Abdul Salam Al Masdi's Reflections on Arab Culture

Tunisian academic, Abdul Salam Al Masdi, in his new book published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, gathers reflections based on the premise that culture is knowledge accompanied by awareness, and knowledge is a science. There are those who take the results alone, and there are those who ponder the path to reaching those results. But culture also combines science and art, and language remains the prime factor in gathering all parties because it is the center of currents which generate each other.

This book (400 pp.) contains nine chapters which pivot on culture as all-encompassing concept of all the elements upon which the life and the development of human society are founded. This can be reduced to two equations: the equation of the individual and the community, and the equation of thought and politics. Between these equations is the responsibility of the intellectual, some of which the author ascribes to the linguistic issue that has pervaded Arab culture, and some of which he ascribes to the characteristics of creative energy in terms of the literary art, as literature crowns the concept of culture in civilizations.

The author deals with various concepts such as cultural awareness, culture and belonging, arguing that language is the cradle of culture while many think that culture cradles language, if culture and language were harmonized then so would thought and history, and if the resources of science and the fountain of language are incompatible, then either thought is rebelling and out of control, or history flickers and recoils. He talks about knowledge authority, civil politics, language and the science of rhetoric, the culture of literary art, Al-Jāhiz and the battle over equity, noting that Al-Jāhiz occupies a dual historical status on the one hand and a cultural and civilizational status on the other. He has authored histories of the religious sects, philosophical doctrines and ideological currents. He offers rich material for historians of literature, criticism and other linguistic and aesthetic sciences, leading many to consider Al-Jāhiz the pioneer of humanities.

The author goes on to explore the conflicted character of Abū Hayyān al-Tawhīdī, whose linguistic texts can only be viewed through the lens of a semiotic microscope and Ibn Khaldūn, whose Muqaddima embodied the epistemic system in the history of Arab civilization. He adds that Ibn Khaldun, in terms of categorizing knowledge, sensing its hidden anthroponomy, criticizing its methods, examining its results and the perception of certainty in general, innovates a new science and establishes its foundations by explicit awareness and insight.

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