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"...for truth wants to be known. It exerts pressure on the knower to share his vision of it with his peers." (Isma'il R. al-Faruqi)


5 min.

This is the first of four volumes undertaking to present the values of ‘urubah. ‘Urubah is the essence of the person who is an Arab; and this is not only the inhabitant of the Arabian Peninsula, or of the political territories of the Fertile Crescent, of Northeast and North Africa, commonly regarded as Arab’ on account of his Arabic-speaking. In addition to the Arabic-speaking peoples, the Arabs include, unlike any other people on earth, millions of non-Arabic-speaking persons living in territories adjoining the Arabic-speaking lands but stretching as far as Siberia, the Philippines, the Danube, Equatorial and East Africa, who represent comparatively higher or lower degrees of Arabness. But Arabs they all are, since their consciousness — and this is the real and final test of Arabness – is not only determined by the values of ‘urubah, but represents those determinants to itself as elements of, and in terms couched exclusively by Arab consciousness. As Arabicized Arabs, these people have produced many of the greatest geniuses of “urubah in the past and the forces of the Arab spirit throbbing within them will yet surpass the fondest expectations. The deepening or intensifying of their Arabness of which they, as people and not as individuals, stand in need is, in the twentieth century, equally shared by the Arabic-speaking people who, standing closer to the Arab spirit by virtue of their Arabic-speaking, are always expected to do better than those for whom language is & thornier problem. These are the Muslims of the world.

In addition to the Arabic-speaking and the Muslims everywhere, the Arabs include all those persons who, deprived of the means of identifying themselves as Arabs, nonetheless recognize and adhere to the values of ‘urubah to which they have arrived by their own effort, through literature, masters or friends, and stand ready to assist by the means open to them the cause of ‘urubah in the world. Just as Islam understood by hunafa’ (Plural of hanif, literally, morally pure) the pre-Islamic persons who believed in the One God and realized His commands to the degree possible without the revelation of the Prophet Mu- hammad, we understand by the hunafa’ of ‘urubah precisely the non-Arabic-speaking non-Muslims whose consciousness and lives are determined by its values without their becoming either Arabic speaking or Muslim.

This work, and the three volumes that will follow (if God wills) on ‘Urubah and Art, ‘Urubah and Society and ‘Urubah and Man are meant primarily for the Arabic-speaking, the Muslims and the hunafa’ in this extended sense, that they may share in the growing consciousness of the Arab spirit of itself by addressing themselves to the problems discussed in this work.

However, this work is not only for the forgoing, peoples and persons, but for the others who do not fall in any of these categories. To these, to whom urubah, as a hard fact of history endowed with power as well as title to existence, is foreign, and for whom it makes an obtrusive claim on the world, particularly the peoples of the West, this work is intended to reassure as well as to invite. It is the concern of these people that sociologists have been raising with their continual talk of the impact of Western civilization upon the Arab peoples.

Historians of ideas have been harassing them with the fact that the Orient, of which the Arab World in our extended sense is the greater part, is undergoing a pervasive revolution in its culture, religion and social organization. Both have been warning the Westerner emphatically that the consequences of this re-volition for the Orient, as well as for the West, will be far-reaching and may be decisive. The gloomy tone of their concern over this revolution that has been in the making for over a hundred years and has, since World War I, assumed in their eyes ominous proportions, has been set by Oswald Spengler, who could not see in the Asian-African revolution anything but revenge against the white man of Western culture. After his monumental Decline of the West, Spengler wrote in The Hour of Decision:

The colored races (by which he understands the Asians, Africans, native and Negro Americans) are not pacifists. They do not cling to a life whose length is its sole value. They take up the sword when we lay it down. Once they feared the white man; now they despise him. Our judgement stands written in their eyes when men and women comport themselves in their presence as they do, at home or in the lands of color themselves…To-day, when they are themselves a power, their mysterious soul — which we shall never understand — rises up and looks down upon the whites as on a thing of yesterday.
(The English is that of C. F. Atkinson, A. A. Knopf, New York 1942, p. 228).

It is hoped that the following pages will not only allay these fears, but produce a reassurance out of which rapprochement, cooperation and participation would grow.

The Arabs, particularly the Arabic-speaking and Muslim peoples, are not only seeking to get rid of the injustice they suffer at the hands of the imperialist powers; nor merely demanding to be left alone so that they may develop their culture and society in peace, without external let or hindrance. They want to exercise their God-given right to play a predestined role in the world. Since they conceive of this role as mankind-redeeming, they expect and seek to obtain the world’s assistance in the performance of it. They expect the whole world to respond to their plea not only with understanding but also with cooperation. Their oft-made appeal for justice and universal brotherhood is not intended merely for their own benefit while they are the object of injustice, but absolutely, for the benefit of all humanity.

For both Arabs and non-Arabs, this study has been undertaken with the purpose of recapturing and assimilating in consciousness the meaning and logic of ‘urubah as an idea-in-movement. It seeks to ascertain the nature and content of that idea. Granted that no analysis of an idea-in-movement may claim to be exhaustive, yet all of us, whether Arabic-speaking, Muslim, hunafa’ or others, must somehow perceive its orientation and grasp its momentum if our consciousness is not to be tossed around by the hard facts ‘urubah has pushed, and will push, onto the surface of history. What is the essential principle of ‘urubah? What does it and ought it to mean to the Arab nationalist, the Islamist, the Arabist? How does it determine and energize the Arab’s will and illuminate his understanding? In what relation does this idea stand to the world? What promise does it hold for man, in whose cause, after all, we are and should be interested? Unless we know the answers to these questions, we shall have no recourse from the fate which has characterized mankind in the twentieth century, the fate of the passive spectator who having been tossed onto the stage unawares has become an actor in the Arab drama malgre lui.

I. R. A. al Faruqi
Institute of Islamic Studies
McGill University, Montreal


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