Ayn-al-Hayat Rifaat

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Ayn-al-Hayat Rifa'at
Ay-al-hayat Rifaat.gif
Born(1858-10-05)5 October 1858
Cairo, Egypt
Died12 August 1910(1910-08-12) (aged 51)
Paris, France
Hosh al-Basha, Imam al-Shafi'i, Cairo
SpouseHussein Kamel (m. 1873; div. ?)
IssuePrince Husain Kamal ud-din Pasha
Prince Saif ud-din Bey
Prince Ahmad Nazim Bey
Prince Yusuf Kamil Bey
Princess Kazima Hanim
Full name
Ayn-al-Hayat Hanim
HouseHouse of Muhammad Ali
FatherPrince Ahmad Rifa'at Pasha
MotherDilbar Jahan Hanim
ReligionSunni Islam

Ayn-al-Hayat Rifa'at (Arabic: عين الحياة رفعت, Aynelhayat Rifa'at‎) (5 October 1858 – 12 August 1910[1]) (Ayn-al-Hayat meaning "Spring of life") was an Egyptian princess and a member of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty. She was the first wife of Sultan Hussein Kamel of Egypt.

Early life[edit]

Princess Ayn-al-Hayat was born on 5 October 1858, and was the eldest daughter of Prince Ahmad Rifa'at Pasha, sometime President of Council of State and his second wife, Dilbar-Jahan Khanum.[1][2] She had a brother, Prince Ahmad Pasha, who was a man greatly esteemed for his love of justice and the austerity of his life. Ayn-al-Hayat, was still a child when her father met his tragic end.[2] Dark, petite, and vivacious, she had great charm. Her uncle, the Khedive Ismail, was very fond of her and took a personal interest in her education.[2]


In order to introduce her to study he used to say: "If you really try to learn your lessons and all your teachers are satisfied, I shall marry you to my son Hussein."[2] The child was so delighted with the idea that once when she was twelve she ran out to meet her uncle, who had come to see her, saying: "Today all my teachers are pleased. Now may I marry Hussein Agha bey?"[2] The marriage took place in due course, nikah on 30 January 1873 and zifaf on 7 February 1873.[1] Prince Hussein was devoted to his wife, who at first appeared to be happy.[2] Then quite suddenly she insisted on a divorce and obtained her freedom. Princess Ayn-al-Hayat never remarried.[2]


They had five children:

  • Prince Husain Kamal ud-din Pasha (Cairo, 20 December 1874 – Toulouse, France, 6 August 1932 and buried in a mausoleum in the Muqattam Hills)
  • Princess Kazima Khanum Effendi (16 July 1876 – Rome, 29 January 1921 and buried in ar-Rifai Mosque, Cairo).
  • Prince Saif ud-din Bey (21 April 1879 – Cairo, 15 April 1884), twin of Prince Nazim;
  • Ahmad Nazim Bey (21 April 1879 – Cairo, 15 April 1884), twin of Prince Saif;
  • Prince Yusuf Kamil Bey (c. 1880 – 1910).


She is remembered as a founder and first president of the Muhammad Ali Benevolent Society in 1909. The members of its community were all women, something till then unheard of in the annals of the Middle East.[2] Medical and financial advisers were the only men consulted. The society began by opening a dispensary for women and children in the populous quarter behind the Abdeen Palace.[2][3] The funds were chiefly supplied from the Princess's own resources and by donations from the Khedival family, as it then existed. According to the rules of the society, the president was always to be a princess of the ruling family.[2][3]

Death and aftermath[edit]

Princess Ayn-al-Hayat died on 12 August 1910 at Paris, France and was buried in the mausoleum of Hosh al-Basha, Imam al-Shafi'i, Cairo. After her death, Princess Nazli Halim became the president of Muhammad Ali Benevolent Society.[4] She was followed by Princess Fawzia, who was the president of the organization to come from the royal house.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Christopher Buyers. "The Royal Ark – Royal and Ruling Houses of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas". 4dw.net. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reina Lewis, Nancy Micklewright (9 Jul 2006). Gender, Modernity and Liberty: Middle Eastern and Western Women's Writings: A Critical Sourcebook. I.B.Tauris. p. 241. ISBN 978-1-860-64956-1.
  3. ^ a b Hassan Hassan (January 10, 2000). In the House of Muhammad Ali: A Family Album, 1805-1952. American Univ in Cairo Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-9-774-24554-1.
  4. ^ a b The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History: 4 Volume Set. Oxford University Press. 2008. pp. 140. ISBN 978-0-195-14890-9.