This reading rewrites the nahḍah, as the other appellation for Arab modernity, and interrogates it through a postcolonial critique. The nahḍah is usually addressed in terms of the encounter with Europe, the indebtedness to and engagement with the Enlightenment discourse at the turn of the last century. I dispute more commonplace negativist readings of the past by nahḍah scholars and direct attention instead to other competing trends that enhanced significant identitarian politics. I also unearth the reasons behind the loudly pronounced negativism, its pitfalls and failure to map out a comprehensive field of an enormous knowledge that unfolded in compendiums, commentaries, lexicons, encyclopedias, along with separate monographs. I apply the term republic of letters to this specifically loaded scholarly interaction, one that preceded and heralded other configurational sites in Europe. A community of scholars over centuries and across the Islamic lands emerged between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries that could have furnished “Enlightened” modernists with some different understanding and critical theoretical approach to the encounter with Europe and the colonial and postcolonial state of affairs.