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"Art and Power of Arabic Oration (Khutba): Past and Present”: A lecture by Shehzadi Dr. Tahera Bensaheba

27 March 2021

Yaqutato-Dawatil Haq Shehzadi Dr. Tahera Bensaheba Qutbuddin passionately began her recent talk on Arabic oration, “In my presentation today, I want to talk about Arabic oration, khutba. This is a vast and complex topic with diverse facets. Today I will address some of its aesthetics and functions.”

Shehzadi Dr. Tahera Bensaheba gave a one-hour lecture in an online webinar as part of the "Art and Power in the Middle East: Past and Present" series organised by New York University Abu Dhabi. Shzd. Dr. Tahera Bensaheba is Professor of Arabic Literature at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

Shzd. Dr. Tahera Bensaheba was introduced by Professor Maurice Pomerantz, Program Head of Arab Crossroads Studies. Professor Pomerantz talked about the vast array of books authored by Shzd. Dr. Tahera Bensahebb, including the most recent one she would speak of in her lecture, Arabic Oration: Art and Function (Brill, 2019), and congratulated her on recently being awarded the prestigious Guggenheim fellowship for her upcoming book on Maulana Ali’s khutbas.

Shzd. Dr. Tahera Bensaheba explained the major features of classical Arabic oration and explored their echoes in modern day practices of oration. The lecture was enriched by animated readings of various khutbas and detailed explanations of their persuasive power. In one example she highlighted the vivid animal and nature oriented imagery that stemmed from life in the harsh desert, and she read from a khutba of Maulana Ali SA in which he denounces attachment to the material world, “The world is but...a leaf being chomped in the mouth of a locust.” Shzd. Dr. Tahera Bensaheba explained how the stark and powerful imagery, the employment of rhythmic techniques, repetition and parallelism all add to the persuasive power and punch of Arabic oration.

Shzd. Dr. Tahera Bensaheba ended her lecture on this note, “As we see, Arabic oration sits at a rich nexus of art and power, and it continues to permeate the rhetoric, religion and politics of our contemporary world.”

At the end of her talk, Shzd. Dr. Tahera Bensaheba insightfully answered a diverse array of questions in a Q&A session. The audience consisted of scholars, students, and interested individuals.

You can view the video lecture from on YouTube.

You can download Shzd. Dr. Tahera Bensab’s published articles and excerpts from her published books from her Academia.edu page.

You can learn more about her current academic activities at her University of Chicago faculty page.

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