By now, I hope, the centrality of religious concerns to the enterprise of the Egyptian novel has become too self-evident to require further affirmation. The thematic preponderance of issues of recognizably religious nature in so many novels, and the direct bearing of these issues on the social and personal crises these novels field, are too compelling to be accidental or inconsequential. The phenomenon is particularly persistent in realistic novels, beginning with such works as Yahya Haqqi’s Qindil Umm Hashim and Naguib Mahfouz’ Zuqaq al-Midaqq and lasting well into the present. It thus appears as an attendant by-product of the novel’s realism, broadly defined. Whether in this respect the novel merely depicts what already exists, patently or only in latent form, in the complex web of social life, or actively promotes confrontation with institutionalized religion for purposes that lie beyond mimetic veracity, remains to be seen. Some aspects of this general problematic have already surfaced in the previous chapters

and were discussed there, albeit tangentially. In this chapter I examine in greater detail and depth instructive modes of wrestling with religious content in Egyptian imaginative fiction.