‘Place a Hope Beyond a Hope’: Devotional Literature as Literature

The most unexpected submission to the Summer 2020 issue of ArabLit Quarterly — with its focus on crime — was N.A. Mansour’s suggestion that she mash up two translations of devotional literature, Hizb al-Nasr and Du’a’ al-Nasiri:

She weaves the two text together, as she writes in our most recent issue of ArabLit Quarterly, “to produce a new work that responds to an attack from someone who means harm; my own demons are all here, ranging from cultural genocide and settler colonialism to the question of whether or not English can be a Muslim language.”

This “mashing up” of devotional texts isn’t unusual she says, and part of the reason is that — to find one thing unexpectedly inside another — “awakens you.”

Mansour’s translation of the two texts produces a new and strikingly earnest poem-text. One of the reasons she wanted to translate it in this space, she said, was because, “Devotional literature never gets viewed as literature because people assume it’s for devotional purposes.”

“Producing a lovely rhyme is practical, because — like the Quran — it stays in your brain,” Mansour said. “And I think for devotion you need something beautiful.”

Watch the full discussion & reading:


The Summer 2020 issue of ArabLit Quarterly is available as PDF and EPUB. The print edition is available via Amazon (US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and elsewhere), and in a searchable online edition for Exact Editions subscribers, both individual and institutional. You can also subscribe through Patreon.

The video to which Mansour refers is also available on YouTube.