‘Modern’ Law and Its Subjects in Tawfīq al-Ḥakīm’s Diary of a Country Prosecutor (1937)

Document Type



State law as the main transformative device to build a ‘modern’ Egypt has encountered tremendous resistance, yet legal scholars seem utterly uninterested in the matter while historians struggle to account for the reasons of the subjects’ resistance by using archival materials often produced by state officials themselves.In this article, I turn to literature to explore and interrogate literary representations of the rural subjects of ‘modern’ law, and their various forms of resistance to ‘modern’ lawitself.In an effort to highlight the benefits of ‘turning to literature’ for legal scholars, I begin with one of the most acclaimed masterpieces and foundational works of the modern Egyptian literary canon: Tawfīq al-Ḥakīm’s Diary of a Country Prosecutor (1937). Listening to the awkward silences and garrulous voices of the Diary’s subjects opens a window onto the strained relations between ‘modern’ law and its subjects in which class, language, and centre/periphery dynamics all play a role. Considering what repertoire these subjects ‘spontaneously’ mobilise to challenge the ‘modern’ law further brings into view their alternative doxic understanding of law and justice.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies