Arabic Belles Lettres


Joseph E. Lowry (ed)
Shawkat Toorawa (ed)


Arabic Belles Lettres brings together ten studies that shed light on important questions in the study of Arabic language, literature, literary history, and writerly culture. The volume is divided into three sections. Early Narratives comprises: Joseph Lowry on the Qur'an’s allusive legal language; Abed el-Rahman Tayyara on matrilineal lineages in the context of Badr and Uhud; Ruqayya Khan on the ramifications of public courtship in 'Udhrī romances; and Philip Kennedy on firāsah (reading for signs and traces) in medieval narrative. Medieval Authors comprises: Shawkat Toorawa on ͑Ubaydallāh ibn Ahmad ibn Abī Tāhir’s History of Baghdād; Maurice Pomerantz and Bilal Orfali on Ibn Fāris and the origins of the maqāmah genre; Everett Rowson on al-Tawhīdī and his predecessors; and Ghayde Ghraowi on al-Khafājī and his Rayhānat al-alibbā'. Modern Egypt comprises: Roger Allen on a cultural controversy in the Cairo newspapers of 1902; and Devin Stewart on preposterous boasting and ingenuity in modern Egyptian Arabic. This illuminating collection is a must read for anyone interested in Arabic literature.


  • Editors' Preface
    Joseph E. Lowry, Shawkat Toorawa
  • Abbreviations
  • Reading the Qurʾan as a Law Book: Legislation, Language, and Allusion in Islam’s Scripture
    Joseph E. Lowry
  • Matrilineal Lineages as a Signi er of Social Links in the Context of Badr and Uḥud
    Abed el-Rahman Tayyara
  • Rhapsody, Revelation, and the Coming Out of the Beloved
    Majnūn Laylā and the ʿUdhrī Romances
    Ruqayya Y. Khan
  • The Rational, Irrational, and Recognition
    Firāsah, Detection, and the Uncanny Atavism of Kinship in Some Medieval Arabic Narratives
    Philip F. Kennedy
  • ʿUbayd Allāh Ibn Aḥmad Ibn Abī Ṭāhir and His (Continuation of His Father’s) History of Baghdād
    Shawkat Toorawa
  • Ibn Fāris and the Origins of the Maqāmah Revisited
    Maurice A Pomerantz, Bilal W. Orfali
  • The Philosopher as Littérateur
    Al-Tawḥīdī and His Predecessors
    Everett K. Rowson
  • Championing the Era
    Approaching Al-Khafājī’s Rayḥānat Al-Alibbāʾ
    Ghayde Ghraowi
  • Cairene Newspapers and Cultural Controversy
    A Case from 1902
    Roger Allen
  • “We’re the Ones Who Made the Ants Stand in Line”
    Preposterous Boasts and the Ideology of Ingenuity in Egyptian Arabic
    Devin J. Stewart

Author Biographies

Joseph E. Lowry

Joseph E. Lowry teaches Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Shawkat Toorawa

Shawkat M. Toorawa teaches Arabic language and literature at Yale University.

Cover for Arabic Belles Lettres
March 13, 2020

Details about the available publication format: Print

Physical Dimensions