ALBANIANS IN THE ARAB WORLD
Dr. Muhammad M. Arnaout, an Albanian originated from the city of Peć (Peja) in Kosova, is one of the most famous writers in Albanian lands an the Arab world.
He was born in Damascus in 1952; his father was from Peja city and his mother was from a village called Vrellë, also from Peja. Furthermore, he is the nephew of the well-known Albanian Muslim scholar from the village of Vrella in Peja, Sheikh Abdulkadr al-Arnaout.
Dr. Muhammad M. Arnaout finished his elementary and high school years of study in Damascus. Moreover, he persuid his higher education in Prishtina University, which was a way to go back at his parents native land. He finished his undergraduate studies with very high excelence results and has deffence two PHD topics, one on the faculty of philology for Albanian language and literature in 1981, the other one in the faculty of phiilosophy, department of history in 1986. During his period of study in Prishtina, he also studied and has written in Albanian and Arabic language. Whereas, he has written many articles on the newspapers and magazines of that time. His articles were generally about the Albanian links with the Orient, specifically with the Arab world. Also, he is author and co-author of more than 40 books and encyclopedia, in Albanian and Arabic. He was professor of Arabic language at the department of Orientalism in the faculty of philology in Prishtina. Instantly, he is a professor of history and the Director of the Institute of Political Studies in Amman, Jordan.
One of the most important books written by him, which has to do with the Albanian relationship with the Arab world, is the one that we will discuss in this article, the book titled: “Albanians in the Arab World”, which is published on 1990 in Prishtina, and published from the publication house “Rilindja”.
The author in this book, as he mentioned in the foreword of the book, discuss about the presence of Albanians in the Arab world during 18th and 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th century. But the author is not stopped on this periods of time only, he has touched in passing the presence of Albanians even during the 16th and 17th century, because this period of time is related with the presence of Albanians in the Arab world during the 18th and 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
The data of this book are prepared by exploiting different sources, where most of them are presented for the first time in Albanian language. The author, besides his primary research has exploited even a wide literature in different languages. Also, for the author was needed, and this was the most important thing to complete this work, that he did a lot of research in many Arab countries during the decade 1974-1984. For the collection and elaboration of the sources he focused in various countries, such as in Syria (1974-1975), in Algeria (1976), in Lebanon (1976), in Egypt (1978), in Kuwait (1981), in Tunisia (1983) etc.
In the first chapter of the book, titled: “The Albanian-Arab relations via history”, the author gives a general review on how the relationship between Albanians and Arabs has started. In the very beginning he explain that between Albanians and Arabs exist a well-off tradition about the origin of the Albanians from the Arab world, respectively from Syria. Based on this tradition, which by the time it develops more, we find information in written form of that time. Thus, such information are showed primary in an Arabic story titled: "Tuarih Tuhaf", where it is explained in details that Albanians have Arab origin. Later on, these elements devolve to Ottoman sources. Furthermore, at Ottoman old chronicles which are published from the famous Turkologian Franz Babinger about Albanians, it says that: ”Some of them were from Yemen, and some others from Sa’id", in Egypt.
These information are presented more in details on 15th century, at the travelogue of the famous Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi. At the part of this work of Evliya Çelebi which talks about Albanian regions, we find a chapter with the title: “On the foundation and the origin of Albanian people.” According to this version, Albanian origin is from the Arab tribe of Kuraish, which lived in Makkah, this tribe belong to Prophet Muhammad s.a.s. In that time, they had a chief, Jabal ul-Hama. This chief, with no intention, pull out an eye of a generous Arab. This man went to khalif Umar Ibn al-Khattab (634-644) to complain about this. According to Islamic law “an eye for an eye”, Khalif Umar ordered that chief Jabal to be punished by pulling out his own eye. In the other hand, chief Jabal was so scared and in that night he took three thousands people of his tribe and went to Antiohi at the King Harkil.
The truth is that the version of Evliya Çelebi is developed based on historical episodes, but there are some flaggings. Thus, this story is about the chief of Ghassan tribe, not that of the Kuraish, Jabla Ibn Al Ayham, and no Jabal ul-Hama. The Ghassan tribe, with origin from Yemen, set in north of Arabia, respectively, at the south of Syria, in the beginning of new era, and on the 4th century accepted Christianity. From the chiefs or the kings of this tribe, which are well-known in Arab sources, we know only the last five kings, among them Harith Ibn Jablan (about 529-569), whom the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian, named as the king of all Arabs tribes with the title Patriarch. The last chief or king of this tribe was Jabla Ibn al-Ayham, who became a Muslim. During his stay in Makkah while performing Hajj, in the time of Khalif Umar Ibn al-Khattab (634-644), a random beduin trample on his gown, for that reason the chief Jabla slapped him. The beduin went to complain at Khalif Umar, which based on Islamic Law, asked the beduin to slap back the chief Jabla. But because of his prestige, the chief Jabla together with some of his people during that night went from Makkah to Byzantium, and he never returned back again.
From the second half of the first chapter till the end, the author tells us about the strong relations between Albanians and Arabs during the rule of Ottoman Empire in the Arab countries.
Later on, the author (begining from the second chapter) show us important information and arguments that he had achieved through his studies, such as the arrival of Albanians in Arab Countries (know as Arnaouts), about their life, their involvement on political, cultural, religious, and social life of this society. He begins with Syria, which is his birthplace, to continue with Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and Algeria. He talks about diverse Albanian personalities, whom let important footmarks in this places, which still are still obvious in this countries. He talks as well about the Albanian personalities which were involved in politics, army, Islamic knowledge, literature, nationalism and so on. A special chapter he dedicated to the Albanian dynasty of Egypt, who began with Mehmet Ali Pasha, which is known as the founder of the modern Egypt and it continues with his nephews, a dynasty which ruled for more than a century.
This important work of this Albanian author, which lives and works in Syria and Jordan, is only a "short" start about the life, works and relations of Albanians with the Arab world. We hope that this work will be a "start" for further studies from our researches/scholars of this field, which is very important for our national issues and those of cultural-religious.
Translated from Albanian by R.T.
Published in “PERLA” journal, Year IX, 2004, No. 4 (35), p. 147-150, Tirana-Albania