is commonly accepted that a small band of like-minded men formed a literary
society named “al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah” (The Pen Bond) in 1920; however,
little to nothing has been written about its first official formation in
1916 or what the circumstances of that formation were. Nothing scholarly
has been written about al-Rabitah’s earlier formation other than to quote
Abd al-Masih Haddad’s statements to the fact and to note the occurrences
of the tag: “Udw fi al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah” (A
Member of al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah) that appeared within al-Funun
Yet, it is a fact that al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah formed into an official literary society in 1916, since its members signed their names to works with the tag: “A Member of al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah” and the society published a statement of purpose one month after its formation. The author of this statement, which appeared in al-Sa’ih, was Amin Mushriq.1 The statement acted as the society’s manifesto, outlining what goals al-Rabitah intended to accomplish—the primary goal of this statement of purpose being to restore life to the Arabic language. Other goals were presented that echoed four years later in the second, 1920, formation of al-Rabitah, too.
Some of these other goals were intended to promote a sense of identity between al-Rabitah’s intended audience—the Arab-American community living in the United States.
The first formation of al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah was due to Nasib Aridah and Abd al-Masih Haddad, since each had written about the need for a society of writers that would exert itself to fulfill the same goals the well-known 1920 formation intended.2 Goals such as the promotion of a new generation of Arab writers who wanted to experiment with the language. The belief that the Arabic language had become stagnant with the continuation of patterns that did not communicate to the people and needed to be rejuvenated. The presentation of new forms of literature previously not seen in Arabic literature, in addition to the translation of works by European writers.
The 1916 formation differed from the latter one in that it more overtly supported the idea that the Arab-American community needed a writer’s union in which its members’ rights to publish what each wanted and to receive just compensation would be defended. These ideas were present during the 1920 formation; however, they were less overt in that by the 1920s, members of “al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah” were well-known and less likely to be taken advantage of by individual publishers.
The 1916 formation ceased to exist after William Catzeflis’ work “Min Mayyit Hayy ilá Ahya’ Amwat” (From the Living Dead to the Living who are Dead) appeared in the Arab-American journal al-Funun, September 1916.3 The reasons for this cessation are not entirely clear even though Abd al-Masih stated that this formation ceased in order to purge itself of those who had “infiltrated” its ranks. He stated that one of these individuals was Najib Diyab, although Diyab’s name never appeared with the label “A Member of al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah” beside it in either his newspaper al-Mir’at al-Gharb (Mirror of the West) or in al-Funun and al-Sa’ih.4
1 Amin Mushriq, “al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyah,” (The Pen Bond)
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