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Monday, May 07, 2007

Are the Arabs already extinct?

Arab poet Adonis - the only Nobel prize caliber poet who writes in Arabic - argues that the Arabs have become extinct.
We have the masses of people, but a people becomes extinct when it no longer has a creative capacity, and the capacity to change its world ... The great Sumerians became extinct, the great Greeks became extinct, and the Pharaohs became extinct," he said.


Life is not possible without meaning, and meaning does not exist outside of culture, especially for a people defined not by political circumstances or territory but by language, namely the Arabs. In his essay "Poetry and Apoetical Culture", Adonis makes the remarkable claim that the nature of Koranic revelation destroys the possibility of poetry, and with it the possibility of life. Before Islam, the Arabic language was rooted in poetry; after the advent of Islam, poetic language became impossible.
When this divine Revelation came to take the place of poetic inspiration, it claimed to be the sole source of knowledge, and banished poetry and poets from their kingdom. Poetry was no longer the word of truth, as the pre-Islamic poets had claimed it was. Nevertheless ... Islam did not suppress poetry as a form and mode of expression. Rather, it nullified poetry's role and cognitive mission, endowing it with a new function: to celebrate and preach the truth introduced by the Koranic Revelation. Islam thus deprived poetry of its earliest characteristics - intuition and the power of revelation and made it into a media tool.

... Poetry in Arab society has languished and withered precisely insofar as it has placed itself at the service of religiosity, proselytism and political and ideological commitments. [4]
Adonis adds:
In part, this explains the dominance in the Arab mentality of what I call "pastism". In the context of this inquiry, pastism means the refusal and fear of the unusual. [5]
This is true, Adonis explains, because the Koran offers a revelation that is final and certain, excluding the possibility of doubt:
The political-religious institution exercised its power as a faithful guardian of the Koranic Revelation. It possessed the absolute certitude that the Revelation spoke and wrote Man and the universe clearly, definitively and without error or imperfection. This certitude, in turn, demanded that the Muslim individual be formed around a faith in an absolute text, one which allowed no interrogation that might give rise on any doubt whatsoever. Under such conditions, alienation is inevitable; the skeptical individual no longer has the right to be a member of the society.

Because Islam - the last message sent by God to mankind - has placed the final seal on the Divine Word, successive words are incapable of bringing humankind anything new. A new message would imply that the Islamic message did not say everything, that it is imperfect. Therefore the human word must, on an emotional level, continually eulogize and celebrate that message; on an intellectual level, a fortiori it can only serve as an explication.

Poetry, the most elevated form of expression, will henceforth be valued only for its obviousness. [6]
Read the whole thing.


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