Salama Zain Al-Abidin

Salama Zain Al-Abidin

Publishing House: Muton publisher

Publication Year: 2023

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 141

“Salama Zain Al-Abidin” is the debut novel by Mohammed Al-Harthy, a significant work in modern Arabic literature. This substantial narrative traces the protagonist’s lineage, beginning with his sixth grandfather, Hassan Al-Shanhari, a brave warrior from the Tihama region. 

The novel intricately depicts political shifts, starting with Al-Idrisi’s arrival from Morocco, unifying tribes and ousting Ottoman garrisons. Al-Idrisi’s rule was marked by his use of wealth and modern inventions brought from Italy to awe the public and claim miracles for himself. A pivotal moment occurs when one of Al-Shanhari’s sons attempts to expose Al-Idrisi’s true nature, leading to his and his son’s assassination, leaving only a nine-year-old child who escapes with his mother.

The child, growing up in a remote southern village named Al-Zahia, where most of the novel’s events unfold, lives under the pseudonym of multiple names, evading Al-Idrisi’s reach. The narrative follows the family through generations, detailing the lives of the protagonist’s aunts, uncles, and father, Salama. The novel’s early complexity of numerous characters and names gradually clarifies as the story progresses.

“Salama Zain Al-Abidin”: Unraveling Complexities of Identity, Religion, and Societal Changes

Al-Harthy adeptly weaves historical events, like the establishment of modern Saudi Arabia, and changes in Al-Zahia, including school introductions. The grandfather, tormented by not knowing his mother’s whereabouts, passes his psychosis to his son and grandson, Salama, the novel’s central figure. The narrative delves into the lives of the grandfather’s children, portraying a range of experiences from oppression to migration.

The novel transports the reader to 1979, witnessing the emergence of a Salafi group and Juhayman Al-Otaybi’s seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Born four years after this event, Salama’s perspective becomes the lens through which the story unfolds. He observes societal changes, from the transformation of a Michael Jackson impersonator into a pious sheikh to the ideological split of Al-Zahia after a new highway’s construction.

Al-Harthy’s narrative illustrates the complexities of Salama’s upbringing, marked by strict religious indoctrination and a changing society. The novel explores themes of identity, mental illness, and societal pressures through Salama’s life, as he struggles with inherited psychological issues and the burden of familial and societal expectations.

“Salama Zain Al-Abidin” is a richly layered story, offering a deep exploration of personal and collective histories. It delves into the transformation of society and the impact of historical events on individual lives. Al-Harthy’s writing captures the era and region, making the novel a significant contribution to Arabic literature.

Read More About Mohammed Al-Harthy

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