Said Akl

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Said Akl
Saýid Ýaql
سعيد عقل
Born4 July 1911[1]
Zahlé, Ottoman Lebanon
Died28 November 2014 (aged 103)
Beirut, Lebanon
OccupationPoet, philosopher, writer, playwright, linguist and ideologue

Said Akl (Arabic: سعيد عقل‎, saʿīd ʿaql, also transliterated Saïd Akl, Said Aql and Saeed Akl; 4 July 1911 – 28 November 2014) was a Lebanese poet, philosopher, writer, playwright and language reformer. He was considered one of the most important modern Lebanese poets. He is most famous for his advocacy on behalf of codifying the spoken Lebanese language, as a competency distinct from Standard Arabic, to be written in a modern modified Roman script consisting of 36 symbols that he deemed an evolution of the Phoenician Alphabet. Although he was a gifted Arabist, producing some of the masterpieces of modern Arabic belle lettres in Standard Classical Arabic, his most exquisite works remained in his "native language," in what he referred to as the "Lebanese language."

His writings include poetry and prose both in Lebanese dialect and in classical Arabic language. He has also written theatre pieces and authored lyrics for many popular songs.

Personal life[edit]

Akl was born in 1912[2] to a Maronite family in the city of Zahle, Ottoman Lebanon. After losing his grandfather at the age of 14, he had to drop out of school because of laziness and later worked as a teacher and then as a journalist. He then studied theology, literature and Islamic history, becoming a university instructor and subsequently lecturing in a number of Lebanese universities, educational and policy institutes. He died in Beirut, Lebanon at the age of 102[3] or 103.[1]


During his early years, Akl was an adherent of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (in Arabic الحزب السوري القومي الإجتماعي) led by Antun Saadeh, eventually being expelled by Saadeh due to irreconcilable ideological disputes.[4]

Akl adopted a powerful doctrine of the authentic millennial character of Lebanon resonating with an exalted sense of Lebanese dignity. His admiration to the Lebanese history and culture was marked by strong enmity towards an Arab identity of Lebanon. He was quoted saying, “I would cut off my right hand just not to be an Arab”.[4] In 1968 he stated that literary Arabic would vanish from Lebanon.[5]

For Akl Lebanon was the cradle of culture and the inheritor of the Oriental civilization, well before the arrival of the Arabs on the historical stage.[4] He emphasized the Phoenician legacy of the Lebanese people.

He is known for his radical Lebanese nationalistic sentiments; in 1972, he helped found the Lebanese Renewal Party (in Arabic حزب التجدّد اللبناني transliterated as Hizb al Tajaddod al Lubnaani) which was proposed by May Murr, a well known writer and researcher of ancient Lebanese history and a staunch supporter of Akl. This party was a non-sectarian party that adhered to Lebanese Nationalism. During the Lebanese Civil War, Akl served as the spiritual leader of the Lebanese Nationalist movement Guardians of the Cedars (in Arabic حرّاس الأرز), which was led by Étienne Saqr.[4]

Lebanese language and alphabet[edit]

Said Akl's book Yara and an excerpt from the book in his proposed Lebanese alphabet

Akl was an ideologue for promotion of the Lebanese language as independent of Arabic language. Although acknowledging the influence of Arabic, he argued that Lebanese language was equally if not more influenced by Phoenician languages and promoted the use of the Lebanese dialect written in a modified Latin alphabet, rather than the Arabic one.[6]

His designed alphabet for the Lebanese language using the Latin alphabet in addition to a few newly designed letters and some accented Latin letters to suit the Lebanese phonology. The proposed Lebanese alphabet designed by Akl contained 36 letters. The proposed alphabet was as follows:[7]

Starting in the 1970s Akl offered a prize to whoever authored the best essay in Lebanese Arabic. Since then the Said Akl awards have been granted to many Lebanese intellectuals and artists.[4] He published his poetry book Yara completely using his proposed Lebanese alphabet, thus becoming the first book ever to be published in this form. In later years, he also published his poetry book Khumasiyyat in the same alphabet.

LEBNAAN in proposed Said Akl alphabet (issue #686)
LEBNAAN in Lebanese dialect using Arabic alphabet (9 February 1977 issue)

Akl published the tabloid newspaper Lebnaan using the Lebanese dialect. It was published in two versions, لبنان (transliteration and pronunciation Lubnan which means Lebanon in Arabic language) using Lebanese dialect written in traditional Arabic alphabet, the other Lebnaan (Lebanese Arabic for Lebanon) in his proposed Lebanese Latin-based alphabet.


Akl has numerous writings ranging from theatrical plays, epics, poetry and song lyrics. His first published work was released in 1935, a theatrical play written in Arabic. His works are written in either Lebanese Arabic, literary Arabic, or French. He is also known for writing lyrics of many well-known songs, including "Zahrat al Madaen" (in Arabic زهرة المدائن) sung by Fairuz.

  • 1935: Bin Yifta' (theater) – (in Arabic بنت يفتاح)
  • 1937: Al Majdaliyyah (Epic) – (in Arabic المجدليّة)
  • 1944: Qadmos (theater) – (in Arabic قدموس)
  • 1950: Rindalah – (in Arabic رندلى)
  • 1954: Mushkilat al Nukhba – (in Arabic مشكلة النخبة)
  • 1960: Amal minik...? La! – (in Arabic !أجمل منك...؟ لا
  • 1960: Lubnaan in haka – (in Arabic لبنان إن حكى)
  • 1961: Ka's el Kamr (in Arabic كأس الخمر)
  • 1961: Yarak (using his designed Lebanese alphabet) (in Arabic يارا)
  • 1961: Ajraas al Yasmeen (in Arabic أجراس الياسمين)
  • 1972: Kitab al Ward (in Arabic كتاب الورد)
  • 1979: Qasaed min Daftari (in Arabic قصائد من دفتري)
  • 1974: Kama al A'mida (in Arabic كما الأعمدة)
  • 1978: Khumasiyyat (using his designed Lebanese alphabet) (in Arabic خماسيّات)

In 1981 he also published poems in French

In popular culture[edit]

  • Akl proposed the lyrics for an anthem for the pan-Syrian Syrian Social Nationalist Party, but this was rejected by its founder Antun Saadeh, who proposed another anthem for the party that he had written in prison. When asked about what he wrote, Akl denied writing it, and said that it was a certain Wadih Khalil Nasrallah (a relative of Akl by marriage) who wrote the lyrics.
  • Akl wrote the anthem of another pan-Arab movement, Jam'iyyat al Uruwwa al Wuthqa (in Arabic جمعية العروة الوثقى).

Akl has also written poems that were turned into pan-Arab anthem songs with music from the Rahbani Brothers and sung by the Lebanese diva Feyrouz. These include "Zahrat al Madaen" (in Arabic زهرة المدائن) about Jerusalem, "Ghannaytou Makkah" (in Arabic غنّيتُ مكة ) about Mecca and "Saailiini ya Sham" (in Arabic سائليني يا شام ) about Damascus, "Ruddani ila biladi" (in Arabic ردني إلى بلادي ) about Lebanon and "Ummi ya malaki" (in Arabic أمي يا ملاكي ) about his mother.


Said Akl wrote as a journalist in a number of publications, notably the Lebanese Al-Jarida newspaper and the weekly Al-Sayyad magazine. In the 1990s, Akl also wrote a front-page personal column in the Lebanese As-Safir newspaper

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Hind Adeeb, شعرية سعيد عقل, Dar Al Farabi Editions (Arabic)
  • Plonka Arkadiusz, L’idée de langue libanaise d’après Sa‘īd ‘Aql, Paris, Geuthner, 2004 (French), ISBN 2-7053-3739-3.
  • Plonka Arkadiusz, "Le nationalisme linguistique au Liban autour de Sa‘īd ‘Aql et l’idée de langue libanaise dans la revue «Lebnaan» en nouvel alphabet", Arabica, 53 (4), 2006, pp. 423–471. (French).
  • Jean Durtal, Saïd Akl: Un grand poète libanais, Nouvelles Editions Latine, 1970 (French)
  • Elie Kallas e Anna Montanari, Akl Said, Yaara – Inno alla donna, Venezia, Cafoscarina, 1997.
  • Franck Salameh, "Language Memory and Identity in the Middle East; The Case for Lebanon", (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011), ISBN 0-7391-3738-7


External links[edit]