cultural discourses with the intellectual concerns and orientations originating at the central sites of western literary canons.

On this basis, one of the central traits of Ghabesh's poetry is an extensive use of myth and legend, adapted and recycled to incorporate themes of contemporary significance in a modern Arab context. In the preface to her anthology, Beman Ya Buthayn Taluthin? I Who will Secure a Safe Haven for Buthayn?, she establishes an analogy between herself and Buthayn or Buthayna bint al-Mu'tamed Bin Abbad, the central female voice in the anthology. The links between the poet and her female persona are subtle and intricate to the extent that "they become one personality, one woman" (Ghabesh 2002: 5). Apparently, the Emirati poet is interested in the eventful life of her predecessor, Buthayna, because "the biography of this historical figure includes myth andtradition" according to Ghabesh. The life story of Buthayna, the Andalusian princess and the daughter of al-Mu'tamed b. Abbad (3), the king of Seville (a city located in Southwestern Spain) is the central inspiration for the Emirati poet, who enthusiastically engages the historical narrative of her female predecessor in the poetic canvas of Beman Ya Buthayn Taluthin?

In A Map of Misreading, Harold Bloom considers the attempt to evade earlier writing produced by an author's predecessors as a basic motivation in literary production. In this context, Bloom illustrates that in order "to live the poet must misinterpret the father by the crucial act of misprision, which is the rewriting of the father" (Bloom 1975: 19). Unlike male Arab poets who reconstruct the texts of their forebears in order to dismantle them, Ghabesh rewrites her female predecessor integrating her poetic narrative into the contemporary literary canon. …

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