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May Rihani, moderated the event and her brother Mr. Ramzi Rihani was also in attendance. In her introduction, Ms. Rihani stated that her uncle "consciously dedicated his life to providing an understanding of the cultural and political energy among different peoples of the world and specifically between Arabs and Americans. Bushrui has a person who has "dedicated his life to highlight and to value those who contributed to this crucial cause in order to move forward the objective of unity," such as her uncle and his friend Kahlil Gibran.

Our Country is just beginning to speak, and I am her chosen voice. I feel that if I do not respond, if I do not come to her, she will be dumb forever Like Greece and Rome, America is developing itself from a conflux of various nations and antithetical elements. The Melting Pot certainly has a soul. And this soul will certainly have a voice.

And the voice of America Its culture, too, its arts and its traditions, which They will embody also a universal consciousness, multifarious, multicolour, prismatic And from these traditions, developing gradually into a homogeneity all-embracing, will spring the culture and the consciousness that will make America, not only a great national power, but, what is greater, an international entity.

The Oriental will better recognize himself in it as well as the European. They will find their spirit reflected in its prismatic nationalism. And the American, by the same token, will be mistaken for an Oriental in the Orient, for a European in Europe, though not for any other but an American at home. For his national traditions, guided by a superior international purpose, will represent the wholesome and vital traditions of all civilized people of the world. And a nation with a thick layer of traditions is, as a rule, richer in customs and more refined in manners.

Hence the cosmopolitanism of the America of the future. Hence, too, his culture, which will harmonize with, nay, reinforce, the culture of every race. This may take a hundred or two hundred years, but it is bound to come. It is the ultimate destiny of the Melting Pot - its future soul and voice. The majority of those years were spent moving between East and West, especially between Lebanon and his second home, New York, and travelling extensively in the Arab world.

Essayist, novelist, philosopher and poet, Rihani is not only remembered for the remarkable diversity of talents which made him an outstanding interdisciplinary scholar. Virtually able to claim dual nationality, he assimilated two widely differing cultures to an extent perhaps never achieved before him. Profound though his grasp of the modern West was, Rihani never lost sight of the rich cultural heritage into which he was born, and which was bequeathed to the world by Arab civilization.

He was a dedicated liberal, but his idealism was tempered with a very practical recognition of the need for an ordered, disciplined society. And whilst firmly opposed to blind fanaticism, extremism and bigotry, he always retained a healthy respect for tradition.


Although a pioneer in more than one field and blessed with a highly charismatic personality, Ameen Rihani was a modest man who sought no personal glory in his undertakings in the service of mankind. He enriched English with translations of such Arab poets as Imru al-Qays and Abu'l-Alal al-Ma'arri, as well as enriching his own culture by transmitting the ideas of Carlyle and the American transcendentalists in his Arabic writings.

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He was the first Arab to write and publish a novel in English. And he was a thinker who firmly believed in his country, Lebanon, and saw it in the context of the great Arab heritage, as he saw the Arab world in the wider context of the family of nations. He regarded himself as the beneficiary of the rich synthesis of Christian-Muslim traditions, and was fully aware of the larger perspectives of a global culture and civilization in which peace prevails and harmony exists between East and West.

Thus he may be seen as moving within three concentric circles: Lebanon, the Arab world, and the world at large. The one country outside the Arab world with which he established a particularly strong bond was the United States of America. The new arrivals rented a modest basement accommodation at 58 Boston Street in Lower Manhattan, and Rihani found himself exposed to a completely different world from the one he had known at home in Freike.

He soon found this occupation tedious, and sought solace in the works of his favorite authors, Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Rousseau, Washington Irving and Carlyle.

The last two were to exert a strong influence on him as a writer in both Arabic and his adopted tongue of English, which he mastered as well as any non-native before him. Although he retained an interest in French literature, other aspects of French culture ceased to impress Rihani. Gradually even French literature left him dissatisfied as he sensed the gulf which existed between the abstract speculations of many French writers, and the hard, materialistic world which surrounded him. In the works of major English writers, however, he recognized moral and social values more refined than those upheld by the society in which he lived, and a temperament more akin to his own.

Paradoxically, Carlyle was the author who first instilled in Rihani a desire to know more about Muhammad. Rihani began to dream of the glory of his past, his Arab cultural heritage, and to find in it sustenance for his life in the present. Consequently, when I arrived in America I had nothing but fear for those whose language I speak and whose blood runs in my veins. Throughout his life Rihani was a most eloquent and persuasive speaker, and at the age of 19 he decided to make use of this talent by joining a travelling theatre troupe.

When, after he had spent a year playing a variety of roles including Hamlet and Macbeth, the troupe moved its base to Kansas City, Ameen returned to New York to attend high school and then law school. It was around this time that he met and befriended the poets Edwin Markham and Richard le Gallienne, and the writer Michel Monhan. In he returned to Lebanon for two years to learn Arabic and rediscover his roots, teaching English to support himself. Back in New York again, he began writing in an Arabic local paper called al- Hoda , and two others, al-Islah and al -Ayyam.

With these writings he began establishing himself as an implacable critic of Arab social traditions, and of the stagnant state of religion, politics and philosophy in the Arab world. The result was the formation of a circle of friends in support of his views. The latter book, a critique of religious thought, was confiscated and burned on its release, and Rihani was excommunicated. A revised version under the title of The Luzumiyat was published in The following extracts are taken from the revised translation of So, too, the creeds of Man: the one prevails Until the other comes; and this one fails When that one triumphs; ay, the lonesome world Will always want the latest fairy-tales.

Having re-established his Lebanese home in Freike, the town of his birth, Rihani set about creating an ambiance conducive to visionary thought and discussion. Its main distinguishing feature was a huge hand-made Egyptian tent which he pitched on the roof of the kitchen apartment. Lavishly decorated with Arabesque designs and Arabic poems, it could accommodate as much furniture as a bed-sitting-room. This was the scene of many a stimulating literary gathering over the next three decades.

A Matter of Fate: The Concept of Fate in the Arab World as Reflected in Modern Arabic Literature

Although this project never materialized, the affinity of vision between Rihani and Gibran formed the basis of an enduring friendship when they came together again in America. Like Gibran, Rihani was an artist of no small accomplishment, with a special talent for sketches and caricatures. However, as a young man he developed neuritis which forced him to give up graphic art and concentrate on writing, though that too gave him pain.

Originally designated as chairman, Rihani subsequently declined to become a member, finding himself too involved on the world stage by the time of its inaugural meeting in In Rihani and Najeeb Diab represented the emigrant Lebanese at the first Arab Congress in Paris, the first of many such ambassadorial activities undertaken by Rihani.

Two years later he met his bride-to-be, Bertha Case, an American artist, whom he married shortly before his 40th birthday. He also met with former US President Theodore Roosevelt to discuss the fate of Palestine, a subject in which retained an intense interest for the remainder of his life.

A fervent opponent of the Ottoman regime, especially in the countries of the Near East, Rihani used a visit to Mexico in to urge local Syrian and Lebanese expatriates to support the cause of the Allies against that of the Axis powers, which included Ottoman Turkey. Since Mexico was on the side of the Axis powers at the time, this earned him a period in jail, after which he was thrown out of the country as an undesirable alien. But his words had the desired effect: many volunteers for the Allied forces came forward from the community to which he had addressed himself.

Much of his travelling was in the little-known territories of the Arabian peninsula, on the verge of being catapulted into the 20th century by the discovery of oil. By the time he died in September , Rihani had met and held talks with numerous kings and heads of state, and had won a wide variety of honors and decorations in recognition of his endeavors and achievements. His death, the result of a poisonous infection following a serious bicycle accident, was universally mourned. He was one of the pioneers in writing about the Arab Renaissance, and the subjects he covered range from modern American painting to Russian ballet.

He also demonstrated great foresight in his choice of political and social issues upon which to concentrate, for these same issues were destined to have a continuing relevance in world affairs right up to the present day. He was a true champion of Arab interests both economic and political, recording his experiences in three books which became the most authoritative account of the Arabian peninsula to date, and which have never been surpassed in accuracy of interpretive vision.

As the first modern traveler in Arabic literature, he revived a venerable tradition of travel works established by Ibn Jubayr, Ibn Battuta and others, and in English he proved a worthy successor to men like TE Lawrence, Burton, Doughty and Thesiger. In the early decades of the twentieth century, in the Dutch East Indies , the study of adat emerged as a specialised field of inquiry.

Thought and Works of Ameen Rihani by Dr. Suheil Bushrui

Although associated with the needs of colonial administration, this study nevertheless gave rise to an active scholarly discipline that dealt with differing systems of adat comparatively. Several key concepts that are still being used today within the customary law research in modern Indonesia are; adatrecht 'adat law' , adatrechtskringen 'adat law circles' , beschikkingsrecht communal rights over land or 'right to avail' and adatrechtsgemenschapeen 'adat law communities'.

Local indigenous laws and customs of all ethnic groups, including those of non-Muslims, began to be collectively termed as "adat", and were encoded into units of jural management, whereby legal pluralism in East Indies was introduced. Under this scheme, based on a classification of adat systems as cultural geographic units, the Dutch divided the East Indies into at least 19 adat law areas. Adat is still enforced in the courts of Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia as personal law in certain aspects.

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In Malaysia, each state's constitution empowered Malay Rulers as the head of Islam and Malay customs in their respective state. In Sarawak and Sabah , native adat laws of non-Malay indigenous communities were institutionalised through the establishment of courts known as Mahkamah Bumiputera ' Bumiputra courts' and Mahkamah Anak Negeri 'native courts' respectively.

In Indonesia, adat rules are still of legal relevance in some areas, especially in most Hindu villages in Bali , the Tenger area and in the region of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union , adat practices in Central Asia began to resurrect in the s among communities in rural areas.

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This was largely due to a decay of legal and law enforcement institutions in many parts of the region. The constitution also contributed to this process, since it empowered some traditional institutions such as councils of elders aqsaqals , with some administrative authorities.

Because of loss of Islamic scholars and literature during the Stalinist years, the adat that emerged contained almost no elements of Islamic law. The questions posed in these letters cover a wide range of issues including, financial problems, health A Companion to Muslim Cultures.