chapter  5
20 Pages

The Death of Adib Ishaq

The intellectual history of the middle east in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries includes a chapter, long hidden, and as yet still very imperfectly known. It concerns the spread of religious heterodoxy, unbelief or scepticism among Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. The traces of such revolt against the traditional faiths are now both faint and fragmentary. This is because those involved, or their friends and relatives, have been anxious, for a variety of reasons, to disguise or suppress the evidence of dissent and deviation. The history of Afghani and his circle is a case in point. He and his disciples successfully propagated the notion that far from being a free thinker and a sceptic, Afghani defended, indeed embodied, orthodoxy.l That concealment and deception should have been resorted to indicates the strain and perhaps the danger to which were exposed those who might be considered guilty of religious deviation. Another case in point is that of the Maronite As'ad al-Shidyaq who converted to Protestantism in the 1820s and in consequence died a prisoner of the Maronite patriarch, and that of his brother Faris who had to flee Beirut for the same reason.2