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The Political Thought of a Nablusi “Notable” before the Nakba: Muhammad ‘Izzat Darwaza
This paper provides a conceptual analysis of the ideas around political community and governance emerging out of Nablus prior to the Nakba, focusing on the important but understudied figure of Muhammad ‘Izzat Darwaza (1888-1984). Darwaza was part of the a’yan, as a member of a prominent textile family, as well a historian, politician, and educator, who was present at the writing of what many consider the first Arab democratic Constitution of 1920 and the Declaration of Independence that preceded it (Thompson 2020), as well as a founder of the Independence (Istiqlal) Party, the Young Arab Society (al-Fatat) and an-Najah National School, which later became an-Najah National University (ANNU), the largest Palestinian university. Darwaza’s earliest writings offer accounts of Arab and Islamic history for dissemination to the generation that was the focus of his educational efforts. As such, even as they offer just one iteration, Darwaza’s writings articulate a fairly clear, if evolving account of the visions and goals of nationalist thinking of the time. So too, returning to Darwaza’s early vision allows a critical examination of how his perspective evolves in his later works, after he faced expulsion from his homeland, multiple imprisonments and ultimately is prevented from continuing directly political work, even as his body of written work continues to grow until the end of his century-long life. Ultimately, my aim is not to merely reproduce what Philip Khoury (1990) famously termed the “urban notables paradigm,” a top down account of politics (and political ideas) that proliferated after Albert Hourani’s 1966 analysis of the lives and ideas of local notables with some measure of power independent of the central Ottoman authority who had come to occupy an important mediating role between the local population and the government. Rather, I suggest that situating Darawa’s early works in the context of his work as an educator and remaining attentive to bot the way in which his thinking evolves in response to changing circumstances and the way in which it was received (discerned, albeit imperfectly, by attention to what ideas are taken up and what are challenged by the generation that follows), we can gain a better—a more discerning—sense of his intellectual heritage. As such, this paper attempts to carve out a reasonable starting point for multigenerational study of Nabulsi political thought.
Political Science
Geographic Area
Arab States
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area