A knight of wisdom and positive attitude with his decided scientific
approach, his critical creations in the realm of intellect and literature
has managed to give a great momentum to Arab culture and civilization, along
with enlightening the Arab mind.
Zaki Naguib Mahmoud had a long journey in the kingdoms of philosophy,
literature, criticism, logic, translation & culture; that tanged his
character by a very special image. He wrote his biography, which is deemed
to be one of the greatest in the history of Arabic literature, to depict his
scientific and literary life in such unprecedented candid impartiality and
Along his life, he added a cluster of the most outstanding pieces; 51 books,
hundreds of articles and discourses in many spheres.
Mastering translation, he succeeded in selecting what enriched the Arab
mentality. He was, also, a great thrust, having modern Arab and Egyptian
culture thrive through his creations, pilot philosophy and all offices he
Zaki Naguib Mahmoud, a man of the full sense of the word, has managed to
leave his eternal fingerprint through his touchy pencil. Breathing his last,
he left behind invaluable heritage and matchless intellectual bounty.
Born on February 1st, 1905 in "Meat Al-Kholi Abdullah" village on Nile Bank
between Al-Mansoura and Damietta, Zaki was fostered within large-member
family with different shares of education but all civil servants.
Accompanying his father who was working as a public officer in the Sudanese
government - the headquarters then was in Cairo - Zaki moved to Cairo as he
joined Sultan Hussein School.
In 1914 his family moved to Khartoum as his father was assigned in another
post in the Sudan, so he joined preliminary Ghordone school on Jan. 1915
till he completed his high school study.
Afterwards, Zaki flew in 1936 to UK on a summer-time mission in his capacity
as an English teacher. Then, he was assigned to work at the public culture
department, but just for few months, to travel once again on a mission to
UK, as he joined London university till he attained his honorary Bachelor
degree of first order in Philosophy in 1945.
This degree he acquired, however, permits holder to begin work with view to
attaining the Ph.D. So he did it in 1947 at the College of the King, London
Yearning home, he came back to Egypt to join philosophy department at the
college of arts, Cairo University. Zaki was commissioned to undertake the
supervision of the Culture magazine which was being published by the
committee of authoring, translation and editing for three years straight as
of 1948 till 1951. He was seconded afterwards to work in the Ministry of
National Guidance which was first founded following the July 23 Revolution.
As of 1953 to 1954, Zaki went to the USA, in his capacity as a visiting
professor, as he paid several visits to Polman University and Colombia
University in Washington. Following this visit he was appointed Cultural
Counselor of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington.
In 1956 he got married to Dr. Monira Hilmi, professor of psychology in Ein
Shams University, then he was selected to represent both philosophy and
poetry committees of the supreme council for literature, social science and
arts care. In addition, he was appointed member of more than a cultural
committee, & he kept membership to committees, which combined philosophy,
literature together with arts for nearly 10 years.
In 1965 Mahmoud managed to establish - under the Ministry of Culture - the
"Contemporary Intellect" magazine to which he dedicated himself as
Editor-in- Chief for four years. Not to mention, he tailored the policy of
such magazine ever since it came to existence to taking no side while
dealing with politics, as its first aim was to concentrate on what is
related to the intellect, irrespective of politics that emerged from such
Returning home after five years straight, as of 1968 to 1973, he spent in
Kuwait, Zaki resumed his giving at Cairo University till receiving an
invitation to join Al-Ahram newspaper in 1973; a chance which he deemed good
opportunity to express his panoramic vision through his writings. He pursued
writing, however, till 1990.
As a matter of fact, Mahmoud has assumed several and numerous offices such
as a member in the supreme culture council, national council of information
and culture, national specialized councils and the national council of
education and scientific research.
In addition, he took part in several conferences held in both Arab and
European countries and he was invited to deliver various lectures around the
world too many times. His last visit was to Qatar in which he delivered his
last lecture which was widely acclaimed.
Intellectual, cultural & literary
Mahmoud's life is deemed to be a unique and distinguished model via which he
managed to pull through the continuing intellectual struggle. The literary
attempts of Zaki were first launched before graduation, as he embarked on
writing while still a student through correspondence with many newspapers.
He wrote diversified articles - in different spheres - which were published
in "Politics Weekly" magazine and "Culture" magazine.
There is no doubt that philosophy, his major, was a great intellectual
juncture and sensitive turning point in his life, hence when he came back
home after years of preparing for Ph.D. in London his orientation has been
crystallized in two trends.
First, was the impression of the contemporary European culture spirit;
second was the calling for logical positivism, the philosophy which joins
all concerns in the field of scientific thinking together with each other.
Zaki, however, deems the philosophical thinking , whatever it was, as the
key to conceive and understand the existing conceptions in people's life, so
he authored several books in this respect entitled "Towards Scientific
Purity vs. modernity
The issue of purity and modernity is one of the most important issues that
he expatiated in talking about, as Zaki deems that problems of the so-called
the Third World or the under-developed countries, resides in cultural
backwardness and the only way to combat it, is to merge the old and the new,
keeping our heritage abreast with new conceptions.
As it became clear then that he visualized purity as the grassroots of
homeland, while the modernity as broadmindedness. Accordingly, Mahmoud
affirmed that the nation could harmonize between both purity and modernity,
keeping at the same time distinguished character and impartial orientation
towards heritage and roots.
He decided not to be subordinate but independent, so he conducted his own
way while playing his criticism role in enriching the intellectual realm,
battling alone with his pencil several severe strifes.
One of his closest friends was the man of letters Abbas Mahmoud Al-Akad with
whom he found himself, also Akad was fascinated with his way of arguing and
convincing and his frankness as well.
He had touched on several topics in different domains such as arts,
politics, freedom but square and taking no sides as he never committed
himself to a specific party which created apt climate to him while
criticizing or analyzing any question on both political and cultural scenes.
The human being
He is characterized by sensitivity, thoughtfulness and widemindedness. He
was a unique teacher who knew very much how to draw and capture the
attention of his students via clear thoughts and vivid feelings along with
Being so polite and having kind heart paved the way before him to be more
reachable, as he managed to touch many to the roots.
There is no doubt, that Dr. Zaki's contributions had, to a great measure,
participated in developing both Arab and Egyptian modern culture. The
decisive proofs for that are his writings which were strong momentum and
fundamental pillar in improving such progress. His writing came - over 60
years of giving - to nearly 20,000 pages in 51 books of different domains.
What a prolific writer!
Writings of Dr. Zaki were diversified, flourishing Arab mentality to a new
and distinguished way via which he added a lot to people around. He wrote in
philosophy "The History of Modern Philosophy" in cooperation with Ahmed Amin
in 1935, "The Literature Story in the World" which was issued in 4 parts in
1941 and 1948, "The Arts of Literature" in 1947, "The Positivism" in 1951,
"Revolution on the Doors" in 1956, "Knowledge Theory" in 1955, "Thoughts in
The New World" in 1956, ?owards Scientific Philosophy" in 1958, "The Land
and the Egyptians" issued in English in 1959, "Principles of Scientific
Thinking" in 1977, along with a cluster of masterpieces and terrific issues
such as "Culture and Age", "Renewing the Arab Mentality", "Islamic Vision".
As for translation field, he accomplished during his tour with translation
great pieces such as "The Rich and the Poor", adding to his credit hundreds
of articles. He also translated scores of books that were published by the
Frankline Institution for which he was counselor in Egypt.
Egyptian writes about Egypt
Egypt was forever in his innermost , sentiments and his mind as well,
fascinated with her love. And that could simply explain why he reached that
status in this sensitive sphere.
Acknowledging the role he assumed over long journey with meditation, Zaki
was awarded several times, as he received the distinction literary award in
1939, the State incentive award on his book "Towards Scientific Philosophy",
decoration of arts and literature of the first order in 1960, award of
appreciation in literature in 1975, decoration of the Republic of the first
class in 1975, award of appreciation on Arab culture extended by the Arab
League to become the first Egyptian who received this kind of award.
Not to mention, he was awarded the honourary Ph.D. by the American
University in 1985 and the necklass of Sultan Al-Eweis of the U.A.E. in
1991, the award which is only exclusive to those who are distinguished
figures in the Arab world. Mahmoud, also, received the Cairo International
Book Fair award in 1992 on his book "Harvest of the Years" as the best book
Dr. Zaki, you left....Still your heritage is here around, fragrant and
Zaki breathed his last in 1993 after 88 years of giving during which he gave
Arab and Egyptian generations the texture of his human and intellectual
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