Traditional Arab Bedouin Life Described by the Sources


Georg Jacob (1862‒1937) was a German Orientalist and scholar of Islam. He studied Arabic geography and taught at the universities of Erlangen, Kiel, and Halle. Jacob is considered to be the founder of modern Turcology in Germany. He was the first translator and publisher of modern Turkish literature in the German-speaking countries. Through his editorship of the Türkische Bibliothek (Turkish Library), he managed to publish many works during the World War I years. Jacob is also credited with drawing the attention of Western scholars to the puppet-theater works of Muhammad Ibn Daniyal (1249 or 1250‒1310 or 1311), an Egyptian playwright. Altarabisches Beduinenleben nach den Quellen geschildert (Traditional Arab Bedouin life described by the sources) is a collection that addresses a wide range of topics pertaining to the life of the Bedouin Arabs, especially before the advent of Islam. As the title suggests, the book uses Arabic sources and other works by previous Orientalists to weave together a general picture of life in the pre-Islamic era, the period known in Muslim sources as the Jahiliyya (The state of ignorance of divine guidance). Themes covered include flora and fauna, daily life, food and drink, social norms, love and marriage, animals, and other issues that one might find in a present-day travel guide. Statements often are backed with references to the original sources in Arabic and Western publications. Some statements, however, seem to suggest that Jacob’s understanding of the Arabic language and literature was not unassailable. In reference to the Muʻallaqāt, the seven classical Arabic poems that pre-Islamic Arabs hung on the curtains of the Kaaba out of admiration (and which for this reason became known as the Suspended or Hanging Odes), he states that “the name Muʻallaqāt probably means suspended lamps or chandeliers.” The Library of Congress copy presented here has an ink stamp in Japanese: Minami Manshū Tetsudō Kabushiki Kaisha Tōa Keizai Chōsakyoku zōsho no in (Seal of collection at the South Manchuria Railway Company, East Asia Economic Research Bureau). The volume most likely was confiscated by the U.S. Armed Forces at the end of World War II and subsequently transferred to the Library of Congress. The South Manchuria Railway Company engaged in extensive intelligence gathering and operational activities on behalf of the Japanese Imperial Army, including efforts to agitate Muslims against Chinese and Russian rule.

Last updated: April 29, 2016