Chapter

The Extraction of Gold, or an Overview of Paris <i>and</i> The Honest Guide for Girls and Boys

Rifaa Rafi al-Tahtawi

in Modernist Islam, 1840-1940

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195154672
Published online November 2007 |
 The Extraction of Gold, or an Overview of Paris and The Honest Guide for Girls and Boys

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Rifaa Rafi al-Tahtawi (Egypt, 18011873) was a pioneering figure in the Arab intellectual awakening of the nineteenth century. Tahtawi was born in Tahta, Upper Egypt, to a rural family of modest means yet with a line of descent from the Prophet Muhammad. He studied for seven years at the famous al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, where his mentor nominated him to serve as religious leader for a student mission to Paris. Tahtawi stayed in France from 1826 to 1831, learned French, and became the mission's main translator. He also read the writings of major French thinkers. When he returned to Egypt, Tahtawi directed the Medical School, then worked as a translator for the Artillery School. In 1835, he ran the School of Foreign Languages, his own brainchild, which produced thousands of translated works in various fields. As a result of a falling out with Khedive Abbas (reigned 18481854), Tahtawi was exiled to the Sudan, and was only able to return four years later, after Abbas's death. He then assumed the directorship of the Military School and participated in several educational reform commissions. Tahtawi also served as editor of the official newspaper and an educational journal. Tahtawi translated two dozen French works and wrote several original books, including a didactic memoir of his experiences in France, excerpted here; a program for the reform of Egypt; and a book of guidance, also excerpted here, whose emphasis on the Egyptian watan (homeland) constituted one of the first statements of nationalism in the Arab world.1

Chapter.  6957 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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