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Songs and Poems

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The Poetic Expression of a Political Man
submitted by Jerusalem Quarterly

Ibrahim Nasrallah introduces Diwani, a collection of poems by Ahmad Hilmi Abdelbaqi (1882-1963)

Jerusalem Quarterly
Winter 2006
Issue 25

This essay was written by poet and novelist Ibrahim Nasrallah as the introduction to Ahmad Hilmi Abdelbaqi’s posthumous collection of poetry entitled Diwani. As the editor of the collection, Nasrallah divides Ahmad Hilmi’s poems into two parts: contemplations and invocations [ta’amulat wa ibtihalat]. Within each part, the poems are grouped in alphabetical order according to the final letter of the verse (as is standard in Arabic poetry). The poems are written as rubaiyat [quatrains] of four verses, which are displayed on two lines. The collection totals 421 pages and includes the introduction essay by Nasrallah, which has been excerpted here.1

Researchers and historians concur on the important political and economic role Ahmad Hilmi Abdelbaqi played in the Palestinian struggle from the 1920s onward. He maintained a significant presence at Palestinian political and economic gatherings that aimed at maintaining the Arabness of Palestine and defending the country. In this article we cast light on another part of his character that has remained largely unknown until the present publication of his poems - that of Ahmad Hilmi, the poet, a bountiful and gifted mind expressing itself in verse.

His Life

Ahmad Hilmi was born in 1882 and finished his education in the towns of Nablus and Tulkarem. ‘Ajaj Nuwayhid, a friend and contemporary, described this period of Ahmad Hilmi’s life:

Ahmad Hilmi was born in 1882 and finished his education in the towns of Nablus and Tulkarem. ‘Ajaj Nuwayhid, a friend and contemporary, described this period of Ahmad Hilmi’s life:

He received his early education at the hands of religious sheikhs; [they were] undoubtedly religious studies. His teacher in Tulkarem was the ‘allamah Sheikh Saeed al-Karmi, a graduate of Azhar University and a contemporary of Jamal Eddin al-Afghani in Egypt. Karmi was one of a group brought before the military court of the tyrannical Ottoman ruler Jamal Basha in Aleih at the beginning of war [World War I]. A death sentence was decreed on al-Karmi but later mitigated to a life imprisonment in the Damascus Castle due to his old age.

Early in his adult life, Ahmad Hilmi worked for the Agricultural Bank in Nablus; later he assumed prominent public roles in the military, economic institutions and political life in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. The Arab world that Ahmad Hilmi lived in at this time shared one geographic, political and social vision, an echo of the unifying nationalistic movement that pervaded the region and that called on Arabs to struggle together against colonialism.

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