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The Syrian Christians and Early Socialism in the Arab World

  • Donald M. Reid (a1)

Few of the Egyptian schoolboys who now memorize the principles of Arab socialism have heard of Farah Antûn, Shiblî Shumayyil, or Niqûlâ Haddâd. Yet in the opening decades of the twentieth century this trio of Syrian Christians living in Egypt — along with the Coptic intellectual Salâmah Mûsâ — were among the foremost advocates of socialism in the Arab world. What was the connection between these Christian pioneers and the widespread but as yet ill-defined Arab socialism of today? The answer will fully emerge only as the roots of Arab socialism are probed. A beginning can be made by examining these writers themselves, why they were attracted to Western socialism, what they understood by it, and how they proposed to adapt and apply it to the Middle East. A correct evaluation of their positions depends to a considerable extent on understanding the precarious, but not entirely hopeless position, of the Christian minorities in a Muslim world which had long despised them.

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page 177 note 1 Jaber, Kamel S. Abu, The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party (Syracuse, N.Y., 1966), pp. 15, has some brief observations on early socialism in the Arab world. See also Kerr, Malcolm, ‘Notes on the Background of Arab Socialist Thought’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. III (1968), pp. 145–59. I have not yet been able to see a copy of Hanna, Sami A. and Gardner, George, Arab Socialism (Leiden, 1969). ‘Syria’ in this study refers to geographical Syria, the area included in present-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

page 177 note 2 On Ottoman careers see Itzkowitz, Norman, ‘Mebmed Raghib Pasha: The Making of an Ottoman Grand Vizier’ (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1959), pp. 1517.

page 177 note 3 The various Middle Eastern nationalisms, which have received considerable attention, will not be treated here. The attractions of the laissez faire ideology for Syrian Christians are discussed in Reid, Donald M., ‘Syrian Christians, the Rags to Riches Story, and Free Enterprise’. The journalists Ya'qûb Sarrûf and Jurjî Zaydân were two of the leading advocates of free enterprise.

page 178 note 1 For similar reasons other minority groups – including Armenians, Jews, Kurds, Italians, and Greeks – have been prominent in socialist and communist movements in the Arab world. A language barrier as well as a religious barrier separates some of these groups from Muslim audiences, a problem the Syrian Christians did not have. On the role of these groups in the communist movements, see Laqueur, Walter Z., Communism and Nationalism in the Middle East (New York, 1956), pp. 221–35 et passim. Laqueur does not comment on the role of the Copts in leftist movements.

page 178 note 2 Byrnes, Robert F., Antisemitisin in Modern France (New Brunswick, N.J., 1950), vol. I, discusses the antisemitism of both the left and the right.

page 179 note 1 This approach to winning Muslim acceptance is also illustrated by Antûn's assistance to the Egyptian nationalist movement. See Reid, Donald M., ‘Farah Antūn: The Life and Times of a Syrian Christian Journalist in Egypt’ (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1968), pp. 268–72.

page 179 note 2 Fasâd Madhab al-Ishtirâkîyîn’, al-Muqtataf, vol. XIV (1890), pp. 361–4.Al-Hilâi also took up socialism in order to refute it; see, for example al-Ishtirâkîyûn’, al-Hilâl, vol. IX (1900), pp. 20–1. The point on learning about socialism from its enemies is illustrated by Salâmah Mûsâ, one of Sarrûf's readers. Mûsâ first discovered Marx as an opponent, since he identified himself with Spencer's individualistic, free-enterprise school. Mûsâ, of course, soon changed his mind. See Mūsā, Salāma, The Education of Salāmah Mūsā (trans. Schuman, L. O., Leiden, 1961), p. 83.

page 180 note 1 al-Ishtirâkîyûn wa al-Fawdawiyûn’, al-Muqtaf, vol. XVIII (1894), pp. 721–9, 801–9.

page 180 note 2 Antûn is discussed in Hourani, Albert, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798–1939 (London, 1962), pp. 253–9, and Reid, ‘Farah Antūn’.

page 180 note 3 Zaydân's experience is mentioned in Reid, , ‘Syrian Christians, the Rags-to-Riches Story, and Free Enterprise’, IJMES, vol. I, no. 4 (10 1970), pp. 361–2.

page 181 note 1 A few years later Antûn's stay in America provided him with first hand experience of the English-speaking world and a modern capitalist economy, an experience which confirmed his preference for socialism. By this time, however, he had already written his most important works.

page 181 note 2 al-Dîn wa al-'Ilm wa al-Mâl: al-Mudun al-Thalâth (Alexandria, 1904).

page 181 note 3 Elsewhere Antûn specifically links individualism and free enterprise with the names of Darwin, Spencer, and Nietzsche. For example, al-Jâmi'ah al-Usbû'îyah, 31 October 1908, p. 2.

page 182 note 1 al-Dîn, Introduction.

page 182 note 2 Ūrûshlîm al-Jadîdah wa Ârâ' al-Rusafâ'’, al-Jâmi'ah, vol. IV (1904), 371–4.

page 182 note 3 al-Tarbîyah al-Thâlithah (al-Ijtimâ'îyah)’, al-Jâmi'ah, vol. I (1900), p. 575.

page 182 note 4 Ibrah Aghniyâ’ al-Sharq wa al-Gharb’, al-Jâmi'ah, vol. III (1901), p. 314.

page 182 note 5 ûrûshlîm al-Jadîdah (Alexandria, 1904).

page 183 note 1 For al-Afghânî's ideas on socialism see Hanna, Sami, ‘Al-Afghānī: A Pioneerof Islamic Socialism’, The Muslim World, vol. LVII (1967), pp. 2432. Al-Kawâkibî's socialism is treated in al-Husry, Khaldun S., Three Reformers: A Study in Modern Arab Political Thought (Beirut, 1966.), pp. 74–8.

page 183 note 2 The following analysis of Shumayyil's socialism is partially based on Hourani, Arabic Thought, pp. 248–53.Lecerf, Jean, ‘Šibli Šumayyil, métaphysicien et moraliste contemporaine’, Bulletin d'études orientales, Vol. I (1931), pp. 153–86, is a useful study, although it overrates his influence and does not mention his socialism. Lecerf's reasons for placing Shumayyil's birth about 1850 instead of the generally accepted 1860 seem convincing. See pages 156, 173. A bibliography of Shumayyil's works is included in Dâghir, Yûsuf As'ad, Masâdir al-Dirâsat al-Adabîah (Beirut, 1955), vol. II, pp. 497500. His scattered writings are brought together in Falsafah al-Nussh' wa al-Irtiqâ' (Cairo, 1910) and Majmû'ah al-Duktûr Shiblî Shumayyil (Cairo, 1910).

page 183 note 3 Shumayyil, Shiblî, ‘al-Ishtir^kîyah al-Sahîhah’, al-Muqtataf, vol. XLII (1913), pp. 916.

page 184 note 1 On Amîn Shumayyil see Lecerf, , Bulletin d'études orientales, vol. I (1931), pp. 153–86, and Zaydân, Jurjî, Tatâjim Mashâhâhîr al-Sharq (2nd ed., Cairo, 1922), vol. II, pp. 169–71. On Rashid Shumayyil and al-Basîr see Ziriklî, Khayr al-Dîn, al-A'lâm (Cairo, 19541959), vol. III, pp.48–9, and The Native Press of Egypt’, The Moslem World, vol. VII (1917), p. 418.

page 184 note 2 Lecerf, ibid. pp. 168 ff.

page 184 note 3 On al-Shifâ' see Reid, ‘Farah Antûn’.

page 184 note 4 For a perceptive study of social Darwinism in America, see Hofstadter, Richard, Social Darwinism in American Thought (Boston, 1955).

page 184 note 5 Shumayyil, , al-Muqtaaf, vol. XLII (1913), pp. 1516.

page 185 note 1 For the positive and negative reactions to Shumayyi1's Darwinism see Lecerf, , Bulletin d'études orientales, vol. I (1931), esp. p. 159, and Safran, Nadav, Egypt in Search of Political Community (Cambridge, Mass., 1961), pp. 281–2, n. 56.

page 185 note 2 Haddâd is treated in ghir, Masddir, vol. II, pp. 304–9 and Reid, ‘Farah Antûn’, p. 101.

page 186 note 1 al-Hubb wa al-Zawāj’, al-J^nzi'ah, vol. III (1902), pp. 275–7.

page 186 note 2 The magazine had been started by Farah Antûn and his sister under the title al-Sayyidât. wa al-Banât in 1903. Haddâd had later assisted Rûzâ until the magazine was discontinued in 1906. When they revived it in 1921, the Haddâds called it simply al-Sayyidât. From 1924 until its disappearance in 1930 it was published as al-Sayyidât wa al-Rijâl.

page 186 note 3 Gibb, H. A. R., ‘Studies in Contemporary Arabic Literature’, Studies on the Civilization of Islam (London, 1962), p. 300.

page 186 note 4 Haddâd's earlier articles on related subjects are in al-Jâmi'ah, vols. v and VI (19061909), and al-Jâmi'ah al-Usbû'îyah (19071909).

page 186 note 5 For a brief summary of Henry George's life and ideas see Heilbronner, Robert L., The Worldly Philosophers (2nd ed., New York, 1961), pp. 156–63.

page 186 note 6 See the comments on Shumayyil's socialism in Hourani, Arabic Thought, pp. 252–3, and Kerr, , Journal of Contemporary History, vol. III (1968), p. 151. It does not seem quite accurate to say, with Kerr, that Shumayyil's socialism was devoid of economic content for it did involve guaranteed employment by the state and state guarantees of equal wages.

page 187 note 1 Haddâd, Niqûlâ, al-Ishtirâkîyah (Cairo, 1920), reprinted in Jâbir, Kâmil Abû (ed.), Judhûr al-Ishtirâk^yah (Beirut, 1964), pp. 153–76.

page 187 note 2 Ibid. pp. 147–52.

page 187 note 3 Ibid. pp. 164–5.

page 187 note 4 Ibid. pp. 129–38.

page 187 note 5 Ibid. p. 179.

page 187 note 6 Ibid. pp. 183–4.

page 187 note 7 Ibid. pp. 175–6.

page 187 note 8 Ibid. pp. 181–2.

page 187 note 9 Ibid. pp. 304–5.

page 187 note 10 Ibid. pp. 57, 142.

page 18 note 1 Gibb, Studies, p. 300.

page 188 note 2 The best source on Mûsâ is his autobiography, Education. His socialism is analysed in Jaber, Kamel S. Abu, ‘Salāmah Mūsā: Precursor of Arab Socialism’, The Middle East Journal, vol. xx (1966), pp. 196206.

page 188 note 3 His reactions to al-Muqtataf and Sarrûf are discussed in Mûsâ, Education, pp. 36–8, 155.

page 188 note 4 Ibid. pp. 153–5.

page 188 note 5 Ibid. p. 83, says he was first a disciple of free enterprise, and it seems likely that this was due to Sarrûf's influence.

page 189 note 1 For Mûsâ's comments on Shumayyil, see ibid. pp. 36, 125.

page 189 note 2 Ibid. pp. 37–44, 127, 154.

page 189 note 3 Ibid. p. 153.

page 189 note 4 Morison, Samuel Eliot and Commager, Henry Steele, The Growth of the American Republic (New York, 1950), vol. II, p. 368.

page 189 note 5 Ta'rîkh al-Ishtirâkîyah f^ Ingilterâ’, al-Hilâl, vol. XVIII (1910), pp. 335–8, and al-Ishtirâkîyah (Cairo, 1913), reprinted in Abû Jâbir, Judhûr.

page 189 note 6 Haqîqah al-Ni^m al-Bulshifîki’, al-Hilâl, vol. XXIX (1920), pp. 2432, and Rûsiyâ Bulshifîkîyah’, al-Hilâl, vol. XXIX (1920), pp. 776–81, and Mûsâ, Salâmah, ‘al-Harakah al-Ta'âwunîyah’, al-Hilâl, vol. XXXI (1923), pp. 598600, and vol. XXXII (1924), pp. 726–7.

page 189 note 7 Haddâd, al-Ishtirâkîyah, p. 53.

page 190 note 1 This point is made in connection with Salâmah Mûsâ by Jaber, Abu, The Middle East Journal, vol. XX (1966), pp. 203–5.

page 190 note 2 Antûn, , al-Jâmi'ah, vol. IV (1904), pp. 368–9.

page 190 note 3 Fasâd’, al-Muqtataf, vol. XIV (1890), pp. 361, and Hanna, , The Muslim World, vol. LVII (1967), p. 24.

page 190 note 4 al-Ijtimâ'^iyah wa al-Ishtirâkîyah’, al-Hilâl, vol. XVI (1908), pp. 265–82. Mûsâ, says that he also favored the use of ijtimâ'îyah as a better rendition of ‘socialism’. Mûsâ, Education, p. 124.Khadduri, Majid, Indepeident Iraq 1932–1958: A Study in Iraqi Politics (2nd ed., London, 1960), pp. 70–1, says the al-Ahâlî group in Iraq in the 1930s used sha'bîyah to describe their socialist doctrines because the label ishtirâkîyah was still so shocking.

page 191 note 1 Karl Marks’, al-Hilâl, vol. XXIX (1921), pp. 642–8.

page 191 note 2 al-Musâwâh fî Rûsiyâ’, al-Muqtataf, vol. LXI (1922), p. 9, and Mawqif al Ishtirâkîyah al-Yawm’, al-Hilâl, vol. XXXI (1923), pp. 360, 363. One wonders if it is coincidental that shuyû'īyah is taken from the same root as Sh'ah.

page 191 note 3 Kerr, , Journal of Contemporary History, vol. III (1968), p. 158;Kerr, Malcolm, ‘Arab Radical Notions of Democracy’, St Anthony's Papers, vol. XVI (1963), pp. 940; and Hairn, Sylvia (ed.), Arab Nationalism: An Anthology (Berkeley, 1964), pp. 67–9.

page 192 note 1 Abdel-Malek, Anouar, Egypt: Military Society (trans. Markmann, Charles Lam, New York, 1968), esp. pp. 365–6.Kerr, , Journal of Contemporary History, vol. III, p. 150, discusses the liberal tendencies of Egyptian Marxism.

page 192 note 2 Mûtsâ, al-Ishtirâkîyah, pp. 40–1.

page 192 note 3 Haykal, , ‘Nahnû wa al-Shuyû’îyah’, al-Ahr^m, 4 08 1961, quoted in Abdel-Malek, Egypt, pp. 292–4.

page 192 note 4 For example, Antûn is seen as an early socialist by al-Jundi, Anwar, al-Muhafazah wa al-Tajdîd fî al-Nathr al'Arabî al-Mu'âsir fî Mi'ah 'Am — 1840–1940 (Cairo, 1961), pp. 264–9;Najm, Muhammad Yūsuf in his essay in al-Adab al-'Arabî fî Âthâr al-Dârisîn (Beirut, 1661), p. 372; and Badr, 'Abd al-Muhsin Tâhâ, Tatawwur al-Riwâyah al'Arabîyah al-Hadîthah fî Misr, 1870–1938 (Cairo, 1963), pp. 84–7. Mûsâ's and Haddâd's books on socialism, as we have seen, have recently been reprinted.

page 193 note 1 On ‘Aflaq and the Ba'th see Abu Jaber, Ba'th.

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