The Intellectual Origins of Egyptian Nationalism

By Jamal Mohammed Ahmed | Go to book overview
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III
The Girondists of Egypt

'The avowed object of those who belong to this [ Abdu's] school is to justify the ways of Islam to man, that is to say, to Moslem man. They are the Girondists of the Egyptian national movement.'

CROMER

THE biographer of Muhammad Abdu usually refers to the 'Imam's Party'--Hizb al-Imam--when he speaks of Abdu's pupils and friends in the context of the political and social movements of Egypt in the first years of the twentieth century. There was no such party in the accepted sense of the term but the expression is telling and significant. Between the supporters of Cromer and those of the Khedive, the two rival authorities of the times, there stood a third group, that of Abdu and his followers, with convictions and ideals of their own and a different style of work and life. They kept aloof from the day-to-day politics and intrigues of the Palace and the Agency, and from the struggles of Cromer and the Khedive, to devote themselves to creating an enlightened public opinion. This they did in various ways: by teaching what they regarded as correct political principles, by applying those principles to various problems of Egyptian society, and by helping to create new political institutions.

Of the political theorists among the group perhaps the most important was Ahmad Fathi Zaghlul, the brother of Saad Zaghlul whom we have met as one of Abdu's disciples and who was later to lead the Wafd. Fathi Zaghlul's work had no particular literary merit or originality, and he is already almost forgotten, but at the time what he did was of great significance. In an age when translation from European languages was the first literary task, he was the most effective translator. His own works were mainly legal, but he translated a number of historical and political books through which he exercised a great

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