The Challenge of Arabization in Syria

The eclipse of Arabic that took place in the last part of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth century was caused by several factors. This paper looks at the reasons for this eclipse and also sheds light on the revival of Arabic in the Arab world in general and in Syria in particular.

The conquest of Syria and Egypt by Salim I in 1516 and 1517 marks a definite stage in the extension of Ottoman sway over the Arab world. His crushing victories made him the master of Iraq and Syria and enabled him to enter Cairo and establish his rule over Egypt. Under his successor, Sulayman the Magnificent, the subjection of the Arab world was extended westward along the North African coast and southward as far as Yemen and Aden. Upon Sulayman’s death in 1566, the Ottomans ruled the Arab world from Algeria to the Arabian Gulf, and from Aleppo to the Indian Ocean. In addition to the sacred cities of Makkah, Madinah, and Jerusalem, it embraced Damascus, the first capital of the Arab empire, and Baghdad, whose sciences had once illuminated the world. With varying fortunes, and frequently accompanied by war and revolt, the Ottoman Empire maintained itself in these territories until the end of the eighteenth century and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

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