Murad Mikhail (1906–1986) was an Iraqi-Jewish poet who pioneered the development of prose poetry. He was born in Baghdad in 1906 and completed his university education there, graduating as a lawyer from the College of Law in 1938. He was appointed an Arabic language teacher at the Shammash secondary school, which was a major English-language private school, and subsequently director of the school. Among his colleagues at the school were Egyptian scholar Badawi Tabbana, Hussayn Muruwwa, Mohammed Sharara, and Mohammed Hassan al-Suri. They were to become important figures in Iraqi and Arab progressive and literary society: Badawi Tabbana a prolific author, Lebanese Hussayn Muruwwa a Marxist intellectual, journalist, author, and literary critic, while author and teacher Mohammed Sharara became father to well-known author sisters Hayat and Balkis Sharara.

Murad Mikhail emigrated, or was transferred, to Israel in 1949. Once there, he gained an MA in Arabic language and literature and a PhD with a dissertation on the Cairo Genizah documents. He also wrote metrical and rhymed poetry, and his Complete Poems was published (1988) after his death.

Murad Mikhail provided evidence for the importance of prose in Arabic and the early impetus for him to write prose poetry, writing: “I came across Al-Nafa’is, a magazine published, if I recall correctly, by Tanyus Abdu. I found that every issue contained a detective story by Conan Doyle. During my childhood, a relative used to tell us Sherlock Holmes stories on winter evenings. I bought his complete works and read them eagerly, and this led me on to read in Arabic and material other than detective stories.”

Iraqi scholar Abd al-Ilah Ahmad in his 1969 book Nash’at al-Qissah wa-Tatawwuruha fi al-Iraq (The Emergence and Evolution of the Story in Iraq) notes that the first literary short story in the history of modern Iraqi literature is Murad Mikhail’s “Shahid al-Wataniyyah wa-Shahid al-Hubb” (Martyr to the Nation and Martyr to Love) published in the newspaper Al-Mufid in July 1922, when Murad was sixteen years old.

This portrait of Murad Mikhail is drawn from Salah Niazi's article entitled Murad Mikhail: Iraqi Pioneer of the Prose Poem, written for Banipal 74 – Celebrating Khalida Said and Modern Arabic Poetry. Salah Niazi is a well-known Iraqi poet, translator and editor.

Contributor's Issues

Banipal 74 - Celebrating Khalida Said and Modern Arabic Poetry (Summer 2022)