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Old Thursday, March 27, 2008
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Default Modern Arabic Literature

Write a comprehensive note on the origin and development of modern Arabic literature. Do you think that it was influenced by the west?

The era of modern Arabic literature started from beginning of the 19th century. In 1798, France attacked Egypt and go dominance. They established two Madrassa’s, two newspapers, a theater, an educational academy and a printing press. Mohammad Ali, who was the ruler of Egyptians, came to know that the progress of west is due to education, management and military. Therefore, he decided to promote education in Egypt. He also established different schools and French scholars taught there. Students and delegations were sent to France for higher education. Similarly, in Lebanon, Amir Bashir Al Shahabi did the same. Books from Europe were translated into Arabic.

Sources of development of modern Arabic literature:

There were many sources, which directly or indirectly affected the modern Arabic literature. Important ones are given below:

Modern Schools

Muhammad Ali established different modern schools for military, medical and physical education at different levels. Their number increased by time and Tayyaba College, Madrasa AlSana and Madrasa Darull uloom were established in Alsona where different western books on modern education were translated into Arabic. Similarly, Darul Uloom played a vital role in promotion of Arabic language and literature.

Learning western languages and sending delegations.

The policy of sending students to the western countries for higher education, by Mohammad Ali Pasha and the ismail pasha was very fruitful. Similarly, when French and English languages were made compulsory in the institutions of Egypt and Syria, it brought a change in their thinking. Consequently, new ways were adopted in prose and poetry of Arabs.
Jam-e Azhar

Azhar, which is among the oldest universities of the world, was established by Johar Saqli in 199. It was basically for promotion of religious education. Students of Azhar were also sent to Europe for higher studies. In 1887, some new courses were introduced in Azhar. Sheikh Mohammad Abda played important role in progress of this university. Hence, it played very important role in promotion and progress of Arabic literature and language. Majority of the Arab writers and intellectuals were from this in this institution in the mid of 20th century.

Jam-e Misriya

It was established in 1908 as a national university. Scholars from Europe were especially invited. Writers and intellectuals of Egypt also gave lectures. New disciplines like Law College, medical college, agricultural college, commerce college very deep impact. In 1820, an American college was established in Beirut who was then given the status of university Al Jamea-Tul America. So all these factors contributed in the development of modern Arabic literature which was influenced by the west.

The influence emerged in the form of

1. Modern theater
2. drama writing
3. novel
4. story
5. short stories
6. new trends in the poetry
7. essays on various topics
8. Writing about the social problems and issues etc.


Short stories were introduced in west in 19th century and became very popular among readers. When Arab writers interacted with the west in 19th century, they liked it very much. They started translating these stories in Arabic but this translation was not like actual. It was translated according to the local circumstances of Egypt and common language was used, so that common man could understand and enjoy it. Hafiz Ibrahim and Mustafa Lutfi Al munfaloti translated European short stories. Munfloti in his book “Al Abarat” translated some stories from European language and also wrote some stories himself.

In 1917, mehmood taimoor wrote a story “Fil Qatar” in western pattern, which was termed the exact short story in modern period. After the 1st world war, these stories became very popular and many writers emerged in this field.


In the beginning of 20th century, jarhi zaidan wrote historical novels which were like the style of sir watter scot. The first successful novel of Arabic was ‘zainab’ by Mohammad Hussain Haikal. Novel writing became very popular between the period of 1st and 2nd world war. Writers like Taha Hussain, Taufeeq-ul Hakeem, Mehmood Tahir Ibrahim Abdul qadir AlMazni etc. contributed in it.

This was the starting period of novel. After 2nd world war, the creation of Israel defeat of Arabs in 1948, 1956, 1967. Wars against Israel, discovery of oil in Arab countries, other social and political issues left deep impact on the writers. They were influenced by these events and it was reflected in their novels.

Modern theater and Drama

In Egypt, theater was operating from the beginning of the 20th century. After 1st world war, theater was dominated by comedy plays. In 1935, government established a theatrical company. Famous poet Khalil Matren was its head. Some other companies also emerged that promoted theater. Many writers and actors became famous due to theater.

Theater and drama became much popular when Ahmad Shoqi and Taufeeq-ul Hakeem started writing dramas, 6 were tragic and one was comedy. Only one was prose, others were versified.

Taufik Ul akeem wrote some dramas before going to France, which were ordinary and relating to political and social issues. He came back from France in 1927 and his style was totally changed. He was impressed by Bernard Shaw. He wrote dramas like “ahl Al Kahaf” and “Shaharzad”, which were the best among his writings. Dramas of Taufeeq-ul Hakeem were published in two volumes. He became very popular in Drama writing.

Last edited by Xeric; Sunday, May 24, 2009 at 07:37 PM.
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