Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Stephen Sheehi


Modern Arabic literature was molded by the various literary and philosophical schools that emerged in the Arab Nahda (Renaissance). Arab Nahda was led by intellectuals educated in both Arab and European traditions. Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi is one of the gigantic pioneers of Arab Nahda. He has left indelible marks on early modern Arab thought and sociopolitical ideology. His ideas have always been a strong link between the religious, literary and scholarly cultural revival in the Arab Middle East and the adoption and application of the cultural ideas of European Enlightenment.

Kawakibi fluctuates between Arab nationalism and Islamic revivalism. In order to fully understand his progressive ideas concerning Arab Nahda, it is critically important to closely examine both his treatises regarding reformism and Arab identity. His more important treatise is Tabai‘ al-Istibdad wa-Masari‘ al-Isti‘bad, (The Characteristics of Despotism and the Demises of Enslavement). The fact that Tabai‘ al-Istibdad is one of the fewest and most daring works to explore the various effects despotism has had on the different aspects of sociopolitical Arab life makes it an important and worthwhile translation. He argues that the mind may be tyrannized by ignorance and oppression, and he goes through the reasons and corollaries stemming from that tyranny. In the last section of his treatise, Kawakibi proposes a detailed project to cure the nation of despotism and suggests preventive measures to avoid it.