Dr. Mohammed Jaber Al Ansari Up Close and from Afar
In the early sixties of the last century, some young Bahrainis were making their way to publish new, different kind of literature. The monthly magazine Huna Al Bahrain published by the Bahraini Government Department of Information was the first to take interest in the works of Mohammad Abdul Malik, Khalaf Ahmad Khalaf and some of my first poems.
With the issuance of the weekly Al Adhwaa newspaper by the late Mahmoud Al Mardi in the mid-1960s, more opportunities were opened.
Those enthusiastic literary efforts helped in forming a critical movement and weekly critical sessions were organized. Most of these sessions were moderated by Professor Ahmad Al Mannai, who also held the prominent role of the critic. Mohammad Jabir Al Ansari, a new writer at the time, surprised us with a series of critical weekly articles titled “Musamarat Jahithiyyah”. He examined the new literary stream, reviewed published works, and was the promise of a new literary movement. In numerous articles, his writing guided new writers by providing a comprehensive critique of their work.
In December 1966, when I was twenty-one, he published a study on two of my poems, and it celebrated the birth of a new Bahraini poet! When I first met him in a public place and introduced myself to him, he looked at me with surprise, smiled and said, “I thought you were older.” Since then, an intimate, deep-rooted friendship was established between us.
When the new literary movement intensified and gained momentum in the Arab world, there were faithful calls for the establishment of literary entities, such as the Kuwait Writers Association and the Egyptian Writers Union. The British colonial authorities in Bahrain at the time objected to establishing a literary entity for a group of intellectuals, and when Al Ansari struggled to overcome that obstacle through discussing it with the Bahraini national authorities, they did not agree to naming this new entity a union or an assosiation.
Then His Highness Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the late Ruler of Bahrain, issued an official order approving the establishment of a new literary entity under the name The Writers and Authors Family. The great initiative guaranteed that the new literary entity embraced the ideas of the generation and represented Bahrain’s modern renaissance. Al Ansari was the first head of the Writers and Authors Family, and he created its motto “a word for the sake of Man”.
Al Ansari remained part of the development in the literary movement in Bahrain, from Bahrain and everywhere, during his graduate studies in Beirut and Paris. He would analyse, critique and guide. He is credited with avoiding many of the pitfalls of Bahraini literary situation during that time. He drew attention to the then obscure local poetic movement, part of it being influenced by the artistic and political waves that were popular in Arab culture at the time.
In the seventies, I will never forget his response when I expressed my admiration of the efforts of the labour force for realizing the subway project while passing through the subway corridors in Paris. He stressed the importance of planning and engineering that led the workers to achieve what we see real on the ground.
Al Ansari was not only a remarkable literary critic, he was an authentic Arab thinker with a holistic view of a pan-Arab movement dealing with our civilizational crisis. He authored many books that discuss the most refined thoughts presented on the arena of the Arab renaissance.
Dr. Al Ansari stood by us through the most complicated and difficult situations, and when some of the specialists and I were planning to publish this scientific journal Folk Culture, Al Ansari was present with his support and intellectual thoughts. He directed and guided our efforts with his insight; he presented us with the phrase “a message of folklore from Bahrain to the world”, which has been our motto for over thirteen years of publishing.
The literary and intellectual impact made by Professor Dr. Mohammed Jaber Al Ansari will always remain so great that an article or even several articles will not do him justice. We appreciate the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities’ organization of a national celebration to mark the biography of this thinker and pay him tribute; an initiative that is required for many other figures who occupy our memory.
It is so important to collect Al Ansari’s printed and written intellectual and literary works, the published and the manuscripts, to study, analyse and adopt in our universities. We should also make all of his works available for our discussion forums to well benefit from this great Arab thinker and professor.
Ali Abdullah Khalifa
Editor in Chief