SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Hebah Hasan O Albiti

BA (Taibah University) MA (Marymount University)
  • Research


Hebah Albeity
Hebah Hasan O Albiti
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Thesis title:
Social Change through Power of Imagination in Arabic Theatre: How the Raḥbānī Brothers’ Works Empowered their Audiences
Year of Study:
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Heba Albeity is a Saudi fiction writer, researcher and journalist. She earned her Bachelors of Arts in English Language & Literature with the first rank of honour from Taibah University in Madinah (Saudi Arabia) in 2004. She won second place in the competition “Saudi Promising Writers in the USA” for one of her short stories in 2007. She earned her Master of Arts in Humanities (humanistic studies) from Marymount University in Arlington (Virginia, The USA) in 2010. Her graduate programme investigated the disciplines of history, art history, philosophy and literature. At the professional level, she has worked as a translator and editor for some international organisations, including the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and others. She contributed as a columnist to many prominent Saudi papers such as Okaz and Al-Watan. She has been awarded Naji Naaman' Literary Prize (Creativity Prize) for the fifteenth cycle (2016-2017) in recognition of one of her poetic texts and became an honorary member of the Madison Naaman pour la Culture. Heba is a PhD student at the Department of Near & Middle East Languages & Cultures at SOAS, University of London. She is working on the socio-cultural role of theatre in Arab societies, employing the Rahbani Brother's Theatre as a model.

PhD Research

The Raḥbānī Brothers are known to be the founders and pioneers of musical theatre in the 20th century in Lebanon and the wider Arab region. However, they introduced a form of theatre where the elements of theatre, music, singing, dancing, acting, performing arts and poetry integrate. This integration caused many of the studies on their theatre to preoccupy themselves with classifying it instead of highlighting its singularity. In my view, the social function of the theatrical works of the Raḥbānī Brothers has yet to be investigated. I argue that their theatrical works function as a motivator for social change. However, the Brothers seem to propose a new version of ‘social change’ that does not necessarily advocate any specific action in reality, but it rather restores people’s faith in their power of imagination and ability to initiate action. A certain Raḥbānī play is an implicit endorsement for inciting action but not necessarily a specific one since it reaffirms audiences that they can take any action and bring about change.

The Raḥbānīs achieved the social change function through different techniques executing the power of imagination, where they built on ‘imaginary premises’ to make their audiences embrace their ‘poetic logic’ which might seem ‘illogical’ and ‘impossible’ according to the laws of reality. Examining how the Brothers succeeded in using those ‘imaginary premises’ to involve their audiences in a game, where the thin line between ‘imagination’ and ‘reality’ seemed to shatter and even overlap, we will see how imagination in the works of the Brothers became a new proposal or an alternative of their reality and how they in a way reinvented reality through imaginary propositions. Their proposal of an alternative reality was embodied in the implantation of the ‘Raḥbānī possible’ in the imagination of their audiences, sometimes disguised in the form of ‘lies’ and other times in the form of ‘visions’. Some of the remarkable characteristics of the ‘Raḥbānī possible’ were; its apparent unattainability/impossibility and its beauty. In that ‘possible’, which sometimes wore the suit of their ‘Raḥbānī village’, they had encapsulated their alternative proposal of reality. Nevertheless, they had no ambition to turn this sought-after ‘possible’ into reality but the mere existence of its ‘possibility’ was enough for people to be empowered to dream of a better future or a different reality. Instead, they conspired with their audiences to imagine the suggested proposal, let the power of their imagination overtake their logical calculations and led their way to the hope of the occurrence of a miracle, the occurrence of ‘al-mumkin al-jamīl’. Utilising the power of imagination and making the ‘impossible’ livable, they restore people’s faith in their willpower and their ability to initiate change, which was the form of empowerment they wished to communicate through their marginalised characters. To fulfil the empowerment function, the Brothers employed various techniques in their works that will be discussed throughout the project.


"The SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research, Volume 10 (2016-17), Pages 121-130 Exploring fluid times: Knowledge, minds and bodies".


Research in Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East at SOAS: "Connectivity over Space and Time" - Research Student Conference, SOAS, 24 February 2017.


  • Comparative Literature
  • Arabic Theatre
  • Arabic modern literature
  • Arabic Literature in English
  • Literary Studies