Rashid Rida: On the way to Syrian nationalism in the shade of Islam and Arabism

Eyal Zisser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review



From that moment until his death he was Abduh’s liege man: the mouthpiece of his ideas, the guardian of his good name, and his biographer. There were, it is true, others of Abduh’s disciples who cast doubt on Rashid Rida’s claim to be his spiritual heir, and, as we shall see, the doctrines of Abduh suffered a certain change at the hands of his follower, but the reality of his devotion cannot be doubted.

It is easy to understand how Hourani came to this conclusion, for Rida’s philosophical and intellectual activity turned out to be much more effective and infl uential than his political activity, and won for him a leading position among Arab and Muslim thinkers in the twentieth century.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt about Rida’s great contribution to advancing the idea of Syrianism and the Syrian state. This was a prominent feature of his thought, his writings, his activity and his whole course of life, whether directly or indirectly, stemming from the fact that he was a son of the Syrian Lands. One manifestation of this can be found in his contribution to the spread of the use of the term “Syria,” through his articles in al-Manar and other journals, and via various other writings as well. 42 Even his call for Arab unity was made while fully recognizing the uniqueness of the Syrian region, and the difference between it and the other Arab regions. This being so, it may be that the Syrian state within the borders sketched out by the French Mandate was not the one Rida dreamed of and hoped for. But there is no doubt about his contribution to the emergence of this state, and especially his contribution to implanting the idea of such a state in the hearts of its inhabitants. In summing up Rashid Rida’s lifetime contribution, he can be inscribed not only among those who laid the foundations of Islamic reformism and Arab national identity (Arabism), but also as one of those who laid the foundations for the Syrian state, and prior to that, formulated and implanted the concept of Syrian patriotism and nationalism.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Origins of Syrian Nationhood
Subtitle of host publicationHistories, Pioneers and Identity
EditorsAdel Beshara
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780203816776
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012


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