Adib Ishaq article on "The Movement of Thought," treating the Babis
Calligraphy of 'Adib Ishaq'

Adib Ishaq

"Harakat al-Afkar"
("The Movement of Thought")

Adib Ishaq, "Harakat al-Afkar" ("The Movement of Thought"), Misr, 1878. Reprinted in Naji `Allush, Adib Ishaq, Beirut, East Lansing, Mi.: H-Bahai, 2001.

Notes: This newspaper article, published in a Cairo newspaper in 1878, may be the first significant mention of the Babi-Baha'i movement in the Arabic press. "Adib Ishaq, a romantic liberal, sees liberty as an almost mystical force shaping modern history. The flame of reform, he writes, was lit first in the French Revolution of 1789, devouring despotism and the tyranny of tradition (taqalid, while lighting the way for liberty. The enemies of liberty waited, and when they sensed weakness, seized the opportunity to defeat it; their victory proved shortlived, however, and the flame was soon rekindled. This conflagration then spread north to Germany and Russia. In Prussia it took the form of socialism, in Russia of Nihilism. "A young Nihilist woman in the land of the absolutism dared to fire a bullet quite deliberately at the police chief. She found many supporters. And a socialist youth in the land of hegemony dared to fire thrice at the great conquering king." The flame then rememberd its old home, the East, where movements of politics and ethical religion began, spreading to Iran, the ancient home of the prophet Zorosaster. There some thirty years before, Ishaq writes, the Babi religion grew up around the Bab, a Mahdi or messianic figure. The Babis mounted an insurrection against the government, showing an unparalleled boldness and daring. After their leader was killed, a group of Babis fired on the shah in an attempt to assassinate him, in which endeavor they failed. But as recently as 7 April 1878 Babis posing as disgruntled soldiers had penetrated the shah's security and managed to attack his carriage with stones, wounding some retainers. The other manifestation of the fire of liberty in the East, Ishaq avers, occurred in Istanbul, where its traces were apparent in the 1876 deposition of Sultan `Abdu'l-`Aziz. The Ottoman state had fought the advocates of liberty, arresting and exiling them. Ishaq therefore views the Young Ottomans and Ottoman constitutionalism as a link in the great chain of intellectual movements for liberty." - Juan R. I. Cole, Colonialism and Revolution in the Middle East: Social and Cultural Origins of Egypt's `Urabi Movement (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 143. Ishaq's source of information about Babism was presumably Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, with whom he was close; but here he gives a positive view of Babism, in contrast to the article al-Afghani wrote for the Beirut Encyclopedia of Butrus al-Bustani.

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