Abdul Rahman Chamseddine

Abstracts

2 The Theology of a Muslim Artist: Tawfiq al-Hakim

Authors: Abdul Rahman Chamseddine

Abstract:

Tawfiq al-Hakim remains one of the most prominent playwrights in his native in Egypt, and in the broader Arab world. His works, at the time of their release, drew international attention and acclaim. His first 1933 masterpiece Ahl al-Kahf (The People of the Cave) especially, garnered fame and recognition in both Europe and the Arab world. Borrowing its title from the Qur’anic Sura, al-Hakim’s play relays the untold story of the life of those 'three saints' after they wake up from their prolonged sleep. The playwright’s selection of topics upon which to base his works displays a deep appreciation of Arabic and Islamic heritage. Al-Hakim was clearly influenced by Islam, to such a degree that he wrote the biography of the Prophet Muhammad in 1936 very early in his career. Knowing that Al-Hakim was preceded by many poets and creative writers in writing the Prophet Muhammad’s biography. Notably like Al-Barudi, Ahmad Shawqi, Haykal, Al-‘Aqqad, and Taha Husayn who have had their own ways in expressing their views of the Prophet Muhammad. The attempt to understand the concern of all those renaissance men and others in the person of the Prophet would be indispensable in this study. This project will examine the reasons behind al-Hakim’s choice to draw upon these particular texts, embedded as they are in the context of Arabic and Islamic heritage, and how the use of traditional texts serves his contemporary goals. The project will also analyze the image of Islam in al-Hakim’s imagination. Elsewhere, he envisions letters or conversations between God and himself, which offers a window into understanding the powerful impact of the Divine on Tawfiq al-Hakim, one that informs his literature and merits further scholarly attention. His works occupying a major rank in Arabic literature, does not reveal Al-Hakim solely but the unquestioned assumptions operative in the life of his community, its mental make-up and its attitudes. Furthermore, studying the reception of works that touch on sensitive issues, like writing a letter to God, in Al-Hakim’s historical context would be of a great significance in the process of comprehending the mentality of the Muslim community at that time.

Keywords: Arabic language, Arabic literature, Arabic theology, modern Arabic literature

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1 A Study in the Formation of a Term: Sahaba

Authors: Abdul Rahman Chamseddine

Abstract:

The Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, the Sahaba, are regarded as the first link between him and later believers who did not know him or learn from him directly. This makes the Sahaba a link in the chain between God and the ummah (community). Apart from their role in spreading the Prophet’s teachings, they came to be regarded as role models, representing the Islamic ideal of life as prescribed by the Prophet himself. According to Hadith, the Prophet had promised some Sahaba unqualified admission to paradise. It is commonly agreed that the Sahaba have the following attributes in common: God is well pleased with them; they will surely go to paradise; they are perfectly trustworthy; and they are the authorities from whom Muslims can learn all matters related to their religion. No other generation of Muslims has received the attention received by the Companions of the Prophet. In spite of the importance of the Sahaba in Islam, we still know comparatively little about them. There are at least two reasons for this. First, there is the overall scarcity of information surviving from the early period. At the death of the Prophet, it is said, there were more than 100,000 Companions. As we shall see, this is a complex issue, involving the definition of the term Sahaba. However, only few Companions of the Prophet are known to us. Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, who wrote in the fifteenth century A.D., was only able to collect facts about 11,000 of them (including those whose status as Sahaba was disputed). Ibn Sa‘d, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr and Ibn al-Athir, all of whom lived earlier than Ibn Hajar, included in their respective works fewer lives of Sahaba than he did. If we consider Ibn Hajar’s Isaba as the most complete biographical account of the Sahaba that remains available, we have information, presumably, on approximately one tenth of them. The remaining nine tenths are apparently lost from the historical record. Second, discussion of the Sahaba tends to focus on those considered the most important among them such as ‘Uthman, ‘Ali and Mu‘awiya, while others, who together number in the thousands, are less well-known. This paper will try to study the origins of the term Sahaba that became exclusive to the Companions of the Prophet and not a synonym of the word companions in general.

Keywords: Transmission, Islamic History, Hadith, Muhammad, companions, Sahaba

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