Walid Phares/Said Aql a legend from the Levant سعيد عقل عملاق آخر جسّد لبنان في قلبه وفكره وأعماله


Lebanese ironies: Eulogizing Said Aql’s poems and betraying his ideals…
December 02/14
Walid Phares

How ironic to hear politicians in Lebanon eulogizing Said Aql though they never praised him or supported his thought before, during his lifetime. In fact, putting aside poetry and love songs, most of the political establishment of the Lebanese Republic has rejected Said Aql’s ideals and vision for Lebanon. His idea of Lebanese nationalism, founded in Phoenician history and identity has been destroyed by the country’s political elite, not by its enemies.

The eulogists who are praising him after his death, have been part of the death of his hopes for Lebanon. From the Cairo agreement, to the Taif Agreement, to the Cooperation Treaty between Lebanon and Syria, to the transfiguration of Lebanon’s history books since the 1990s, to elevating Terror organizations to national sanctity under the falsehood of resistance, to the hurdling behind Iran or Qatar; that is not what Said Aql wanted for the country. Ask his disciples and his real friends -who are dramatically silent- about his own views of the political establishment, with no exception. Ironic to hear everyone eulogizing “al Muallem” and taking his ideas to the Universe, yet neglecting what he actually said and calling some of the strong statements he made and for which he is now harshly attacked, as “small mistakes committed long time ago.”

Today’s eulogies are a disfiguration of Said Aql’s mind and aspirations. Today, the people -the silent majority- are expressing their attachment to the real Said Aql in prayers and chanting, while politicians are betraying him again, by trying to “cleanse his legacy” from the truth he so strongly expressed. They want to “gain mileage” from him as a poet but bury his political and identity ideas with him, in that same grave. Ideas for which Lebanese have fought so hard since 1975 and rose again to revive in 2005. To politicians, a dead Said Aql is better than a living ferocious defender of identity and liberty. For he was a constant reminder not only of his titanic literary achievements, but also of how gigantic was their failure in securing Lebanon’s freedom and sovereignty over almost 40 years. One word in Lebanese language which cannot be translated into other languages summarizes this irony: “Taateer…”

I bet somehow Said Aql is listening to his own eulogies from the other side, not very happy with them, and inspiring the mother of all speeches to be delivered by one of his disciples, some day in the future…So long Said Aql, your real ideas won’t die, for they are carried by your people, not by their politicians

Said Aql a legend from the Levant
December 01/14
Walid Phares

This morning I woke up to learn that Said Aql, a poet, philosopher and erudite passed away at the age of 102 in Lebanon. To many in the old country, he was a “giant,” and to many more he was called “al Muallem,” the teacher. His passing brought me back decades in time to Beirut, my city of birth to remember Said Aql, whose intellectual legacy cannot be separated from modern Lebanon. No one from all those contemporaries to Aql was alive the day he left this world. He was an author already in the 1930s. His poetry was like an endless river, flowing, growing and spreading. He was part of a Lebanese and Arab generation of poets, writers and philosophers whom we studied as of middle school, yet he survived for many years while other departed. He was this unreachable giant, as we grew up in Beirut and memorized his poems. He was to us, in Arabic literature classes, the equivalent of Moliere, Racine and Victor Hugo, whom we studied in French literature classes. I never thought I’d actually meet him one day; he was half a century older than me.

But on a winter evening of 1972 my older brother Sami, a law student then and a philosopher on his own asked me if I’d like to meet “the Said Aql.” I was thrilled to meet a poet “from my literature’s book. The apartment where the gathering took place was filled with friends and supporters, mostly from the Lebanese University. Said Aql wasn’t just a man of literature, he was also a nationalist, in fact one of the founders of the Lebanese Nationalist idea. I discovered the man under a different light. He was speaking of “mother Phoenicia” like I have never heard before. The way he described it was Hollywoodian but many of the facts he spoke about, I rediscovered over the years, including decades later in my adopted homeland, America. My father attorney Halim Phares who knew “al Muallem” since law school at Saint Joseph in the late 1930s, had told me since my childhood about this generation of “founding fathers” of the idea of a historic Lebanon, preceding all empires, including Fuad Afram Bustani, Yousef al Sawda, and Paul Noujaim. Everything I heard from my father about Aql got multiplied when I heard the man. He was surreal, his voice was crossing centuries. As if he was a witness from thousands of years ago. “Everything was invented by the Phoenicians, they discovered every land under the sun,” he kept telling us. Since that soiree Said Aql became real to me, despite his wide and rich imagination.

During the years preceding the war of 1975 he launched and mentored a small political party by the name of “al Talai al Tabaduiya” (the Vanguards of Amazement, or so). He still promoted “Lebanese Nationalism” but took it to the universal level. Lebanon became a global necessity, a teacher from Antiquity and a founder of Universal Civilization. Compared to the actual size of the country and its military weakness, Aql’s titanic ideas leaped beyond and above any political narrative in Lebanon. Said Aql was speaking as if his country was Germany, Russia or China, yet made many Lebanese dreaming. The one aspect where he excelled was to uncover the individual achievements of Lebanese emigres around the world. His vision of the “Lebanese world” was about millions of men and women who left the homeland because of poverty or persecution, yet became producers of culture, technologies and public service, around the world. The difference between Aql’s painting of the Lebanese people as individuals, and the narrow labyrinths of Lebanon’s politicians was stark. In fact -as for Lebanese-American writer Khalil Gebran- Aql believed that Lebanon was blessed with its nature and its people and cursed with its political leaders.

During the war, we had the opportunity to visit the poet during the famous literary Tuesdays in Ashrafieh, in Beirut, hosted by another woman of literature, May Murr. Along with the traditional delicious Tabbouli, we were served an exchange of poetry and exquisite prose. The bad news coming from the city would stop at the doorsteps of the Murr’s residence. Inside, it was intellectually warm, hopeful but slightly imaginary. Aql was invited to serve in the first political coalition resisting the PLO and the pro-Syrian forces, called the “Freedom and Man Front,” a predecessor to the “Lebanese Front.”

In 1982 Said Aql surprised most -not all- Lebanese when he declared his support to the Israeli campaign against the PLO and the Syrian army. His complaint was that it was Israelis, not Lebanese, who were pushing the “occupiers” out. Years later his statements were heavily criticized by many political factions, but his literary legacy wasn’t impacted by this attitude. Aql’s political position were at the extreme of the traditional spectrum of Lebanese politics, but somehow expressed the feelings of the silent majority. He claimed Lebanon, as a nation, was not Arab, but Phoenician. He accused the PLO and Syria of being the real occupiers and Israel a liberator. He made no distinction between Christians and Muslims and produced a special alphabet for the Lebanese language, which has ironically become a precursor to the internet written Lebanese language.

When I left Lebanon in 1990 I was wondering how will Said Aql “survive” the new environment which had no tolerance for these ideas, even as simple ideas. One of his companions in the Lebanese Nationalist movement, Kamal Yousef el Hajj, had been savagely killed by pro-PLO elements early during the war. Another intellectual companion of the “Lebanonism” ideal, Shia liberal author Mustafa Geha, was executed by Hezbollah in the early 1990s.

How did Said Aql manage to live 25 years in what became a “Baathist-Khomeinist occupied Phoenicia” without oppression is a mystery. One observer of the country’s modern evolution noted to me that Aql after 1990 didn’t produce writings about his once strong stances on identity. “He retreated to literature, because his political visions were more about a fantasy without legs than a real effort to resurrect Phoenicia,” underlined the observer, still living in Beirut. The observer stopped short of calling the literary genius a pragmatist. Indeed, Said Aql didn’t go to jail as Vaclav Havel did or to exile as Alexander Solzhenitsyn. As with some other Lebanese public figures, he lived through several stages, eras of struggles and eras of accommodations. A trait of Phoenician character, innovation with pragmatism.

Said Aql remains an icon in the world of Lebanese and Arab literature. His writings have given justice to Phoenician history, life to modern Lebanese nationalism, and provoked the imagination of many Lebanese on their future. Few years ago I had the privilege to serve as a Doctoral dissertation chair for a brilliant young Lebanese American scholar who studied Said Aql thought at a prominent Boston university. Professor Frank Salameh, now teaching at Boston College captured the “Aqlian” chapter of Lebanon’s history. It is now upon a new generation of scholars, like Salameh and others, to resume the journey of men and women like Said Aql. The world has globalized and geography is not an issue anymore. Producing for an idea is not hinging on where you live and under which regime. Thanks to the world wide web one can reform and change the conditions in their birthplace from half the planet away. The issue is to maintain the ideas clear from revisionism. What Aql has called for cannot be changed by speeches to be delivered at his eulogy or re-branded by the dominant political forces. Said Aql was a genius and he has expressed what the essence of Lebanon was and what most Lebanese wanted to see in their future. His legacy won’t die.


المجلس العالمي لثورة الأرز/ سعيد عقل عملاق آخر جسّد لبنان في قلبه وفكره وأعماله

واشنطن في  1 كانون الاول 2014

بمناسبة رحيل أحد أعمدة الأدب والفكر في لبنان الشاعر والمفكر سعيد عقل بعد حياة امتلأت بالجهد والعطاء في سبيل لبنان الوطن الذي أراده سعيد عقل هيكل الله ولخّص فيه محبته وقدرته “وأجمل ما صنعت الأيدي”.

يتقدم المجلس العالمي لثورة الأرز من الشعب اللبناني بالتعزية ويسأل الرحمان أن يبقي تلك الشعلة، التي أضاءها أمثال سعيد عقل وقضوا حياتهم في مدها بالزيت المناسب، متقدة تنير دياجير الظلمة القادمة على الشرق وتعيد للانسان قيمته في مساعدته تعالى “باستكمال” عمل الخلق ونشر المحبة بين الناس وتوزيع الخير الذي هو منه.

ولا ننسى بأن سعيد عقل كان أيضا من أعمدة لبنان السياسية فهو صاحب الفكر الأساسي لحراس الأرز وأحد أبرز المدافعين عن الهوية اللبنانية والخصوصية التي تميزها لا بل القائلين بالقومية اللبنانية ردا على الطروحات القومية المستوردة. وهو كان عضوا في الجبهة اللبنانية عند نشوئها في بداية الهجمة الشرسة على لبنان. ولكنه كان صاحب الحلم أكثر منه رجل السياسة.

ونحن إذ نرى بعض صغار النفوس المستغلين لسيطرة الارهاب الفكري والقمعي يحاولون، وبعد وفاته، التطاول على كبار لبنان وتلطيخ صورتهم باستعمال التهويل بالعمالة وهم العملاء الحقيقيون لدول الارهاب المسؤولة عن خراب لبنان أولا ومن ثم دول المنطقة. هؤلاء الذين يجابهون الفكر بالقتل وقد حاولوا وأد كل فكر حر تمرد على تبعيتهم بقتل كمال يوسف الحاج صاحب الفلسفة اللبنانية ومصطفى جحا وغيرهم من الصحافيين والمفكرين الأحرار أمثال سليم اللوزي وجبران التويني وسمير قصير، وسياسيين ورجال دين من كمال جنبلاط وبشير الجميل والمفتي حسن خالد إلى ريني معوض ورفيق الحريري وجورج حاوي وغيرهم حاولوا كل على طريقته التململ من ضغوط دول الارهاب هذه وهم كانوا من اتجاهات فكرية مختلفة.

وسعيد عقل الذي رأى بلبنان موطن الحضارات ومبعث النور ليس في الشرق فقط بل في العالم كله لم يكن طائفيا منغلقا بل آمن بقدرة الشعب المقيم والمنتشر على التمسك بقيم لبنان والعمل من أجل التخلص من تسلط الارهاب عليه فإذا بالانتشار يدفع باتجاه القرارات الدولية ويتمخض حراك الشعب في الداخل عن ثورة الأرز التي صنعت تغييرا في الفكر السياسي على مستوى المنطقة. ولا يزال الحلم بنهاية الارهاب بكافة أشكاله قائما.

سعيد عقل العملاق الذي يغادرنا اليوم أغنى اللغة والفكر وأوقد الحلم بالحرية ليحطم الأغلال ولنا من أمثاله وتلامذته الكثر لا يزالون بالرغم من كل الضغوط يحملون المشعل لينيروا دروب الشعوب ويعلموا الملايين بأن الله محبة وأن الخير يكفي للجميع.

نسأل الله أن يدخله فسيح جنانه.

جو بعيني، رئيس المجلس العالمي لثورة الارز