Taha Hussein

by Hannah from San Diego

"Education is as indispensable as water and air"
A photographic portrait of the Taha Hussein. ( (MidEast Posts))
A photographic portrait of the Taha Hussein. ( (MidEast Posts))

"The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles--preferably of his own making--in order to triumph"(Stein 135). In The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein's inspirational words of wisdom appropriately suit the intrepid and lionhearted writer, critic, novelist, literary historian and educator Taha Hussein. Taha Hussein was born in an Egyptian impoverished mill town in Minya Province. He was one of thirteen children and his family underestimated for his abilities. Hussein became blind at the age of two by the village barber's attempt to treat ophthalmia. Although Hussein was undervalued and mistreated by his family, visually impaired at a young age, and born in penurious conditions, he did not let any of that impede him in his pursuit of knowledge that would eventually lead his country into what was recognized as the "Egyptian Renaissance". "Taha Husayn was known during his lifetime [1889-1973] as the dean of Arabic literature...His masterpiece, a three-volume autobiography, among the classics of modern Arabic literature...despite his handicaps, he was the first student to earn a Ph.D. degree at the...Egyptian University in 1915...He was also the first Egyptian to be nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature "("Taha Hussein"). Considering it was almost impossible for lower social statuses to acquire a decent education, the challenges Hussein faced were almost impossible to overcome without a firm dogma. Such dogma consisted of character, strong willingness and persistence. Character and assertiveness is necessary to achieve the confidence and motivation to set high goals. Determination is vital in order to propel oneself to the achievement of their goals regardless of the obstacles. Tenaciousness, endurance and persistence drive one to grip onto their beliefs and to achieve their desires. Taha Hussein's achievements were countless, but what truly makes him an inspiration is his dogma of principles that kept his head in the sky while his feet remained firm on the ground.

            Taha Hussein's assertive character assisted him in defining his life goals regardless of his limited abilities and inconvenient social status. Taha Hussein's starting point in life was already a few steps behind others due to his optic impairment and his poverty. His pursuit for education was most challenging in an invaded country where people in low social levels barely acquired any quality education; he had to diligently work. As he was pursuing his education in Al-Azhar, the Arab-world's top mosque university, Hussein did not hesitate to demonstrate his strong character and integrity to the public: "In 1926 the young professor caused a public uproar with[that criticized] traditional assumptions. The outcry almost caused the fall of the government..."("Taha Husayn: Egyptian Author"). Hussein was not afraid to criticize the government and high levels of authority. He was well aware of the jeopardies he was putting himself in for simply going against the flow at times like these. But he felt that the urgency of reform and improvement topped anything else. Because of his outspoken opposition to the school's teaching system, he failed his final examinations and eventually moved to the Egyptian University. He did not let his failure in his examinations stop him from achieving what he believes in: "Husayn's boldness and fervent support of academic freedom were not forgotten, however, and in 1932 he was dismissed. He wrote prodigiously for literary magazines and newspapers, as well as more substantial works"("Taha Hussein"). Taha Hussein's boldness, integrity and concern for the good of his country qualify him for the title of a hero. Hussein let his concern for the greater good of humanity direct his his goals and his career. Even though he finished learning, he did not stop endeavoring to improve the school system for the generations following his. Taha Hussein's strong character helped him look beyond his flaws and prove to others that anything's possible.

Taha Hussein, center, is at Fouad I University. (Al-Ahram Weekly News (Abdelrashid Mahmoudi))
Taha Hussein, center, is at Fouad I University. (Al-Ahram Weekly News (Abdelrashid Mahmoudi))

            Taha Hussein's perseverance and determination helped him propel himself into the journey of achieving his beneficial goals that seemed almost impossible to the majority of people at the time. He was able to achieve above and beyond what others expected of him. Taha Hussein dared to dream and aspired to inspire his whole country:"Husayn set himself, both as author and teacher, the task of introducing to his fellow countrymen and, by extension, to the Arab world as a whole, many of the ideas and ideals he had encountered in Europe" ("Taha Hussein") Even though his limitations convoluted his acquirement of knowledge, he persevered to not only educate himself but his whole country. He concentrated his efforts to modernize Egypt's teaching systems and it was this determination that led Egypt into a memorable renaissance. But he refused, he persevered, he changed his reputation from a vulnerable blind man to a candid critic and talented author: "Taha Husayn was not afraid to provoke and confront controversy [again, even after he aged]...In 1938 he published another controversial work, Mustaqbal al-Thaqafa fi Misr, laying out a broad and ambitious program of educational reform that involved a process of modernization on the model of Europe"("Taha Hussein"). Taha Husein's tenacity kept him holding tight to his reformal beliefs that eventually changed the course of education in Egypt and later the Arab world.His passion to approach and discuss controversies and his critical eye is what assured to everyone that his ideas were well thought out and reliable.Many Egyptians to this day owe Taha Hussein their utmost gratitude for their literacy; his perseverance and tenaciousness came at many costs and were undoubtedly rewarding.

A picture of Mr. & Mrs. Hussein & their son. ( (Ahmad Zaki Osman))
A picture of Mr. & Mrs. Hussein & their son. ( (Ahmad Zaki Osman))

            Hussein's persistence was his key factor in familiarizing Egypt with a better school system. The government was quite stubborn to any new and innovative ideas. If Hussein was able to implement a whole new system, that means that it took an abundance of persistence to achieve his goals: "Taha Husayn made several contributions to modern Arabic fiction, of which the novels Dua alKarawan (1932) andShajarat al-Bus (1944) and the short-story collection Al-Muadhdhibun fi al-Ard (1949) are the most notable. It is, however, in the realm of literary criticism that his contribution to modern Arabic cultural life is most significant. He played a major role in the formulation of a modern approach to the issues of Arabic literary history; he applied critical methods to the canon of both poetry and artistic prose through a series of studies on genres and various writers... it is possible to detect a determined effort to introduce into the world of Arabic literature a critical approach based on a recognizable methodology. In so doing, he laid the groundwork for subsequent generations of critics, most notably his own student, Muhammad Mandur (1907-1965)"("Taha Hussein: An Egyptian Author"). Hussein's persistence and determination seemed to be an eminent quality about him that played a major role in his successes. His aspiration to succeed in his goals mixed with his extraordinary intellectual ability to make him inevitable and certainly an inspiration to the following generations. His persistence and ambition to accomplish led him to disregard that:"...his blindness caused him great torture... [and that he was] aggravated by a careless brother, presumably sent to take care of him...Hussein's time in Montpellier proved to be the days of his life. He worked...hard at his studies, learning excellent French but the biggest bonus of all was his meeting with his'sweet voice', Suzanne, who came to read to him since not all the references needed were available in Barilla. She later became his wife, advisor, assistant, mother to his children, great love and best friend. He states that since he first heard this'sweet voice', anguish never entered his heart"("Taha Husayn"). Taha Hussein's reputable conducts won the heart of Suzanne Hussein. He did not need a dazzling appearance for them to fall in love. Taha Hussein never saw his wife, yet he married her and loved her just like any other person would. His persistence to maintain his values and his morals were enough to create an exceptional work ethic and an appealing personality.

            Taha Hussein's iron-willed, determined and self-confident character surely guaranteed success in his prosperous efforts to lead Egypt to the "Egyptian Renaissance". From a young age, he knew he was different. But, it was his choice to choose how to define different. There was the option of convincing himself he was weird and there was the option of convincing himself he was special. It was easier to call himself weird and live on the lines of others' sympathies; except Hussein had a vision, a dream. With that dream and such a golden set of values, Taha Hussein was inevitable. Not only did he manage to earn a decent education by diligently working, he also set a nearly impossible goal to change the whole timeworn Egyptian school system and improve it for the following generations. He did not fear to speak his mind and openly criticize anything around him. The public recognized and upheld his striving for the better but the government fiercly rejected it. Taha Hussein's life (1889-1973) is a major part in the Egyptian history. Taha Hussein's character and achievements put me in a flood of emotions. Taha Hussein wasn't presented with half the opportunities people are presented with nowadays yet he was able to achieve higher than what anyone aspired for. It was his set of values that kept him motivated and ultimately a hero. My increased knowledge of Hussein led me into creating a new motto, "If a Taha Hussein--a blind, poor, undervalued man--can do it, then I can". Taha Hussein's aim was not recognition nor triumph; it was the aspiration to achieve his goals. Nevertheless, he was most triumphant when he achieved his goals and left his mark in this world.

Works Cited

"Hussein, Taha." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2013. Web.  21 Mar. 2013.

"Taha Husayn (Egyptian Author)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. .

"Taha Husayn." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography In Context. Web. 21 Mar. 2013.

"Hussein, Taha." ClassicLayout.World Book, 2013. Web 2 Apr. 2013.

Allen, Roger. "Husayn, Taha [18891973]." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. Ed. Philip Mattar. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 1060-1061. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 27 Mar. 2013

Page created on 4/21/2013 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/21/2013 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

YouTube - Taha Hussein talks about the importance of upholding and maintaining one's education.
Good Reads - This is a list of Taha Hussein's rated books and quotes.
Oasis Center - This is a story about Suzanne Hussein, his wife, who developed a strong bond with Hussein. She talks about him in her memoirs that include the book,
Al Azhar - To Taha Hussein, Al Azhar University proved to be one of the strongest opposing forces.
Taha Hussein Museum - Taha Hussein's contributions to his country were not forgotten. His will remain remembered by the people of Egypt.

Extra Info

For further clarification on each of the books, they are all available on Just search up the name of the book in the search box.

Taha Hussein's List of Books:

    -The Memory of Abu El Alaa 1915 -Selected Poetical Texts of the Greek Drama 1924 -Ibn Khaldun's Philosophy 1925 -Dramas by a Group of the Most Famous French Writers 1924 -Pioneers of Thoughts 1925 -Wednesday Talk 1925 -Pre-Islamic Poetry 1926 -In the Summer 1933 -The Days "3 Volumes" 1933 -Hafez and Shawki 1933 -The Prophet's Life "Ala Hamesh El Sira" 1933 -Curlew's Prayers 1934 -From a Distance 1935 -Adeeb 1935 -The Literary Life in the Arabian Peninsula 1935 -Together with Abi El Alaa in his Prison 1935 -Poetry and Prose 1936 -Bewitched Palace 1937 -Together with El Motanabi 1937 -The Future of Culture in Egypt 1938 -Moments 1942 -The Voice of Paris 1943 -Sheherzad's Dreams 1943 -Tree of Misery 1944 -Paradise of Thorn 1945 -Chapters on Literature and Criticism 1945 -The Voice of Abu El Alaa 1945 -Osman "The First Part of the Greater Sedition" -"El Fitna Al Kubra" 1947 -Spring Journey 1948 -The Tortured of Modern Conscience 1949 -The Divine Promise "El Wa'd El Haq" 1950 -The Paradise of Animals 1950 -The Lost Love 1951 -From There 1952 -Varieties 1952 -In The Midst 1952 -Ali and His Sons (The 2nd Part of the Greater Sedition) 1953 -(Sharh Lozoum Mala Yalzm, Abu El Alaa) 1955 -(Anatagonism and Reform 1955 -Criticism and Reform 1956 -Our Contemporary Literature 1958 -Mirror of Islam 1959 -Summer Nonsense 1959 -On the Western Drama 1959 -Talks 1959 -Al-Shaikhan (Abi Bakr and Omar Ibn El Khatab) 1960 -From Summer Nonsense to Winter Seriousness 1961 -Reflections 1965 -Beyond the River 1975 -Words 1976 -Tradition and Renovation 1978 -Books and Author 1980 -From the Other Shore 1980
For further clarification on each of the books, they are all available on Just search up the name of the book in the search box.
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