The Essential Rihani, a unique volume containing some of the most important works of Ameen Rihani as edited by Suheil Bushrui and May Rihani and published by The George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace was released in May 2014.
“Ameen Rihani was a Lebanese-American essayist, novelist, philosopher, and poet who believed passionately in the oneness of the world’s religions and the brotherhood of all nations. He was a formidable intellectual force in shaping and revitalizing the modern Arab intellectual renaissance, and has contributed significantly to the enlightened views that remain an important legacy for Lebanon, the Arab world, and for the world at large.
This unique publication by the George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace at the University of Maryland samples some of Rihani’s most important works. Selections include excerpts from The Rihani Essays, The Path of Vision, Around the Coasts of Arabia, The Book of Khalid, The White Way and The Desert, and many of Rihani’s unpublished poems.
In June 1909, Gibran met a remarkable man called Ameen Rihani, a writer whose influence on him would be profound and lasting. Gibran was immediately fascinated by the thirty-four-year-old with the “fine face and good soul,” a man who had also been born in Lebanon as a Maronite Christian. Gibran found in the older man a kindred spirit, describing him as “a great poet,” and in later correspondence referred to him as “al- mu‘allem,” which means “teacher,” addressing him as “my brother in art and my co-worker in the realm of God’s law.”
Both men emigrated to America at the age of twelve, returned to Lebanon in 1898 to pursue their cultural studies, and were earning growing reputations as writers who challenged the political, social, and ecclesiastical status quo.
Of specific significance for Gibran was the fact that Rihani was the first Arab to write English verse and the first to write a novel in English. This novel, called The Book of Khalid, was published in 1911. To illustrate this book, Rihani chose Gibran – the artist with whom he felt the closest affinity. The book’s influence on Gibran was considerable and may well have encouraged and even implanted in Gibran the idea of writing in English himself.
Photograph: Ameen Rihani Richard G. Badger – The Gorham Press, Boston 1905
Sketches: Rihani by Gibran housed at the Rihani Museum
Notes: Professor Suhiel Bushrui ~ Joe Jenkins ~ A Biography Man and Poet