Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • Amal N. Ghazal

The historiography of Arab nationalism has tended to concentrate on the secular press from the Mashriq, especially the Cairo–Beirut axis, at the expense of the religious nationalist press and the non-Mashriqi one. There is often an assumption that reliance on the secular press from the Mashriq alone can provide a clear picture of Arab intellectual life and that a proper analysis of that thought can be confined to a few intellectual centers in the eastern Arab world. Although there has never been an explicit claim that such a focus is the end of the story, there have not been enough attempts to look beyond the Cairo–Beirut axis and beyond its secular press organs in search of a broader story of the depth and breadth of Arab nationalism. This article addresses this imbalance by examining an Arabist-Salafi press network that operated between Algeria, Tunisia, Zanzibar, and Egypt and involved members of two sectarian communities, Sunnis and Ibadis. This Arabist-Salafi press network created a public sphere of intellectual engagement in which Salafism and nationalism were interwoven, producing a nationalist discourse transgressing post World War I borders of identity and linking the three layers of nationalism—the territorial, the Pan-Arab, and the Pan-Islamic—together. These layers not only intersected but also legitimized one another.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Available formats
Corresponding author
Amal Ghazal is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; e-mail:
Hide All


Author's note: The research for this paper was made possible by a fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and by the Research Development Fund at Dalhousie University. For their valuable comments, I thank the four anonymous referees for IJMES, my colleagues at the University of Toronto and at Dalhousie University, and Rachid Ouaissa at Philipps University, Marburg. This article is dedicated to Dr. Samir Seikaly and all the professors and friends with whom I share the memories of the years spent at the Observatory at the American University of Beirut.

1 Cole, Juan, “Printing and Urban Islam in the Mediterranean World, 1890–1920,” in Modernity and Culture: From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, ed. Fawaz, Leila and Bayly, C. A. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 344–64.

2 On the late Ottoman period, see, for instance, Fortna, Benjamin C., Islam, the State and Education in the Late Ottoman Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), and Deringil, Selim, The Well-Protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 1998). On the interwar period, see Thompson, Elizabeth, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000); Gelvin, James L., Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics at the Close of Empire (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1998); and Johnson, Nels, Islam and the Politics of Meaning in Palestinian Nationalism (London: Kegan Paul International, 1982). McDougall's, JamesHistory and the Culture of Nationalism in Algeria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) offers a thorough analysis of Islam and nationalism in interwar Algeria. For a more comprehensive analysis of the relationship between nationalism and Islamism in the Arab Middle East, see James L. Gelvin, “Islamism and Nationalism: Common Roots, Common Destiny,” Beiruter Blatter: Mitteilungen des Orient-Instituts Beirut 10–11(2002/2003): 82–89.

3 See Dawn, Ernest, From Ottomanism to Arabism: Essays on the Origins of Arab Nationalism (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1973) and Commins, David Dean, Islamic Reform: Politics and Social Change in Late Ottoman Syria (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).

4 Mandaville, Peter, Transnational Muslim Politics: Reimagining the Umma (London & New York: Routledge, 2001), 74.

5 See Ghazal, Amal, “Seeking Common Ground: Salafism and Islamic Reform in Modern Ibadi Thought,” Bulletin of the Royal Institute of Inter-Faith Studies, 7 (2005): 119–41.

6 Patricia Crone best captures this Ibadi (as well as Shiʿi) view of Sunnis: “It also shocked, or rather disgusted, the Kharijites and Shiites, to whom the Sunnis came across as unprincipled people ready to pay allegiance to any tyrant and oppressor . . .” Crone, Patricia, God's Rule: Government and Islam. Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 255.

7 The anti-Ibadi views of Sunnis, as they appeared in Sunni heresiography, are summarized in Muʿammar, Ali Yahya, Al-Ibadiyya bayna al-Firaq al-Islamiyya ʿinda Kuttab al-Maqalat fi al-Qadim wa-l-Hadith (London: Dar al-Hikma, 2001).

8 Wilkinson, John C., The Imamate Tradition of Oman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 243.

9 The colonial period also witnessed a Sunni–Shiʿi convergence. See Enayat, Hamid, Modern Islamic Political Thought: The Response of the Shiʿi and Sunni Muslims to the Twentieth Century (London: The MacMillan Press, 1982). Bernard Haykel has observed a similar coming together of Sunnis and Zaydis. Haykel, Bernard, Revival and Reform in Islam: The Legacy of Muhammad al-Shawkani (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

10 See Atfiyyash, Muhammad Yusuf, Izalat al-Iʿtirad ʿan Muhiqqi Al Ibad (Oman: Wizarat al-Turath al-Qawmi wa-l-Thaqafa, 1982); Muhammad Ali Dabbuz, Nahdat al-Jazaʾir al-Haditha wa Thawratuha al-Mubaraka (Algeria: al-Matbaʿa al-Taʿawuniyya, 1965), 332–33; and Muhammad bin Musa Baba ʿAmmi et al., Muʿjam Aʿlam al-Ibadiyya min al-Qarn al-Awwal Hijri ila al-ʿAsr al-Hadir: Qism al-Maghrib al-Islami (Beirut: Dar al-Gharb al-Islami, 1999), 2:399–406.

11 See Green, Arnold H., The Tunisian Ulama 1873–1915: Social Structure and Response to Ideological Currents (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978), esp. Part II.

12 For more details, see Salah Bendrissou, Implantation des Mozabites dans l'Algérois entre les Deux Guerres (PhD diss., Institut Maghreb-Europe, Université Paris VIII Vincennes Saint Denis, 1999), 1:206.

13 Abu Ishaq's biographer, Muhammad Nasir, says that Atfiyyash was exiled in 1917 by the French but does not explain the reason. Muhammad Nasir, Al-Shaykh Ibrahim Atfiyyash fi Jihadihi al-Islami (Muscat: Maktabat al-Damiri, 1992), 19, 59.

14 Ibid., 18.

15 For more information on this early phase of al-Khatib's career, see Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman Burj, Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib wa Dawruhu fi al-Haraka al-‘Arabiyya, 1906–1920 (Cairo: al-Hayʾa al-Misriyya al-ʿAmma li-l-Kitab, 1990) and Suhayla al-Rimawi, “Safahat min Tarikh al-Jamʿiyyat fi Bilad al-Sham: Min al-Jamʿiyyat al-ʿIlmiyya ila al-Jamʿiyyat al-Siyasiyya,” Dirasat Tarikhiyya 7 (1982): 134–56.

16 See Ghazal, Amal N., “Power, Arabism and Islam: The Writings of Muhib al-Din al-Khatib in al-Fath,” Past Imperfect 6 (1997): 133–49.

17 Atfiyyash, Abi Ishaq Ibrahim, Al-Diʿaya ila Sabil al-Muʾminin (Cairo: al-Matbaʿa al-Salafiyya, 1923).

18 Private correspondence between Atfiyyash and Abu al-Yaqzan. Nasir, Al-Shaykh Ibrahim Atfiyyash, 138.

19 Ibid., 137–38.

20 “Safha min al-Tarikh: Kayfa Imtazat al-Ibadiyya ʿan al-Khawarij,” Al-Zahraʾ, 14 October 1924, 186–89.

21 Al-Fath, 13 April 1939, 649, 16–17.

22 Ibid.

23 Al-Minhaj, September 1925, 137–42.

24 Al-Minhaj, August 1925, 116–19.

25 Al-Minhaj, September 1925, 328.

26 Ibid., 137–42.

28 Al-Minhaj, January 1926, 405–409.

30 Muhammad Salih Nasir, ed., Tarikh Suhuf Abi al-Yaqzan: Bi Qalam Abi al-Yaqzan Ibrahim ʿIssa (1888–1973) (n.p, 2003), 11–12.

32 For a full account of those newspapers, see Muhammad Salih Nasir, Abu al-Yaqzan (n.p., n.d.).

33 Ibid., 118–19.

35 Ibid., 118–19, 272.

36 Ibid., 283.

37 Ibid., 119.

38 See, for instance, Shakib Arslan's letter to Abu al-Yaqzan in Wadi Mizab, 4 May 1928, 1.

39 Nasir, Abu al-Yaqzan, 273. The author has not yet been able to find the volumes of al-Umma, but the index of its subjects published in Abu al-Yaqzan reveals the extent to which al-Umma elaborated on Arab unity. See ibid., 391–464.

40 McDougall, History and the Culture of Nationalism, 31.

41 Nasir, Tarikh Suhuf Abi al-Yaqzan, 116.

42 Ibid., 118.

43 Wadi Mizab, 1 October 1926, 1.

45 Wadi Mizab, 1 April 1927, 1.

47 Al-Shihab, October 1931, as quoted in Nasir, Abu al-Yaqzan, 300.

48 McDougall, History and the Culture of Nationalism, 184–238.

49 See Pouwels, R. L., Horn and Crescent: Cultural Change and Traditional Islam on the East African Coast, 800–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

50 One of those was Muhammad Lutfi, a proponent of modernist Salafi views, which he shared with young Zanzibaris in Jumʿa mosque in Zanzibar. See Randall L. Pouwels, “Sh. al-Amin B. Ali Mazrui and Islamic Modernism in East Africa, 1875–1947,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 13 (1981): 342 and Khayr al-Din al-Zirikli, al-Aʿlam, 14th ed. (Beirut: Dar al-ʿIlm lil-Malayin), 5, 59.

51 Zanzibar National Archives (ZNA) AA5/27 and AA5/11–51.

52 Nasir bin ʿUdayyim al-Rawahi, “Kitab Warada min Zanjubar min Abi Muslim Nasir bin Salim bin ʿUdayyim al-Rawahi ila Imam al-Muslimin bi ʿUman Salim bin Rashid bin Sulayman al-Kharusi A ʿazzahu Allah, 1915.” TMs (photocopy), #738. Manuscripts section, Ministry of Culture and Heritage, Muscat, Oman, 16. Pages numbered by the author.

53 Al-Najah was published thrice a month and edited by al-Rawahi himself. Nasir bin Sulayman al-Lamki took over the editorship of al-Najah in 1914. However, he was exiled to India in July of the same year, and al-Najah ceased publication.

54 ZNA AA5/25.

55 ZNA AA5/27 and ZNA AA5/11–51.

56 For more information on this visit, see Muhammad Jamil Tahhan, ed., Al-Aʿmal al-Kamila li-l-Kawakibi (Beirut: Markaz Dirasat al-Wahda al-ʿArabiyya, 1995), 548–49 and al-Manar 8 (1905): 854–60.

57 For a more comprehensive study on the connections of the Omani elite in Zanzibar to intellectual circles in the Arab world, see Amal N. Ghazal, Islamic Reform and Arab Nationalism: Expanding the Crescent from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean (1880s–1930s) (New York: Routledge, forthcoming).

58 Al-Falaq, 19 August 1931, 2.

59 Ibid., 19 September 1932, 1.

60 Among the journals and newspapers from which al-Falaq reprinted articles were al-Ahram, Akhir Saʿa, al-ʿAlam al-ʿArabi, al-Bayraq, al-Difaʿ al-Qawmi, Kawkab al-Sharq, al-Kifah, al-Lataʾif al-Musawwara, Majallat al-Azhar, al-Shabab, al-Sharq al-ʿArabi, Umm al-Qura . . . The most oft-quoted newspaper, however, was al-Fath of Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib.

61 A letter from de Tarrazi to al-Maskari. Al-Maskari's private papers. De Tarrazi mistakenly lists al-Maskari as the founder of al-Falaq. See de Tarrazi, Tarikh al-Sahafa al-ʿArabiyya, (Beirut: al-Matbaʿa al-Adabiyya, 1933), 270–71.

62 See al-Kindi, Muhsin, Al-Sahafa al-ʿUmaniyya al-Muhajira: Sahifat al-Falaq wa Shakhsiyyatiha: al-Shaykh Hashil al-Maskari Namudhajan (Beirut: Riyad al-Rayyis Books, 2001), 7179.

63 Ahmida, Ali Abdullatif, The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonization and Resistance, 1830–1932 (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1994), 117–24.

64 Ibid., 113. The author has not yet found any volumes of al-Asad al-Islami, but some were reproduced in al-Baruni's daughter's memoirs. See Zaima Suleiman al-Baruni, Safahat Khalida min al-Jihad (n.p., 1964). Al-Baruni's Diwan offers insights into the author's strong allegiance to Islamic reform. See Suleiman al-Baruni, Diwan al-Baruni (Egypt: Matbaʿat al-Azhar al-Baruniyya, 1908).

65 Al-Fath, July 1937, 551, 15.

66 Al-Falaq, 23 April 1938, 1–2.

67 Al-Falaq, 30 September 1933, 1.

68 Al-Falaq, 9 April 1938, 2.

69 Al-Falaq, 22 July 1939, 3.

70 Al-Falaq, 8 April 1939, 1.

71 Al-Falaq, 27 May 1939, 3.

73 Dawisha, Adeed, Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003), 108.

74 For example, al-Falaq used to publish all reports and statements made by the Arab Higher Committee.

75 Gelvin, “Islamism and Nationalism,” 85.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed