Anastas Al-Karmali

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Anastas Al-Karmali (Arabic: أنستاس الكرملي‎‎), literally Anastas the Carmelite aka Père Anastase-Marie de Saint-Élie[1] (5 August 1866 – January 7, 1947) was a Lebanese Christian priest, most famed for his contributions to the field of Arabic linguistics.


His father Jibra'il Yousef 'awwad was a Lebanese who moved to Baghdad where he married Mariam Maragharitta. They had five sons and four daughters, one of whom -then called Butrus- would become later Father Anstas. Aanastas studied in Madrasat Al-Aaba' Al-Karmaliyin (The School of the Carmelite Fathers) and then studies in Madrasat Al-Ittifaq Al-Kathuliki from which he graduated in 1882. He started his life as an Arabic Language teacher in Madrasat Al-Aba' Al-Karmaliyin, the school he previously attended. He started publishing articles in well-known news papers at the age of 16. He left Baghdad at the age of 20 (1886) to Beirut where he worked as a teacher in Kulliat Al-Aba' Alyasu'iyun (The College of Jesuit Fathers) and in the same time continued his Arabic studies and learned Latin, Greek and French languages, as well as French literature. He then traveled to Belgium in 1887 to continue his studies, and Joined a monastery near Liege where he became celibate and was named Anastas Mari Al-Karmali. He later traveled to Montpellier in France in 1889 to study philosophy, theology, Biblical exgesis and the history of Christianity, and he stayed there until he became a priest in 1894. He then left France to Spain and stayed a while there visiting its Islamic monuments. He finally went back to Iraq to become responsible Madrasat Al-Aaba' Al-Karmaliyin, where he taught both Arabic and French in addition to preaching and counselling in the Carmelite Church [2][3]

His contributions to Arabic language studies[edit]

He realized that traditional Arabic language dictionaries did not list all the Arabic terms as mentioned by the poets and authors of antiquity. So he embarked on authoring a dictionary in 1883 to cover for this lack. He first called his dictionary "The Tail to Lisan Al-Arab" then changed the title to "Al-Musa'id" "The Helper". In 1911 he founded a journal called "Lughat Al-'Arab" (Arab Language).[1]

His contributions to Iraq's Libraries[edit]

He is said to have been the first Iraqi to take an interest in a modern approach to libraries. He became the first manager or librarian of the ‘Maktabat Al Salam’ the Baghdad Peace Library in about 1920. Subsequently, he was one of many people who participated in the development of the Library’s collection by donating printed materials from his private collection, while others in foreign languages remained in the library of the monastery. The Peace Library was later renamed the Baghdad Public Library, and in 1961 became the basis for the establishment of the Iraq National Library. Shortly before he died, a generous gift of 2,500 books and 1,500 manuscripts from the Carmelites or Al-Karmali's personal library was donated to the Iraq Museum Library.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b Haywood, John (1960). Arabic lexicography: its history, and its place in the general history of lexicography. Brill. 
  2. ^ (Arabic)Anastas Al-Karmali in the Temple of Arabic-أنستاس الكرملي.. في معبد العربية Archived February 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. Accessed 2008-June-16.
  3. ^ Al Hilaly, A.A-R. Al Kermal: Early Founder of the Iraq National Library. In: Iraqi Biography. 1972. Baghdad/Beirut: Dar al Nahdah
  4. ^ Dagher, J.A. Repertoire des bibliotheques du Proche et du Moyen-Orient. 1951. Paris: UNESCO
  5. ^ Al-Hilaly, A.A-R. Ibid