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The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Arabic as a Sacred Language

From BBC News:
The highest authority of Sunni Islam, al-Azhar University in Cairo, says it has approved the first interpretation of the Koran by a woman. Sheikh Ali Abdelbaqi Mitwali told the daily al-Masri al-Youm that al-Azhar has approved the interpretation (tafseer) submitted by Kariman Hamza, a former broadcaster. Books in Egypt dealing with the Koran or Islamic tradition have to secure the approval of al-Azhar before publication,
which is a pretty big publishing hurdle. Hamza, a religious broadcaster, has been subject to criticism from religious conservatives for her previous work Rifqan bil-Qawarir, a religious guide for women, as Fedwa Malti-Douglas discusses in "Female Body, Male Gaze" in her book Medicines of the Soul: Female Bodies and Sacred Geographies in a Transnational Islam. But she is also famous as one of the few -- and possibly the first -- veiled woman television presenter. Refreshingly (given the Pope's view of the fixity of binary gender)
Sheikh Mitwali said there was no such thing as a "male" or "female" reading of the holy book and that "what mattered for us was that the interpretation was in line with the text of the sacred Koran and that it did not contradict the rulings of Sharia".

Blogger Bint Battuta in Bahrain picks up a Pakistani blog from Global Voices that has an entertaining take on how Arabic's sacred status as the language of the Quran informs behaviour in Muslim communities outside the Arabic world. As S
ub Corollary of 4-II: Everything has an ‘Al’ behind it. It is ‘Al-Mc Donalds’ and ‘Al Basmati Rice’. If you want, you can call your children ‘Al-Children’ and you would be a better person for it.
demonstrates, this doesn't necessarily relate to fluency in Arabic or a deeper religious or cultural understanding...

So happy al-holidays (and good reading) to all PEN Atlas readers!

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