MUQADDIMA (a.), foreword, preface, introduction.
In Arabic literature, the preface to prose works developed, from the 3rd/9th century onwards,
into an independent literary form. To be sure, it does not constitute a literary genre by itself, but
is used to introduce the literary work concerned. Afterwards, the foreword becomes more and
more independent from the work itself, and develops into a stereotyped form, consisting of initial
commendations, a middle part and closing praises. Initial commendations always begin with
the basmala [q.v.], often followed by the hamdala [q.v.]. In the central part, almost always
introduced by the rhetorical formula amma ba'du ('now, then, now to the point'), the author
states the real reason for writing his book. For this, he mostly uses topoi, which consist largely of
schematic patterns of thought and expression belonging to literary tradition, and which have
parallels in European literatures of the late classical, mediaeval and early modern times. On the
other hand, several authors also show personal approaches based on reality.
In the cities, a literary market, with a class of its own, came into development. Against this
background, the exordial topos, which began to flourish in the 4th/10th century, continued to
remain obligatory right into modern Arabic literature.
Amongh the best-known topoi are expressions dealing with the reason and the justification for
composing a literary work ('I have been requested to write a book on the subject', or, 'I write a
book, so that other works dealing with the subject can be forgotten', or 'I shall report briefly
and avoid prolixity'). To these topoi belongs also the modesty topos which, as captatio
benevolentiae, can be traced in almost all literatures. In this context must also be mentioned the
well-known 'querelle des Anciens et des Modernes', which played an important role in Europe
in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the praise of the virtues of the ruler.
Finally, in the third part of the preface there follow renewed praises to God. As far as the form is
concerned, the prose of the three parts is characterised by the use of sadh' [q.v.], in particular for
the initial and final praises.
As a literary genre, the muqaddima was developed in particular by al-Dhahiz (d. t55/868) and Ibn
qutayba (d. t76/889) [q.vv.]. From the latter onwards, the independent development of the
preface, which becomes separated from the work, is clearly discernible in both content and
form. After the 4th/10th century, the obligatory outer form remains unchanged, and is found
above all in the adab literature, but also in the 19th century in the work of al-tahtawi, and in the
t0th century in Rashid al-Barawi's translation of Karl Marx's Das Kapital.
The muqaddima has an importance of its own, because the author there turns directly to the
reader and thus steps out of the context of his work. Because of its conformity to the established
tradition in form and language, the author is able to solve, right intoqour own time, the
problem of finding an appropriate beginning for his work.
M.L. Baeumer (ed.), Toposforschung, Darmstadt 1973
E.R. Curtius, Europaeische Literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter4, Berne-Munich 1963
P. Freimark, Das Vorwort als literarische Form in der arabischen Literatur, Münster 1967
H. Horst, Besondere Formen der Kunstprosa, in H. Gaetje (ed.), Grundriss der arabischen Philologie, ii,
Literaturwissenschaft, Wiesbaden 1987, tt1-37
P. Jehn (ed.), Toposforschung. Eine Dokumentation, Frankfurt a.M. 197t
F. Rosenthal, The technique and approach of Muslim scholarship, Rome 1947
G. Schoeler, Die Frage der schriftlichen oder mündlichen überlieferung im frühen Islam, in Isl., lxii
K. Stowasser, At-tahtawi in Paris. Ein Dokument des arabischen Modernismus aus dem frühen 19.
Jahrhundert, Münster 1966
S. Wild, 'Das Kapital' in der arabischer Übersetzung, in W. Fischer (ed.), Festgabe für Hans Wehr,
Wiesbaden 1969, 97-111. See also ibn khaldun.
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Source: from the Encyclopedia of Islam --© 1999 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands