Taha Husayn

Taha Husayn


(also Taha Hussein). Born Nov. 14, 1889, in Kilu, near the city of Maghaghah, in Upper Egypt; died Oct. 28, 1973, in Cairo. Arab writer, literary scholar, and historian of Egypt. President of the Academy of the Arabic Language in Cairo from 1965.

Blind since childhood, Taha Husayn attended the Muslim al-Azhar University and graduated from the University of Cairo, where he became a professor in 1919. In 1932 he joined the Wafd Party. Taha Husayn served as rector of the University of Alexandria from 1943 to 1946 and as Egypt’s minister of education from 1950 to 1952.

Taha Husayn was persecuted by reactionary circles for his monograph On Pre-Islamic Poetry (published 1926), which advocated a critical approach to all literary texts, even the Koran. The most interesting of his other works are Wednesday Discourses (vols. 1–3, 1925–53), two volumes of which deal with medieval Arabic literature and one volume with modern Arabic literature. Recent Arabic literature is the subject of a collection of essays, From Our Contemporary Literature (1958). Taha Husayn’s works of literary history deal primarily with the early history of Islam and include On the Margin of the Prophet’s Life (vols. 1–3, 1933—43).

Taha Husayn was a founder of critical realism in Arabic literature. His first major literary work, the autobiographical novella The Days (parts 1–2, 1929–39; part 3, 1972), has been translated into many languages (English translation, part 1, An Egyptian Childhood, and part 2, The Stream of Days). The collection of short stories Martyrs on the Earth (1948) cries out against oppression and calls for social justice for the people. Several of the writer’s works, however, are permeated with despondency and a lack of faith in social progress; an example is the collection of short stories Lost Love (1937–38).

Taha Husayn’s memoirs were published in 1967. He translated works by several writers of classical times and of the French Enlightenment. In recognition of his services to literature, Taha Husayn was awarded the State Prize of Egypt in 1959.


In Russian translation:
Dni. [Introductory article and annotation by I. Iu. Krachkovskii.] Leningrad, 1934.
Dni, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1958.
“Hadidzha.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1958, no. 9.
Zov gorlitsy. [Foreword by V. Solov’ev.] Moscow, 1961.


Krachkovskii, I. Iu. Izbr. soch., Vol. 3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Kotsarev, N. K. Pisateli Egipta: XX vek. Moscow, 1975. (Contains bibliography.)
Cachia, P. Taha Husayn: His place in the Egyptian Literary Renaissance. London, 1956.
Semah, D. Four Egyptian Literary Critics. Leiden, 1974. Pages 109–52.
Al-Hilal, 1966, no. 2. (Special number.)
Hamdi al Sakkut, and Jones Marsden. Taha Hussayn. Cairo, 1975.


References in periodicals archive ?
He covers a Cartesian backfire: Taha Husayn, the Qur'an, and the cogito; the return to philology and the unmasking of traditionalism in Amin al-Khuli; Muhammad Ahmad Khalafallah: the art of narrative in the Qur'an; Bint al-Shati: literary signification in the Qur'an; reclaiming Qur'anic exegesis: Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd between traditionalism and post-secularism; and on metaphor: Abu Zayd and the ideologies of majaz in the Qur'an.
Al-Masawi directly challenges influential modernists of the twentieth century, such as Taha Husayn (1889-1973), who dismiss the literary output of medieval Islamic and Muslim nation-states as 'ineffectual'.
By 1929, Egyptian Arabists, such as Taha Husayn, 'Abd al-Rahman 'Azzam, and Ahmad Amin, replaced their orientalist masters (Reid, "Cairo University" 61).
However, Khalidi's criteria unapologetically give priority to quality over quantity; as he writes of Taha Husayn's A1a hamish al-sira, "If one measure of its success is its continued popularity--there have been more than thirty editions so far--it must surely rank as a best seller.
Essential to a thorough coverage, highlighted pages summarize noteworthy points, including the odes of Abu Nuwas of Baghdad, the polemics of Egyptian scholar Taha Husayn, churches built by Turkish architect Sinan, and a review of The Thousand and One Night, which includes a drawing of All Baba's gang.
In such a fashion, Egypt's liberal elite--men like Taha Husayn, Muhammad Husayn Heikal, Ahmad Amin, and Salama Musa, usually the heroes of European historiography about this period--tried to create a society that was so tied to European values as to offer no solace to the vast majority of Egyptians.
Cognizant of this fact, the eminent Egyptian thinker Taha Husayn expected the Arabic language to renew itself in accordance with the demands of this new age of speed (37) Indeed, new words, many derived from the word time (zaman) like mutazamin (simultaneous) and tazamuni (synchronic) are of fairly recent origin and could not be found even in new dictionaries in the 1920s (38) Other terms had not yet been coined or had not yet won currency.
The book shows how writers, both Christian and Muslim, including Salama Musa, Shidyaq, Marrash, Al Bustani, Ishaq, Qasim Amin, Farah Antun, 'Abd Al Raziq, Lutfi Al Sayyid, Kawakibi, Kurd 'Ali, Rihani, and Taha Husayn, took a secular stand, not only in their writings on the nature of government, nationalism and the socio-economic system, but also when addressing issues including morality and religion in relation to society, education, women's rights, language and literature, science, and freedom of thought and expression.
This group was composed of literary figures such as Taha Husayn, Muhammad Husayn Haykal, Abbas Mahmud al-Aqqad, and Tawfiq al-Hakim; social critics such as Fathi Zaghlul and Isma'il Mazhar; Christian Arab emigres, such as Salama Musa, Farah Antoun, Jurji Zaydan, and Shibli Shumayal; and political leaders such as Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid.
(11) Taha Husayn's al-Ayyam (1929) is generally considered the first artistically mature Arabic autobiography/novelistic (or novelized, after al-Dayim) autobiography.