Indian American Tahera Qutbuddin wins 2020 Sheikh Zayed Book Award

Tahera Qutbuddin

Chicago University professor of Arabic Literature is first person of Indian descent to win the prestigious international award.

Tahera Qutbuddin, an Indian American Professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Chicago has won the 2020 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Arabic Culture in Other Languages.

The first person of Indian descent to win the prestigious international award. Qutbuddin was selected for her new book, ‘Arab Oration: Art & Function’ released in 2019 by Brill Publishers.

The winners of the award commemorating the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, receive a career-changing $200,000 (750,000 UAE Dirhams).The book was praised for its exceptional familiarity with classical Arabic literature and Dr. Qutbuddin’s firm grasp on oral tradition studies and theories.

The oral tradition in the Arabic language is a strong and robust element of Arabic culture, but absent is a focus on women’s oration. In her book, Qutbuddin “fully explores that tradition in Arabic language; highlighting women’s oration within multiple contexts,” according to the citation.

She “runs a comprehensive examination of oration in the Arabic language, with its unique cultural and artistic characteristics. These characteristics include influencing and engaging the audience, the use of photography, the dynamic pace and the occasional use of religious and literary quotations.”

“This form of communication dates back to the pre-Islam oral tradition of Arabian Peninsula tribes and has undergone several phases of transformation over time until it has taken its modern, distinctive form, earning in the process a status as a genre of Arab heritage worthy of respect in its own right.”

“The writer’s exceptional familiarity with classical Arabic literature and her firm grasp on oral tradition studies and theories have enabled her to clearly articulate the various aspects of oration: structure, style, types and function (religious, political, intellectual, social or military),” it adds.

One of the world’s leading prizes dedicated to Arabic literature and culture, the Award has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding work by authors, translators, publishers, and organizations around the world since 2006.

Qutbuddin also serves on the editorial board of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Library of Arabic Literature. She obtained her PhD and MA from Harvard University, USA, Tamhidi Magister and BA from Ain Shams University, Cairo, and high school diploma from Sophia College, Mumbai.

Her research focuses on intersections of the literary, the religious, and the political in classical Arabic poetry and prose. Her other publications include, ‘Light in the Heavens: Sayings of the Prophet Muḥammad’ released in 2016, and ‘A Treasury of Virtues: Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of ʿAlī’ released in 2013).

She has received fellowship support from the Franke Institute of Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

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