Lanterns Burning for Students Discerning


This mid-19th century publication is a basic textbook of Arabic grammar and syntax. Originally written by Jirmānūs Farḥāt (circa 1670–1732), it was edited by the famous Lebanese teacher and scholar Buṭrus al-Bustānī. Jirmānūs, Maronite bishop of Aleppo, composed his work at a critical time in the history of the Maronite rite of the Catholic Church as it sought to develop a national identity. With the help of scholars and writers such as Jirmānūs, a solution was found in the Garshuni script, that is, the native Arabic of the Maronites rendered in Syriac script for works of liturgy and philosophy. Books in the Syriac language were translated into Arabic, but written in Syriac script, the resultant Syro-Arabic being called Garshuni or Karshuni. A century or so after Jirmānūs composed his grammar, al-Bustānī edited and published the text as a comprehensive Arabic textbook with only his own name appearing on the title page, although he is explicit in describing his work as a commentary on Jirmānūs’s original. As if to emphasize the 19th-century transition from Garshuni to Arabic script, the work introduces the Arabic alphabet and basic rules for vocalizing short vowels. Butrus al-Bustānī was one of the leading figures of the Arab renaissance of the 19th century. Like his contemporary Ahmad Fāris al-Shidyāq he searched for personal and cultural identity within Ottoman-Islamic society. Unlike al-Shidyāq, however, he converted to Protestantism rather than Islam, influenced no doubt by his contact with American missionaries in Beirut. This copy of Misbah al-Talib fi Bahth al-Matalib (Lanterns burning for students discerning) provides no publication information.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information



Title in Original Language

مصباح الطالب في بحث المطالب

Type of Item

Physical Description

425 pages ; 24 centimeters


  1. Kristen Brustad, “Jirmanus Jibril Farhat,” in Lowry and Stewart, editors, Essays in Arabic Literary Biography II: 1350−1850 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009).
  2. Francisco Del Rio Sanchez, “Arabic-Karshuni: An Attempt to Preserve Maronite Identity; the Case of Aleppo,” The Levantine Review 2, number 1, Spring 2013.
  3. Phillip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs (London: Macmillan, 1962).

Last updated: December 22, 2014