Author: 
MAHMOUD ABDUL-GHANI SABBAGH, [email protected]n.com
Publication Date: 
Thu, 2010-03-04 02:37

The re-enactment of the Ottoman constitution was accompanied by a number of political reformations such as Makkah’s first modern elections to elect a city representative to the Meclis-i-Mebusan (also known as the Federal Deputy Parliament).
On Nov. 4 of that year, in a massive inauguration at Ajyad Castle that was attended by all public personalities and headed by Sharif Hussein, the then governor of the Hijaz Kazim Pasha delivered a statement from the Ottoman Ministry of Interior that mentioned the names of three regional election winners. Makkah’s representative was Sheikh Abdullah Siraj, the city’s supreme judge.
In 1910, Abdul-Ra’ouf Sabban moved from Makkah to Egypt to pursue scholarly studies at a modern institute. He embarked on his studies on the wishes of Khedive Abbas who had launched the first scholarly mission. It was a symbolic event due to the rise of a new liberated national generation that called for reformation and independence. In 1912, local merchant and pearl trader Muhammad Ali Zainal Alireza founded the Al-Falah School in Makkah as a civil institute to preserve national identity and language, all of which embraced modern values such as individualism, hard work and entrepreneurship.
A major event changed the course of history in the region; the Arab Revolt, which erupted in Makkah in 1916, and was followed by the rise of the Grand Sharif of Makkah Al-Hussein bin Ali. These prudent changes brought about new challenges in the region, especially amongst the younger generation at the time. In fact, Hijazi-bred youth became more influential for their spirit of renewal and so the road was open for them to connect and interact with literature overseas. Throughout the imitation and renewal phases, living and authentic samples emerged, exhibiting their creators’ personalities and attributing to their artistic independence.
It reached a level in which the Arab author Muheb-Eddine Al-Khatib traced the modernity and renewal trend to Fifth Avenue in New York, something that is indicative of the influence of Arab-American authors such as Gibran Khalil Gibran, Elia Abu Madi, Mikhail Neihmeh and others.
According to the first official Ottoman report on the Hijaz in 1883, there were 33 traditional scholarly circles in Makkah with an enrolment number of 1,150. The most notable ones were the circles of Sheikh Abdul-Mouati Nouri in Al-Shubikka, Ibrahim Faouda in Ajyad, Sheikh Ahmad Hamam in Harat Al-Bab, and Sheikh Abdullah Hamdouh Al-Sinnari in Bab Al-Ziyadah at Al-Samman corner.
In 1936, the School of Mission Preparations was founded in Makkah by Muhammad Taher Dabbagh, the first minister of education after Saudi unification. This school was preceded by the Scientific Academy in 1926 as an essential transition toward new teaching methods in Makkah. The first health institute was also established in Makkah in 1926 at Ajyad Public Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Husni Al-Taher. Makkah also witnessed the establishment of the first university college, the Shariah College (1949). This was just before the Umm Al-Qura University opened its doors with 19 modern colleges. In the period after the Arab Revolt, individuals with modernist views came forth, including a group of youths in Makkah who possessed freedom-loving hearts and were inspired by the Arab rising.
The mountains and hills of Makkah were the stimuli of modern literature in the whole Arabian Peninsula.
Leaders of modernity worked hard in Makkah and all over the Arab World in producing the first newspaper, followed by magazines, books and cultural societies (clubs). These were means of communication, as they were not ruled by the authority of tradition.
Nouri Pasha, the Ottoman ruler of Makkah, had introduced Al-Mirriya (state) printing press house to Makkah in 1882, with the acclaimed Makkan scholar Ahmad Zaini Dahlan, considered by Joseph Schuchat to be “the sole Makkan historian in the 19th century,” in charge.
The press’ debut release was the official annual calendar for the Hijaz in 1883, which was regarded as the first effort for administrative and financial organization in the Hijaz. The writing process prospered thanks to the new press house, but only focused on religious and historical issues. Before the printing press, Makkan scholars printed their publications in Egypt. Amongst these publications was Sheikh Al-Hadrawi’s book, The Precious Contract, which was published by the Cairo-based publishing house Shaheen Printing Press in 1870.
Nonetheless, the first newspaper in Makkah was published in 1908 and was called Hijaz. It was soon followed by the Shams Al-Haqiqa in 1909 and Al-Qiblah in 1916, with the latter lasting for nine years and being considered one of the first serious efforts. Then came the agricultural newspaper Jerwal in 1920 and Al-Falah in 1920.
With the declaration of the Saudi era came the issuance of the Umm Al-Qura paper in 1924, and, despite being the government’s official newspaper, it worked on vitalizing the literary movement in the Kingdom. The birth of the newspaper Sauwt Al-Hijaz in 1932 was a historical moment in the quest for modernization in Makkah. The newspaper then moved to Jeddah and currently operates under the moniker Al-Bilad.
The Hijazi National Party, a modern political party, was founded in 1924 by Sheikh Muhammad Al-Tawil with members comprising elite Hijazi leaders and influential youth, including Abdul-Raouf Sabban, Muhammad Ali Zainal Alireza and Muhammed Taher Dabbagh.
These political developments were reflected in the writing styles and intellectual and literary methods of that time. Among the most prominent publications that speak for this new inclination are Hijaz Literature (1925), The Exhibition (1926), Proclaimed Notions (1926), The Desert Revelation (1936), The Poets of Hijaz (1950) and The Observatory (1955).
In 1921, Muhammad Hassan Awwad broke the uprightness of poetry as a challenge to the authority of tradition. This was the first group in the post 1916 Hijaz rising. Comprising political, intellectual and literary pioneers of the Arab rising in the Hijaz, they were merely a group of Makkan youths that included Awwad, Muhammad Surur Sabban, Al-Tayyeb Al-Sassi, Abdul-Wahab Ashi, Muhammad Said Al-Amoudi, Umar Arab, Jamil Meqdami, Hamid Ka’aki and Hussein Dabbagh, all of whom paved the way for a new cultural era.
The prime of the Arab rising and prosperity was generally a national and patriotic obsession among the Makkan elite back then. The call for freedom and adoption of the spirit of the era manifested widely among the youth.
Muhammad Surur Sabban launched the first independence, reformation and advancement trends. Sabban was the center of renewal and modernity in the Hijaz. He famously asked a gathering of Makkan authors: “Is it good for the Arab nations to cling to the classical Arabic methods or should they succeed in reaching the standards of new development, follow the modernists’ examples in breaking linguistic barriers and use a general absolute method?”
A rebellious youngster, Muhammad Hassan Awwad, was the first to respond to this plea. He released his noteworthy book on the Arab Rising, Khawater Mosarraha (Proclaimed Notions). Along with his leadership over the contemporary literary movement and his massive political strife, Sabban (1898-1971) rose to prominence as an economical leader who set the liberal economic basics and standards in the Kingdom. After his appointment as financial minister during King Saud’s reign, he followed the Egyptian economical leader Talaat Pasha Hareb’s footsteps by setting the infrastructure for national banking in Saudi Arabia, and established the Arabic Corporation for Economy and Savings. He also established other ventures such as Al-Fallah Automobiles, the Arab Exports Corporation, the Arab Printing and Publishing Corporation (1935), Al-Zahra’a Construction Company and others, encouraging the shift from traditional business patterns to modern corporate ones.
Sabban was a civic society pioneer, who initiated the establishment of the first civic NGOs in Makkah and in Saudi Arabia. Examples include The Hijazi Library (1926), Al-Esa’af Society (1933), which undertook groundbreaking health and cultural activities, the Qirsh Union, the Palestine-Aid Association and the Al-Wehda Sports Club (1945).
When people’s enthusiasm for establishing car-dealing ventures boomed, they left their traditional jobs to instigate and participate in the new automobile import business. As a result, the Al-Taiseer, Qasid Karim and Al-Sahalah companies were founded. Traditional cleric Abdul-Hafeez Kutbi left his long-inherited book-selling job and closed his shop in Bab Assalam to sell cars.
In the late 1950s, the individual entrepreneurial spirit prospered in Makkah. Hassan Abdul-Hai Gazzaz established Arafat newspaper (1958), Ahmad Al-Subaii established Al-Nadwa (1958) and Saleh Jamal established Hira’a (1961).

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