chapter  2
31 Pages

Political Parties in the Arab World

The Arabic word for political party is hizb. The word primarily means a group, faction, or the supporters of a man who share his ideas and are ready to defend him. It is therefore by a natural extension that the word has come to denote political parties in the modern European sense of the word. But this usage is very recent, as may be seen from an examination of nineteenth century dictionaries. Thus Kazimirski's Dictionnaire (1860) defined hizb as a 'troupe d'hommes'; Lane's Lexicon (1863 et seq.), as a 'party or company of men, assembling themselves on account of an event that has befallen them '. Bustani's Muhit explains that a hizb is a ta'i/a, i.e. a group. Dozy's Supplement (1881) records an interesting variant, where it lists among the meanings of the word 'ordre religieux'. Later dictionaries begin to record the political connotation which the word was beginning to acquire: Badger's English-Arabic Lexicon (1881) translates 'party' as hizb and Hava's Arabic-English Dictionary (1899) translates hizb as 'party of men, confederacy, division'.