The Nature of Tyranny
And the Devastating Results of Oppression
A pathbreaking analysis of tyranny by one of the nineteenth century’s most prominent Arab intellectuals, now published in English for the first time.
Translated by Amer Chaikhouni
The Nature of Tyranny was written and published at the dawn of the twentieth century by Abdul Rahman Al-Kawakibi, one of the pioneering thinkers of the Arab world. More than a century later, another Arab awakening exploded, led by a new generation of youth who chanted Al-Kawakibi’s words in revolutionary cries from Aleppo, his hometown, to Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Today this seminal text appears in English for the first time, with a foreword from Leon T. Goldsmith offering an overview of Al-Kawakibi’s intellectual contributions. The first chapter of the text provides a definition of tyranny, presenting it as akin to a sickness or malaise that seeps into all classes of society, leaving behind decay. The following seven chapters apply this conception of tyranny to what Al-Kawakibi sees as society’s crucial elements: religion, knowledge, honour, economy, ethics and progress. Having laid a theoretical framework for understanding the centrality of tyranny, its characteristics and its devastating effects, Al-Kawakibi concludes by setting forth a brief programme for remedying the ‘disease’ of tyranny. The final chapter outlines another book in which he had planned to elaborate upon his ideas–but, ultimately, his fate arrived too soon.
Abdul Rahman Al-Kawakibi was born in 1854 in Syria and had a traditional education, studying law and learning several languages. His writing on tyranny and injustice in the Ottoman Empire remains influential among reformists across the Arab and Muslim world today. He died in 1902 under mysterious circumstances.