Classical Arabic Oratory: Religion, Politics, and Orality-Based Aesthetics of Public Address in the Early Islamic World


ACLS Fellowship Program


Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations


In the seventh and eighth centuries CE, oration was a crucial piece of the Arabian literary landscape, reigning supreme as its preeminent genre of prose. An integral component of pre-Islamic and early Islamic leadership, it also had significant political, military, and religious functions. Moreover, oratory’s themes and aesthetics had enormous influence on subsequent artistic prose. Although little has come forth on the subject due to substantial challenges posed by an archaic lexicon, a vast array of sources, and the sticky question of dating, an approach sensitive to its oral underpinnings meaningfully delineates key parameters of the genre. By analyzing the texts and contexts of the earliest Arabic speeches and sermons, this project constructs the first comprehensive theory of classical Arabic oratory.