Ahmad Faris Shidyaq

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Ahmad Faris Shidyaq
Ahmad Faris Shidyaq.png
Ahmad Faris Shidyak
Born 1805
Ashqout, Lebanon
Died 20 September 1887
Kadıköy, Istanbul Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Occupation Linguist, Writer, Journalist, translator
Religion Sunni Islam
Spouse(s) Marie As-Souly
Children Two sons: Salim (1826–1906) and Fayiz (1828–1856)
Parent(s) Youssef Ash-Shidyaq, Marie Massaad

Ahmad Faris Shidyaq (1805 – 20 September 1887, known also as Fares Chidiac, Faris Al Chidiac, Arabic: أحمد فارس الشدياق ‎) was an Ottoman scholar, writer and journalist. Maronite by birth, he converted to Protestantism and then to Islam. He is considered to be one of the founding fathers of modern Arabic Literature.


Mystery shrouds the life of Ahmad Faris Shidyaq. Among the many autobiographical references found in his writings, we cannot easily differentiate romanticizing from reality.

Early life[edit]

Ahmad Faris Shidyaq was born in 1804 in Ashqout, a mountain village of the Keserwan District in the modern Mount Lebanon Governorate. At birth, his given name was Faris. His father's name was Youssef. His mother came from the Massaad family, from Ashqout. His family traced its roots to the Maronite muqaddam Ra'ad bin Khatir from Hasroun. His family was very well educated and its members were working as secretaries for the governors of Mount Lebanon. In 1805, the family was forced to leave Ashqout following a conflict with a local governor that cost the life of Butrus al-Shidyaq, the grandfather of Faris. The family settled in Hadath, in the suburbs of Beirut at the service of a Shihabi prince. Faris joined his brothers, Tannous (1791–1861) and Assaad (1797–1830) and his cousin Boulos Massaad (1806–1890), in Ayn Warqa school, one of the most prestigious Maronite schools of the 19th Century. Again, a conflict opposing the family Shidyaq to the Prince Bashir Shihab II obliged Youssef Ash-Shidyaq to take refuge in Damascus where he died in 1820. Faris left school and continued his studies with his brothers Assaad and Tannous. He joined his brother Tannous, as a copyist at the service of the Prince Haydar Shihab, his brother Assaad being the secretary of the Sheikh Ali Al-Emad in Kfarnabrakh, in the Chouf District. What was to determine the career and life of Faris was the tragic destiny of his brother Assaad.

Expanded description[edit]

Around 1820, the encounter of Assaad Shidyaq with Jonas King, a missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, was to lead him to become Protestant. He was excommunicated under the automatic excommunication edict issued by the Maronite Patriarch Youssef Hobaish (1823–1845) against all dealings with the evangelical missionaries. Assaad was later detained in the Monastery of Qannoubine in the Qadisha valley where he died in 1830[1] Already in 1825, Faris have left Lebanon to Egypt, being tormented by the ordeals of Assaad. The death of his brother will influence permanently his choices and his career. He never forgave his brother Tannous and his cousin Boulos Massaad (who became later Maronite Patriarch (1854–1890)) their role in the tragic events that led to the death of Assaad. In 1826, he married Marie As-Souly, daughter of a wealthy Christian Egyptian family, originally from Syria. They had two sons: Faris (1826–1906) and Fayiz (1828–1856). From 1825 to 1848, Faris was living between Cairo and the island of Malta. He was the editor in chief of an Egyptian newspaper, Al Waqa'eh Al Masriah and in Malta, the director of the printing press of the American missionaries. He also studied Fiqh in Al-Azhar University in Cairo. It is thought that it was during this period that Faris converted to Protestantism. It was a period of solitude and study that was interrupted in 1848 when he was invited to Cambridge by the Orientalist Samuel Lee (1783–1852) to participate in the Arabic translation of the Bible. The translation of the Bible was published in 1857, after the death of Samuel Lee. This translation is still considered one of the best Arabic translation of the Bible.

Faris stayed in England for almost 7 years. He settled first in Barley, Hertfordshire and then moved to Cambridge. At the end of his English stay, he moved to Oxford where he became a British citizen and kept trying in vain to secure a teaching post. Disappointed by England and its academics, he moved to Paris, France around 1855. Faris stayed in Paris till 1857. It was one of his most prolific periods in thinking, writing, but also in having an intense social nightlife. It is in Paris that he wrote and published his major works. It is also in Paris that he was introduced to Socialism and where he became a Socialist. A keen admirer of Shakespeare, Faris argued that Othello suggests a detailed knowledge of Arabic culture. Faris even suggested that Shakespeare may have had an Arabic background, his original name being "Shaykh Zubayr". This theory was later developed in all seriousness by Safa Khulusi.[2]

His wife died in 1857. He later married an English woman. Her name was Safia and she had embraced Islam. They got one daughter, Rosalinde Faris.[3] The couple moved to Tunisia, called upon by the Bey of Tunis. He was appointed as editor in chief of the newspaper Al Ra'ed and supervisor of the Education Directorate. It is while in Tunisia that he converted to Islam from Congregationalist Calvinist Church.[4] in 1860 and took the name Ahmad. He soon afterwards left Tunis for Istanbul, Turkey, being invited by the Ottoman Sultan Abdel Majid I.

Ahmad Faris spent the last part of his life in Istanbul where, in addition to his position as an official translator, he amplified his journalistic talents founding in 1861 an Arabic newspaper Al Jawa'eb, supported financially by the Ottomans, as well as by the Egyptian and Tunisian rulers. It was modeled on the modern Western newspapers and continued appearing till 1884. Ahmad Faris was a keen defendant of the Arabic language heritage and Arabic culture against the Turkization attempts of the Turkish reformers of the 19th Century. Ahmad Faris Ash-Shidyaq is considered one of the founding fathers of modern Arabic literature and journalism.

Death and afterward[edit]

Ahmad Faris Shidyaq died on 20 September 1887 in Kadikoy, Turkey and was buried in Lebanon on 5 October 1887. Many of his works remain unpublished and some manuscripts are lost.

Philosophical and/or political views[edit]

Since 2001, a redescovering of Ahmad Faris Shidyaq seems to take place among scholars around the world. Several books were dedicated to his life, thought and unpublished works. Shidyaq major works were dedicated to the modernization of the Arabic language, the promotion of the Arab culture in opposition to the turkization movement of the 19th Century Ottoman Empire, and the modernization of the Arab societies.


Several works were published, since 1980, containing unpublished works of Shidyaq. Some important studies were dedicated to his thought and his life. Among others, we can cite:

  • Jubrān, S., & Shidyāq, A. F. (1991). Kitāb al-Fāriyāq: mabnāhu wa-uslūbuhu wa-sukhriyatuh. Dirāsāt wa-nuṣūṣ adabīyah, 6. Tel Aviv: Jāmiʻat Tall Abīb – University of Tel Aviv. OCLC 40126655
  • Shidyāq, A. F., Ṭarābulsī, F., & ʻAẓmah, ʻA. (1995). Aḥmad Fāris Shidyāq. Silsilat al-aʻmāl al-majhūlah. London: Riyad El-Rayyes. ISBN 978-1-85513-288-7 OCLC 34773377
  • Shidyāq, A. F., & Ṣulḥ, ʻI. (1982). Iʻtirāfāt al-Shidyāq fī kitāb al-Sāq ʻalá al-sāq. Bayrūt, Lubnān: Dār al-Rāʼid al-ʻArabī. OCLC 15721715

Published works[edit]

  • Shidyāq, A. F., & Sawaie, M. (2004). Rasā'il Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq al-maḥfūẓah fī al-Arshīf al-Waṭanī al-Tūnisī. Beirut: al-Muʼassasah al-ʻArabīyah lil-Dirāsāt wa-al-Nashr. OCLC 58390478
  • Shidyāq, A. F., & Maṭwī, M. a.-H. (2006). Sirr al-layāl fī al-qalb wa-al-ibdāl fī ʻilm maʻānī al-alfāẓ al-ʻArabīyah: al-muqaddimah wa-mukhtārāt. Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī. OCLC 68745724
  • Shidyāq, A. F., & Williams, H. G. (1866). A practical grammar of the Arabic language: with interlineal reading lessons, dialogues and vocabulary. London: Bernard Quaritch. OCLC 9177725
  • Shidyāq, A. F. (1973). al-Jāsūs ʻalá al-Qāmūs. [Beirut]: Dār Ṣādir. OCLC 21417692
  • Shidyāq, A. F., & Khāzin, N. W. (1966). al-Sāq ʻalá al-sāq fī mā huwa al-fāryāq: aw Ayyām wa-shuhūr wa-aʻwām fī ʻajam al-ʻArab wa-al-aʻjām. Bayrūt: Dār Maktabat al-Ḥayāh. OCLC 21469257
  • Fāris, S., & Shidyāq, A. F. (1871). Kanz al-raghāʼib fī muntakhabāt al-Jawāʼib. [Istanbul]: Maṭbaʻat al-Jawāʼib. OCLC 11426489
  • Shidyāq, A. F. (2004). al-Wāsitah fī ma'rifat ahwāl Māltah: wa kasaf al-mukhabbāʼ ʻan funūn Ūrubbā 1834–1857. Irtiyād al-āfāq. Abū Ẓaby: Dār al-Suwaydī. ISBN 978-9953-36-589-3 OCLC 58427690
  • Shidyāq, A. F., & ʻAmāyirah, M. A. (2003). Mumāḥakāt al-taʼwīl fī munāqiḍāt al-Injīl. ʻAmmān: Dār Wāʼil lil-Nashr. ISBN 978-9957-11-225-7 OCLC 53814162
  • Shidyāq, A. F., & Khawam, R. R. (1991). La jambe sur la jambe: roman. Domaine étranger. Paris: Phébus. OCLC 24627621
  • Shidyāq, A. F., Khūrī, Y. Q., & Ībish, Y. (2001). Mukhtarat min āthar Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq. Bayrūt: al-Muʼassasah al-Sharqīyah lil-Nashr. OCLC 47781016
  • Shidyāq, A. F., & Shawābikah, M. ʻ. (1991). al-Shidyāq al-nāqid: muqaddimat dīwān Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq. ʻAmmān: Dār al-Bashīr. OCLC 33923343
  • Shidyāq, A. F. (1992). Kitāb ghunyat al-ṭālib wa-munyat al-rāghib: durūs fī al-ṣarf wa-al-naḥw wa-ḥurūf al-maʻānī. Sūsah, Tūnis: Dār al-Maʻārif lil-Ṭibāʻat wa-al-Nashr. ISBN 978-9973-16-246-5 OCLC 32313699
  • Shidyāq, A. F. (1881). Kitāb al-bākūrah al-shahīyah fī naḥw al-lughah al-Inkilīzīyah. Qusṭanṭīnīyah: Maṭbaʻat al-Jawāʼib. OCLC 11480764
  • Shidyāq, A. F. (1983). Kutub al-Muqaddasah, wa-hiya Kutub al-ʻAhd al-ʻAtīq ... wa-Kutub al-ʻAhd al-Jadīd li-Rabbina Yasūʻ al-Masīḥ. Ṭarābulus: Maktabat al-Sāʼiḥ. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (Great Britain). OCLC 16653600
  • Shidyāq, A. F. (1882). al-Lafīf fī kulli maʻná ṭarīf. Qusṭanṭīnīyah: Maṭbaʻat al-Jawāʼib. OCLC 33994725
  • Shidyāq, A. F. (1880). Abdaʻ mā-kān fī ṣuwar Salāṭīn Āl ʻUthmān = Album des souverains ottomans. Constantinople: Maṭbaʻat al-Jawāʼib. OCLC 15623629
  • al-Shidyāq, A. F. (1855). La vie et les aventures de Fariac; relation de ses voyages, avec ses observations critiques sur les arabes et sur les autres peuples. Paris: B. Duprat. OCLC 40975171
  • Church of England, & Shidyāq, A. F. (1840). Kitāb al-ṣalawāt al-ʻāmmah wa-ghayrihā min rusūm al-kanīsah. Fālittah: [s.n.]. Malta. OCLC 25349490
  • Shidyāq, A. F., Mavor, W. F., & Damīrī, M. i. M. (1841). Sharḥ ṭabāyiʻ ʼal-ḥayawān. ʼal-Juzʼ 1, Fī dhawāt ʼal-ʼarbaʻ wa-ʼal-ṭayr. Malta. OCLC 85056798
  • Shidyāq, A. F. (1858). Iʻlâm; prospectus. Marseille: Impr. orientale d'Arnaud. OCLC 44171466

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For more information, see Shidyāq, A., & Bird, I. (1833). Brief memoir of Asaad Esh Shidiak: an Arab young man, of the Maronite Roman Catholic Church. Boston: Crocker & Brewster, printers. and Bustānī, B. i. B., & Shidyāq, A. i. Y. (1992). Qiṣṣat Asʻad al-Shidyāq: munāẓarah wa-ḥawār multahab ḥawla ḥurrīyat al-ḍamīr. Rāʼs Bayrūt: Dār al-Ḥamrāʼ.
  2. ^ Ferial J. Ghazoul, "The Arabization of Othello", Comparative Literature, Vol. 50, No. 1, Winter, 1998, p.9
  3. ^ Rosalinde married Brigadier General Reginald Francis Legge, and they had 4 children. They later divorced in London around 1921–1924. All information on the children from this marriage is unavailable and is being traced. One of their children, Rupert Maximilian Faris Legge, married Sheila Shetwynd-Inglis and had one child Douglas Legge, aka Robin Blyth. They Divorced in the same year in 1934 and gave away their child. Both Rosalinde and her son, Rupert, are untraceable. Safia Ahmed Faris died in 1915 at her home 5 Ashburn Place and was embalmed and moved to Paris where she rests at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in her family's vault. This was the last trace of Rosalinde and Safia.
  4. ^ The holy cities, the pilgrimage and the world of Islām: a history from the earliest traditions until 1925 (1344H), pg. 310, by Ghālib ibn ʻAwaḍ Quʻayṭī (al-Sulṭān.), Sultan Ghalib al-Qu'aiti

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