Among the chants and slogans of protesters on the streets of Egypt are the words of an early 20th century Tunisian poet, Abdul Qasim al Shabi. The poem became a rallying cry both in Egypt and Tunisia. Abdul Qasim al Shabi is probably best known for writing the final two verses of the current National Anthem of Tunisia, Himat Al Hima (Defenders of the Homeland), that was written originally by the Egyptian poet Mustafa Sadik el-Rafii.
Echebbi was born in Tozeur, Tunisia, on 24 February 1909, the son of a judge. He obtained his attatoui diploma (the equivalent of the baccalauréat) in 1928. In 1930, he obtained a law diploma from the University of Ez-Zitouna. The same year, he married and subsequently had two sons, Mohamed Sadok, who became a colonel in the Tunisian army, and Jelal, who later became an engineer.
He was very interested in modern literature, in particular, translated romantic literature, as well as old Arab literature. His poetic talent manifested itself at an early age and this poetry covered numerous topics, from the description of nature to patriotism. His poems appeared in the most prestigious Tunisian and Middle-Eastern reviews. His poem To the tyrants of the world became a popular slogan chant during the 2011 Tunisian and subsequently Egyptian demonstrations.
To the Tyrants of the World
Oppressive tyrants, lover of darkness, enemy of life, you have ridiculed the size of the weak people. Your palm is soaked with their blood.
You deformed the magic of existence, and planted the seeds of sorrow in the fields.
Wait, don’t be fooled by the spring, the clearness of the sky or the light of dawn, for on the horizon lies the horror of darkness, rumble of thunder, and blowing of winds.
Beware, for below the ash there is fire, and he who grows thorns reaps wounds. Look there, for I have harvested the heads of mankind and the flowers of hope, and I watered the heart of the earth with blood. I soaked it with tears until it was drunk. The river of blood will sweep you, and the fiery storm will devour you.
If the People Wanted Life One Day إذا الشعب يوما أراد الحياة
If, one day, a people desire to live, then fate will answer their call.
And their night will then begin to fade, and their chains break and fall.
For he who is not embraced by a passion for life will dissipate into thin air,
At least that is what all creation has told me, and what its hidden spirits declare…”
This poem was first used in the early colonial uprising against the French and now, almost more than 80 years later, his same words were the flame of revolution in Tunisia and then in Egypt.
Source: Arabic Literature in Translation: http://arablit.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/two-translations-of-abu-al-qasim-al-shabis-if-the-people-wanted-life-one-day/
Humat Al Hima (Defenders of the Homeland)
Written by Mostafa Saadeq Al-Rafe'ie and Abdul Qasim al Shabi
O defenders of the Nation, hasten to the meeting of glory!
We are ready to die, if it is necessary, die so that our country will live!
This our blood in our veins urges us.
There is nobody in our country who refuses to be in the ranks of its soldiers!
We are bound together by our oath of fidelity.
We will live on her soil in dignity
or we will die, for her, in glory.
Be master of your destiny, o my country, and be happy!
Because it is not worth to live without being master of your sovereignty
My boiling blood and all the wealth I possess,
I am ready to sacrifice it for my country and my people.
Glory to you, Tunisia! Greatness of your people, remain forever proud!
Look at your children launching out, such as lions,
In assault on the enemy on the day of the battle
Our heritage, among the nations, is the strength of our arms,
the arms as hard as the rock of these imposing buildings
And which hold high the banner of the country.
This banner makes us proud, and it is proud to be carried by us.
Arms that bring us towards the highest tops
Of glory and greatness
And which guarantee the realization of our ambitions
Which will bring misfortune to the enemies of our Fatherland
But who are peaceful with all those who want peace.
When the people wants to live, destiny must surely respond
Darkness will disappear, chains will certainly break!