Libmonster ID: SE-315

V. N. KIRPICHENKO

Doctor of Philological Sciences

Muhammad al-Muwaylihi (1858, Cairo - 1930, the same place) was born in a family that owned a large silk trading company. The firm's owners, Muhammad's father and uncle, were also known for their active political and journalistic activities. Muhammad received an excellent education and was fluent in French since childhood. In 1882, he was arrested and forced to leave Egypt for distributing a proclamation written by his father Ibrahim al-Muwaylihi in support of the Orabi Pasha uprising.

While living in Italy and then in France, he worked for Jamal al-Din al-Afghani's newspaper Al-Urwa al-wuska ("The strongest ties" - meaning the ties that bind fellow Muslims). He visited England and lived in Istanbul in 1885-1887. He was widely read in both classical Arabic and European literature. After returning to Cairo, he published in various press organs, and from 1898 - in the weekly Misbah ash-Sharq ("Light of the East"), founded by his father. The weekly enjoyed success due to the topicality and excellent literary style of the articles published in it, written mainly by al-Muwaylihi's father and son. Many in Cairo were afraid of their sharp tongues.

In 1898-1900, a series of articles by Muhammad al-Muwaylihi was published in Misbah ash-Sharq under the general title "Time Period". In 1907, these articles, reworked by the author into a complete work of fiction, were published in a separate book entitled "A Period of Time, or the Story of Isa ibn Hisham".

Academician A. E. Krymsky called this unique work of fiction by Muhammad al-Muwaylikhi a "maqam * novel". It became the link that connects the traditions of classical Arabic prose with new romantic forms borrowed from European literature. The novel is named after the hero-narrator maqam al-Hamadani (X-XI centuries), the founder of the maqam genre, and is written largely in rhymed prose, saj'em; it consists of episodes that take place each time in a new place, where the characters move-the narrator-writer Isa ibn Hisham and Pasha the Turk Ahmad al-Manikli, who died in the reign of Muhammad Ali, under whom he was Minister of War, and resurrected half a century later.

Unlike the maqam cycles, where the episodes are independent, the "Story" already indicates causal relationships that explain the movement of the characters in different districts and institutions of Cairo. The naive hero, who finds himself out of his time, is surprised by the new rules and, not knowing the new laws (during his "absence" laws were adopted that were copied from the French Code of Napoleon), constantly gets into unpleasant situations. The variety of circumstances in which the characters find themselves, the multitude of characters they have to deal with, and the vitality of the episodes described often force the author to abandon saj'a and switch to ordinary prose.

Many scenes and dialogues bring the "Hadith" ("Story") closer to a dramatic work. There are also traces of the journalistic style of the late XIX century-then journalistic articles were often written in rhymed prose. There are also numerous quotations from medieval Arabic poetry inherited from the Maqam tradition. At the same time, the author also borrowed a lot from European literature, from French translations of ancient Greek authors, and even from modern Russian prose. Already in the first chapter, the image of a policeman appears, clearly prompted by Chekhov's "Chameleon" (the Arabic translation of the story by the Syrian Ibrahim Jabir was published shortly before the publication of Muwaylihi's work - in 1905). The manner of the Cairo policeman's treatment of people gathered in the market, as well as the "bundle" in his hand, is very reminiscent of Chekhov's police warden Ochumelova. Such an Arab-European artistic and journalistic synthesis allowed the author to clearly show all aspects of the Egyptian reality at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries. and the changes that occurred in society and in the consciousness of Egyptians due to the dominance of Europeans in the country and the adoption of Western norms and patterns in the field of legislation and in everyday life.

The author does not spare bright sati-

* Makama is a medieval genre, something like a picaresque novella. Its initiator is considered to be Ahmad ibn al-Husayn al-Hamadani (969-1008), called Badi al-Zaman (Miracle of Time). He created a series of maqam with common characters: the narrator Isa ibn Hisham and the cunning rascal Abu Zayd al-Saruji.

page 71
The artist uses a variety of classical colors and hyperboles, drawing pictures of the life of Egyptian society and portraits of its individual members. He remains a staunch advocate of progress and enlightenment, but insists on the need to preserve the traditional spiritual and moral values of Islam. It recognizes that progress and enlightenment do not mean ridding society and people of their vices and shortcomings, and thus undermines the very foundations of the enlightenment ideology - the belief in the unquestionably beneficial influence of knowledge on individual and social morality. The life-writing layer of the "Hadith", the types derived in it, personifying the Egyptian national character, had the most direct impact on the work of Egyptian prose writers of the early XX century, who set themselves the task of creating a national realistic literature.

In 1927, the Hadith of Isa ibn Hisham was included by the Egyptian Ministry of Education in the school curriculum. The book was reprinted 8 times in Egypt, the last time in 2002, and is still read with pleasure and has not lost its relevance.

The author of a review of the French translation of Hadith (2005) called the work "an absolute masterpiece".


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V. N. KIRPICHENKO, "AN ABSOLUTE MASTERPIECE" BY MUHAMMAD AL-MUWAYLIHI // Stockholm: Swedish Digital Library (LIBRARY.SE). Updated: 01.08.2023. URL: https://library.se/m/articles/view/-AN-ABSOLUTE-MASTERPIECE-BY-MUHAMMAD-AL-MUWAYLIHI (date of access: 21.05.2024).

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