A very rare dialogue between Sayed Qutb and Taha Hussein

Long ago, when I was interested in the “School of Literary Interpretation”, I started collecting many things about it, including what was written by Taha Hussein, Amin Al-Khouli and Sayed Qutb. But whenever I went to Dar al-Kutub, I did not find much of what Sayed Qutb had written in its context. The magazines are either torn, restored, lost etc. I remember that a friend older than me told me once, that he was a student at the time of Sayed Qutb’s execution and that the teachers passed his class and asked everyone to cut a page with a poem by Sayed Qutb and hand it over to them. And then he knew that they did this with all classes and then all schools. Here, I understood why many pages of Sayed Qutb’s texts disappear from the Dar al-Kutub magazines. Rather, some magazines that he was chief editor of, such as the “Arab World” magazine from 1947 and it was monthly, and the “New Thought” magazine from 1948 were weekly, and both magazines from Anecdotes now.

One day in 1994, when I began to despair of finding them, I was surprised by an old friend of mine named Noureddine the Sea Courier, visiting me with a huge folder that looks old, and he told me that he has something that interests me and wants to sell it to me. And it was a big surprise, because the volume contains all the issues of “New Thought” magazine that I was seeing for the first time. I asked him about its source and he said, “No comment,” but he wants “a hundred pounds.” The amount wasn’t much, but I was broke. He said, “It’s okay, I will look for another buyer. But can I keep the volume with you so I can find someone to buy it?” So I told him, “Oh, peace! I am in the service, but on the condition that you allow me to read the volume and transmit what I want from it,” and he agreed.

I had the folder ten days and then I took it. When I got the money, I asked him about the volume, and he said he had already sold it. I did not feel much sad, because I had been moving and summarizing all issues of the magazine in 76 pages (Floscap) in those ten days, in which I recorded almost everything, articles, poems, dialogues, presentations of the latest publications at the time, and even advertisements, because they express the indirect financiers!

What astonished me at the time was that the owner of the magazine’s franchise was Muhammad Helmy El-Minyawi, owner of Dar Al-Arabi for Printing and Publishing, and a member of the Guidance Office of the Muslim Brotherhood! That is, Sayyid Qutb had some connection with the Brotherhood since this early date, that is, before he traveled to America, and before he officially joined the group in 1953.

Among the amazing things also is the number of young writers (from Egypt and the Arab world) that Sayed Qutb attracted to write in the magazine, such as Naguib Mahfouz, Saad Makkawi, Ahmed Abdel Ghafour Attar, Issa Al-Naouri, Habib Jamati, Sadiq Ibrahim Arjoun, Tijani Yusef Bashir, Abdel Hamid Yunus, Ahmed Hassan Al-Baqoury, Abdel Halim Montaser, and Muhammad Al-Ghazali. A student at the College of Fundamentals of Religion. The young Al-Ghazali’s relationship with Sayed Qutb is indeed strange and needs special writing. But not now.

The expressive surprise is that the dialogue of the first issue of the magazine (January 1948) was with Taha Hussein personally. It is a rare dialogue and is not found in Taha Hussein’s bibliography, and it was entitled “Moments with Dr. Taha Hussein Bey”, and you will find it at the end of this article.

I thought, like many others, that there was some kind of hostility or quarrel between Sayyid Qutb and Taha Hussein. But this is only an illusion and an imagination based, perhaps, on distorted assessments of the last stage of Sayyid Qutb’s life. But when we arrange what we have from documents or sources (including this rare dialogue that we present here), we realize that there is a good relationship based on understanding and appreciation, especially after Sayyid Qutb initiated his intellectual and literary independence from Al-Aqqad, his first teacher, as he called him.

It can be claimed that this relationship began in the mid-thirties, that is, several years before Sayed Qutb published his critique of “The Future of Culture in Egypt,” an important book published by Taha Hussein in 1938. As for Sayed Qutb’s critique of the book, it was published in the Dar al-Uloom periodical in April / April 1939.

Since the beginning of the criticism, Sayed Qutb seemed to admire the book, even though it indicated that Taha Hussein made mistakes and hits, and this is normal! Then Sayed Qutb presents the book chapter by chapter, traces Taha Hussein’s digressions and mental leaps, and agrees with him in some of them and disagrees with him in others. He disagreed, for example, that Egypt is a Western nation, and that Islam did not affect the Egyptian mentality, which is a Greek mentality, and Qutb asserted that the Qur’an placed the Egyptian mind, and the minds that were subject to it, within a certain scope that is the scope of Quranic legislation and the worldly order of the Qur’an (p. 23). He believes that what we suffer from the turmoil between the material European civilization and our beliefs and traditions is the greatest evidence that the mentality of the Egyptians is different from the mentality of the Europeans.

Likewise, he opposed Taha Hussein’s call to adopt Western civilization as an unavoidable temporal necessity, and the importance of taking it all, as Japan did, without hesitation or delay, and without criticism, scrutiny or choice. I can describe Qutb’s opposition here as partial, and this is what is evident in his saying:

“The easiest thing that achieves the doctor’s desire to adopt European civilization, and fulfills our desire to preserve our own characteristics, is to analyze this civilization into two components: culture and civilization .. and consider the culture as comprehensive for our religion, our arts, our moral systems, our traditions, and our myth as well. This we must preserve in it. With our past, and renewed in it to the extent that it requires a year of natural development. We consider civilization to be inclusive of science and applied arts, and those we take from Europe … and this is what Japan made “(p. 30).

This opinion advocated by the young Sayed Qutb is still being repeated until now, almost in the same form.

Taha Hussein, in turn, understood the personality of Sayed Qutb well, and he summed it up precisely according to a narration by Ahmad Abdul-Ghafoor Attar (Kalimat Al-Haq Magazine, Vol. 2, May 1967), that “There are two qualities in Sayed Qutb: idealism and stubbornness, which is not only ideal, but it is ideal In the ideal. “

Stubbornness was indeed one of Qutb’s defining characteristics. As it was often narrated that he did not accept advice even from the people closest to him, and that if he got angry, he would only relent on his own. In addition, idealism is a characteristic that already dominates his product and his life, and perhaps this is why he still has such an effect on the younger generations that tend to idealism by the nature of their age stage.

Therefore, it seems to me that Taha Hussein’s description of Sayed Qutb’s psyche is accurate and productive, with no doubt, from a deep knowledge of Sayed Qutb. Why not when he was responsible for Sayed Qutb in the Ministry of Education for two whole years?

He explained this that Sayyid Qutb, who was a teacher at the Ministry of Education, was transferred in March of 1940 to the Department of Monitoring General Culture at the Ministry’s office.

After the incident of February 4, 1942, Sayyid Qutb lost his confidence in the Wafd Party, whose president had colluded (?) With the British occupation to form a new Wafd Ministry. So, Sayyid Qutb left the delegation and joined the Saadiites (the vanguard of the Wafd) headed by Ahmed Maher. Sayyid Qutb was very impressed with him.

Immediately after this, Sayed Qutb’s troubles began with the Minister of Education (Ahmed Najeeb Al-Hilali). At that time, Taha Hussein was appointed as a technical advisor to the Ministry of Education, and as before, he became Chairman of Sayed Qutb for a period of two years (1942-1944).

In July 1944, the Minister of Education assigned Sayed Qutb to an inspection mission in Upper Egypt for a period of two months. Sayyid Qutb became angry and considered the matter a denial and not an inspection, and he almost quit had it not been for the intervention of Taha Hussein, who swore to Qutb that he would not do it while he was in the ministry. And he told him, as Sayyid Qutb told him in an article in Al-Risalah in 1946: “Leave it to me, and I will cause a crisis for you if necessary.”

The result of Taha Hussein’s efforts was that the Minister of Education revoked his intention to transfer Sayed Qutb as an inspector for elementary education in Upper Egypt, but he insisted on carrying out the inspection task assigned to him, and to write a comprehensive report on the study of the Arabic language in Upper Egypt schools and his proposals for reforming this study.

And I think that this noble attitude towards Taha Hussein had a great influence on Sayyid Qutb later on. Therefore, when Sayyid Qutb published his book “A Child from the Village” (1946), he gave it to Taha Hussein, saying:

To the author of the Book of Days … Dr. Taha Hussein Bey. These are – oh sir – days like yours, a child lived in the village, in some of your days the same, and in the rest of them there is a difference. A difference to the extent that there is between a generation and a generation, a village and a village, and life and life; As much as there is between nature, nature, direction and direction … but – after all – it is days of days. “

In June 1947, Taha Hussein published an article in “Al-Hilal” entitled “As you are .. Dear friend”. Although he did not mention the name of Sayyid Qutb, anyone who has read it until now thinks that it may mean Sayed Qutb. This is because of the accuracy of his description of the obstinacy of this friend who admonishes him.

Qutb replied to it in the magazine “The Arab World” that he was supervising, with a long article under the title “The Beginning of the Battle … the Literary Conscience in Egypt: Young Men and Sheikhs,” but the battle was limited to an article only. Although Sayed Qutb repeated his accusation to the sheikhs of literature that they had abandoned their faithfulness not only to the young generation but to the nation and society, he ended it by saying: Excuse me, sir, doctor, for what may have escaped my pen from a harsh phrase, or a harsh word. God knows how much I have struggled to present the case, this innocent, quiet presentation!

In this context of appreciation and reverence comes Sayed Qutb’s dialogue with Taha Hussein. Despite its limitations, it was published twice, in January 1948 and at the end of February of the same year, and here I will only combine the two parts as follows:

– “What book has guided you and influenced your life?

= The first book I read that affected my life is the Qur’an and it still affects my life until now, and the second book is “The Necessities of Abu Ala Al Maari” which I used as the subject of my doctoral thesis at the ancient Egyptian University. I discuss this letter on May 5, 1914, before I travel to Europe. The circumstances of life have differed with me since I traveled to Europe and since the private and public events occurred in Egypt and other than Egypt, which are the ones that affect all people, but I am still so far in spite of this, influenced most strongly by the first book I knew, which is the Qur’an, and the second book I loved, which is the necessities. .

What are your favorite readings?

As for my favorite readings, the old Arabic books, especially the books of the first and second centuries of the Hijri; Because moving to that past relaxes and refreshes me. And I love those old books to myself [كتب] Classes. I like this one to me, Tabaqat Ibn Saad. Despite my reading about it a lot, I do not feel tired or bored, because its language is so sweet, and its topics are very sweet. For example, when you read a translation of Omar, you find a masterful presentation that stirs artistic passion, whether that is the attitude of Omar towards his subjects or the attitude of the subjects with him. One of its advantages, in my opinion, is that he is not considered one of the storytellers who receive and promote weak narratives, but rather that he is one of the critics who scrutinize their stories. I see it as far from the “Waqidi School”.

The question about my favorite reading reminds me of something that I find myself amusing. In 1944, I traveled to Lebanon and brought with me two books .. I was resting from one to the other, and resting from them together to dictate. As for the two books, they are: “Mukhtasar al-Bukhari” by al-Zubeidi, and “Selections from Lenin.” As for the one to which I rested, my book that I dictated that day is: “The Tree of Misery.”

Does your favorite reading stay away from modern books?

= I spend my time with her from lunch to five o’clock every day, just to be in contact with the mental movement in Auroa, because he who stands with the intellectual life in Egypt only becomes like stagnant water.

– The magazine asked Dr. Taha Hussein Bey what he had made and what he intends to do to achieve lost social justice?

= I have not, and will not, do anything but enlighten the people of their legitimate rights, and demand the justice and equality they ought to do.

– Is this enough?

= What else can I do? Did you expect me to answer you with more than these words? (Then he laughed and said): The best of words is that which is less and less, so there is no need to prolong this topic as long as the few words are sufficient to express the required meaning.

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