Dr.`Abdul- Mon’em Abul- Fotouh with Naguib Mahfouz
There is a historical story telling us about one of the old philosophers, who possessed and enjoyed a lot of worldly things, but- eventually- he found himself a sad one. This is true because everything- except for Allah- will one day fade; everything has a certain day to exist in and another one to go in; however, the world is still going on without it. For example, the sun rises and sets, winds sometimes blow in the north and sometimes in the south, and all the rivers run for the sea, but the sea can’t be full…
I remembered the previous words describing life and death, When I heard that Naguib Mahfouz died. This is the nature of life; it must one day fade, Allah says "Who hath created life and death" 2 Al-Mulk 67... It is also said that life is a friend of death and vice versa.
In December 2004, I visited Naguib Mahfouz during one of his weekly meetings with friends and students. He was very happy with that visit along with his friends, especially the writers Jamal al- Ghaitani and Yusuf al- Qa’eed. They were all happy to see me visiting him, because they had a bad impression of the Islamists, especially after the irresponsible attack on Mahfouz. Since that event, there was a rough attitude between the Islamists and the writers and innovators. So I found it a golden opportunity to visit and congratulate him on his birthday to change an attitude emanated by both secular and Islamic extremists.
During this visit, one of the attendees asked Naguib Mahfouz about his controversial novel called "Children of Gebelawi (1959)", but he strangely refused to speak about it. One of the MB told me about reading an interview with Naguib Mahfouz concerning this novel which raised a lot of controversy due to allegorical portrayal of God in which Naguib said "now, I became more intellectually mature and I understood the life; every novel has its own specific conditions and phase".
It is strange to speak about this novel ignoring his innovative novels in which he described the Egyptian society through different stages. Due to these novels, he deserves to be described as (a philosopher without philosophical works). These novels are rich in opinions, thoughts, and contemplations that have a great sense and significance.
He mostly criticized corruption and despotism which is against the Egyptian environment and tolerant spirit which are rich in truth and good deeds as great as the River Nile. His writings were full of pity and sadness due to authoritarianism and the deprivation of his country’s good people from freedom.
The MB taught me that one of the greatest values of Islam is (Good Morals), because Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said "I have been sent only for the purpose of perfecting good morals" and that those who have good morals, they will be the nearest to the Prophet (PBUH). Naguib Mahfouz was a good modest man, who used say "peace be upon you" for the people he met. He was a good example of the wise husband and the affectionate father. He had never insulted any one, however he criticized who ever he wanted, but in a good way. He maintained his dignity regarding those who are in power; he neither clashed with them nor flattered them. Regarding this respect, he was really a good and unique example.
I am sad that Naguib Mahfouz died, because he represents one of the Egyptian prominent literary figures of whom we should be proud, and sad that the Egyptian political and social environment don’t support the emergence of such innovators in the future, but I am sure that Egypt still has a powerful intelligentsia in policy, thought, and art, who are capable of being as famous and great as Mahfouz.
* A member of the MB Executive Bureau