Jurji Zaidan was one of the leading thinkers of the Arab h his historical novels, his widely read journal, al-Hilal, which is stillpublished t. Tree of Pearls, Queen of Egypt by Jurji Zaydan, Translated from the Arabic by Samah Selim, BUY DIRECT from Syracuse University Press. By writing historical novels, Jurji Zaidan wanted to provide the common Arabic people with an accurate sense of their own history in an.

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Jurji Zaydan

His primary goal, as a writer and intellectual during the Nahdawas to make the common Arabic population know their own history through the entertaining medium of the novel. He has enjoyed a widespread popularity. He is also considered to have been one of the first thinkers to help formulate the theory of Arab nationalism. Zaydan was born on December 14, in Beirut to an Orthodox Christian family of limited means.

His father owned a restaurant juri, being illiterate and uneducated himself, placed little importance on education. Zaydan dropped out of school after he completed an elementary education to help his father run the business. However, he maintained a desire to educate himself by attending night classes in English until, inat the age of 20, he was admitted to the Syrian Protestant College as a medical student. He developed an interest in concepts of individualism such as laissez-faire economics, the Freemason belief in a universal enlightenment, and social Darwinism.

He attended the university around the zayydan time as Ya’qub Zaaydan —who first translated Self-Help into Arabic and would later found the magazine Al-Muqtataf The Elite, with whom he shared ideals of modernizing the Arab world and emphasis on individual success through hard work. He also influenced Zaydan’s worldview, leading him to adopt the idea that education was the most important factor for the progress and development of a people.

Zaydan thus became critical of contemporaries such as Egyptian Moustafa Kamal Pascha and Ahmed Orabiwho zaydna concerned solely with gaining independence from Western influence. Zaydan argued that reform must precede independence to ensure its success. In zaycan, Professor E. Lewis was fired from the Syrian Protestant College for lightly praising Charles Darwin in a speech that he made to students of the college. Because the concept of Darwinism was highly controversial in Protestantismit had forbidden its inclusion in any curriculum.

The firing led to mass protests amongst the students, many of whom left or were expelled for rebelling. Additionally, many of the European pastors running the college were beginning to favour English over Arabic as the language of education. Zaydan was among those who left Syria for Cairo, where many Lebanese intellectuals and members of the Nahda had already relocated as a reaction to increased Ottoman suppression. After a short stint in the Medical School of ‘Ain Shams’ and a military expedition with the British army to the Sudan, he turned his focus to developing his writing career.

The magazine was concerned primarily covering modern scientific advancements, the first to do so in the Arab world, and it was known particularly known for its controversial coverage of the theory of evolution and Darwinism in the early s. After briefly serving as assistant editor for al-MuqtatafZaydan began producing scholarly works on various historical topics. His interest in history propelled him to travel to London to research Arabic history in the library of the British Museum.


His first book was published in with Ta’rikh al-Masuniya al-Amm in which he aimed to correct misconceptions about the Freemasons of which he was a member of the “Le Liban” lodge.

The Freemason belief that universal knowledge existed and should be available to every person appealed to intellectuals like Zaydan as well as their quest to tap into this knowledge. Still, it is cited as one of the first non-Islamic histories to be written in Arabic, marking a turning point in the development xaydan modern Arab education.

Before, the entirety of Arab history had been recorded by the ulamathe religious scholars of the Caliphate. It was the first attempt at recording a nonreligious version of Middle Eastern history. His professional and personal zsydan took a turn inwith his marriage to Maryam Matar and the publication of his first historical novel, al-Mamluk al-Shariid Jurrji Fleeing Mamluk.

He would continue to steadily produce roughly one novel a year until his death in He began publishing his most influential project, the magazine Al-Hilal The Crescent in It originally contained five sections: His primary aim remained steady throughout his publication of Al-Hilal and his historical novels: Historical accuracy thus took firm precedence over plot and character development in each of his novels, and he was often critical of Western writers who bent historical fact to fit their literature, claiming such liberties misled the general public.

Zaydan would typically write his annual novel during the summer months when al-Hilal was not published to begin its serialisation in the fall. Every novel but one had an almost identical frame.

He would begin each one by picking a historical topic. Though his novels did not follow a logical timeline, they were all centered on some aspect of Islamic history.

Next, he would read all available sources on the topic in order to gain the most thorough understanding possible. Then, he would build a skeleton outline based entirely on historical fact. Finally, he zayxan dream up characters and a romance through which he would relate the history. The scholar’s zayran with which he approached each novel is further demonstrated by his frequent inclusion of documented sources, frequent footnotes and introductory chapters that provided historic, cultural and geographic context to the historic event of choice [6] The entertainment aspect came in with a love story between jurrji characters and a mystery of some sort to maintain reader interest.

His plots were often weak, relying mostly on convenient coincidences between characters to drive the love story and mystery, with almost all of his novels ending in a happy ending.

His characters were often one-dimensional, with no insight given on their skills, background or their view of jruji time, institutions or society of which they were. Because he would present all character traits and personalities within the first mention of each character, character development was never present.

The static characters, coupled with his straightforward, journalistic style were ideal for relating an objective and accurate history in the clearest way possible to the broad Arab public. Along with providing the general population with education, he also aimed to develop ” philosophy of language saydan, which has the explicit purpose of informing, educating and enlightening.


He was critical of writing that was accessible to only a small group of people, especially the esoteric language in zaaydan scholarship.

Inthe newly opened Egyptian University offered Zaydan a professorship in Islamic History, which Zaydan accepted only ruluctantly because of his unpopularity amongst conservative Muslims. He was dismissed before beginning in response to significant outcry from the Muslim public, who objected to his Christian origins and secular leanings. Zaydan’s secular take on history was particularly controversial in Tarikh al-Tamaddun al-Islam The History of the Islamic Civilization, —in which he offers a critical secular reading of Islamic history in at least five volumes.

The experience embittered him until his unexpected death in Leaving behind a legacy that includes 23 published novels, numerous scholarly works, and a magazine then circulated in Persia, India, Japan, Western Africa, Zanzibar, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, and North and South America, he was one of the most prolific and renowned Arab writers of the time. His impact left a lasting impression on the general Arab population as well as such literary giants as Taha HusseinNaguib Mahfouz and poet Fadwa Tuqan.

Beyond the amount of work that he produced in his life though, there is the shift in thinking he brought to the Nahda and those who followed it.

Because the Arabic novel was written in an accessible language, individualized education took a huge step away from the religious elite and towards the general population.

His printing press greatly aided in this attempt to spread new knowledge and ideas to people of all backgrounds. With the creation of a population that is thinking and speaking for itself came the creation of a dialogue.

With that was the desire of the population to point out what is unsatisfactory in society and to come up with an idea on how to change it. Until recently, Zaydan’s works were not available in English, bur they have been translated in a dozen other languages. The work began inand the books were due to be released in and It won the Arkansas Arabic Translation Award. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.

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May Learn how and when to remove this template message. International Journal of Middle East Studies. The Origins of Modern Arabic Fiction. Journal of Arabic Literature. Macmillan Reference USA, Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Gale, Cengage Learning, Philipp, Thomas, and Jirji Zaydan. His Life and Thought. Jurji Zaidan and the Foundations of Zatdan Nationalism.

The Zaidan Foundation

Syracuse University Press, Retrieved from ” https: Views Read Edit View history. In other projects Wikimedia Commons.

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