Project Group A: Frontiers and Transitions, Project A6.I

The Image of the Bedouin in Arabic Literary Culture:
Perceptions of the Nomadic Culture and Arabic Heritage in the Middle Ages

Subject I:
The Image of the Bedouin in Classical Arabic Scholarly Literature


The figure of the Bedouin is widespread in Arabic literature. His image is ambivalent. The research project understands this image as a manifestation of a specifically motivated and selective interest of classical Arabic scholars. Its aim is not the description of the Bedouin reality through Islamic history.

Three central questions are dealt with. Firstly, the descriptive elements of a typology of the Bedouin will be noted, in which concentrations of themes from the material of the research can be extracted. Secondly, the historical development of the most important aspects of the image of the Bedouin will be sketched. Thirdly, the function of the image, which contains possibilities of exclusion or integration, will be understood in the context of place and specificity of the Arab identity.

The material for the analysis is formed by a representative choice of different groups of texts. Until now there has been religious literature, hadîth collections and books of the Koran exegesis, under research. Some texts of the sîra of the Prophet Muhammad and from the tabaqât works have been analysed. In the next stage of the research the emphasis is on adab literature. Furthermore, philological works, as well as passages of historical and geographical literature, will be taken into consideration.

From the study of the religious literature some initial results can be mentioned. Mostly the Bedouin is an anonymous figure without any specific attribute or any description. He enters the situations only as an a'râbî, which leads to the hypothesis that his behaviour and the rules of his performance must be specific and common for the recipients of the texts in the scholarly milieu. According to the observations his figure serves, for instance, to explain a complicated theological question or abstract terms in an easier or more objective way. The Bedouin figure is always connected with the practical aspects of life.


Prof. Dr. Stefan Leder

Nomaden und nomadische Lebensformen in arabischer Begrifflichkeit – Eine Annäherung. In: Materialien des SFB "Differenz und Integration" 1 (2002), 11–40.

Wathâ'iq as-samâ'ât li-Mu'jam as-samâ'ât ad-dimašqîya al-muntakhaba min sanati 550 ilâ 750. Receuil de documents fac-similée des certificats d’audition à Damas, 550–750 h./1155 à 1349. Damaskus 2000.

(ed.) Story-telling in the framework of non-fictional classical Arabic literature. 2. Johann-Wilhelm-Fück Kolloquium Halle 1997. Wiesbaden 1998.

Mu'jam as-samâ'ât ad-dimašqîya al-muntakhaba min sanati 550 ilâ 750. Les certificats d’audition à Damas, 550–750 h./1155 à 1349. Damaskus 1996.

Das Korpus al-Haitham ibn 'Adî (st. 207/822). Herkunft, Überlieferung, Gestalt früher akhbâr-Texte. (Habilitationsschrift Frankfurt 1988.) Frankfurt 1991.

Die arabische Ecloga. Das vierte Buch der Kanones der Könige nach Makarios. Frankfurt 1985 (Forschungen zur Byzantinischen Rechtsgeschichte 12).

Ibn al-Gauzî und seine Kompilation wider die Leidenschaft. Der Traditionalist in gelehrter Überlieferung und originärer Lehre. Wiesbaden 1984 (Beiruter Texte und Studien 32).

Sara Binay, M.A.

Stereotypenforschung im Projekt "Das Bild des Beduinen in der klassischen arabischen Gelehrtenliteratur“. In: Materialien des SFB "Differenz und Integration“ 1 (2002), 51–54.