Translation in the Arab World : The Abbasid Golden Age book cover
1st Edition

Translation in the Arab World
The Abbasid Golden Age

ISBN 9780367352127
Published December 30, 2020 by Routledge
164 Pages

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Book Description

The Translation Movement of the Abbasid Period, which lasted for almost three hundred years, was a unique event in world history. During this period, much of the intellectual tradition of the Greeks, Persians, and Indians was translated into Arabic—a language with no prior history of translation or of science, medicine, or philosophy. This book investigates the cultural and political conflicts that translation brought into the new Abbasid state from a sociological perspective, treating translation as a process and a product.

The opening chapters outline the factors involved in the initiation and cessation of translational activity in the Abbasid period before dealing in individual chapters with important events in the Translation Movement, such as the translation of Aristotle’s Poetics into Arabic, Abdullah ibn al-Muqaffa’s seminal translation of the Indian/Persian Kalilah wa Dimna into Arabic and the translation of scientific texts. Other chapters address the question of whether the Abbasids had a theory of translation and why, despite three hundred years of translation, not a single poem was translated into Arabic. The final chapter deals with the influence of translation during this period on the Arabic language.

Offering new readings of many issues that are associated with that period, informed by modern theories of translation, this is key reading for scholars and researchers in Translation Studies, Oriental and Arab Studies, Book History and Cultural History.

Table of Contents


A note on spelling and transliteration

A note on Translations


A Polemical Introduction

  1. Beginnings and Endings
  2. Translation and the Crisis of Cultural Conflict in the Abbasid Era
  3. Translation of Literary Criticism: Aristotle's Poetics in Arabic
  4. A Discussion about Translation in the Abbasid Period
  5. Translation of Literature: Kalila wa Dimna
  6. Translation of Science: Hunain ibn Ishaq
  7. Did the Abbasids Have a Theory of Translation?
  8. The Abbasids and Poetry Translation
  9. Impact of Translation on Arabic






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Adnan Abdulla (Ph.D., Indiana University, Bloomington) is currently Chair of the Dept. of Foreign Languages and Professor of English and Translation at the University of Sharjah, UAE. He has published widely in the fields of comparative literature and literary translation. His published books include: Catharsis in Literature (1985) and A Comparative Study of Longinus and Al-Jurjani: Interrelationship between Medieval Arabic Literary Criticism and Graeco-Roman Poetics (2004). He has also published articles in Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, Babel and Translation and Literature. In addition, he is the translator of more than ten books from Arabic into English and vice versa. His translations include The Attractions of Mystical Sessions (with William Elliott, 1980) and an Arabic poetic translation of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (with Talal Abdulrahman, 2006).


Abdulla’s approach to translation as a form of cultural interaction comparable to subversive activity is fresh and intriguing. Central to such activity is tension between curiosity to know the intellectual products the "other" has put out, and the risks taken in exposure to different cultures.  

Shakir Mustafa, Northeastern University, USA