[Pdf/E–pub] Arabs AUTHOR Tim Mackintosh–Smith BY Tim Mackintosh–Smith
K with the current xistential despair of the modern liberal trying to cope with the monstrosities in viewIn this case I forgive because his despair comes from having been at his post in war torn Yemen come under fire and stood his ground as long as he could in the tradition of many a medieval Arab intellectual and because he wears his liberal politics as lightly as his conscience permitsAnd I forgive him for the insights and the fundamentally sound and substantial weaving of a deep knowledge of the Arabic language and sympathy for the speakers of the language with the tough realism of the natural historianHe is also subtle Forest of Darkness enough without abandoning his English liberal values to show respect for the possibility that the things that might make him despair about Arab political culture are a matter for Arabs to work through and not for outsidersSo we have a strange situation by thend of the book where he is trying to suare his anger at the cruelty of anarcharchs and demonocracy and the Arab world s uneven to say the least relationship to truth telling with his acceptance of it as a uniue and independent cultureMy own xperience and the book s solid xposition of the soul of the Arab in history slippery though the concept is through three thousand years of xistence could create a natural despair that the culture will ver become good like ours But is it really any of our businessOf course ours is not at all good It just has its own rhetoric and a different history that allows the bad to be limited in scope Mackintosh Smith rightly regrets the lack of institutional structures that allow Arabs to choose their own paths rather than submit to autocratsBut wishes are cheap The blundering of neo conservatives and before that of the insertion of Zionism like a wedge into the region and imperialism before that has not helped very much in creating the possibilities for organic institutional liberal democratic developmentArabs in short have an inchoate but very real and complex culture that is uite separate from Islam yet heavily inflected by it just as Europeans have a very real and complex culture heavily inflected by Christianity but uite separate from it both with pagan pasts as wellThe Arabs though are bound by a language constructed out of a book and tradition whereas if Europe was also constructed out of a book and its competition with the classical tradition Europe was to break into competitive languages that helped force through national institutional structuresThe Arabic language is both a binder of peoples from Morocco to Oman and Ira to Sudan and also a false friend insofar as the dialects across the region can be almost unintelligible to ach other and the high language tends to bind intellectuals and lites rather than peoplesArab nationalism where one suspects the author has some sympathy at least based on his account of Nasser attempted to force the pace through radio and print rhetoric but such nationalisms can only be partially forced from above and then only over long periods of time on fertile groundThe messiness of the last half century comes from traditional order maintaining national autocrats maintaining the fiction of Arab ness and also trying to manage Islamic sentiment when that sentiment in fact does not and cannot include all Arabs and has dissident variants itselfWhen Arab ness gets ideologised it has a tendency to be closer to a form of soft fascism in European terms than anything liberal although one of the few areas of neglect in the book is the brief incursion of socialist ideas into the region in the last century I tend to conservative pessimism on all this basically Mackintosh Smith s liberal pessimism but without the undercurrent of suppressed outrage but I agree with him when he suggests that it is for Arabs and not outsiders to define themselvesThe tide of Islamism now seems to have partially abated This is probably as much to do with the passing of generations as to any counter terrorist action But as it recedes the association of Arabism firmly with Islam crowds out the very secular nationalisms that are its best hopeMackintosh Smith is bitter about Bashar Al Assad as many liberal Arabs must be but in the brutal context between Love, Again: The Wisdom of Unexpected Romance even moderate Political Islam and secular nationalism the Baathist may be a last bulwark against an inappropriate Sunni appropriation of anntire linguistic cultureWe might liken this to the neo confucian appropriation of what it is to be Chinese by the Chinese Communist Party or the attempts so far beaten off to rediscover Europe as a Christian Scandal Above Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, entity by themergent European populist RightBeing Chinese or European or Arab is not coterminous with being Neo Confucian Christian or Muslim In the first case because China is a multiplicity of traditions in itself and in the last two because these religions are global and yet not veryone in ither culture accepts themPerhaps Nasser s main rror was to construct out of very little a general Arab nationalism instead of accepting that there was the potential for many collaborating Arab nationalisms based on the many inheritances of the Arab conuests but where secularism had room for respected minoritiesBut that was then and this is now The rror was historically comprehensible All Arab Entranced (The Donovan Legacy, errors are historically comprehensible and thanks to this book we cannot say we cannot comprehend them President Nonsense bin Nonsense might have benefited from it had itxisted in 2003Ironically the only modern Arab Leader who may be getting it is MBS in Saudi Arabia the heartland of the Arabs who is busy building up a possibly viable Saudi nationalism as an ideology which permits greater difference within an historically determined Islamic framework And yet the general view of the West has to be that MBS is the autocrat s autocrat at the moment and he is not ven King yet The methodology is that of Henry VIII and Francis I Both monarchs were consolidators of national feeling into a viable nation state with the dynastic as means So all in all for all the anecdotalism an xcellent guide to the creation and history of the Arab community that respects its subject and its readers and which I can strongly recommend Incidentally I also want to praise Yale for the attractive design recommend Incidentally I also want to praise Yale for the attractive design binding of this dition In 1992 on a flight from Cairo to Sana a I found myself Sitting Next To Englishman Of Almost next to an of almost my age who was returning to his home in Yemen Smalltalk developed into conversation which developed into an offer of a lift from the airport into the city Once he had blagged his way through immigration he didn t have a visa the lift developed into an offer to stay at his house for the night which led to me using his house as my base for the next six weeks as I xplored that magnificent country and got to know its xtraordinary people That in turn led on to a friendship which has now lasted nearly 30 yearsDuring that six weeks Tim began work on his first book Yemen Travels in Dictionary Land That won the Thomas Cook Travel Book of the Year in 1998 bizarrely another friend was also shortlisted for the prize that year and he then went on to write a number of books and appear in a TV travelogue on Ibn Battuta whose 14th century voyages Tim spent a decade retracingG Tim Mackintosh Smith is one of those romantic Englishmen who used to go and settle in far off lands and go native He lives in Yemen apparently still there ven during the civil war and has been writing about the region and the Arab people for several decades This book is the culmination of a lifetime of study a comprehensive history of a people and civilization to which he has become attached and about whom he knows than most It is well worth readingHe begins by making it clear that this is a history of the Arabs not a history of Islam The first mention of the word Arab actually occurs in in 853 BC and concerns the mployment by the Assyrian state of a transport contractor a certain Gindibu Locust an Arab chieftain who owned vast herds of camels This is about 3000 years ago and the coming of Islam lies about halfway through this history While we know relatively little of the arly pre Islamic history of these people Mackintosh Smith wants us to be aware that the Arabs xisted long before Islam didThe word Arab itself means tribal groups who live beyond the reach of settled society It was mostly used for the nomadic people of the Arabian peninsula among whom the high Arabic language volved This group and their settled brethren in Southern Arabia Yemen were likely descended from people who migrated into the peninsula from the fertile crescent and with the coming of Islam they were united into one nation bound together by religion and by the high Arabic language of the poets and soothsayers the language that became the language of the uran He Buried emphasizes again and again that this language above alllse is what defines an Arab Yet it is not the veryday language of anyone who is Arab The veryday dialects of Arabic change very few hundred miles or less but this rich strange subtle suavely hypnotic magically persuasive maddeningly difficult high Arabic language that volved on the tongues of tribal soothsayers and poets remains the ideal the language of literature and poetry and the language of the uran the uintessential Arabic book But the fact that it is not and never was the veryday language of any people has conseuences for all dreams of unity and is a feature of Arab civilization that outsiders sometimes miss For Mackintosh Smith it is ultimately this language that defines the Arabs ven before the rise of Islam Not because they speak it veryday they do not and never did but because their prophets and poets spoke it and it bound them together in one greater civilization above and beyond the divisions of tribe and local dialectThe other great theme of the book is the conflict between settled people hadar and nomads Beddu The trademark of the nomads is the ghazw or raid and the author says that ven though the nomads are almost gone the tradition of the raid survives in the countless coups and counter coups of the Arab world For much of Arab history two rationalities have coexisted those of the settled and of the bedouin the peoples and the tribes seemingly in perpetual duality clashing yet mbracing loving and hating yin and yangHe covers of course the rise of Islam the xplosive growth of the Arab mpire its decision to use to Arabic as the language of administration and the resulting astoundingly rapid conversion of conuered people from Morocco to Ira into Arabs He discusses the rise of Arab literature science and philosophy as in all these were written in the Arabic language in an Ar. Cing this process to the origins of the Arabic language rather than the advent of Islam Tim Mackintosh Smith begins his narrative than a thousand years before Muhammad and focuses on how Arabic both spoken and written has functioned as a vital source of shared cultural identity over the millennia Mackintosh Smith reveals how lingu. .
This book had me captivated until we arrived at the modern period What started as a brilliantly mphatic history of the Arabs from before Islam till our times A Certain Justice (Adam Dalgliesh, ended in a poor and biased coverage of the most recent hundred or so years Written from his home in war torn Yemen his cynism over the meddling of modernmpires like Britain and France and later of the United States in carving out modern borders can be The Shadow Reader excused What can t bexcused is the lack of balance and historical depth in the later narrative I highly recommend the book for the history of the premodern Arab world but it wont offer new insights in the recent history of the Arabs This book deserves to be remembered as a modern day classic of scholarship Tim Mackintosh Smith writes with great lucidity and insight and he has a way with words Throughout the book there are some nice alliterative flourishes For instance describing the Abbasid Caliphate as 200 years of pathos and 300 years of bathos as well some very insightful comments about Islam such as The uran was Cinderella Unmasked (Fairytale Fantasies embalmed in sanctity and shrouded in layers ofxegesis Public ritual tended to be important than private spirituality An insight that is louent profound and absolutely trueTim vividly describes the Arab culture from which Islam gestated Any religion needs to be understood in the context of the time in which it was purveyed Tim made me aware of a scarcely known fact That in pre Islamic Arabia a man s veracity was indicated by his louence and this fact was the major marketing force for Islam This is also alluded to in a few places within the Holy uran when the challenge is thrown to the unbelievers And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant Muhammad then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah if you should be truthful The book also reveals that during the time of the Holy Prophet PBUH there were solitary individuals called Hanif s who were monotheists and like the Holy Prophet PBUH secluded themselves in caves for a short periods of time And amongst the Sabatean the Arabs who resided in South Arabia it was a habit to make a pilgrimage to a temple during which no physical relations were permitted similar to the Hajj The Bedouin Arabs were a people who loved raiding and poetry and I did feel that at times the author s reverence for the Arabic language perhaps skewered some of his observations He belabours a point that it was the classical High Arabic which gave the Arabs a sense of unity If this were true why was internecine warfare between different tribes so freuent and bloody He also seemed to suggest that a matador crying Ole when confronted with a bull was reminiscent of an Arab footballer The Power Of A Choice exclaiming Allah I think you can justifiably say the author got a little carried away with flights of fancy There were however aspects of his research that I disagreed with I felt that his description of the third Caliph Uthman ibn Affan as a Capable and hands on ruler contradicted the fact that Uthman ibn Affan s nepotism caused widespread unrest culminating in his death I also found his reticence of the rule of Hazrat Ali ibn Talib to be puzzling For an Arabphile he doesn t seem to think that Nahjal al balagha is worth mentioning Even though it is commonly regarded as a book oflouent classical Arabic Tim makes what I feel to be a hugely important point when you consider the trajectory of Islam from its genesis to the present day A failed objective of the mission of the Holy Prophet PBUH That Arabs regard their kinship of faith superior to their tribal ones This highlights another point the author makesBlame it as they might on other peoples mpires Arabs had never been a happy family not since th This was overall a pretty good book One of its best aspects is the louent style and the depth of the author s knowledge of the subject matter Unfortunately however his knowledge seems to be biased towards the Middle East proper Arabia Levant Mesopotamia Egypt about which he writes profusely whereas the Maghreb is depicted with only some sketchy less satisfying details Thus many uninformed readers might assume that history unrolled in a or less similar manner in the Maghreb as it did in the Middle East and project the same vents mentalities and aspirations on the the western part of the so called Arab world and its population This could not however be further from the truth While the author addressed some historical vents such as the Banu Hilal invasion in the 11 13th century he did not The Case for Paleolibertarianism and Realignment on the Right explain how they contributed to the slow Arabization process of the Maghreb and how most of the Arabization in fact took place in the 20th century under governments that sought toradicate any aspect of non Arab culture or language Indeed at the beginning of the 20th century both Morocco and Algeria had a majority Berber aka Amazigh speaking population while literacy in Standard Arabic Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling even after the independence from France was less than 5% Aggressive Arabization policies succeeded in less than 3 generations to bring the number of native speakers of Amazigh from above 60 70% conservativestimates to less than 30% And yet ven modern Moroccan Algerian and Tunisian cultures and dialects bear heavy influences from the old Amazigh culture and languages open for view to those willing to look It seems rather unfair to lump these countries in such a facile manner into an Arab world without looking at their individual differences This is something that The Author Alludes To But author alludes to but not xplicitly mention than once perhaps since it would shake the whole premise of the book a common thread of Arab history woven through the ages or ven bring it to naught Indeed this little fact lifts the mystery as to why Arabs never unite or are always united in division because the answer is really simple there is no Arab world there never has been and never will be At least not in a wide geographical sense ncompassing the whole region of MENA It would be like trying to sueeze all of Europe into a Latin world and force Europeans to use Latin as the sole official language It would not workWhat is called the Arab civilization was
in fact a network of interconnected civilizations that relied heavily on the use of Arabic for religiousfact a network of interconnected civilizations that relied heavily on the use of Arabic for religious and administrative purposes and shared a common religion Islam But beyond that there was little resemblance The Moorish civilization in the territory of modern day Morocco Southern Iberia and West Algeria had its own characteristics such as a uniue architecture traditional clothing cuisine tc that distinguished it from the rest of the so called Arab world I once sat with a Syrian colleague and we started comparing traditional dishes between our countries with the assistance of Google Images We could not find a a single common dish between Morocco and Syria not a single one zero zilch How can this be the same civilization or the same culture when not ven the most basic thing what people put on their tables has anything in commonThis was however a nice ride through time to understand the volution of the Middle East and North Africa and I find the book uite valuable if only to provide good material for criticism What failed the author in the nd is the very thing that he only shyly admitted that there is no Arab world that it is in fact multiple intermingled worlds Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. each with their ownvolution and history and that attempting to weld them into a single melting pot has most often resulted in disaster A book that tries to draw Arab history into a common thread would by definition have to fail in a similar mannerWe should simply stop this futile Patrick the Wolf Boy, Volume 1 exercise andach of our countries should figure out its own solutions for its own problems build its own identity based on its own history and ndemic properties perhaps learning from ach other but not copy pasting This is a humane scholarly but highly readable book by one of that diminishing breed the sensitive British Arabist who is as much Arab as British and who manages to be both detached in observation and Glitter Bomb (A Scrapbooking Mystery, engaged as a liberal who loves his adopted cultureHe is based in Yemen South Arabian and Yemenixamples and anecdotes pepper the book giving perhaps a slight bias against the Maghreb and Mashri in favour of the complexities of the Arabian heartlands But you can only do so much in 536 pages Order has to be given to a tale of 3000 years Arab origins in the tension between badawah and haradah and the importance of the Arab poetic heritage are to be found in the Arabian Peninsular and are central to understanding what may be to be an Arab The bias is legitimateI say what it may be to be an Arab because being an Arab is an uncertain business much as being a European is Mackintosh Smith does an Il morto di Maigret excellent job in working through those uncertainties and the reinventions and variations on what being an Arab means at any one point in historyHe does two things that give perspective First he refuses to tell the tale as the same tale as the rise of Islam giving due weight to the 1500 years before Muhammed as much as to the 1450 or so since his arrival as unifier of the Peninsula under a particularly dynamic form of monotheismThe second thing he does is not define Arab by particular uses of the term arab as it shifts and changes over time but by its truly salient characteristic which is the use of an Arabic language derived from Arabian poetry still a political force and the uran a poetic bookI canxpress an interest here as not being an Arabist deliberately so but having worked with Arabs for a uarter of a century as well as Zionists for a decade before that Saudis and Syrians intimately Moroccans Irais and Emiratis seriously and many others tangentiallyI can attest to the pecularities of the culture its simultaneous unity and divisions the ffects of foreign mpires the continuing importance of rhetoric and the poetic phrase the brutal realism the intellectual melancholy and the ambiguities involved in truth tellingMackintosh Smith brought it all together for me uite nicely and gave this xperience context It confirmed an intuition that cultures taken as a whole whether English or Chinese Arab or Persian have deep roots where the use of language helps to frame the freedom of any individualThe book is not really a straight narrative so much as a chronological xploration of themes that becomes increasingly anecdotal towards the Globalization: A Multi-Dimensional System, Third Edition end The last section from 1800 is the weakest only because the anecdotes seem most disconnected and most affected by the author s sentimentThe author does something I do not usually forgive as you will see in my other reviews but will forgive in him distract us in the final moments of the boo. A riveting comprehensive history of the Arab peoples and tribes thatxplores the role of language as a cultural touchstone This kaleidoscopic book covers almost 3000 years of Arab history and shines a light on the footloose Arab peoples and tribes who conuered lands and disseminated their language and culture over vast distances Tra.