Ibrahim al-Yazigi



From The Arab Awakening, George Antonius, G P Putnam's Sons, 1946. 


Ibrahim al-Yaziji was a Greek Catholic poet, grammarian, and man of letters. His family,  originally from Homs in Syria,  emigrated to Lebanon, where he was born.  Following in the footsteps of his father Nasif al-Yaziji,  he made significant contributions to the Arab cultural and political awakening of the late nineteenth century.


His interests included poetry, with which he began his literary career, followed by art and astronomy. He was also considered to be one of the best calligraphers of his generation. 


He was editor of several newspapers and magazines, and was destined to achieve fame in the world of letters. He composed a poem in the form of an ode to patriotism. In substance, the poem titled  Arise, ye Arabs and awake (tanabbahu wa istafiqu ayuha al-arabu) was an incitement to Arab insurgence. It sang of the achievements of the Arab race, the glories of Arab literature, and of the future that the Arabs might fashion for themselves by going to their own past for inspiration. It denounced the evils of sectarian dissensions, heaped abuse on the misgovernment to which the country was prey, and called upon the Syrians to band together to shake off the turkish yoke.  It was couched in stirring terms, and recited in a hushed voice to eight members of the Syrian Scientific Society who had assembled in a private house one night and were known to one another to be of the same way of thinking. 


The poem had wide circulation. It was too treasonable to be committed to anything but memory. But such is the talent of Arabs for memorizing poetry and for secret conspiracy that it was soon spread by word of mouth and gained widespread fame. 


Another of his most significant innovations was the creation of a greatly simplified Arabic font. By reducing Arabic character forms from 300 to 60 he simplified the symbols so that they more closely resembled Latin characters. It was a process that contributed to the creation of the Arabic typewriter. 


His Arabic translation of the Jesuit Bible won a gold medal at the Paris exposition of 1878. 


Ibrahim fled to Egypt to avoid Ottoman repression and died in exile in 1906.