Ameen Rihani is the founding father of Arab-American literature. His early English writings mark the beginning of a body of literature that is Arab in its concern, culture and characteristic, English in language, and American in spirit and platform. He is the first Arab to write English essays, poetry, novels, short stories, art critiques, and travel chronicles. He published his works in the U. S. during the first three decades of the twentieth century. In this sense, he is the forerunner of American literature written by well known Middle Eastern writers.
- Founder of The Arab American Literature
- First Lebanese Arab to:
- Introduce free verse to modern Arabic poetry
- Write and publish a novel in English
- Writer And Author of:
- 29 volumes in English
- 26 volumes in Arabic
Ameen Rihani is also considered to be the founder of "Adab Al-Mahjar" (Immigrant Literature). He is the first Arab who wrote and published complete literary works in the U. S. (New York). His writings pioneered the movement of modern Arabic literature that played a leading role in the Arab Renaissance.
According to several scholars, his major novel, The Book of Khalid, is the foundation of a new trend within the Lebanese American literature in particular, and within the Arab American literature at large. It is a trend towards wisdom and prophecy that seeks to reconcile matter and soul, reason and faith, and the East and the West in an attempt to explicate the unity of religions and represent the unity of the universe.
Rihani, who was influenced by the American poet Walt Whitman, has introduced free verse to Arab poetry. His new style of poetry was published as early as 1905. This new concept flourished in the Arab world and continued to lead modern Arab poetry after Rihani's death in 1940 and throughout the second half of the 20th century.
His books on Arabia, written originally in Arabic and in English, represent an alternative perspective to the Orientalist movement by giving the world, for the first time, an objective and analytical description of Arabia from an Arab point of view.
If it is true that "great books are just the beginning", then:
Ar-Rihaniyat is the beginning of Ameen Rihani and of "Adab Al-Mahjar" (Immigrant Literature),
The Book of Khalid is the beginning of Arab American Literature,
Hutaf-ul Awdiya (Hymn Of The Valleys) is the beginning of free verse in Arab poetry, and
Muluk-ul 'Arab (Kings Of Arabia) is the beginning of the counter-Orientalist movement.