- February 14, 2010
An eloquent representative of Islam.
With the death of Dr Ezzeddin Ibrahim Mustafa, the Muslim world has lost an acknowledged Islamic scholar. Born and brought up in Egypt he joined the Muslim Brotherhood Movement soon after graduating from the universities of Cairo and Ein Shams.
He was a close disciple of the MBM’s founder Imam Hasan al-Banna, the charismatic school teacher who was the driving force for the revolution in Egypt in 1952. However soon after the revolution, the military junta turned against the MBM. Many of its young and prominent members such as Dr Ezzeddin Ibrahim and his junior by a few years, Dr Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, suffered imprisonment and harassment.
Under much mental and physical stress Dr Ibrahim slipped away in 1948 to Libya through the desert route. King Sannusi who ruled over Libya at that time was impressed by this young scholar’s knowledge and oratory skills. He granted him asylum and offered him room in the palace as his personal guest.
Dr Ibrahim returned to Egypt in 1954 after a political settlement was reached between the junta and the MBM. However he did not stay for long. From then on he moved to Syria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and lastly to the United Arab Emirates. With his tireless work over a period of 50 years he has left an indelible mark in the field of education in all the countries he lived.
He devised a series of study programmes and compiled a number of textbooks for the Ministry of Education in Qatar. In Saudi Arabia, he held the eminent post of professor of Arabic literature at Riyadh University.
In 1963, he graduated with a PhD in literature from London University.
He served as a cultural adviser to the Late Sheikh Zayed al-Nahyan, the founder of the UAE. He had also been the vice chancellor of the UAE University in Al Ain for four years. As a mark of recognition for his significant contribution to the cultural life of the capital, he was granted citizenship of the UAE.
Mustafa pleaded eloquently for inter-Muslim solidarity, articulating his message both in person – appearing as a key speaker at many international conferences – and through the written word in various publications and journals. In his adopted homeland of the UAE, he held a number of important posts at several of Abu Dhabi’s key institutions.
A man of many virtues, Dr Ibrahim was celebrated in academic circles for serving Islam with his considerable knowledge and intellect. As a religious scholar he was actively involved in meaningful dialogue on the nature of the three monotheistic faiths and how they may better tolerate one another.
He was universally acknowledged to be an eloquent representative of Islam who also had a profound understanding of both Christianity and Judaism, and he strove to promote the moderate face of his faith while refuting the many negative stereotypes and misconceptions held about it.
A generous man, he used his position close to Abu Dhabi’s ruling family to benefit others whom he considered to be in need.
This writer had the opportunity to interact with him for several days in New Delhi in the 1970s when he came on an official visit to India with the late president of the UAE. He was instrumental in establishing a language laboratory for the Arabic department in the Centre of Afro-Asian Languages of the School of Languages at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
Together with Denys Johnson-Davies – the most recognised name in Arabic literary translation – Dr Ibrahim worked on a number of titles, including a translation of Forty Hadith Qudsi, a collection of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, and its companion volume, An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith. At the time of his death, the two men were working on a translation of selected passages from the Holy Qur’an that were to be classified by subject – “a daunting task”, according to Johnson-Davies.
Dr Ibrahim had been suffering from cancer of the liver. He died in London on his way back to Abu Dhabi, having undergone treatment for his condition in the United States. He is survived by his wife and three children. His two daughters are both doctors.
*** Dr Ezzeddin Ibrahim Mustafa, born in Egypt in 1928; died in London on January 30.