Shakib Arslan

Shakib Arslan (Arabic: شكيب أرسلان‎, 25 December 1869 – 9 December 1946) was a Druze prince (amir) in Lebanon, known as Amir al-Bayān (Arabic for "Prince of Eloquence") because, in addition to being a politician, he was also an influential writer, poet and historian. A prolific writer, he produced some 20 books and 2,000 articles,[1] as well as two collections of poetry and a "prodigious correspondence".[2]

Shakib Arslan
Shakib Arslan.gif
Born25 December 1869
Died9 December 1946(1946-12-09) (aged 76)
Other namesAmir al-Bayān
  • Politician
  • writer
  • poet
  • historian
ChildrenMay Arslan
RelativesEmir Majid Arslan II
Emir Talal Arslan
Walid Jumblatt (grandson)

Influenced by the ideas of al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh, Arslan became a strong supporter of the pan-Islamic policies of Abdul Hamid II. As an Arab nationalist, Arslan was an advocate of pan-Maghrebism (the unification of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco).[3] He also argued that the survival of the Ottoman Empire was the only guarantee against the division of the ummah and its occupation by the European imperial powers. For Arslan, Ottomanism and Islam were inseparable, and the reform of Islam would naturally lead to the revival of the Ottoman Empire.[4]

Exiled from his homeland by the French Mandate authorities, Arslan spent most of the inter-war years in Geneva, where he served as the unofficial representative of Syria and Palestine to the League of Nations and wrote a steady stream of articles for the periodical press of Arab countries. He was also a contributor to Barid Al Sharq, a propaganda newspaper published in Berlin, Nazi Germany.[5]

Prince Shakib (second from right) on a visit to Saudi Arabia in the early 1930s, dressed in a Bedouin costume. On his right are Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and Hashim al-Atassi, who later became President of Syria.


Amir Shakib proposed an interpretation of Islam imbued with a sense of political power and moral courage. He sought to rebuild the bonds of Islamic unity, urging Muslims from Morocco to Iraq to remember their common commitment to Islam despite their individual differences. Shakib believed that recognising and acting upon this common bond could lead to liberation from their existing subjugation. He also saw this unity as a way of reviving what he saw as their illustrious history. Arslan's work inspired anti-imperialist propaganda campaigns, much to the irritation of the British and French authorities in the Arab world.[3]

He defended Islam as an essential component of social morality. His message, with its call to action and defence of traditional values in a time of great uncertainty, was well received and attracted widespread attention in the 1920s and 1930s. It was during this period that he wrote his most famous work, Our Decline: Its Causes and Remedies, which described what Arslan believed to be the reasons for the weakness of existing Muslim governments.

He contributed to Muhib Al Din Al Khatib's Cairo-based magazine Al Fath, a modernist Salafi publication.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

Letters (1931)

Born into a Druze family, he always tried to combine his faith with mainstream Islam, but converted to Sunni Islam himself, "establishing himself as an orthodox Muslim serving the interests of Sunni Islam".[7]

He married Suleima Alkhas Hatog, a Jordanian of Circassian descent, who gave him a son, Ghalib (born 1917), in Lebanon and two daughters, May (1928–2013) and Nazima (born 1930), in Switzerland. His daughter May married the Lebanese Druze politician Kamal Jumblatt, through whom he is the grandfather of the Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt.

Arslan died on 9 December 1946, three months after returning to Lebanon.


  • Our Decline: Its Causes and Remedies (English translation published by Islamic Book Trust in 2004; ISBN 9839154540)

Further readingEdit

  • Islam Against the West: Shakib Arslan and the Campaign for Islamic Nationalism by William L. Cleveland (University of Texas Press, 2011; ISBN 0292737335)
  • Muslime im Zwischenkriegseuropa und die Dekonstruktion der Faszination vom Westen. Eine kritische Auseinandersetzung mit Šakīb ʾArslāns Artikeln in der ägyptischen Zeitschrift al-Fatḥ (1926-1935) by Mehdi Sajid (EB-Verlag, 2015; ISBN 978-3-86893-185-3)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Thomas Molnar. (2017). Arab Awakening and Islamic Revival, Routledge, p. 103
  2. ^ William L. Cleveland. (2011). Islam Against the West: Shakib Arslan and the Campaign for Islamic Nationalism, University of Texas Press, p. viii
  3. ^ a b Lawrence, Adria K. (2013). Imperial Rule and the Politics of Nationalism: Anti-Colonial Protest in the French Empire. Cambridge University Press. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-1-107-03709-0.
  4. ^ William L. Cleveland. (2013). "A History of the Modern Middle East" Westview Press, p. 131.
  5. ^ David Motadel (2014). Islam and Nazi Germany's War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 88. doi:10.4159/harvard.9780674736009. ISBN 9780674736009.
  6. ^ Mehdi Sajid (2018). "A Reappraisal of the Role of Muḥibb al-Dīn alKhaṭīb and the YMMA in the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood". Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations. 29 (2): 194, 196, 201–204. doi:10.1080/09596410.2018.1455364.
  7. ^ Cleveland, William (1985). Islam Against the West: Shakib Arslan and the Campaign for Islamic Nationalism. University of Texas Press. p. 49.

External linksEdit