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PISC no.5: “The Poet of Islam”: The Reception of Muhammad Iqbal in Egypt

Ahmed Elbenni, Near Eastern Studies

Wed, 2/28 · 5:00 pm7:00 pm · 102 Jones Hall

Near Eastern Studies; Religion; Humanities Council; Near Eastern Studies Program; CCSR

Abstract: “This paper reconstructs the largely untold history of how Indian- Muslim poet Muhammad Iqbal’s works arrived in the Arab world through the Egyptian poet ‘Abd al-Wahhab ‘Azzam. His interpretation of Iqbal set the terms of Najib al-Kilani’s—the Arab world’s most influential advocate for a new genre of literature termed al-adab al-islami—own engagement with the poet, as he both accepted Azzam’s reading of Iqbal and evolved its latent potentials. In the case of both ‘Azzam and al-Kilani, however, it is Iqbal’s complicated Sufism—read through the Romantic orientation of Egypt’s literary culture in the early twentieth century—which generated the discursive terrain upon which Iqbal’s poetry could be codified as a metric of literary “Islamness,” one concrete and consistent enough to anchor a new canon of “Islamic” literature. The paradoxical process of reifying Iqbal’s philosophy of process echoes in al-Kilani’s later thought as an enduring set of tensions if not contradictions. It was thus his early Iqbalian encounter, and its stubborn irresolvability, which lent al-Kilani’s lifelong project of Islamic literature both its ideological conservatism and its subversive edge.”

The Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium is a forum to discuss work-in-progress of grad students and confirmed scholars.

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