Taha Hussein's early life
Born on 14th November 4, 1889 (Hardwick and Stray, 2011), Taha Hussein rose to become one of them most outstanding figures of Arabic literature in Egypt and in the world over. He was born in Izbet el Kilo which was a small community village in AI-Minya in central Upper Egypt (Brugman, 1984; Goldschmidt, 2000; Russell, 2012). While his father was reportedly a civil servant (and a peasant farmer) in Egypt, very little is known about his mother and siblings as there is a paucity of literature on his early life that speaks about them. At a tender age, Taha Hussein contacted an eye infection which later led to his blinded as the age of three particularly due to incorrect treatment owing to the fact that several local medicine men were grossly unskilled to tackle his problem (Goldschmidt, 2000; Esposito, 1998; Brugman, 1984).
Taha Hussein's education from the beginning of his life until his death
The blindness could not deter him from attending the Kuttab (basic Islamic school where children are taught the Quran and ways of being strong believers) and by the time he was nine he had proficiently memorized the Quran (Goldschmidt, 2000). Ideally, he attended the Mosque school majorly because his father could not afford to send him to a better school. After completing studies at the mosque school, Hussein was sent to Cairo to attend another Muslim University famous by the name al-Zahar University which just like the Kuttab, served as a Muslim seminary for the Muslims (Russell, 2012). While at al-Zhar, Taha Hussein openly opposed the teaching methods at the institution terming them to be too restricted (Esposito, 1998). He would later fail his exams, which prompted al-Azha University to deny him a degree.
He then enrolled in Egyptian University where he became the first student to earn a PhD from this newly established university (Goldschmidt, 2000; Brugman, 1984; Arabworldbooks.com, n.d). At some point, he went to France for studies where he attended Sorbonne University- Sorbonne University awarded him with a doctorate degree in 1919 (Goldschmidt, 2000). After graduating from Sorbonne University he returned to Egypt where he held several positions including; a lecturing position at University of Cairo, and an advisor to the Minister of Education (he later served as the minister of education which was at the time called the ministry of knowledge).
Theories and their importance
Taha Hussein expressed most of his ideologies in the form of writings; writings that were in most cases considered controversial. For instance, while still serving as a lecturer at the Egyptian University, Taha Hussein published a book that he called On Pre-Islamic Poetry, in which he oppugned the authenticity of the Pre-Islamic Arabic Poetry (Goldschmidt, 2000). In the same book, he expressed some of his concerns about some chapters of the Quran. According to him, most of the Pre-Islamic poetry were forge literary works that were meant to give credence some assertions in the Quran in a bid to validate some of the several Islamic myths. The book, as reported by Goldschmidt (2000), evoke protests in Egypt prompting him to withdraw the book though he later replaced it with a revised version which he gave the title On Pre-Islamic Literature (Galal, 1993). Additionally, Taha Hussein, in one of his publications, argued that Egypt was a Mediterranean country rather than an Arab country. This was published in one of his books that he called The Future of Education in Egypt in which he also argued that the curriculum of Egypt should be changed to reflect social and cultural change. Other famous publications by Taha Hussein include; The Tortured Modern Conscience, The Divine Promise, and Paradise of Thorn, which even though published in different years majorly places their focus on declassifying most Arabic beliefs and attitudes. Assertively, Hussein’s asseveration prompted many scholars to study Egypt, specifically pre-islamic poetry in detail. On the same note, his works derive their pertinence from the fact that they presented some information about Arabic literature that had not been heard.
Ideally, Hussein was by all means an independent thinker although very radical; a trait that often got him in trouble with the Egyptian authorities (Brugman, 1984). Though he suffered a major setback in life at age three, he defied all odds to emerge one of the most revered Arabic literature writers in history. By the time of his death, which occurred at his home on the 28th of October, 1973, Taha Hussein was famously regarded as the Dean of Arabic Literature with more than fifty books to his name (Touregypt.net, n.d).
Aarabworldbooks.com, n.d. Taha Hussein. [Web] Available at: http://www.arabworldbooks.com/authors/taha_hussein.html [Accessed 4 Oct, 2012]
Brugman, J. 1984. An introduction to the history of modern Arabic literature in Egypt. Leiden: E.J. Brill.
Esposito, J. L. 1998. Islam and politics. Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press.
Galal, A. F. 1993. Taha Hussein. Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education, XXIII(3/4), 687-710.
Goldschmidt, A. 2000. Biographical dictionary of modern Egypt. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc.
Hardwick, L., & Stray, C. eds. 2011. A companion to classical receptions. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Russell, M. (2012). Suzanne Taha Hussein. H-France Review, 12(122), 1-4.
Touregypt.net, n.d. The Ramatan Taha Hussein Museum. [Web] Available at: http://www.touregypt.net/tahamuseum.htm [Accessed 4 Oct, 2012]