The Foundations of Letter-Writing in Pre-Modern Islamic Society

Adrian Gully

in The Culture of Letter-Writing in Pre-Modern Islamic Society

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780748633739
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653133 | DOI:
The Foundations of Letter-Writing in Pre-Modern Islamic Society

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The epistle as a representation of Arabic literary genres has a long history. Historical and literary sources abound with samples of letters believed to have been exchanged during the early Islamic period, which provide a glimpse into the early political and social activity in Islamic society and into the early Arabic prose style. Written contracts and epistles existed in the advent of Islam, and the commandment to register debts with a scribe is found in the Qur'an. Epistolography, the art or science of letter-writing, is believed to have developed quickly into the most important form of writing in Islamic society. This chapter examines the background of letter-writing in the Islamic Middle period, particularly during the 5th to 9th/11th to 15th centuries. While it is assumed that many of the characteristics of letter-writing in pre-modern Islamic society are indicative of the cultural, historical and intellectual trends, as well as the unique literary style, of Arabic letter-writing, Chapter 1 also examines to what extent letter-writing in Western culture has influenced Arabic epistolary writing. It also discusses insā, which serves as key to the artistic prose style that dominated Arabic literature for several centuries, as well as some of the principles of insā, which have been carried out through the modern period.

Keywords: epistle; Arabic literary genres; early Islamic period; letters; Epistolography; letter-writing; Arabic letter-writing; insā

Chapter.  15751 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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