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Ex Oriente Lux in Interwar Egypt: Tracing Esotericism and Pan-Easternism in in al-Ma‘rifa’s Commendatory Republic
The Arabic periodical al-Maʿrifā (Knowledge) [which ran between 1931-34 in interwar Cairo] presented itself as a Ṣūfī print enterprise, with a scholarly religious interest in producing articles and texts concerned with culture, literature, science, and the arts. Abd al-‘Azīz al-Islāmbūlī (1905-1964), the periodical’s editor, relied on social capital amassed from his intellectual connections and contributors for his journal to open up discussions on esotericism, easternism, and Islamic heritage. This paper aims to (i) highlight a print scholar and his connections, allowing us to map unaddressed intellectual networks that brought together the contributors, editors, translators, and readers of al-Maʿrifā from various regional nodes to Cairo; (ii) I trace these intellectual connections by looking at the genre of taqārīẓ (book commendations) (singular taqrīẓ). In the thirty issues of the periodical, a section was dedicated particularly to reviewing the latest publications of texts in the Islamicate world. I show how book commendations in al-Maʿrifā form a sort of “Republic of Letters” that allows us to identify the intellectual connections between the editor in Cairo (the active center) and the network’s creative nodes (the authors and scholars whose books he commends). The paper examines the “commendatory republic” in interwar Egypt and the various nodes in the network, to sketch out book culture in the interwar period. A taqrīẓ is invaluable in providing knowledge of the organization of intellectual life, the geographic connections and relations between intellectuals and their roles in book culture and scholarly life. I show how this continued practice of commendation, from the manuscript age, maps out these textual and affective relations back to al-Maʿrifā.
Religious Studies/Theology
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Arab States
Islamic World
Ottoman Empire
The Levant
Sub Area