The Foundational Role of Generosity in Arab Culture

Arabs are noted for their generosity and hospitality. Generosity is foundational to Arabic culture, where being ‘generous’ and ‘virtuous’ cannot be separated. In fact, the word generous in Arabic, kareem, denotes both these senses.

Stewart, in The Cambridge Companion to Modern Arab Culture, writes that in Arabic culture, “generosity is considered the noble trait par excellence,” (2015:229). Ali agrees on the absolute importance of generosity in Arabic culture, tracing it back to early Islam where, “though the importance of generosity was a matter of consensus in Arab Islamic culture, some authors have actually conceived of it as the mother of all virtues. A man who was generous, the reasoning went, knew how to give and sacrifice,” (2009:97).

The famous Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldoun (d. 1406) in his seminal socio-political work, writes, ‘be assured that generosity is one of the best things for a human being to practice. Make generosity one of your character qualities.”

Generosity is still very important in contemporary Arab culture. In a survey conducted with contemporary urban people from Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Oman, Morocco and Algeria in researching this topic, it was found that of the 200 people surveyed, 90% agreed completely with the statement, “generosity is foundational to Arabic culture.”

 


Ali, S.M. (2009). ‘Early Islam – Monotheism or Henotheism? A View From The Court,’ in M Al-Musawi (ed.), Arabic Literary Thresholds, Brill.

Steward, D. (2015). ‘Humour’, In: Reynolds, D.F ed. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Arab Culture, Cambridge University Press.

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