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Amin al-Rihani

Born November 24, 1876(1876-11-24)
Freike, Ottoman Syria
Died September 13, 1940 (aged 63)
Freike, Lebanon
Nationality Lebanese-American
Literary movement Mahjar, New York Pen League
Spouse(s) Bertha Case
Official website

Amin al-Rihani (أمين الريحاني ; also Ameen Fares Rihani) (1876 in what is today Lebanon – 1940) was a Lebanese writer, a major figure in the mahjar literary movement developed by Arab emigrants in North America, an early theorist of Arab nationalism and an active supporter of the Arab Palestinian cause. Al-Rihani became an American citizen in 1903.


Life and career

The eldest of six children born to a Maronite silk manufacturer, Al-Rihani emigrated to New York City at the age of twelve. There he continued his education, largely as an autodidact, while also working in his father's trading business. He returned to his homeland for the first time in 1898, and made various visits at later stages, but after World War I returned to spend more time in the Southwest Asia. His interest in knowledge and literature was kindled at an early age, and he began writing in English, becoming, according to Lebanese historian Samir Kassir, "the first Arab to publish in English without at the same time renouncing his own language."[1] His literary work was part of a flourishing movement of Arab writers in North America at the time, notably including Gibran Khalil Gibran who also wrote in both Arabic and English.

In the early 1920s, al-Rihani embarked on a voyage through the Arabian peninsula, meeting its rulers to whom he expounded on the necessity of unity in a modern state. He developed a friendship with Ibn Saud,[2 ] ruler of the desert kingdom that would soon become the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and wrote an account of his travels entitled Muluk al-`Arab (The Kings of the Arabs) which was a considerable critical and public success.

Al-Rihani supported not only the unity of the desert emirates of Arabia, but unity of the Arab world as a whole, and has been seen by some as a major figure in the intellectual development of Arab nationalism. In his writings on the national issue, he emphasised the importance of a secular state and secular education; there must be no minorities or majorities, but only equal citizens. Al-Rihani placed the greatest priority on the spread of nationalist and pro-unity feeling among the masses; rulers would have to follow.[3] In the late 1890s and early 1900s, he joined several literary and artistic societies in New York, such as the Poetry Society of America, the Pleiades Club and the New York Pen League, and also became a regular contributor to the Arabic weekly, "Al-Huda" published in New York.

Al-Rihani also participated in the Arab American movement championing the Arab Palestinian cause. Much of this activity focused on countering the rising influence of the American Zionist lobby, which advocated on behalf of a separate Jewish state in Palestine. He met with various U.S. officials in this regard and, during the 1920s and 1930s, was active on the behalf of the Arab American, Palestine Anti-Zionism Society (later renamed the Arab National League). Al-Rihani publicly debated leading figures in the American Zionist movement [4] and published numerous articles critical of political Zionism. [5] Despite his determined political secularism and his unapologetic identification as a Christian, al-Rihani like other contemporary Christian theorists of Arab nationalism recognised "the special place of Islam and Muhammad in the life of the Arab nation".[6] Al-Rihani's impact as a theorist of Arab nationalism is somewhat disputed; C. Ernest Dawn, who emphasise the origins of Arab nationalism in Islamic reformism, remarks that al-Rihani's influence "is yet to be demonstrated".[6] Samir Kassir points to al-Rihani's role in bringing Beirut into intellectual contact with its "cultural environment as well as the wider world".[2 ]

Al-Rihani died in his home village of Freike on 13 September 1940 at the age of 64, following a bicycle accident.[7] The news of his death caused great emotion not only in Lebanon but throughout the Arab world. [8]

13 years after his death, in 1953 his brother Albert established the Ameen Rihani Museum in Freike to honor him.


  1. ^ Kassir, Samir, Histoire de Beyrouth, Paris, Fayard, p.394
  2. ^ a b Kassir, op. cit., p. 395
  3. ^ Charif, Maher. Rihanat al-Nahda fi'l-fikr al-`arabi, Damascus, Dar al-Mada, 2000.
  4. ^ Lawrence Davidson, "Debating Palestine: Arab American Challenges to Zionism, 1917-1932" in Michael Suleiman ed. Arabs in America: Buildind a New Future (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999), 227-240.
  5. ^ See for example, Ameen Rihani, "The Holy Land: Whose to Have and to Hold?" The Bookman, XLVI (September 1917), 8-14; Ameen Rihani, "Palestine Arabs Claim To Be Fighting For National Existence," Current History, XXXI (November 1919), 269-279; Ameen Rihani, "Zionism and the Peace of the World," The Nation CXXIX (October 2, 1929);Ameen Rihani, "Is Palestine Safe for Zionism," Palestine and Transjordan, I (November 21, 1936); and Ameen Rihani, "Palestine and the Proposed Arab Federation," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, (November 1932).
  6. ^ a b Dawn, C. Ernest, "The Origins of Arab Nationalism", in Khalidi, R, L. Anderson, and M. Muslih, eds, The Origins of Arab Nationalism, New York, Columbia University Press, 1991, p. 11
  7. ^ Biography of Amin al-Rihani on, visualised 9 May 2006.
  8. ^ Kassir, op. cit., p. 397

See also

Scholarly studies

  1. AlKik, Victor; "Jibran wa-al-Rihani: Jahd ra'i' wa-lakinhu da'i'" Arabi, 2006 May; 570: 24-29. (journal article)
  2. Bashru'i, Suhayl; "Amin al-Rihani: Ra'id al-tajdid al-adabi wa-al-islah al-fikri wa-al-ijtima'i" Dahesh Voice/Sawt Dahish, 2002 Spring; 7 (4): 28-45 (Arabic section). (journal article)
  3. Bushrui, Suheil (translator and introd.); "Supplication: A Prayer" Dahesh Voice/Sawt Dahish, 2002 Spring; 7 (4): 36 (English section). (journal article)
  4. Dunnavent, Walter Edward; Ameen Rihani in America: Transcendentalism in an Arab-American Writer Dissertation Abstracts International, 1992 Mar; 52 (9): 3302A. Indiana U. (dissertation abstract)•
  5. Oueijan, Naji (Editor and Introd.) Excerpts from Ar-Rihaniyat. By Ameen Al-Rihani. Louaize: Notre Dame University Press: 1998.
  6. Oueijan, Naji (Translator and Introd.) Hymns of the Valleys. By Ameen Rihani. New Jersey: Gerges Press, 2002.
  7. Oueijan Naji (Editor and Introd.)Kahlil Gibran and Ameen Rihani: Prophets of Lebanese-American Literature. Louaize: Notre Dame Press, 1999.
  8. Mhiri, Mootacem Bellah; A Study in Self-Writing and Identity: The Transcultural and Transnational Poetics of Ameen Rihany and Paul Smaïl Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 2006 Aug; 67 (2): 551-52. Pennsylvania State U, 2005. (dissertation abstract)
  9. Rihani, Ameen. Ibn Sa'oud of Arabia London, England: Kegan Paul; 2002. xvii, 370 pp. (book)
  10. Thomas de Antonio, Clara María. "Sevilla en La luz de al-Andalus del escritor libanés Amin al-Rihani" pp. 187-212 IN: Cano Avila, Pedro (ed. and introd.); Garijo Galán, Ildefonso (ed. and introd.); El saber en Al-Andalus: Textos y estudios, I. Seville, Spain: Universidad de Sevilla; Fundación El Monte; 1997. 222 pp. (book article)

External links



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