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Abdul-Rahman Badawi

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Abdul-Rahman Badawi (1917-2002), one of the most eminent philosophical


figures and scholars in Egypt in the twentieth century, a prolific writer and
translator, with about 120 monographs and translations in philosophy, viewed
as the first existentialist philosopher and a follower of Martin Heidegger.

His Life
Abdel-Rahman Badawi was born to a rural rich family at the village of
Sharabas, Damietta Governorate. After completing his secondary education,
he joined the Faculty of Arts of the Egyptian University. Badawi has led a
stormy life. He has been a subject of controversy, agreement and
disagreement among his own as well as later generations. However, there is
general agreement that he was a pioneer and a full-fledged master of his own
field. In recognition of his outstanding achievements, Dr. Badawi has been
awarded Mubarak's Prize for letters.

Career

On October 15, 1938, Badawi was appointed lecturer at the Department of


Philosophy, Faculty of Arts of the Egyptian University. As an assistant to
professor Lalande he lectured BA students on research methodology and
metaphysics. Starting January 1939, he taught history of Greek philosophy,
interpreting in French philosophy texts to students of the department of
philosophy.

In November 1941, Badawi obtained his MA with a dissertation in French


under the supervision of professor Lalande then professor Alexandre Koure,
titled "The Death Problem in Existentialism". The dissertation was printed in
French in 1964 at the printing house of the French Institute for Oriental
Archeology in Cairo as a publication of Ain Shams University, Faculty of
Arts. Badawi taught logic, part of the history of Greek philosophy and
scientific research methodology besides Greek philosophy texts. In 1950, he
left Fouad University (now Cairo University) for Ibrahim University (now
Ain Shams University).
On May 29, 1944, Badawi obtained his Ph.D in philosophy at Fouad I
University with a thesis titled "Existentialist Time". The thesis was published
in book form in 1945. In the same year, he was appointed lecturer at the
Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Fouad University, where he was
promoted to assistant professor in July, 1949. On September 14, 1950, he
moved to the Faculty of Arts, Ibrahim Pasha University where he founded and
headed the Department of Philosophy. In 1955, he was appointed chair
professor and remained as head of the department until he left the university
on the September 1, 1971. From 1947 to 1949, he was seconded as professor
of Islamic philosophy to the "Higher College of Arts" of the French
University in Beirut, Lebanon, a branch of Lyon University in France.

He worked as a cultural counselor and head of the Egyptian educational


mission in Bern, Switzerland from March 1956 to November 1958. From
February to October 1967, he was a visiting professor at the Department of
Philosophy and the Institute of Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Arts,
Sorbonne, University, and Paris.

Over the following six years (1967 - 73), he worked as a professor of logic
and modern philosophy at the Libyan University in Beni-Ghazi. During the
academic year 1973-74, he worked at the Faculty of Theology and Islamic
Sciences at Tehran University. He also taught sophism and Islamic
philosophy for post-graduate students besides giving public lectures on
Islamic sophism to the professors and students of the faculty once every
Sunday. The outcome of these lectures was his book "History of Islamic
Sophism from the beginning till the Second Century of the Hegira", (Kuwait,
1975). In 1974, he moved to Kuwait University as a professor of
contemporary philosophy, logic, ethics and sophism at the Faculty of Arts.

Political life

In addition to his academic involvement, Badawi was an active participant in


national politics. He was a member of Misr al-Fatah Party (1938 - 1940), then
a member in the Higher Committee of the Neo-National Party (1944 - 1952).
In January 1953, he was chosen as a member of the Constitution Committee
commissioned to draft a new constitution for Egypt. The committee
comprised of selected politicians, intellectuals and jurists (50 members). He
particularly contributed to the provisions on freedoms and duties. He and
others insisted on a liberal democratic position, though their final document
was rejected by the new regime. The committee completed its work in August
1954. However, the draft constitution was abandoned and later replaced by
the 1956 constitution. Badawi later claimed that Nasser had "aborted Egypt's
liberal experiment, which could well have developed into full democracy". He
left the country in 1966, only returning at the end of his life.
His Philosophy
In May 1938, Badawi obtained his BA in Philosophy with distinction. He
studied under renowned French professors at the time such as Alexandre
Koure (1892-1964), Andre Lalande (1867-1963), and orientalist Paul Kraus
(1900-44) Influenced by Kraus's, considerable erudition, thorough
philological methodology and his library rich with the works of orientalists,
Badawi's attention was drawn to the theme of Greek heritage impact on the
Islamic world.

Badawi, the encyclopedic philosopher adopted existentialism and contributed


to its formation since he wrote his book "Existentialist Time" in 1943. The
book was written as a thesis to obtain his PhD in philosophy from the Faculty
of Arts, Egyptian University (Now Cairo University) in 1944. After
successfully defending his Dissertation he was described by Dr. Taha Hussein
as the first Egyptian philosopher in Egypt and the Arab world in modern
times.

According to his own description, his version of existentialism differs from


Heidegger's and other existentialists in that it gives priority for action rather
than thought, and it founds the meanings of existence on both reason and
emotion and will together, and on the living experience which depends on the
inner feelings which is more capable of comprehension of living existence.

With Sartre's and Heidegger's works on the subject still then new and topical,
it was perhaps inevitable that Badawi should become known throughout the
Arab world as the torch-bearer of existentialism - though, in fairness, he was
never content to be merely a disciple, and showed originality in trying to root
his ideas in his own culture, notably in his book Humanism And
Existentialism In Arab Thought (1947).

Fluent in many European languages, Badawi published more than 120 books.
His belief was that the west and Islam were complementary, and compatible,
links in a common chain. His promotion of this thesis -which runs counter to
the creeds of modern Islamists - was found in his seminal books Greek
Heritage in Islamic Civilization (1940) and Aristotle among the Arabs, as well
as countless translations of Greek thought. He also wrote about Europe's
cultural debt to the Arabs.

Significantly, he translated into Arabic Goethe's Western-Eastern Divan


collection, written by the German as a token of his admiration of Arab-
Islamic culture. Among Badawi's other works are his introduction to
Dissidents In Islam (1946) and the controversial A History Of Atheism In
Islam.
However, in his later works, he defend Al-Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad
and devoted a space to reply to orientalists who attacked Islam. He authored
'Défense du Coran Contre ses critiques' (a defense of Qur'an against its
critics), 1988, and 'Défense de la vie du Prophète Muhammad contre ses
Détracteurs' (a defense of the live of the Prophet Muhammad against his
detractors), 1990.

In a book of his own, he has remained for more than sixty years a dedicated
scholar in the realm of thought and philosophy as a creative writer, thinker,
translator and a heritage researcher. Sometimes actively engaged in
intellectual battles or other times secluded in his own cell at home or living in
voluntary exile away from home, yet at all times, his preoccupation has
always been to promote modernization and rationalism and enlighten minds.

Badawi as a Poet
In addition to his philosophical works, Badawi produced a collection of
creative writings which reflected a unique and vigorous poetic talent, a highly
sentimental nature and deep literary and aesthetic culture. Among these
writings are: "Worries of Youth", "Death and Genius", " Song of a Stranger"
and "Nymphs and Light".

The latter was produced in the form of messages fraught with emotions,
intellectual meditations and personal confessions exchanged with his beloved;
Salwa, (a Nymph from Lebanon).
Badawi confesses that he had an unfulfilled love story that drove him to
wander around the world, looking for consolation in art and beauty. Many of
critics believe that "Salwa" was just an artistic "device" of Badawi's creation
through which he expressed his ideas and intellectual arguments. This may be
supported by the fact that all the messages exchanged on both sides, were
written in the same style and intellectual logical technique peculiar to Badawi
himself.

His Works
Throughout his career, Badawi has been a prolific writer on philosophy and
literature since he wrote his first book "Nietzsche" (Cairo, September 1939).
He wrote more than 120 books, including five volumes in French, besides
hundreds of articles and research papers delivered in international scientific
conferences in Arabic, French, English, German and Spanish.

A Short List of his Philosophical Works

1- Nitsch, Cairo, 1939.


2- Greek Heritage in the Islamic Civilization, Cairo, 1940.
3- Plato, Cairo, 1943.
4- Aristotle, Cairo, 1943.
5- The Spring of the Greek Thought, Cairo 1943.
6- The Autumn of the Greek Thought, Cairo 1943.
7- Existentialist Time, Cairo 1945.
8- Humanism and Existentialism in Arabic Thought, Cairo, 1947.
9- The Spirit of the Arabic Cilivization, translation and study, Beirut, 1949.
10- Aristotle's Logic, part I, 1948, part II, 1949, and part III, (1952), Cairo.
11- Art of Poetry by Aristotle, translation and study, Cairo, 1953.
12- Greek Origins of Political Theories in Islam, Cairo, 1955.
13- Synoposis of Oratory by Ibn Roshd's verification and study, Cairo 1960.
14- Studies in Existentialism, Cairo, 1961.
15- Scientific Research Methodology, Cairo, 1963.
16- Ibb-Khadom's Works, Cairo, 1963.
17- Arabs' Role in Forming the European Thought, Beirut, 1965.
18- A New Introduction to Philosophy, Kuwait, 1975.
19- Ethics in Kant's Opinion, Kuwait, 1977.
20- Al Ghazali's Works, Cairo, 1981.