Adama by Turki al-Hamad

On Monday, December 15th we meet for a discussion of Adama by Turki al-Hamad.

Turki al Hamad’s Adama is a coming-of-age tale whose central character, a young man from Saudi Arabia and budding philosopher, finds himself caught up in the struggle for change, devoting more and more of his time to a shadowy group of dissenters, even as he questions both their motives and methods. The result is an intense showdown between his love for his family, his firmly held beliefs and his yearning for social justice. Adama is the first in a trilogy.

For more information and reviews of the book, see below.

Turki al-Hamad ( تركي الحمد) (born 1953) is a Saudi-Arabian political analyst, journalist, and novelist, best known for his trilogy about the coming-of-age of Hisham al-Abir, a Saudi Arabian teenager, the first installment of which, Adama, was published in 1998. Although banned in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait, the Arabic edition of the trilogy — called in Arabic Atyaf al-Aziqah al-Mahjurah (Phantoms of the Deserted Alley) — has sold 20,000 copies.

The novels explore the issues of sexuality, underground political movements, scientific truth, rationalism, and religious freedom against the backdrop of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a volatile period in Saudi Arabia, sandwiched between the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 oil boom. Hamad is quoted on the cover of one of his novels: “Where I live there are three taboos: religion, politics and sex. It is forbidden to speak about these. I wrote this trilogy to get things moving.”

Al-Hamad was born in Jordan to a family of merchants that originated from Buraydah, Qasim province in Saudi Arabia. The family moved when he was a child to Dammam in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. He later moved to the United States, where he obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, later returning to Riyadh to teach political science. He retired in 1995 to take up writing full-time.

Al-Hamad’s latest novel, The Winds of Paradise, is about the September 11, 2001 attacks and was published in Arabic in 2005. It has been described as a “thinly disguised sketch of the lives of four of the hijackers.”

As a result of his work, four fatwas have been issued against him by the country’s religious clerics, and he has been named as an apostate in a statement by al-Qaeda. He continues nevertheless to live in Riyadh, calling the fatwas “more of a nuisance than anything else,” according to the Daily Star. After the first of four fatwas was issued in 1999, Crown Prince Abdullah, who succeeded to the throne of Saudi Arabia in August 2005, offered al-Hamad bodyguards for his protection. The next three were issued after the publication of the third in the trilogy, Karadib, in which the main character wonders whether God and the devil are the same thing, and which the clerics regarded as heresy. As a result, he was threatened by the mutaween by e-mail, and accused of apostacy by al-Qaeda. One fatwa was withdrawn in 2003 by Sheikh Ali Al-Khudair, a well-known Saudi scholar. Karadib was published in English in 2006.


  • Adama, novel – first in the trilogy, 2003
  • Shumaisi, novel – second in the trilogy, 2004
  • Al-Karadib, novel – third in the trilogy, 2005
  • Al-Thiqafa al-`Arabiyya Amam Tahaddiyat al-Taghayyur, الثقافة العربية أمام تحدّيات التغيّر (Arab Culture Faces the Challenges of Change)
  • Al-Thiqafa al-`Arabiyya fi `Asri ‘l-`Awlama, الثقافة العربية في عصر العولمة (Arab Culture in the Age of Globalisation)
  • Sharq al-Wadi, شرق الوادي (East of the valley)
  • Al-Siyasa Bayn al-Halal wa ‘l-Haram, السياسة بين الحلال و الحرام (Politics between the Licit and the Forbidden)
  • Riyh Al-Janna (Heaven’s Wind) ريح الجنة


Further reading

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