||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (March 2014)|
|Died||4 August 1958
Cairo, Egypt (aged 71)
|Notable work(s)||Man at the Top of Evolution|
Salama Moussa (1887 – 4 August 1958) (Arabic: سلامه موسى pronounced [sæˈlæːmæ ˈmuːsæ]), born into a wealthy, land owning Coptic family in the town of Zagazig located in the Nile delta. Salama Musa was a journalist, writer, advocator of secularism, and pioneer of Arab socialism. He wrote or translated 45 published books; his writings still influence Arab thought and he is frequently referred to. Salama Musa campaigned against traditional religion and urged Egyptian society to embrace European culture. This judgement is though quite one-sided. The impression of Mousa as an adherent to 'European culture', needs thorough revision for two reasons: 1- because there are different European cultural developments, which vary from one European country to the other. Even though they would get inspired by each other, it is scientifically invalid to speak of 'one European culture'. 2- In spite of the fact that Mousa suggested to his native Egyptians to look at the scientific and social progress in Europe, he never wanted them to 'copy' 'European' norms, but rather to get rid of their uncritical adherence to their past legacy. Meanwhile he was eager to look for political and economic independence of Egypt from the British colonization. To this end he corresponded with Gandhi who provided him with his tools of economic struggle against the British hegemony over the Indian textile industry. Mousa made use of his contact with Gandhi in helping out the national Egyptian industrialist Tala'at Harb (1867-1941) to set up independent outlets for the Egyptian textile industry nationwide in Egypt - an attempt that was vehemently resisted by the British colonial powers of the time. Mousa pleaded, for instance, in his book Ha'ula'i 'allamuni (Those who inspired me, Cairo, 1953) for the independence of thought and indigenous creativity of the contemporary Egyptians and Arabs. Therefore suggesting, let alone stating that he was an adept to 'European norms' is quite an erroneous image of him.Interestingly enough, this image was shared by Euro-centric Westerners and conservative Islamists alike. It is true that Mousa went in his youth to England and adhered there to Bernard Show's Fabian Society. But we must note all the same that Show, even though he wrote in English, yet he was as an Irish person, strongly informed with a decolonizing attitude with regard to the U.K. Mousa, in most of his writings, especially in his book Ha'ula'i 'Allamuni (ibid), that came out in a popular pocket book series only a few years before he passed away, kept on citing examples of great Eastern and Western figures alike: for instance of Gandhi as well as of Show. Yet, he cared at he end of each of the chapters of his book to advocate independent critical thought. This clearly discredits the view that he was an adept of 'European culture' while addressing the Egyptians and Arabs. It might be interesting to note in this context that when a Western journalist asked Gandhi: What do you think of European civilization? Gandhi ironically retorted : It would be a good idea !
Salama Musa had no memories of his father since his death occurred when he was still a young child. His father left the family an inheritance that allowed them to live comfortably. Salama Musa received his elementary education in a Coptic school, but in 1903 he moved to Cairo to receive a secondary education. The Khedivial College where Musa attended was run like a military camp with harsh punishment for misbehavior dished out by the British instructors. In Cairo during the early 20th century there was rising anti-British sentiment rooted in the nationalist movement, and Qasim Amin's movement for the liberation of women was creating a stir. While in Cairo, Musa was exposed to writers such as Farah Antun, Jurji Zaydan, and Ahmad Lutfi Al-Sayyid that discussed modern and at the time radical ideas such as Social Darwinism, women’s rights, and nationalism. Growing up as a religious minority in Muslim dominated Egypt he was attracted to these ideas. After secondary school Musa was interested in studying European literature and science, but was unable to receive a postsecondary education in Egypt, because this advanced education was monopolized by Al Azhar and Dar al-‘ulum, both of which required students to be Muslim.
In 1907, Musa traveled to Europe to continue his education and he was exposed to a modern, secularized Europe rampant with socialist ideologies. Musa also experienced a new and empowered woman with social freedoms the likes of which he had never seen. Musa chose France as his destination; then, France was considered the hub of the modern world. In Montlhéry, a small village near Paris, he became interested in studying socialism and evolution as well as studying French relentlessly and within a few months he was reading the daily newspapers. The newspapers benefited Musa because they exposed him to modern arguments and ideas such as freedom of women, socialism, and even about his own native Egypt. Reading the daily press also presented insight concerning international politics and evolution. Egyptology was also a great discovery to Musa during his stay in France since he was asked by French students about pyramids and other monuments and he was unable to respond.
After being stumped on his own country's history Musa was determined to learn about Egyptian civilization and studied intensely upon his return to Egypt in 1908. In 1909, Musa moved to England where he wanted to brush up on his English, and he also briefly studied law at Lincoln's Inn. In England, socialism was on the rise as well as ideas of social Darwinism, Musa had a lot of interactions with members of the Fabian Society and became a member in July 1909. The Fabians, apart from being a preeminent academic society rallied for social justice, lobbied for minimum wage, and supported the creation of universal health care. Fabianism thought to get rid of the landed classes and empower the peasant, Musa embraced the ideas and wanted it realized in Egypt.
In 1910, he wrote his first book, Muqaddimat al-superman, his realization of the major differences in European life compared to that of the lives of the Egyptians and the social injustices they faced on a daily basis. In 1914, Salama Musa returned to Egypt and started his first weekly magazine, Al-Mustaqbal, with Farah Antun and Yaqub Sarruf on topics such as evolution, national unity, and socialism. The British-controlled government responded to these radical ideas by shutting down the magazine after only 16 issues.
The 1920s were an active time for Musa as well as Egypt and were considered a revolutionary period in culture and literature; Musa formed a socialist party, which was promptly dissolved under pressure and intimidation by the government. In the same year, he proceeded to establish the Egyptian Academy for Scientific Education, which was, after only 10 years of operation, shut down by the government as well.
Musa wanted Egypt to shift to a Europeanized thought and abandon old traditions and customs when it comes to the role of women in Egyptian life and secularism and so was criticized and attacked. In 1936, he proclaimed that socialism would sweep Egypt before he turned 100 years old. He spent a brief stint as editor for the social affairs ministry and, in 1942, Musa was jailed on charges of sabotage, which were trumped up charges for criticizing the ruling family.
The 1952 revolution was a turning point in Egyptian history where Nasserism was taking hold and nationalization of Egypt had begun. Salama Musa remained an important figure during this period and was appointed supervisor of the science section in Akhbar Al Youm, a position that he held until his death in 1958.
Salama Musa believed that the minority Copts were the descendents of the pharaohs and therefore the true Egyptians. Musa wanted an identity separate from that of the Arab world; one that was an Egyptian identity. He fought to try and get the Egyptian dialect taught as the official language.
However, in the 1930s Musa abandoned his nationalistic ideas and reaffirmed his belief in a shared humanity. Musa was also an advocate of secularism, democracy, and the liberation of women; his thought was very European in that sense. Salama Musa was also a champion for workers and peasants' rights and for improved working environment as well as reforms in public education. Seminars led by Musa discussing social issues drew large crowds of young intellectuals.
In 1956, under Nasser’s leadership Musa saw some of his goals being realized and Egypt was moving toward becoming a more modern nation.
Salama Moussa became seriously ill and died on 4 August 1958, a few months after turning 71.
- Divine Thoughts and Their Origin (1912)
- Treatise about Socialism (1913)
- The Most Well-known Love Affairs in History (1925, revised and renamed Love in History around 1949)
- Reading Matters on Elections (1926)
- Dreams of a Philosopher (1926)
- Freedom of Thought and Its Representatives (1927)
- Secrets of the Inner Life (1927, revised in 1948)
- History of Art and the Most Well-known Pieces of Work (1927)
- Today and Tomorrow (1928)
- Descent and Development of Mankind (1928, revised in 19523)
- Stories (1939)
- About Life and Culture (1930, revised and renamed in 1956: Culture and Life)
- Our Duties and the Tasks of Foreign Countries (1931)
- Gandhi and the Indian Revolution (1934)
- Renaissance in Europe (1935, in 1962 posthumously revised and renamed What Is Renaissance)
- Egypt, a Place Where Civilization Began (1935, expanded edition in 1948)
- The World in 30 Years (1936)
- Modern English Culture (1936, expanded ed. in 1956)
- Our Life as from 50 (1944, expanded ed. in 1956)
- Freedom of Thought in Egypt (1945, this piece of work clearly shows, how much Salama Moussa was influenced by the European culture, in particular by Voltaire.)
- Eloquence and the Arabic Language (1945, expanded ed. in 1953 as well as posthumously in 1964)
- My and Your Intellect (1947, expanded ed. 1953)
- The Years of Salama Moussa's Apprenticeship (1947, posthumously expanded 3ed. in 19589 This piece of work is of the first renowned autobiographies of the Arabic Language Area)
- The True Path of the Young People (1949)
- Psychological Attempts (1953, changed to Attempts in 1963)
- These are My Mentors (1953, among them a very obstinate discussion on Goethe's works, posthumously expanded ed. in 1965)
- The Book of Revolutions (1955)
- Psychological Studies (1956)
- The Woman Is not the Plaything of the Man (1956, a very early dispute about the liberation (emancipation) of the woman at that time, especially in the orient)
- George Bernhard Shaw (1957, who he has met and got to know in England, posthumously expanded ed. in 1977)
- Attempts of the Young People (posthumously 1959)
- Forbidden Writings (posthumously 1959)
- Mankind is the Pride of Creation (posthumously 1961)
- Goldschmidt Jr., A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Egypt. 2000 Ed. Pg 139
- Meisami, S. Julie, Starkey, Paul. Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, Volume 2. Routledge, New York, NY 1998 pp. 554-555
- Musa, Salama. The Education of Salama Musa. E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands. 1961
- Ibrahim, A. Ibrahim "Salama Musa: An Essay on Cultural Alienation". Middle Eastern Studies. Vol. 15, No. 3 (October 1979), pp. 346-357
- Egger, Vernon. "A Fabian in Egypt: Salamah Musa and the Rise of the Professional Classes in Egypt, 1909-1939." International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 20, No. 1 (February 1988), pp. 123-126
- Egger, Vernon. "A Fabian in Egypt: Salamah Musa and the Rise of the Professional Classes in Egypt, 1909-1939.", Lanham, MD 1986 University Press of America, Inc
- Sami, A. Hanna., George, H. Gardner. Arab Socialism: A Documentary Survey. E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands 1969, pp. 49-57
- Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
- The Status of Culture in Egypt
- (German)/(English) Overview of the Relationship between Naguib Mahfouz and Salama Moussa
- (German)/(English) Salama Moussa - His Life and Effect on the Future
- (German) Salama Moussa - Das literarische Gesamtwerk