Jens Hanssen | Nietzsche and the 20th-century Arab Intellectual Tradition

Nietzsche and the 20th-century Arab Intellectual Tradition

Jens Hanssen, University of Toronto

(Work in progress, please do not cite without permission of the author)



Übrigens ist mir alles verhasst, was mich bloss belehrt, ohne meine Tätigkeit zu vermehren oder unmittelbar zu beleben.[1]


If Fanon is the revolutionary architect par excellence of anticolonial liberation, Foucault is the paradigmatic agon of settled fictions and normalized modes of identity and community. If Fanon’s is a demand for an immediate resolution of the normative question of political community, Foucault’s is a demand for an indefinite deferral of any such resolution in order to gain space – to buy time – for the work of ethicality.[2]




In 2001, the Cologne-based Publishing House, al-Jamal, or Kamel Verlag, started translating Nietzsche oeuvre into Arabic. Ecce Homo came out in 2003 and Also Sprach Zarathustra in 2007, Götzen-Dämmerung in 2010, Der Antichrist in 2011, Menschliches, Allzu Menschliches, 2015. The German-Iraqi publisher, Khaled Maʿaly invited the Tunisian translator, Ali Mosbah, to become the first to translate Nietzsche from the German. In an interview in 2006, which I paraphrase partially here[3], Mosbah admitted being “intoxicated by the beauty of Nietzsche’s language.” But he also confessed how difficult the enterprise of translating Nietzsche’s terms into Arabic is. Take, for example, “Übermensch.” There are no suffixed compound nouns in Arabic and any attempts to go via the French route of Surhomme (which Félix Farés rendered as “al-insan al-mutafawwiqa” – “the superior being”[4]) or the Anglo-american Superman (which Salama Musa transliterated as “al-subarman[5]) end up in conceptual confusion in Arabic with Nietzsche’s “noble elites” which are, of course, an entirely different analytical category.[6]

When asked why Nietzsche now, Mosbah replied that “Translating Nietzsche now surely has to do with the current historical situation. … We, the generation of ’68 and those coming after us felt the eighties to be some kind of transition period. … To us, Marx had the answers to the questions of the 20th century. In the eighties those Marxist convictions started to crumble. Suddenly, somehow, a great ideological emptiness developed. On top of that, renewed interest in Nietzsche was awakened in us by thinkers such as Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault and Derrida… all French thinkers, read very closely in the Arab world today. Nietzsche slowly filled the gap left by Marxism’s apparent inaplicability. Some turned to the sufis and their texts, … to me the mystics  are the individualists par excellence. When I rediscovered Nietzsche , I immediately recognized in him the voice of the sufis. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra used terms and described experiences nearly identical to those  of the Islamic mystics – that one never gains  a vivid sense of life by learning alone but by one’s alertness concerning one’s own life. The great sufis’ texts taught exactly what I encountered  in Zarathustra: cognizance as an expression of life; as an expression of taste! All this did not sound new to my ears but familiar from the poems of Hallaj (the Arab Zarathustra), Rumi and Ibn ʿArabi.

Nietzsche began to invigorate us and to enliven our minds once more with a hammer’s blow from the 1980s on. Now it was no longer about ideology, nor about demanding and realizing certain  politcal aims, but rather the invention of new ways of living. Nietzsche constantly argued in favor of the individual’s self-reliance. He appeals to the individual’s creative powers. I believe the 21st century will be the century of Nietzsche. Today, we are fighting, above all, to maintain our identity as individuals; against administered life, and in favour of the possibility of individual ways of life. And Nietzsche has so much to say about all that. Reading Nietzsche, rethinking him is a kind of soul-salvation, for I believe we are heading towards a global retrogression of freedom. As far as the Arab world is concerned, it is at a stage of deep ressentiment, pent-up anger and frustration, powerlessness, sense of injustice. We are experiencing precisely the situation  criticized by Nietzsche. Nietzsche did not want his texts to be instrumentalized as maxims, vade-mecums or manuals for political interventions. But the question is basically this: How can one read Nietzsche as a liberator, rather than reactionary?

So much for Ali Mosbah’s assessment of the place in contemporary Arab culture. Let me turn now to my very preliminary research with is still in the stage of building my Arab Nietzsche ʿArchive’. It also starts as a sort of inventory of personal traces. In 1980s Germany I grew up with Nietzsche as one of the canonical figures of ‘our past’. I recall us reciting his aphorisms for spiritual enhancement in our local Dritte-Welt Laden (perhaps the way people in the 1990s took to Paulo Coelho and Arabs and Americans to Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet). At that stage I had completely disavowed Nietzsche in the Anti-Fa period of my youth. My Nietzsche did not come out of France (to invoke Werner Hamacher’s 1986 edited book Nietzsche aus Frankreich). Coming to think of it, it is an oddity that I return to Nietzsche with renewed vigor through my interest in Arab intellectual history. But I guess that is part of the “Travelling-Theory” story of the Global Nietzsche.

Thanks in great measure to the work of his English translator Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche has been recast “as apolitical, not anti-Semitic, aware of mosques – essentially the victim of his sister’s redactions.”[7] Tim Brennan and other leftist Saidians in the US are clearly uncomfortable with this image of Nietzsche. To them it wreaks of white-washing if not a racist then certainly an elitist. His sublime prose style and the pervasive misunderstandings of his concepts of the “Übermensch” and “the Will to Power”, for example, cannot make up for his own misogynous, Orientalist and anti-democratic diatribes.[8] And while we wish to blame his association with Wagner for his unpublished anti-Semitic remarks, even after his break with Wagner in 1876, we still find occasional lapses into anti-Jewish stereotypes, even as Nietzsche unleashed his rhetorical fury on Christian, nationalist, collectivist mentality of his German contemporaries’ great “swindle” of anti-Semitism.

Such nuances have not been accorded the Arabic reception of Nietzsche, inflected as it is by the Western delegitimization of Arab anti-imperialism and the Palestinian liberation struggle against Zionist settler colonialism. Thus, the conservative political historian Elie Kedourie could see in Kant, Fichte and Hegel—indeed, the entire history of German idealism—the roots of both Nazism and Nasserism;[9] to prove that Sayyid Qutb the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and source of inspiration for Ussama Bin Laden were fascists, Paul Berman’s dilettante Terror and Liberalism picks a few passages from Qutb’s work;[10] and Hasbara pundits today take the Free Officers or Ba’ath leaders acknowledging Nietzsche’s influence as further proof of their intellectual antisemitism.[11] Although the first Arab intellectuals shared many of the early Zionist misappropriations of a decidedly Darwinian or vitalist Nietzsche, the Thirdworldist Arab Left was decidedly anti-Nietzschean. As such, it echoed Aimé Cèsaire who in his Discourse on Colonialism of 1955 denounced the “hoodwinking” of Africa’s false friends – what he attacked as the “chattering intellectuals born out of the thigh of Nietzsche.”[12]

In what follows, I will deal with the question of the Global Nietzsche by embracing the anxieties of influence (cause & effect, textuality v. history, derivation, imitation, late-ness, second-ratism, incommensurability).[13] These are productive categories not least because the history of the Arabic reception of Nietzsche (and of modern European thinkers, more generally) is full of partiality and willful appropriations. So, in the spirit of Nachträglichkeit – or “the structure of delay,” in Derrida’s reading of Freud – I would like to suggest not a rejection but a reframing of “influence-studies.” I echo Anupama Rao, who kindly invited me here and earlier suggested to “de-provincialize thought” itself which I expand to mean both that intellectuals outside Anglo-European academic institutions are theory-producing agents and, in Said’s sense, as “an attitude to reading that situates texts, literary, cultural, or religious, in their worldly contexts.”[14] My objective, then, is to consider how self-avowed Arab Nietzscheans (and anti-Nietzscheans) create a Nietzsche in their own image, and how they forged a Nietzsche they could either admire or mobilize strategically for their causes and purposes. This Arab Nietzsche is always either hyphenated or antithetical: The Darwinian-Nietzsche; the Bergsonian-Nietzsche, Heideggerian-Nietzsche; or Renan versus Nietzsche; Nietzsche versus Marx, etc.

Broadly-speaking, the Arabic reception of Nietzsche falls into three distinct phases: the cosmopolitan disposition of the Nahda era – the so-called liberal age – to the 1940s; the internationalist disposition of the age of decolonization from the 1940s to the 70s (which is were we would locate Ali Shariati); and the postcolonial disposition since the 1980s.[15] If the early Arab Nietzsche was hailed as a diagnostician of Arab malaise (sterile traditionalism, meek acceptance of fate, blind faith in religious authority or the idols of Western progress), his affirmation of life even in suffering (his “pessimism of strength” as opposed to Schopenhauer’s “resignationism”) also served as a blue-print for a better future for the Arabs. This Nietzsche of the “transvaluation of all values” seems to me to be an apt prism through which to consider the broader fin de siècle and interwar cultures that connected all sides of the Mediterranean with Iran and South Asia.

We can think of the first pan-Islamist Jamal al-Din al-Afghani whose political activism stoked revolt against the authorities-that-be almost everywhere he traveled after witnessing the first Indian uprising in 1857, particularly Iran and Egypt; and in exile in Paris, where he also took on the philologist Renan in a famous debate on “Science and Islam”, and the whole gamut of materialists, from the Greek sceptics to Darwin, whom he all considered false prophets.[16] But he and his acolytes also heavily criticised the Muslim clerical establishment and sought to reform Islam by returning ad fontes to bring about Muslim unity. Other pan-movements and nationalisms, including Zionism – we can talk about that in q&a[17] – were fin de siècle phenomena and engaged in similar rewritings of history, life and destiny.

Nietzsche’s philosophy was not unaffected by this “springtime of the Muslim peoples” – as the French press fretted at the time. His juxtaposition of the “master-morality” of Islam was an ingenious rhetorical ploy to strengthen his polemic against Christian slave morality, most notably in The Anti-Christ. But Nietzsche’s Islamophilia drew on an eccentric mix of Wahhabi texts and a misreading of Islam as a medieval and manly religion void of any spirituality. In a transvaluation of his own creation, his approach merely inverted the negative into positive stereotypes of the Orientalists.[18]

Now, in the second phase – the age of decolonization – Nietzsche went out of circulation with two Egyptian exceptions: the foremost Arab existential philosopher, ʿAbd al-Rahman Badawi, for whom, as we shall see, Nietzsche-cum-Schoppenhauer-cum-Heidegger became a source of ontological comfort at a time of elite alienation and disenchantment when democracy and Arab socialism captured the imagination of the masses and the intellectuals; and his student, Fuʾad Zakariyya (1927-2010) whose own, much more critical Nietzsche study (published 1956) put him at loggerheads with Badawi. Instead, Zakariyya popularized Hegel through his much-discussed translation of Herbet Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution in 1970.[19] I could not find a new Arabic publication on Nietzsche until 1974 when Die Philosophie Nietzsche by Eugen Fink, Heiddegger’s junior colleague at Freiburg and co-convenor of the famous Heraclit Seminar in 1973[20], appeared in Arabic translation in Damascus.[21]  By that time, Edward Said was beginning to put together the building blocks for his fundamental critique of Orientalism at this very institution which inaugurated the third phase, the postcolonial age. And here, as we shall see, Nietzsche-the-philologist was key in Said’s deconstruction of the philological base of Orientalism from within the field of philology itself.

Of all the figures I am studying for my research project on German/Jewish Echoes in 20th-century Arabic thought – Kafka, Luxemburg, Benjamin, Arendt, Marcuse etc. – Nietzsche was the most in dialogue with his potential readers. In fact, we cannot understand him without factoring in his ‘dialogical imagination.’ We recall, for example, his indictment of the partial and instrumentalist reader of his work:

The worst readers are those who proceed like plundering soldiers: they pick up a few things they can use, soil and confuse the rest, and blaspheme the whole.[22]


There are many other examples of Nietzsche’s anxieties about his reception. His famous statements like “Some authors are born posthumously” and “Horrible things will be done in my name,” for example, need to be understood in this light. In fact, he seems to play with the reader, take them on a wild intellectual goose-chase with his carefully-calibrated mixture of conceptual confrontation and reconciliation.

In a report to British intelligence during World War II, the future doyen of modern Middle East Studies in Britain, Albert Hourani offered these remarkable observations on intellectual life in the Arab world:

In recent years, there have been signs of a wider view replacing the old. It can be found, for example, in the popularity of Dostoievski [sic] among the young intellectuals, who find themselves depicted in his possessed and divided characters; or again in the new interest in the German thought of the nineteenth century, and especially in Nietzsche. Then again, there is a growing realization that the Arabs will not understand Europe until they have come to terms with Greece. Thus in Egypt Taha Hussayn is advocating the teaching of Greek in secondary schools; in Palestine too an attempt is being made to introduce the study of the classics in government schools. At the same time, the centre of interest is being moved from the sphere of literature to that of thought. Both in Egypt and in Syria it is possible to see the beginnings of serious philosophical movements. For example, a young Egyptian philosopher, Abdur-Rahman Badawi, has recently begun to publish a series of works on the great European thinkers which are having a very big sale among the general public. [23]


Against the backdrop of Hourani’s assessment, the following section offers a preliminary survey of which Arab thinkers and debates invoked Nietzsche’s work, when, and with what purpose; what do  invocations of Nietzsche tell us about the transformation of the 20th-century Arab intellectual tradition? Friedrich Nietzsche’s was a crucial intervention in challenging the established temporal mantras of German historicism of his day[24]: progress, nationalism, and scientific inquiry. But like most, Nietzsche had trouble thinking across the Orientalist East-West divide, although at least he tried to destabilize the still pervasive truth claims about essentialist alterity and and the geographical distribution of cultural superiority and inferiority. As we will see, the first Arab thinkers who picked up Nietzsche’s ideas struggled with the spatial dimension of colonial culture, too, even as they deployed him in their desperate attempts at re-enchantment in the atheological age.[25]


May Ziada (1886-1941)

Although perhaps the most sceptical of the early Arabic Nietzsche readers, May Ziada  was the linchpin of the first phase of his Arabic reception. She did not travel outside the Levant but all the first popularizers and translators of Nietzsche’s works were affiliated with her and through her with each other. They either attended her salon or corrsponded with her from Paris and in the Mahjar, the Arabic literary movement based in New York and Boston.

Born in Nazareth to a Lebanese father and a Palestine mother, May Ziada moved to Cairo in 1907. At the encouragement of the leading Egyptian liberal politician, Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid, she studied literature and philosophy at Cairo University. She graduated as the first woman in 1917 at a time when British education authorities prohibited girls to take the Baccalaureat exams. She acquired English, German, Italian, Spanish and Latin, published her first book of poetry – Fleurs de rêve – in 1911 and translated the German Indologist, Max Müller, into Arabic.[26] In 1913, she established her literary salon and for the next fourteen years, hosted Arab intellectuals and European visitors at her house every Tuesday evening. As one Egyptian habitué recalled, membership came with prestige and many preferred her sophisticated, measured and egalitarian salon to male gatherings where “a bunch of men and adolescents came together, engaged in unrestrained gesticulation, raised voices, vulgar taste and lack of sensitivity.”[27]

As a non-Egyptian Christian woman, Ziada was ostensibly marked as a social outcast. Conversely, her male interlocutors enjoyed their friendships with her as a mark of their own status as liberal. Unlike Nazira Zayn al-Din, the iconoclastic Lebanese writer who attacked the Muslim establishment head on[28], Ziada’s social or religious criticism stayed well within the bounds of the permissable. In her advocacy of women’s equality, for example, she accepted the ascribed gender roles and warned women of competing with men. And on the question of Palestine, she remained largely silent.

Ziada consciously fashioning herself as a female enlightenment salonnière after her childhood idols, Germaine de Staèl (d. 1817) and the Marquise de Sévigné (d. 1705).[29] She read widely on Bergson, Spencer, Epicurus, Nietzsche, Emerson, Schopenhauer, Darwin, Tagore and others.[30] Her literary judgment was authoritative and much-sought-after by Islamic thinkers and secular literati alike, even if she butted cultural trends and intellectual fashions. Shakib Arslan (1869-1946), Druze notable, interwar Palestine lobbyist at the League of Nations and pan-Islamist heir to al-Afghani, was mesmerized when he read Ziadeh’s witty articles in exile in Geneva. He wrote to their mutual friend and al-Muqtataf editor, Yaʿqub Sarruf, to verify that she was indeed the author of such a daring prose.[31] Later, Arslan sent her his new book on Anatole France – one of her literary idols – along with a letter asking her approval. The translation Committee of the venerable Encyclopedia of Islam enlisted her services. A group of South Asian poets, Henri and William James and many other international literati passed by her salon when they visited Cairo.[32]

Ziada raised her negative opinions of Nietzsche, more as throw-away comments than explicit engagement of his works, on the pages of al-Ahram and other newsapers and magazines from the 1910s to ‘30s. In a 1915 article for al-Mahrusa on German culture she responds to an unnamed American writer who claimed that Germans are barbaric and lack “social instinct” because of their scientific approach to life by listing a number of German thinkers, including Goethe, Heine, Hauptmann, Beethoven and Marx who, too, have harshly criticised their country and in one way or another suffered for it, none more so than Nietzsche who “wrote entire chapters filled with sarcasm and bitterness against his compatriots.” A year later in the same journal, Ziada returns to her critique of German culture via Nietzsche:

The days of Nietzsche have long gone and his citizens are still trying to resurrect his sect of ‘superman’. We do not want the superman, instead we aspire to endow the young women of the East with science and knowledge so as to place her on the horizon of an honourable life of freedom. There is no honour in enslavement. We want to demolish the walls of lies that were constructed by centuries of ignorance between man and woman and ill conceptions that are still being directed against the poor daughter of Eve.[33]


In an al-Ahram article in November 1927, Ziada celebrated Grazia Deladda who had just won the Nobel Prize for literature following “Bernard Shaw, Anatole France, Gerhardt Hauptmann, Tagore, and Marie Curie in Science. If [Deladda and Curie] have shattered the false accusation that men have attached to women as incapable of the finest creations in art and literature, that is not thanks to Nietzsche, the leader of those tyrants.”[34] Ziada has clearly picked up on recurrent mysogynist themes, particularly of one of her heroines – Madame de Staël – in Beyond Good and Evil.[35] What must have irked her doubly is the way Nietzsche’s, albeit ironic, argument that “man can only think about women orientally, to conceive of her as property, to return to Asian reason and instinct-superiority” (#238), particularly “in this [democratic] age where the weak sex has received unprecedented [and undue] respect” and encouragement from “weak men” to assert themselves (#239).

My concern is not whether Ziada missed Nietzsche’s ambiguity and his broader task to expose the moralistic production of truth; by all accounts, he was not practicing what he was preaching. What is more important for me is that she must be concerned with the damage male readers, liberals and conservatives alike, cause for her project of emancipation by invoking the Nietzsche who claimed to so admire Asian and Oriental patriarchy. So her counter-invocation of the figure of Nietzsche in her feminist arguments could be understood as an indirect critique of her male friends’ and detractors’ fascination with Nietzsche’s “superman”. Thus, in her article “The Past or the Future?” for al-Ahram in 1930, she considers the challenges for Arabic speakers to grasp the meanings of new concepts, like Marx’s and Engels’ Historical Materialism, for example. Moreover, she notes:

We have also heard the call for worshipping strength, struggle and elegance in the books of the German Nietzsche, whose doctrine the late Farah Antun has spread, and whose writings had a huge influence on the thought of many of our literati, including the two scholars Lutfi Jumʿa and Salama Musa. We read about [mechanical] progress in the books of Wells and Shaw, like we did in Jules Verne before them.[36]


Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)

Although Khalil Gibran and May Ziada never met in person – “the closest they ever got to physical contact was an exchange of photographs,”[37] she was a constant inspiration for his work in Boston and New York. The correspondance between them which lasted from 1912 to Gibran’s death created a spritual bond.[38] By 1912 he had made a name for himself as an artist and as the author, in Arabic, of Nymphs in the Valley (1906), Spirits Rebellious (1908) and Broken Wings (1912) – texts which contained bitter criticism of the Maronite establishment in Mount Lebanon and upper-class, patriarchal hypocrasy in fin de siècle Beirut (where he had spent his high school years).[39] After his move from Boston to Greenwich Village in 1912 he entered journalism and published frequently in the mahjar magazine al-Funun which was distributed across the Arabic-speaking world. He also joined the political work of fellow emigrés in New York championing the  double-no of Arab and Syrian nationalists: no to Ottoman rule and to European intervention.

Ziada and Gibran were connected through their mutual friend, Amin Rihani (1976-1940). This Lebanese-American writer – most notably his The Book of Khalid (illustrated by Gibran), the inaugural Arab American novel, in 1911 – traveling political activist, and founder of the mahjar circle of Syro-Lebanese writers on the East Coast, was also a friend and mentor of many of the other early Arab Nietzscheans who traveled West.[40] Gibran met Rihani towards the end of his apprenticeship at the Atelier Julien in the Quartier Latin from 1908 to 1910. Paris was a hotbed of Ottoman, Arab and Syrian dissidents who had helped to launch the Young Turk Revolution of July 1908. It was also the time and place were Gibran, Farah Antun and Salama Musa discovered, devoured and discussed Nietzsche’s (as well as Renan’s) works.[41]

If Gibran’s romantic and aphoristic prose style has often (and rightly) been compared to William Blake’s poetry,[42] he himself has implanted this analogy by inventing a blurb by Auguste Rodin that he was “the William Blake of the twentieth century” for his The Madman.[43] Although biographers were reluctant to make much of Nietzsche’s influence on Gibran, and although it was episodic, he was drawn, like Antun, to “Nietzsche’s biting irony during protracted periods of alienation and discouragement.”[44] Whereas Antun’s work “never emerged triumphantly on the far side of despair with a new vision to live by,” Gibran’s literary encounter with Nietzsche turned his teeming bitterness about social and gender injustice into lofty visions of humanity’s salvation. His most famous English books, The Madman (1918), The Forerunner (1920), The Prophet (1923), and Jesus Son of Man (1928) shared many, if different affinities with Nietzsche’s Thus spake Zarathustra which he read in English shortly after he settled in the Village.[45]

The Madman consists of thirty-five, one-page manichean parables on death and life, good and evil gods, wise and wicked kings, animals, nature and human folly. It is narrated by the protagonist who explains on the first page how he “found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.” The self-righteous bitterness of Gibran’s earlier Arabic works gives way here to a mixture of the familar doom of urban outward pretensions and the expansive world of the human interior, mediated by lighthearted fatalism and ironic laughter. The narrator is at ease with his role as outcast, and seems to relish exposing illusions and affirming life.

According to his biographer, The Forerunner “acts as a bridge between The Madman and The Prophet.”[46] The narrator is less encumbered by the stigmatization of his loneliness. He is ahead of the game, a dreamer whose “eyes were overflowing with light,” but he is not quite the visionary yet.[47] Gibran first conceived of his masterpiece, The Prophet, in 1912.[48] Almustafa, the protagonist, imparts his wisdom to the people of his native town of Orphalese before he embarks on a journey across the seas. It contains a series of 26 councels on matters at once mundane and existential – love, marriage, work, crime and punishment, buying and selling, freedom, reason and passion, pain and pleasure, self-knowledge, prayer, friendship, time, good and evil, and death. Almustafa leaves saying “I go  with the wind, people of Orphalese,  but not down into emptiness. … You have been told … that you are as weak as your weakest link. But that is only half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.”[49]

Waterfield, p. 258: “The form of the book – but no more than the form – is lifted from Nietzsche. In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche made a prophet his mouthpiece, and it is clear that Zarathustra, too, is in exile from his homeland, which is also an island, just as in The Prophet. Zarathustra dispenses wisdom to the people just as Almustafa, and in the same pithy way addresses matters topic by topic.” [Discuss![50]]

Jesus Son of Man was in many ways a new departure from The Madman to The Prophet progression I have sketched above. While Nietzsche was keen to rehabilitate Jesus as a hero of a new morality against ordinarizations of Ernest Renan and David Strauss, Gibran’s Jesus owed less to to Nietzsche’s than to Renan’s The Life of Jesus which he wrote three years after his return from his stay in Mt. Lebanon in 1860 and which Gibran discover during his Paris sejourn. And yet, the nominally Maronite Christian Gibran was not interested in historicizing Jesus. Instead, he cast him as a fearless liberator from organized religion and a unifier of humankind.

Waterfield has claimed that Gibran’s rebelliousness and bitterness can be attributed to his Nietzschean turn.  Given that his rebellious period preceded his Paris trip and his discovery of Nietzsche there, other considerations factor in… Digesting Nietzsche, and Thus Spake Zarathustra, in particular,  more likely encouraged Gibran to concieve of himself more confidently as a poet-prophet – adopting Nietzsche’s “pessimism of strength” rather than Voltaire’s panglossian optimism. Like Nietzsche, Gibran gradually veered from the shackles of social reality and into an otherworldly, more ‘authentic experience of truth.’ The search for this sort of truth was taken up as esoterism by the hippie generation of the 1960s. But the problem space that Nietzsche, and then Gibran were dealing with, each in their own way, was how to transform faith and thereby preserve it as authentic, to reconstitute a belief in something greater than the world of appearances at a time when, as Nietzsche lamented, “God is dead. He remains dead. And we have killed him.”[51] In the recent Kafka book The Yield, Paul North conceptualizes this poblem space as “atheological reformation.” …[Discuss]

Gibran like his Arab contemporaries were speaking back to Nietzsche’s troubled East-West divide but from the position of self-proclaimed Easterners. Arriving at a transcendental position in The Prophet, Gibran, the self-styled poet-prophet, seems to have taken Nietzsche as a literary model, and, for all his bucolic simplicity, may have understood his work better, or at least less instrumentalist than his earnest contemporaries who thought Nietzsche bequeathed them with an ontological philosophy, if not a Darwinian model of national emancipation.[52]


Farah Antun (1874-1923)[53]: journalist, novelist, polemicist.

In Paris in 1909, on his way back to Egypt after having failed to adjust to New York, we find [Farah Antun] reading Nietzsche, ‘till the early hours of the morning’. … he began to read ‘various extremist writers, French, Russian, and German, on religion and communism, by Renan, Karl Marx, Tolstoy and Nietzsche.[54]


Farah Antun was, by his own and by May Ziada’s accounts, the Arab intellectual who introduced Nietzsche to the Arabic literary lexicon. Unlike the emigrant literati Gibran, the older Farah Antun grew up – and struggled to find a place – in a pre-existing discursive field. During the Nahda a variety of reform projects, the Ottoman state reformers, the Islamic ‘modernists’ and the Arabic literary revivalists competed with each other and European cultural imperialism, particularly in the domain of education. Journalism was the prime site of education debates, and Farah Antun understood his task as a newspaper editor in terms of disseminating modern knowledge and subjectivity. His Nietzsche intervened in debates that had circulated since the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, if not since the civil war in Mt. Lebanon and Damascus in 1860. The overarching question was “what is holding us back?” In contrast to the economic analysis of the age of decolonization, it was symptomatic of Nahda ‘cosmopolitanism’ that its intellectuals, the Nahdawis, located the answers to this question in culture, and as such tended to agree on cultural autopsies, even as they differed vehemently on the panacea. For Antun, secularism was the normative framework. In these debates, as Marwa ElShakry has demonstrated, Darwin had a multi-directional impact, so did Renan. Nietzsche was a late comer whose rise to Arab intellectual conscious in the year of the Young Turk Revolution in 1908 was no historical coincidence.[55]

Antun was born in Tripoli in the Ottoman province of Damascus, and received his education at a multi-confessional boarding school attached to a Greek Orthodox monastry. He later credited his experience there with his mantra of religious tolerance, anti-clericalism and affection for French history, especially the Revolution, and literature, especially Rousseau. He taught at a public school until, in 1897 he and his friend Rashid Rida (1865-1935) left Tripoli for the promise of making a mark on Egypt’s expanding cultural milieu, only to become intellectual adversaries in it: Antun as editor of Alexandria’s al-Jamiʿa, Rida of Cairo’s al-Manar, the voice of Islamic reform circle around Muhammad ʿAbduh (1849-1905.

al-Jamiʿa did not find a stable readership or even a regular run. In 1906, Antun moved to New York and tried, unsuccessfully, to revive journal there. In 1909, “[h]e returned to Egypt a defeated man,” and officially closed al-Jamiʿa a year later.[56] But many 20th-century Arab intellectuals attest to the profound impact its articles had on their formation. Salama Musa, for example, insisted that “Al-Jamiʿa was like and explosion. It generated light and energy and power.”[57] Many first read European philosophers in al-Jamiʿa’s translations. In the early years, Antun pushed francophone literature at a time when other Egyptian newspapers, particularly al-Muqtataf – “the gospel of Science” – engaged with anglophone literature in general and Darwin and Spencer, in particular.[58] Antun was fascinated in the work of Ernest Renan, and published exerpts from his The Life of Jesus and Averoës and Averoism. Channelling Renan’s argument that Averoës/Ibn Rushd (d. 1198) was a champion of rationalism and freedom of thought whose legacy lived on only in Europe after he was ostracised by the Caliph of Cordoba, provoked the ire of Rida who promptly orchestrated Muhammad ʿAbduh’s public rebuttal on the pages of al-Manar. In many ways, the Averoës debate of 1902 was a reiteration of the famous debate between al-Afghani and Renan in 1882. This one  popularized the Andalusian philosopher in the Arabic-speaking world but marked and marginalized Antun as both a self-Orientalizing and polarizing figure, as well as a brave and principled free thinker willing to take on the establishment.[59]

Antun recovered from the spat by writing a remarkable mythico-utopian novel with socialist underpinnings, initially serialized in al-Jamiʿa in 1903.[60] In Religion, Science and Money; or Three Cities (1903), a traveller comes to study a country in which three cities vy against each other where once there had been unity. The inhabitants gather in meetings in the founder’s garden to discuss their differences, revolution breaks out and the three cities are destroyed, leaving the narrator and five female survivors to build on the ruins of the old a new city even more beautiful than the original.[61]

Antun first published excerpts from Nietzsche just before his move to New York in 1904.[62] Two years later, in September 1906, he invoked Nietzsche in an article on al-Afghani.[63] The same issue, contains translations of some of his aphorisms. A short article containing a warning to his readers that Nietzsche’s “thoughts are an odd mixture of right and wrong, sane and insane” in February 1908.[64] In April, he wrote a seven-page article on the “key concepts” of Nietzsche’s thought.[65] In May, he warned that Nietzsche “tried to destroy the majority of principles, whether good or corrupt.” In late 1908, Antun introduces Nietzsche’s Will to Power, as he understood it, though a poem and commentary, entitled “The qasida on the Mountain (poetry in a Scientific Way): Between Nietzsche and Tolstoy. In the Centre of the Glories of the United States:”[66]

Stop over on the mountains, do not stop over in the valley if you want to see these glories.

Ride the steam-driven trains to go there, the age of the she-camels has passed,

and so has the shouting of the camel driver.

The breeding camels are extinct, and the remains of the deserted encampment are wiped out, you do not find any one bewailing them or leading to them.

Ask the trains to fly, do not say ‘slowly’, because ‘you travel with my beloved heart.’

Time is money, and this is time to rush, not time to be effeminate and to be asleep.

This is time of determined will, which fights any resistance by way of jihad.

The old has died, wrap it with the linen for the grave! For us it is no place to return.

The earth needs will, determination and energy, not the delusion of the religion and prophecy.

With will, any civilization and any country may rise.”


This, Antun comments, “is Nietzsche’s language, and Nietzsche was straightening the twists and turns, but I leave my opinion about Nietzsche untouched until the appointed time.” [67] The poem continues:

‘Oh! Nietzsche!’ – the philosopher spoke – I have listened to your strange discourse,

now you listen to me.

Do you believe that what you have spoken is a new science? No, you know it very well.

It is an old thing. You would not have said it, if you had been wakeful, and if you had not shut your eyes.

Go into the woods where men still live like freely grazing cattle.

There you find the men who follow the laws of Nietzsche according to all his principles.

They have no law except the company of power, fear and feud.[68]


Antun is both mesmerized and terrified by Nietzsche, admitting more or less openly that he was not sure if he fully understood his work. And therein lay perhaps the challenge of a precocious but isolated intellectual in need of a guiding star who can rationalize his alienation but fearful that in the wrong minds, Nietzsche’s uninhibited philosophy might create social and moral anarchy (for which he would then be blamed?).[69]


Salama Musa (1887-1958)

Salama Musa was a great admirer of Antun’s, collaborated with him at al-Mustaqbal in Cairo in 1914, and, by his own account, was the second to write about Nietzsche, having “come to the subject independently while I was in Europe.”[70] His autobiography was first published in Arabic in 1947, and paints an honest, if unapologetic, somewhat shallow and deeply contradictory, if not confused, picture of a panglossian optimist in the twilight of the Nahda.[71] For our purposes, Musa’s vita may be said to epitomize the disturbing consequences of what happens when Marxist developmentalism is combined with Social Darwinism and Nietzschean vitalism.

Musa was born into a Coptic family affluent enough “to take my education into my own hands” in France and England without needing “to worry about my subsistence.”[72] He spent 1908-09 in Paris “with plenty of leisure,” where he would have overlapped with Gibran, although it is unclear if they met.[73] His description of France and England have nothing of the wit of the great Nahda-era accounts by Tahtawi and Shidyaq.[74] Instead, he uses his observation of European life to index the cultural backwardness and closedmindedness of Egyptian society in Social Dawinian terms.[75] As soon as he arrived in London, he read On the Origins of Species.[76] In England he attended lectures by the famed Egyptologist Flinders Petry and marvelled at the Suffragettes. He also met the playwright Bernard Shaw whose Man and Superman of 1903 made him “the spoiled child of journalism and the belles lettres” but who nevertheless converted Musa to Fabianism and its ideas of scientific state management of society included eugenics.[77] His first Arabic publications reflect this influence:[78] Musa’s first journal article came while he was still in London, when al-Muqtataf published “Nietzsche and the Son of Man” in its June issue.[79] Penned before his meeting with Bernard Shaw, it may have been inspired by Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, and coincided with the British conservative theorist, Anthony Ludovici’s first book, Who is to be Master of the Universe? An Introduction to the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (1909) which was a paen to aristocratic entitlement. In his article, Musa offered a Galtonian reading of Nietzsche as he aimed “to convince ‘the Eastern reader’ of the necessity for implementing a eugenics program.”[80] He suggests that since Nietzsche has ‘proven’ the death of God, man must now be a law unto himself and follow his instincts:

The Judeo-Christian tradition encouraged self-loathing, submissiveness and compassion; the new age requires humanity to possess the qualities of self-reliance, strength, independence of thought, domiance and competition. We must actively oppose the religious ethic, and must actually hate the weak.[81] Compassion for the weak is a terrible cruelty and a henious crime against future humanity because it perpetuates weakness in succeeding generations. We must be as harsh to ourselves as we are on others and strengthen our own ‘life instinct’ to the point that we deny a place for weakness, illness or genereracy even in ourselves. This is a difficult regimen, but the reward is high: It is true that we killed our god but we can enable mankind to live.[82]


If this sounds eerily familiar in the United States today, Musa’s racism was also typical of many evolutionists of the late 19th– and early 20th century whose new humanism was actually highly misanthropic.[83] Musa expanded on his vitalist ethics of the survival of the fittest in a second publication sent to Cairo and printed by al-Hilal in 1910: Muqaddima Subarman (The Advent of Superman), (1910).[84] According to Egger, this short treatise, which was heavily redacted by the publisher, exhibits a more or less conscious slippage from the elitism of the previous article to the ‘race of supermen’. Musa chided Egyptians for ‘contaminating’  their blood by marriage with black people, pointing to the Americas as examples to be followed in prohibiting miscegenation.[85] He held that as inheritors of the Pharaonic genius, Egyptians were of the same ‘stock’ as Europeans even if their corrupt state and lethargic society betray this essence.

After WWI, he appears to hve had a change of heart. He co-founded the first Egyptian Socialist Party and published a radical cultural review, al-Majalla al-Jadida, in 1929. As Marwa ElShakry reminds us, “Musa would later turn to Marx and Gandhi.”[86] Indeed, he fondly remembers visiting the aged founder of the British Labour Party and rare anti-war socialist (and name-sake of my son), Keir Hardie (1856-1915) “in his modest London room in 1909,” who inspired him to translate Kropotkin and co-found the Egyptian Socialist Party in 1920.[87] Musa himself works through this transition:

Karl Marx also holds a conspicuous place. I first discovered him as an opponent; that was when I reckoned myself with Spencer in the ‘individualistic’ school, whose exponents were protagonists of economic competition. I soon found out that I had to leave them, and take sides with the Marxists. … Darwin and Marx – both conveyed … the associative complexes through which I learned to look at the world and at life scientifically. … My thoughts thus onditioned, I throroughly assessed my religious feelings, and I found that its mainspring is ‘evolution’, taken as a form of consciousness which is at the same time understanding and practice. … that we are for ever subject to the Way of Change; and that our greatest crime is living passively and becoming fossilized. … After Darwin and Marx, Freud, too greatly stimulated the process of my mental growth, … even though … the Oedipus-complex … is one of those most enlightening mistakes. … [I]n comparing Freud and Marx, I must conclude that Marx was the greater psychologist, as he considered the individual’s consciousness as the product of society.[88]


As for Gandhi, his example inspired Musa and his comrades to stage a cotton boycott – “’Egyptians buy Egyptian goods’ in order to stimulate the people’s economic consciousness” – against the Anglo-Egyptian government in 1930. “In those years, India’s struggle for independence loomed large in my political ideas. … The question of our own independence was linked up with the struggle against imperialism all over the world; that is why I wrote Gandhi and the Indian Movement. What I admired more than anything else in Gandhi was, that he never ceased fighting on two fronts, namely, against the English imperialists, and at the same time against Indian traditions that were corrupting and suffocating the life of the Indian body politic., especially economically.”[89]


But even in 1947, he does not disavow his first, youthful dabblings in The Advent of Superman:

When I now return to my essay … I find in it the principles of all that I now possess mentally. Its method was of course somewhat immature, its conception somewhat crude – it was quite obviously the product of an unnurtured mind, yet a mind that had already boldly jumped forward in its eagerness for enlightenment.[90]


Where is Nietzsche in all of this, we may ask. Why did Musa identify with Nietzsche? Was it bragging about his own personal erudition? Did he not understand Nietzsche’s scathing critique of scientific materialism, etc? He explains:

Darwin… is very modest and measured, and writes with extreme caution as if he were afraid that the reader will just believe all he says. He is quite the opposite of Nietzsche, therefore. Nietzsche rages like a heavenly fire, whereas Darwin gives us the impression that he is building with earthly clay. Nietzsche’s style is very self-consciously sentimental, even when he gives a correct analysis of objective facts [sic]. … I do prefer Darwin’s style, because of its relentless logic, and its caution and measure, to any other style that might be called ‘literary.’ … [If] the works of  Nietzsche also played a leading part of my literary education[, h]is ascendency, though it was like a fire burning my heart, did not last long. In my initial enthusiasm I believed that he had opened doors to me that otherwise would have remained closed, but later I saw that I had only been taken by his enchanting style and his daring thoughts; and though I must say that for a while I profited a good deal from his analysis of ethics, I only really understood his position when I had come to appreciate the Marxist analysis. Both lines of thought led to the conclusion that the dominating system of morals is that of the dominant classes; but Marx came to this conclusion by applying to society an economical analysis, whereas Nietzsche had followed a historical and linguistic [sic] method, and preached his morality of the strong as a new religious belief, a philosophical gospel. For some time I believed in it, as it seemed to be in line with the theory of evolution and its rule of the survival of the fittest through the struggle for survival. But slowly Nietzsche’s influence faded from consciousness, as I gradually came to attach a new meaning to the theory of evolution. If Napoleon was to be considered something of a superman, certainly emperors as such were not biologically superior, as Nietzsche had nearly led me to believe.[91]


So, at Nietzsche 13/13 we can breathe a sigh of relief. Musa misread Nietzsche as a scientist of evolution; and when he realized he was not, rather than abandon his racist line of inquiry, Musa adopted Marx as the key to life’s mysteries, mysteriously without somehow ever coming to accept the anti-humanist implications of his own thought.[92] His prolific Arabic writings and translations from the 1910s to the 30’s included “a condensation” of Grant Allen’s The Evolution of the Idea of God (1914), Socialism (1914), Famous Speeches and Famed Orators (1924), Famous Historical Love Stories (1925), Philosopher’s Dreams (1926), The Ideology of Development and the Roots of Islam, Freedom of Thought and its Champions in History, Unconscious Mind (all three in 1927), Today and Tomorrow (1928), On Life and Literature (1931), and Renewal in English Literature (1933). May Ziada, ever the aesthetic judge – even after jealous family members incarcerated her in a mental asylum – commented pithily, and with more than a hint of Nietzschean irony: “All the fine things you say concerning optimism are only the rhetoric of fundamental pessimism!”[93] She realized that all of Musa’s ideas about strength and community may have come out of a deep sense of alienation.


ʿAbbas Mahmud al-ʿAqqad (1889–1964)

If Musa tried unsuccessfuly to read Nietsche scientifically, and comes across a liberal racist and self-righteous atheist, ʿAbbas Mahmud al-ʿAqqad was attracted to Nietzsche as a literary critic and poet steeped in Islamic history and classical Arabic literature. Al-Aqqad was an early mentor of Sayyid Qutb’s before his trip to the US turned him into the theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was a prominent Arab liberal voice against Nazism during World War II, one of Ziyada’s most ardent literary admirers and the closest to a biographer of her salon.[94]

ʿAqqad was born in Aswan to a conservative lower middle-class family. Never finishing high school, he worked his way up as a school teacher and  journalist after he moved to Cairo as a teenager.[95] In 1914, he returned to Aswan where he apparently wrote a now lost manuscript of essays on Darwin and Nietzsche while teaching an Islamic Benevolence School.[96] To avoid being arrested for his anti-Bitish articles, he went underground (like his teenage idol ʿAbdallah Nadim had after the British invasion in 1882). During WWI, he made a name for himself as a journalist at Muhammad Farid Wajdi’s al-Dustur while teaching at Wadi al-Nil Secondary School.[97] He subsequently became the leading polemicist against the then dominant neo-classical form of Arabic prose and poetry ridiculing the formulaic style of greats like Ahmad Shawki and al-Manfaluti, most notoriously in The Diwan: A Book on Criticism and Literature in 1921, a book that became a sort of Manifesto for romantic poets like himself. ʿAqqad and the Diwan School advocated a literature and philosophy of nature, the affective senses and the human imagination, and drew aesthetic inspiration from ʿAbbasid poets like Ibn al-Rumi, Ibn al-Farid and al-Maʿarri as well as British romantics like Hazlitt, Wordsworth and Byron alike.[98] Through reading Thomas Carlyle, he had discovered both German literature – he would introduce fellow Diwan critics to the works of Goethe, Lessing, Nordau and Nietzsche after WWI – as well as the craft of heroic biographies.[99]

In the political field, al-ʿAqqad was “the most redoubtable publicist for Zaghlul and the Wafd” party and entered Parliament in 1929 as an uncompromising champion of constitutionalism.[100] From the 1930s, al-ʿAqqad  achieved public recognition as a prolific biographer of human “genius,” including the lives of Prophet Muhammad, his companions and successors, of Jesus, Ibn al-Rumi, ʿAbd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, Saʿd Zaghlul, Gandhi, Jinnah, Sun Yatsin, and as well as a study of Satan (Iblis).[101] Upon his death, Louis Awad (1914-1990) praised him as “the greatest essayist modern Arabic literature has ever known. His style is haughty and rugged like the cliffs of the Muqattam mountains, but always fierce and penetrating in meaning and diction.”[102]

In January, 1924, al-ʿAqqad published two a long essays:  “The Philosophy of al-Mutanabbi and the Philosophy of Nietzsche,” and “The Philosophy of al-Mutanabbi – Between Darwin and Nietzsche” in the popular Egyptian interwar journal al-Balagh.[103] The two articles heralded a radical shift in the Nietzsche reception in the Middle East. Had it been the domain of Syro-Lebanese Christians in American, French and Egyptian exiles (and easy prey for the postcolonial critic for their colonized consciousness as ‘mimicry wo/men’), al-ʿAqqad domesticated Nietzsche in the Islamic tradition (as an autodidact without much travel experience). In a similar Nahda move – consider al-Tahtawi’s recasting of pre-modern Islamic scholars as Egyptologists before colonialism[104] – ʿAqqad here presents one of the great Abbasid poets and philosophers of life to the Egyptian press as a vitalist avant le mot, and the conceptual hyphen between Nietzsche’s and Darwin’s thought. [Al-Mutanabbi’s agon…[105]]


Felix Fares (1882-1939)

Felix Farés was the first to translate from the French Thus Spake Zarathustra in 1938. The son of a lawyer and political figure in Mount Lebanon, and a Swiss mother, Fares was a journalist, playwright, and translator. While some contemporary masters of Arabic literature considered his style and grammar rather awkward and his thought often vague and meandering, others pointed to his unsurpassed qualities: his oeuvre’s passion, imagination, and sense of harmony, his charismatic aura and contagious enthusiasm, the combination of which made him a formidably public orator. He travelled to the United States and stayed in New York and Detroit from 1921-22.[106] He befriended the Mahjar circle, especially Gibran with whom he kept a regular correspondence after his return to Lebanon; became involved in the Syrian community and wrote for newspapers, including the New York Times. It is unclear, even from recent publication of his oeuvre in seven volume, what prompted him to work on Thus Spake Zarathustra in the late 1930s.[107] But by then, an Egyptian philosophy student started his academic career in Cairo.


ʿAbd al-Rahman Badawi (1917-2002)

Born into a minor land-owning family near the Mediterranean port city of Damietta, Badawi’s main Egyptian intellectual influences were the Egyptian nationalism of Mustafa Kamil (1874-1908)[108], the liberal secularism of Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid (1872-1963) – May Ziada’s mentor and leader of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party – the Islamic scholarship of Mustafa ʿAbd al-Raziq (1883-1947) and the Greek literary studies of Taha Husayn (1889-1973).[109] And yet, incongruous though it may seem, Badawi decided to join the right-wing party “Young Egypt” in 1938 where for two years his articles in the party’s organ Sarkha shaped the pro-German theoretical frame of the movement.[110] Perhaps it is not that incongruous that a budding liberal philosopher should be attracted to this rather marginal pro-fascist party at the age of 21. For its brief period of existence, its militant form of Egyptian nationalism was cathartic at a time when the Anglo-Egyptian government was itself growing ever more authoritarian. The British government’s opposition to the re-establishment of the Egyptian constitution in 1935 led to student demonstrations all over Cairo.[111] Nasser and other future free officers were involved, too. And Nietzsche was in the air again, even before Faris’ translation of Thus Spake Zarathustra in 1938.[112]

Badawi studied in the faculty of arts at Cairo University where he acquired Latin and Greek and then studied with the French historians of religion and philosophers of science, Alexander Koyré (1892-1964) and André Lalande (1867-1963) in the late 1930s and during WWII. Under the influence of Paul Kraus (1900-44), a German-Jewish Orientalist who chose Cairo University over Hebrew University as his refuge from the Nazis, Badawi acquired his appreciation of the Sufi tradition and the Greek influence on Islamic thought.[113] Out of these two traditions, Badawi synthesized “Arab existentialism:” the birth of a new Arab subject and “a comprehensive philosophy for our generation.”[114]

He was a prolific writer since his students days. He published his first two books, Nietzsche (September, 1939) and The Greek Heritage in Islamic Civilization (March 1940) as an MA student. He defended his MA thesis on Heidegger in 1941.[115] His Humanism and Existentialism in the Arab Thinking[116] came out in 1947 and established him as Egypt’s foremost public philosopher and existentialist who espoused radical individualism, and an elitist view of freedom.  Late in his life he would turn to more orthodox Islamic philosophy, defences of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, but it was his 1939 Nietzsche book whose synthetic style and biographical approach ensured that it had immediate popular appeal and political impact.[117] Surprisingly, like the less philosophically minded previous Arab Nietzsche reception, Badawi, too, starts with a quote from Thus Spake Zarathustra, which I render in the original German here:[118]


Oh Mensch! Gibt Acht!


Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?


“Ich schlief, ich schlief-,


Aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht: –


Die Welt ist tief,


Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht.


Tief ist ihr Weh -,


Lust – tiefer noch als Herzeleid:


Weh spricht: Vergeh!


Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit -,


Will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit



In the preface, Badawi calls for a spiritual revolution to complete the political revolution after WWI. [t.b.c.]


His Nietzsche book sold out instantly at 2,000 copies and went through multiple editions later pirated in Kuwait.[120] The first edition of the book had an immediate effect on a new cohort of military officers at the staff college of the Egyptian Army in Cairo where Colonel Ahmad ʿAbd al-ʿAziz, “the army officer whom he [Nasser] then admired most,” taught Badawi’s Nietzsche and deployed Nietzsche’s dictum “the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is to live dangerously!” in class.[121] The irony of this influence was that Badawi was staunchly opposed to Arab populism and any leftist politics. In fact, although he had a successful career at ʿAyn Shams University where he served as the chair of the Department of Philosophy from 1955 to his departure from Egypt in February 1967, he felt increasingly isolated and alienated in Nasser’s Egypt.[122] Badawi’s romance with Egypt’s nature and land was as strong as his loathing for the peasants. He abhorred Nasser’s land reform act in equal measures on philosophical grounds and for his affiliation with the land-owning class.

In his The Philosophy of the Revolution Nasser waxed lyrically about his role in the Egyptian liberation struggle, not in terms of Nietzsche’s Will to Power but by recalling Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search for a Role.”[123]

The pages of history are full of heroes who created for themselves roles of glorious valor which they played at decisive moments. Likewise the pages of history are also full of heroic and glorious roles which never found heroes to perform them. For some reason it seems to me that within the Arab circle there is a role, wandering aimlessly in search for a hero. And I do not know why it seems to me that this role, exhausted by its wanderings, has at last settled down, tired and weary, near the borders of our country and it is beckoning us to move, to take up its lines, to put on its costume, since no one else is qualified to play it.[124]


After the Nasserist revolution, the intellectual drama between the Egyptian left and right, the established liberal journals al-Thaqafa, al-Hilal and al-Risala versus the leftist challengers Akhir SaʿA, Akhbar al-Yawm and Rusa Yusuf showed no sign of abating. Badawi, for his part, was obsessed with ‘the hidden hand’ of Soviet communism in Egypt. He mobilized his studies of German idealism – particularly Fichte, Hegel and Schelling – and his Heideggerian existentialism to combat the left’s doctrine of historical materialism and to argue for the values of liberty and individualism.[125] His journalist adversaries and – much to Badawi’s disappointment – even his own students and colleagues, started loosing respect and considered him a reactionary, as he claimed on account of four sins: his commemoration of Imam al-Ghazali (d. 1111) in Damascus in 1961, his Nazi sympathies qua his Nietzscheanism, his liberal Arab existentialism, and an article he wrote for al-Hiwar, a journal which was rumoured, correctly as it turned out in 1968, to be CIA-funded.[126] One of Nasser’s ministers, Dr. Tharwat ‘Ukasha, approached Badawi later to deliver a message of consolation: “the President appologizes for this: The revolutionaries have learned philosophy from your books, especially from your Nietzsche.”[127] But the ship of his kind of existentialist philosophy had long sailed. He was already marginalized when Sartrean existentialism and litérature engagé inspired a young crop of Arab intellectuals to challenge the old guard, most famously at a public debate between Suheil Idriss and Taha Husayn in Beirut in 1955 which made the spiritualism of Badawi’s philosophy seem anachronistic.[128]

The persistance of colonialism after World War II, and the emergence of what Sartre and a growing number of Third World intellectuals defined as neo-colonialism,[129] inaugurated a shift in the relationship between philosophy and life. Revolution became a practical imperative, theory a weapon, to invoke Cabral, and the FLN in Algeria led the way. Individualist philosophy continued to attract Arab intellectuals, most notably the vitalism of Henri Bergson and the personalist spin-offs by French Catholic thinkers like Emanuel Mounier (1905-1950), Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and Jacques Maritain (1882-1973).[130] But the challenge of economic underdevelopment attracted the younger generation to the Marxist tradition, Fanonianism and Maoism. And the Free Officers’ coup in 1952 and subsequent nationalization of the Suez Canal raised hopes and expectations of a new dawn. The Cold War pitted reactionary Arab monarchies supported by the West against the revolutionary republics backed by the Soviet Union. But within the republics, fissures between nationalists, regionalists and internationalists, between the army and the intellectual class, and between reformists and insurrectionists soon emerged. A general compromise of sorts prevailed in the form of Arab Socialism.[131]

In the literary field, realism and socialist romance showed the heroic lives of ordinary people, caught in webs of corruption, patriarchy, hypocrasy and injustice. Then the self-styled “sixties generation” challenged this literary convention. It turned as much to the shared experience of disillusionment as about “the larger anxiety about categorization.”[132] Lotus editor Edward Kharrat (1926-2015) hailed the move away from socialist realism as a “New Sensibility” in Egypt which began to develop satirical if not fantastical plots and individual anti-heroes who represented the internal suffering, emotional blockages and moral contradictions inherent in the human struggle to navigate everyday life.[133] In 1977, a literary-theoretical manifesto appeared in Cairo, criticizing key “sixties-generation” outlets like Gallery ‘68, and Sanabil.[134] The “seventies poets” shifted genre, disavowed political commitment in literature as too mechanical and abandoned art’s remedial social function altogether in the turbulent years of student protests, nation-wide bread riots and detention camps.[135]

During these heady years, Nietzsche did not rear any of his many heads. With very few but notable exceptions, Arab literati and critics saw little use for the rarefied brilliance of Nietzsche’s texts. Nietzsche’s critique of religion did animate Sadek Jalal al-ʿAzm in the late 1960s to deliver a series of bold if, by today’s and Nietzsche’s own standards, deterministic lectures in Beirut which were published as Naqd al-Fikr al-dini in 1969.[136] What concerns me is less the crude materialist way in which he deploys Nietzsche to treat Christian and Muslim belief in the supernatural as superstition. Rather, what is significant for my purposes is to note that al-ʿAzm published Critique of Religious Thought as a rejoinder to his Self-Criticism After the Defeat of 1967. Taken together, these texts attempt to disturb Arab denial of a share of guilt for the defeat. If cultural complacency was a root cause, Marxists and materialists like himself could take comfort in the superiority of their analysis. They represented the Arabs of the future. The feudal, the military and the religious establishments were relics of a past that got them into the mess of the 1967 “Naksa”. Marxism and a scientific disposition was to lead the Arab world out of it. Or so they thought…


Edward Said, Orientalism

Perhaps we shall then recognise that the thing in itself is worth a Homeric laugh; that it seemed so much, indeed everything, and is really empty, namely, empty of meaning.[137]


The acdemic year 1978/79 witnessed a sea change in global politics, economics and culture, arguably dwarfing even 1967/68 with its signal events of the Naksa, the Vietcong’s Têt Offensive, the student revolt in Paris, and the Prague Spring.[138] The election of Deng Xiaoping as leader of the People’s Republic of China in late 1978 inaugurated a series of gradual economic reforms. In Rome, the selection of a Polish pope politicized Catholicism against the global left, just before Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s and later President Ronald Reagan’s election victories set the stage for the destruction of ailing social welfare systems in the West and – through their militant foreign policy – in the global south.[139] The Iranian revolution, which paved the way for Khomeinism, the bloody siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and the Soviet invasion of the Republic of Afghanistan, sent instant shockwaves throughout the world and their afterlives are haunting the 21st century.

It was in this context that Edward Said’s Orientalism intervened by shifting the terrain of critique to the question of representation and knowledge-production. European Marxists and Third World intellectuals, not least Ali Shariati, had long been critical of the way academic disciplines have been hand-maidens to imperialism.[140] However, none were as comprehensive  and radical – in the sense of root-based and inescapable – as his. Said inveighed not just against the constitutive academic study of the Orient but also all forms of literary and visual production. ‘Orient’ and ‘Occident’ constitute not only an irreducible epistemological difference but also a hierarchical relationship in which the West assumes a superior ontological position over the East. What is discursive about Orientalism in Said’s Foucauldian sense is that its texts “can create not only knowledge but also the very reality they appear to describe.” In other words, the Orient was thought into being by the West. And here, Nietzsche plays a key role in the construction of Said’s argument, as we shall see.

Now, with this geo-cultural determination, Said, unwittingly, inaugurated what Samer Frangie poignantly called the “broken conversation” between two differently located problem-spaces regarding what constitutes a radical critique of Western imperialism – colonial discourse analysis of Nietzschean regimes of truth, or a Marxist approach that is forced to confront directly the brute force of global capitalism and militarism, and their local manifestations, sectarianism, racism, patriarchy and inequality.[141]

It is not so surprsing, then, that the first major critique of Said’s Orientalism came from the Marxist corner. Writing for the “Journal of revolutionary socialists of the Middle East,” Khamseen, then published by Arab and Israeli leftists out of Paris, Sadek al-ʿAzm subjected Orientalism to a blistering critique for its culturalist bend, equating Marx with Lord Cromer and other imperialists and for giving ammunition to Islamists and other essentialists who have long ridden on the coat tails of an irreducible separation between East and West.[142] Since then, Orientalists and liberal scholars have weighed in in the 1980 and early ‘90s.[143] But their criticism is not so relevant, nor interesting for that matter. More relevant and interesting for our purposes is the feisty critique of the South Asian Marxist literary critic, Aijaz Ahmad. In a book that is perhaps most (in)famous for his take-down of Frederic Jameson’s influential article “Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capital,” Ahmad launches a searing critique of Orientalism.[144] A centre piece of his argument is Said’s undue deployment of Nietzsche. For all the posturing and invocations of Thirdworldism, new leftists like Said “would also be openly and contemptuously anti-communist; nor would they affiliate even with that other tradition … of social democracy and the labour movement.” Instead, they

would invoke an anti-bourgeois stance in the name of manifestly reactionary anti-humanisms enunciated in the Nietzschean tradition… this matter of Nietzschean anti-humanism is of some crucial interest here, in part because of Said’s treatment of Marx … stands in tense balance with Nietzsche’s authority, invoked directly through Foucault, which structures the whole book around notions of representations and discourse.

The main issue is (mis)representation, not Islam or ‘essence’, and what Said is actually doing is drawing closer to the Nietzschean idea that no true representation is possible because all human communications always distort the facts. What happens … is that Said raises the key question: ‘The real issue is whether there can be a true representation of anything.’ In other words, is it possible to make any true statements? There are powerful traditions including the Nietzschean which have denied such a possibility. There are other powerful traditions, including the Marxist, which have said that yes, such true statements are possible. Said’s equvocation on this key question is delivered in what appears to be a precise formulation – namely, that the line between a representation  and a misrepresentation is always very thin. … I would suggest … that this statement belongs directly into the Nietzschean philosophical tradition, and that Edward Said, who is in the midst of writing a history of Orientalism, is affiliating himself with a new kind of history-writing, which was emerging more or less at this time, which goes far beyond the empirical historian’s usual interrogation of and scepticism about the available evidence and the accepted modes of interpretation; and enters a Nietzschean world of questioning not merely positivist constructions but the very facticity of facts, so that a wide range of historians, including subalternists to start putting the word ‘facts’ in quotation marks.[145]


Aijaz Ahmad’s fear of the slippery Nietzschean slope is palpable from this excerpt, I think. Now, let me quote the passages in Said’s Orientalism that deploy Nietzsche in full:[146]

Renan came to Orientalism from philology, and it is this extraordinarily rich and celebrated cultural position of that discipline that endowed Orientalism with  its most important technical characteristics. For anyone to whom philology suggests dry-as-dust and inconsequential word-study, however, Nietzsche’s proclamation that along with the greatest minds of the 19. century he is a philologist will come as no surprise …

What is the category, Nietzsche will ask later, that includes himself, Wagner, Schoppenhauer, Leopardi, all as philologists? The term seems to include both a gift of exceptional spiritual insight into language and the ability to produce work whose articulation is of aesthetic and historical power. … Nietzsche is nevertheless at pains to show that  professional students of the Greek and Roman classics are commonly incapable of understanding their discipline: “they never reach the roots of the matter: they never adduce philology as a problem.” For simply “as knowledge of the ancient world philology cannot, of course, last for ever; its material is inexhaustable.”[147] It is this that the herd of philologists cannot understand. But what distinguishes the few exceptional spirits whom Nietzsche deems worthy? …

[O]f praise – not unambiguously, and not in the cursory way that I am now describing – is their profound relation to modernity, a relation that is given them by their practice of philology. Philology problematizes – itself, its practicioners, the present. It embodied a peculiar condition o being modern and European, since neither of those categories has true meaning without being related to an earlier alien culture and time.  What Nietzsche also sees is philology as something born, made in the Viconian sense as a sign of human enterprise, created as a category of human discovery, self-discovery, and originality.  Philology is a way of historically setting oneself off, as great artists do, from one’s time and an immediate past even as, paradoxically and antinomically, one actually characterizes one’s modernity by doing so.

Between Friedrich August Wolf of 1777 and the Nietzsche of 1875 there is Ernest Renan… who wrote in 1848 that ‘the founders of modern mind are philologists.’ And what is modern mind, he said in the preceding sentence, if not ‘rationalism, criticism, liberalism, [all of which] were founded on the same day as philology?’ Philology, he goes on to say, is both a comparative discipline psossessed only by moderns and a symbol of the modern (and European) superiority; every advance we made by humanity since the 15th century can be attrivuted to minds we would call philologists. …

The Orient that appears in Orientalism, then, is a system of representations framed by a whole set of forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and later, Western empire.If this definition is more political than not, that is simply because I think Orientalism was itslef a product of certain political forces and activities. Orientalism is a school of interpretation whose material happens to be the Orient, its civilizations, peoples, ad localities. Its objective discoveries – the work of innumerable devoted scholara who edited texts and translated them, codified grammars, wrote dictionaries, reconstructed dead epochs, produced positivistically verifiable learning – are and always have been conditioned by the fact that its truths, like any truths delivered in language, are embodied in language, and what is the truth of language, Nietzsche once said, but

a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms – in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embelished poetically ad rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths as illusions about one has forgotten that this is what they are.[148]


Like Farah Antun before him, Edward Said pairs Nietzsche with Renan, but in contrast to Antun’s attempt at a synthesis of the two, Said opposed their approaches to philology using the former to expose the secularist claims to European cultural superiority of the latter.[149] Said’s Nietzsche is a methodological foil, and eschews the materialist, ontological and spiritual readings of Shumayyil, Musa, Badawi or Gibran who drew on his later work, especially Thus Spake Zarathustra and The Will to Power. Said may well have been the first in this tradition to have returned to his early, philological work, Die Geburt der Tragödie (1872) and Über Wahrheit und Lüge (1873), most notably. His aesthetics is a form of politics and self-reflexive ethics, and for that reason, he found Michel Foucault’s Nietzschean framework useful but only to a certain extent.[150] Aesthetic criticism in Nietzsche, Foucault and Said is not the self-contained realm of human sensation, experience and subjectivity separate from some realm of the real.[151] Rather, in different calibrations all three share the conception that interpretation and representation create objects, things and facts, the way Nietzsche sees in “the world … a work of art that gives birth to itself.”


Mahdi ʿAmil, né Hasan Hamdan[152]

This Lebanese Communist, born in 1936, studied philosophy in Lyon in the late 1950s/early 60s, and conducted his doctoral research with Louis Althusser whose famous definition of philosophy as, “in the last instance, class struggle in the field of theory” resonated with ʿAmil’s generation of students.[153] When he got kicked out of France in 1963, he went to Algeria to teach and write on the recently deceased Frantz Fanon.[154] He returned to Lebanon in 1976 having observed the growth of the communist movement in his home country since the Arab defeat of 1967. In the 1980s, ʿAmil emerged as the most rigorous critic of the ideology of the Lebanese state and popularized the concept of the colonial mode of production. After he was killed by what in all likelihood were Hizballah-affiliated assassins in 1987, his legacy as the foremost Arab Marxist thinker lives on. The flagship leftist journal in Lebanon, al-Tariq, to which ʿAmil had contributed many articles, acknowledged him as the Arab Gramsci, an acolyte that stuck.[155] Most relevant for our purposes was his critique of Said’s Orientalism, expressed in a lengthy study published in two books a couple of years before his death.[156]

In Marx and the Orientalism of Edward Said, ʿAmil only discusses the four pages of Orientalism that cover Marx, but his analysis goes far beyond the feigned outrage of Aijaz Ahmad’s or Sadek al-ʿAzm’s critiques. In fact, it lays out in great clarity the stakes of an Arab Marxist framework which he, as the self-conscious heir to Fanon, was developing on the frontlines in war- torn Beirut where like in Fanon’s Algeria, the theoretical struggle was “the twin brother of the political struggle.”[157] I reproduce Samer Frangie’s brilliant analysis of ʿAmil’s critique:

The entry point for ʿAmil’s critique is what he saw as Said’s underlying conception of the West as a self-consistent, coherent, and unified entity, which ʿAmil links to essentialist and Orientalist readings of the Arab world. When the West, Orientalism, and the dominant classes are conflated or posited as an inseparable whole, any Western thought becomes an Orientalist thought. This move reproduces the bourgeoisie’s desire to conflate its particularistic culture with culture in general, turning its class perspective into a Western perspective and negating any possible contradictions or oppositions to its own thought.

ʿAmil raises what has become a common critique of Said’s methodological assumptions … But then ʿAmil takes a radical turn, accusing Said of rejecting reason in favor of some form of aesthetic Romanticism. … In the Saidian framework, ‘Marx exits the structure of Orientalist thought when he uses his heart,’ writes ʿAmil, ‘yet he comes back to it, falling into its structure, when he uses his mind.’ This opposition forces Said into an anti-rationalist corner—reducing any theoretical act to an act of violence and denying the possibility of a scientific and hence universal knowledge, leaving only art and intuition as possible nodes of resistance—a position that ʿAmil traces from Nietzsche through Foucault to Said.[158]


We need to take the Marxist critique of Nietzsche, (Foucault) and the ethical turn in postcolonialism seriously. If it sometimes comes across as somewhat flat and doctrinaire, there is room for improvement. ʿAmil has led the way. Events since 2011 first in the Arab uprisings and then across the world have left us in very dark times. Edward Said is actually the first to realize that metatheory is not the way to go, and he is unique in blending the beauty of literature, the necessity of colonial discourse analysis and political activism. What Aijaz Ahmad, Mahdi ʿAmil and others have refused to consider is that he used Nietzsche’s work strategically to overcome the racism of the Orientalists’ herd mentality. At that he differed from previous Arab readers of Nietzsche who sought him out as a diagnostician of the modern world, whose texts, above all Thus Spake Zarathustra, would help them find re-enchantment in an atheological age. At that Said is closer in his appropriation to Fanon than to Foucault or to Shariati.


[1] “Moreover, I have contempt for everything that merely educates me, without enhancing my activity or instantaneously/intuitively enlivening/invigotating me.” Friedrich Nietzsche, „Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben [1874], 95; in his Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen (Frankfurt: Insel Verlag, 1981 [1873-6]).

[2] Scott (1999: 200). Another instructive example of such incomensurability between generations of one and the same tradition was when impatient students stormed the aging Adorno’s office during the ʿ68 revolt apparently brandishing his own earlier radical writing to legitimate their insurrectionary action only for Adorno to call the police and charge them with “leftwing fascism.”

[3] “Nietzsche in Arabic,”

[4] Félix Farés, “Hakadha yatakallama Zaradusht,” in Amir al-manabir wa-mafkharat al-mahabir: majmuʿah, vol. 7, ed. by J. Tawq (Beirut: A. F. Faris, 2000), 41.

[5] Salama Musa, Muqaddima Subarman (Cairo: Dar al-Hilal, 1910).

[6] The translation debate goes back to at least 1928, when Ahmad Amin published “al-Subarman aw al-insan al-kamil,” al-Thaqafa 224 & 225 (n. d., n. p. [c.p. Atiyya, “Badawi/Nitsha,” 434]),  Mosbah who renders “Übermensch” as al-insan al-a’la – “the highest being” – compares different translations in a threepage footnote in his introduction to Hakatha takallama Zaradusht (Cologne: al-Jamal, 2007), 30-32.

[7] Brennan, “Nietzsche in the Colonies,” Borrowed Light.

[8] See Duncan Large, “Nietzsche’s Orientalism,” Nietzsche Studien: Internationales Jahrbuch für die Nietzsche-Forschung 42 (2013), 178-203.

[9] Elie Kedourie, Nationalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1960), and Hegel and Marx: Introductory Lectures (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995). The Qutbist F. Yakan concurred: “Muhammad’s prophecy enabled the first Muslim empire just like Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu laid the groundmork for the French Revolution; Marx, Engels and Lenin conceived of the Communist Revolution; and Nazism grew out of the fertile ground prepared  by Hegel, Fichte, and Nietzsche. For us it is the same.” Mushkila al-daʿwa (Beirut, 1967), 250.

[10] Not surprisingly, there seems to be no references to Nietzsche in his work. The closest Qutb got to channelling Nietzschean thought was in the first sentence of Milestones (p. 5): “Mankind today is on the brink of a precipice … Even Western scholars realize that their civilization is unable to present healthy values for the guidance of mankind and does not possess anything to satisfy its own conscience or justify its existence.” This and other Nietzschean appearances in Qutb have inforned Lenni Binder, Hagana fighter turned Orientalist, to launch his polemic on Qutb: “”Qutb seems to be taking Heidegger, Gadamer, and even Nietzsche, and standing them on their heads (knowingly or unknowingly). … for [Qutb’s] kinunah insaniyya (does it mean dasein?), the aestheticaly grounded emotional experience must be existentially prior.” Leonard Binder, Islamic Liberalism: a Critique of Development Ideologies (Chicago: CHUP, 1988), 195. For a more sophisticated uptake of the Qutb-Nietzsche nexus, see Roxanne L. Euben, Enemy in the Mirror; Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism (Princeton: PUP, 1999). Like the Zionist revisionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky who also read Nietzsche in his youth, Sayyid Qutb was a cosmopolitan liberal before his trip to the US in the 1940s. Compare John Calvert’s Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islam (Cairo: AUC Press, 2011) with Michael Stanislowski, Zionism and the Fin de Siècle: Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism from Nordau to Jabotinsky (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001). Hillel Halkin, Jabotinski: a Life (New Haven: YUP, 2014) quotes Jabotinsky: “my Jewish youth gang had nothing Jewish about it. The literature we read wasn’t Jewish, and we argued about Nietzsche, morality and sex,” p. 10. See also p. 21, 43 for appearance in Jabotinsky’s fiction.

[11] Gilbert Achcar has recently reconstructed citation chain of these myths in The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010), 65-74. E.g. the claim that Baʿath party founders had Nazi sympathies rests on the following partial mis-translated quote from the memoires of a Baʿathist offical: “We were racialists, admiring Nazism, reading its books and the source of its thought, particularly Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation and H.S. Chamberlain’s Foundations of the Nineteenth Century.” First quoted in Elie Kedourie, Arab Political Memoirs and Other Studies (London: Frank Cass, 1974), 200, it migrated into Bernard Lewis’s Semites and Anti-semites (New York: Norton, 1986), 280, fn. 9, and since then has proliferated in the literature of Nakba denial and Islamic terrorologists.

[12] Aimé Césaire [1955], Discourse on Colonialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), 54.

[13] We may recall Edward Said’s critique of Alan Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence: “Textuality … has become the exact antithesis and displacement of what might be called history” in this 1983 essay “Secular Criticism.”

[14] Edward Said, “Secular Criticism,” The World, the Text, and the Critic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), .

[15] I draw on Tim Brennan’s useful distinction: “Cosmopolitanism sprouts from an already existing culture of intellectuals and middle-class travellers, researchers, and businessmen. Internationalism, on the other hand – although based no less … on the facts of global interprenetration, the homogenization brought about by capitalist mass culture, and the cultural consequences of mass migration – is an ideology of the domestically restricted, the recently relocated, the exiled, and the temporarily weak…. Internationalism insists on the principle of national sovereignty.” Brennan, War of Positions: The Cultural Politics of Left and Right (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 136-7, 215.

[16] On Shibli Shumayyil (d. 1915), the first modern Arab materialist, see Albert Hourani, “Christian Secularists: Shumayyil and Antun,” Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939 (Oxford: OUP, 1962), 245-64; Sharabi, Hisham, Arab Intellectuals and the West: the Formative Year, 1875-1914 (Baltimore: Johns Hobkins Press, 1970); Khuri-Makdisi, Ilham, The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism, 1860-1914 (University of California Press, 2010); On Arabic debates on materialism, see Shibli Shumayyil, Falsafa al nushuʿ wa al-irtiqaʾ (Cairo: Matbaʿa al-Muqtataf, [1886] 1910); Muhammad al-Rida al-Isbahani, Naqd falasafa Darwin, 2 vols. (Baghdad: Matba ʿa Wilaya Baghdad, 1912), 1: 179ff; Muhammad Farid Wajdi, ʿAla atlal and madhdhab al-maddi (Cairo: Matbaʿa Daʾira al-Maʿarif, 1921), Hasan Husayn, Fasl al-Maqal fi falsafa al nushuʿ wa al-irtiqaʾ (Cairo, 1924); on Ottoman materialists, including early engagements with Nietzsche, see Ahmed Nebil, Baha Tewfik, and Memduh Süleyman, Nietzsche: hayati ve felsefi (Istanbul: Teceddüd-I Ilmi ve Felsefi Kütübhanesi, 1912),  disucced in Shükrü Hanioglu, “Blueprints for a Future Society: Late Ottoman materialists on science, religion and art,” in Late Ottoman Society: the Intellectual Legacy, ed. by E. Özdalga (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), 28-116. On the Afghani-Renan debate, see Nikki Keddie, An Islamic Response to Imperialism: Political and Religious Writings of Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Ajghani (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1968); Ignaz Goldziher, Renan als Orientalist: Gedenkrede am 27. November 1893 (Zürich : Spur-Verl., 2000); Massad, Joseph, Desiring Arabs (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2007); Mishra, Pankaj, The Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia (Toronto: Doubleday, 2012); Schäbler, Birgit, Moderne Muslime: Ernest Renan und die Geschichte der ersten Islamdebatte 1883 (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoningh, 2016).

[17] Aschheim cites Leo Hirsch, “ Fri. Nietzsche und der jüdische Geist,“ Der Morgen 10 (1934), 187: “it was Jews who almost alone took a stand for Nietzsche and against trite materialism: Georg Brandes in the north, Henri Bergson in the west, and Berdyczeswski in the east.” Berdyczeswski, or Micha Bin Gorion (1867-1921), was a Ukrainian Hebrew scholar who fled to Germany. Rosenzweig, of The Star of Redemption (p. 9), was an admirer of Nietzsche whose work helped him overcome Hegelian idealism to discover ʿliving’ and ʿbecoming’ Judaism. European Zionism, too, admired Nietzsche for his vitalist concept of becoming. Aschheim (p. 102): “Nietzsche was enlisted as an authority for articulating the ruptured relationship with the past and a force in its drive to normalization and its activist ideal of the self-creating New Hebrew Man” in Palestine. (p. 103) “What moved them was not Nietzsche’s writings on Judaism but his radical antitraditionalism, his rebellious, transvaluative attitudes” that they could bring to bear on their own Jewish experience.” The first Zionist generation, Herzl and Nordau, consider Nietzsche an illiberal madman but the second generation challenged that “defining [Zionism] not as a philanthropic and diplomatic matter but as the imperative  for personal metamorphosis and [collective] cultural rejuvenation.” (p. 105) Through Martin Buber, Nietzsche was  assimilated into German Zionism. In his Zionist-vitalist Zionism, Nietzsche helps overcome the meek acquiescence to the “life-denying, disempowering abnormalities of the galut (exile).” See also P. Mendes-Flohr, From Mysticism to Dialogue. What remains to be explored is how Zionists mobilized Nietzsche for conquest of land…

[18] Orsucci,  1996, 199-204.

[19] Ibrahim Abu Rabiʿ, Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence in the Modern Arab World (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996). Mohamad Turki in Anfänge in Hegel (Kassel: University Press, 2008).

[20] Heidegger and Fink, Heraklit; Seminar Wintersemester 1966/1967 (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1970).

[21] Today, the young, Berlin-based Palestinian philosopher, Abed Azzam, offers one of the most exciting new readings of Nietzsche in his Nietzsche versus Paul (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).

[22] Nietzsche, “Seventy-five Aphorisms (Mixed Opinions and Maxims (1879),” in On the Genealogy of Morals; Ecce Homo, tr. and ed. by W. Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1967), 175.

[23] Albert Hourani, “Great Britain and Arab nationalism,” PRO, FO141/14281, July 1943, p. 69-70. On Hourani’s wartime work for the British government and postwar work for Arab Palestine, see Jens Hanssen, “Albert’s World: Historicism, Liberal Imperialism and the Struggle for Palestine (1936-1948),” in Arabic Thought Beyond the Liberal Age, eds. J. Hanssen and M. Weiss, (New York: CUP, 2016), 62-92.

[24] Georg Iggers, “Historicism: The History and Meaning of the Term,” Journal of the History of Ideas 56 (1995), 129-152.

[25] Bennett, Jane, The Enchantmnent of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton: PUP, 2001); Michael Saler, “Modernity, Disenchantment, and the Ironic Imagination,” Philosophy and Literature 28 (2004) 137-149; Landy, Joshua and Michael Saler, The Re-enchantment of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age (Stanford: SUP, 2009).

[26] On 19th-century philology, see Maurice Olender, The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).

[27] Excerpted from Ismaʿil Sabri, habitué of Cairo’s and Alexandria’s most famous salons. Quoted in Antje Ziegler, “Arab Literary Salons at the Turn of the 20th Century,” in Understanding Near Eastern Literatures; a Spectrum of Interdisciplinary Approaches, ed. by V. Klemm and B. Gruendler (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2000) 245-46.

[28] Hanssen and Weiss, Arabic Thought beyond the Liberal Age (New York: CUP, 2016), particularly Dakhli’s chapter 13.

[29] Boutheina Khaldi, Egypt Awakening in the Early Twentieth Century: Mayy Ziyadah’s Intellectual Circles (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012).

[30] Ghada Samman, “Preface,” al-aʿmal al-majhula li-May Ziyada, ed. by J. Zaydan (Abu Dhabi: Cultural Foundation Publications, 1996), 14.

[31] Khaldi (2012: 78, 143).

[32] Khaldi (2012: 102, 196).

[33] May Ziyada, al-Aʿmal al-majhula li-Mayy Ziyadah, ed. by J. Zaydan, introduced by Ghada al-Samman (Abu Dhabi: Cultural Foundation, 1996), 123.

[34] Antje Ziegler (ed.), Mayy Ziyadah: Kitaba mansiyya (Beirut: Nawfal Group, 2009), 68.

[35] Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Böse, # 233: “Es verrät eine Korruption der Instinkte – noch abgesehen davon, dass es schlechten Geschmack verrät – , wenn ein Weib sich gerade auf Madame Roland oder Madame de Staël oder Monsieur George Sand beruft, wie als ob damit etwas augunsten des ʿWeibs an sich’ bewiesen wäre.’ Unter Männern sind die Genannten die drei komischen Weiber an sich – nichts mehr! – und gerade die besten unfreiwilligen Gegen-Argumente gegen Emanzipation und weibliche Sittlichkeit.” #234: “Dummheit in der Küche; das Weib als Köchin…”

[36] Ibid., 378.

[37] Robin Waterfield, Prophet; the Life and Times of Khalil Gibran (London: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1998), 163.

[38] Suheil Bushrui and Salma Khuzbari (eds.), Blue Flame: The Love Letters of Kahlil Girban to May Ziadah (London: Longman, 1983).

[39] Shmuel Moreh, Modern Arabic Poetry 1800–1970: the Development of its Forms and Themes under the Influence of Western Literature (Leiden: Brill, 1976), 45. See also my brief discussion of Gibran’s in Fin de Siècle Beirut (Oxford: OUP, 2005), 231-6.

[40] Leila Dakhli, Une génération d’intellectuels arabes; Syrie et Liban (1908-1940) (Paris : IISMM – Karthala, 2009).

[41] Waterfield, 116. Yusuf Huwayyik, Gibran in Paris, tr. by M. Moosa (New York, 1976).

[42] Radhwa ʿAshour, Gibran and Blake: A Comparative Study (1978); George Nicolas El-Hage, William Blake & Kahlil Gibran : poets of prophetic vision (Kaslik: NDU Press, 2002).

[43] Waterfield, Prophet, 209.

[44] Reid, D. M., The Odyssey of Farah Antun (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1975), 125.

[45] Waterfield, 136, 258.

[46] Waterfield, 213.

[47] Kahlil Gibran, “God’s Fool,” The Forerunner.

[48] Waterfield, 255.

[49] Gibran, “The Farewell,” The Prophet, p. 55.

[50] Stanley Rozen, The Mask of Enlightenment: Nietzsche’s Zarathustra (Cambridge: CUP, 1995).

[51] Nietzsche, “The Madman,” Gay Science, # 125. See also, Thus Spake Zarathustra, # 2: “Is it possible? This old saint in his forest has not heard it, that god is dead!.”

[52] C.p. Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derrivative Discourse (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis, 1986).

[53] Reid, D. M., The Odyssey of Farah Antun (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1975).

[54] Muhammad Lutfi Jum’ah, Mulhaq majallat al-sayyidat wa al-rijal (Cairo, 1923), 23; and Luwis Shaykhu, al-Adab al-ʿarabiyya fi rub’ al-awwal min al-qarn al-ʿashrin (Beirut, 1926), 112-3. Both quoted in Hisham Sharabi, “The Burden of the Intellectuals of the ʿLiberal Age’,” (review of A. Hourani’s Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age) Middle East Journal 20:2 (1966), 227-32, here: 231.

[55] Marwa ElShakry, Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).

[56] Reid, 42. Salama Musa, The Education of Salama Musa, tr. by L.O. Schuman (Leiden: Brill, 1961), 41.

[57] E. g. May Ziada, and Salama Musa: “When I got to know Farah Antun’s magazine al-Jamiʿa, it conveyed to me at once a new perspective, and even a new inspiration. … What I found … led me to procure the books of this great author, and that was how I first glanced at the new world of European literature which so far we had completely ignored. This literature sounded off strong chords in the hearts of all its readers in the Arab east by virtue of its being totally different, even incommensurate, with what we had learned of Arabic literature…. French literature as it was transmitted to us in Farah Antun’s translations, was a literature of rebellion and revolt, the literature of the sensitive mind and a heart that reasons, the literature of Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and Bernardin de St. Pierre, who had all struggled and fought the holy war against the tyranny of kings and princes, and against the tyranny of established belief and domination by the forces of the past. [The influential science and technology journal] Al-Muqtataf gave no expression at all of literary current. Misbah al-Sharq, the magazine produced by al-Muwaylihi, was a literary magazine, but it was only concerned with the continuation of traditional Arabic culture… antun made me change over from al-Mawardi to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. … He was the first amongst us to write about Nietzsche, I myself being the second.” The Education of Salama Musa, 39-41.

[58] ElShakry, Reading Darwin in Arabic, ch. 1. Muhammad ʿAbduh’s famous meeting eith Spencer generated a flury of translation activities in Egypt, and al-Muqtataf featured a number of articles on Spencer when he died in 1903. ElShakry, p. 83.

[59] Alexander Flores, “Reform, Islam and Secularism: Farah Antun and Muhammad ʿAbduh,”; Wild, Stefan, “Islamic Enlightenment and the Paradox of Averroes,” Die Welt des Islams 36 (Nov. 1996), 79-90.

[60] Antun, Farah, al-Din wa al-ʿilm wa al-mal. al-Wahsh, al-wahsh, al-wahsh. Urshalem al-Jadid aw: fatah al-ʿArab bayt al muqaddis (Beirut: Dar al-Taliʿa, 1979).

[61] See my brief discussion of this novel in Fin de Siècle Beirut, 225-6.

[62] He likely used Henri Albert’s Le crépuscule des idoles: Le Cas Wagner: Nietzsche contre Wagner: L’Antéchrist / Frédéric Nietzsche (Paris: Mercure de France, 1899). Josep Puig Montada, “Farah Antun: Active Reception of European Thought,” Pensamiento 64 (242), (2008), 1012.

[63] Al-Jamiʿa 5:4 (1906), 145-150. Montada, 1020: “The doctrine of Nitzsche had brought Germany into its present supremacy, but he criticized him for his extreme views on religion, for calling religions a web of superstitions and hoaxes.” [Check translation]

[64] al-Jamiʿa 6:1 (1908), 16-7.

[65] Farah Antun, “al-Faylasuf Nitsha wa falsafatu,” al-Jamiʿa 6:3 (1908), 57-64. It includes a translation of “Das Problem Sokrates,” from Götzen-Dämmerung.

[66] al-Jamiʿa 6:4 (1908), 81-6. In “Roving expeditions of an untimely philosopher,” which Antun translates from Götzen-Dämmerung, Nietzsche also attacks Renan and Darwin, as well as parts of the epilogue of Nietzsche Contra Wagner. The information in this paragraph is taken from Montada (2008: 1020-3) and needs verifying…

[67] al-Jamiʿa 6:4 (1908), 81-6. In “Roving expeditions of an untimely philosopher,” which Antun translates from Götzen-Dämmerung, Nietzsche also attacks Renan and Darwin, as well as parts of the epilogue of Nietzsche Contra Wagner. The information in this paragraph is taken from Montada (2008: 1020-3) and needs verifying…

[68] Montada (208: 1023): “Nietzsche retained Antun’s interest and he wrote about his philosophy an article called “Return to Nietzsche’s philosophy, and to the History of Renan,” in J7: 1 (1909), pp. 42-46. 7:2 (1910), pp. 101-105. He acknowledged to have read five books of Nietzsche’s and one on Nietzsche, En lisant Nietzsche, by Émile Faguet (1847-1916) and in addition, he knew of the publication of La Vie de Frédéric Nietzsche by Daniel Halévy (1872-1962). He names also two of the five Nietzsche’s books which he had read: Ecce Homo (1908), and Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-85).”

[69] For further analysis of Antun’s Nietzsche, see the astute research of Columbia History graduate student Nada Khalifa.

[70] Education of Salama Musa, 42.

[71] The fact that the English translation coincided with the publication of The Wretched of the Earth in French, makes Musa appear as Fanon’s negation, and ʿgrateful native.’

[72] Education of Salama Musa, 54. See also, Awad, Louis, The Literature of Ideas in Egypt (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986), 179-85; and Ibrahim A. Ibrahim, “Salama Musa: an Essay on Cultural Alienation,” Middle Eastern Studies 15:3 (1979), 346-57.

[73] Check Huwayyik, Gibran in Paris.

[74] Rifʿat al-Rifaʿi al-Tahtawi, An Imam in Paris; al-Tahtawi’s Visit to France (1826-1831), ed. and tr. by D. Newman (London: Saqi, 2004); Faris Ahmad Shidyaq, Leg over Leg, 2 vols., ed. and tr. by H. Davis (New York: NYU Press, 2013).

[75] “Trying to trace back the growth of my personal culture, I find that nearly all its essentials date from the period between 1909 and 1911, during which time I was in London.” Education of Salama Musa, 70.

[76] Education of Salama Musa, 81.

[77] Education of Salama Musa, 67. Here Musa also recalls his first meeting with Shaw: “When he understood that I was a Copt, he remarked that I was a monophysite. This confused me, for I did not know what a monophysite was. I thought … it must have something to do with vegetarian food… I also thought that he was addressing me as a nation, the English ʿyou’ being singular and plural, so I supposed he considered us, like the Hindus, as restricted to a vegetarian diet, and answered: ʿNo, we in Egypt eat meet, too.” He burst out laughing and advised me to look it up in the dictionary.”

[78] Education of Salama Musa, 70.

[79] Salama Musa, “Nitsha wa ibn al-insan,” al-Muqtataf 34 (1909), 570ff. al-Muqtataf also published an unsigned article on “al-Faylasuf Nitsha” in 45 (1915), 28-30.

[80] Vernon Egger, A Fabian in Egypt: Salamah Musa and the Rise of the Professional Classes in Egypt, 1909-1939 (Washington: University Press of America, 1986),

[81] Including those unlucky enough to have contracted disease whom he labels as inferior and should be prevented from producing offspring, either by castration or killing.

[82] Egger, A Fabian in Egypt, 45.

[83] See, e.g., Andrew Zimmerman, Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany (Chicago: CHUP, 2001).

[84] See also Musa, “Nitsha wa fitna al-shabab,” in his (?) Ha’ula’i ʿallimuni (date?). Musa, al-Tajdid fi al-adab al-inglizi (Cairo, 1933).105: Buter’s neo-Lamarckianism appealed to Musa because it reintroduced ʿvitalism’ (hayawiyya, as opposed to madiyya)… Bergson, Musa noted, echoed the conviction that life is aiming for an objective, even if we do not know what it is.

[85] It also contains sentences like these: “The black man only a century ago was eating human beings, and it is inconceivable that this nature can be like ours now, despite any veneer of civilization with which he may have covered himself.” Musa, Muqaddima, p. 11. Musa also “considered the collapse of Haiti after the departure of the French a telling example of how civilization failed to have a transforming influence on an inferior race.” Eggers, 46.

[86] ElShakry, Reading Darwin in Arabic, p. 241. Musa turned to Schoppenhauer and Nietzsche to identify the ills of the modern world and herald the means to overcome them, and to visionaries like Wells to capture a new vision of the future of humanity. Anti-landed elites (parasitics), he advocated for state control of populations. “The result was an eclectic mix of tempered philosophical pessimism and anticapitalism and eugenics and progressive rhetorics.” P. 256.

[87] Education of Salama Musa, 135, 136. But the co-founder, “professor” Muhammad ʿAbdallah ʿInani, quickly grew impatient, went to Alexandria and founded the Anarchist Party and was then forced to leave Egypt. NB: Because ʿInani got stripped of his nationality for his anarchism, Musa was too scared to ever leave his country after this.

[88] Education of Salama Musa, 83-5.

[89] Musa actually corresponded with Gandhi and asked for boycott advice. Education of Salama Musa, 138. “Ahmad Husayn, the leader of the ʿYoung Egypt Group’ was representing our movement in the Faculty of Law, when he was still a student. … The is indeed much in his movement that simply cannot be approved, such as the attacks on cafés, the flirting with Fascist ideas, the praising of Mussolini and Hitler.”

[90] Education of Salama Musa, 70.

[91] Education of Salama Musa, 81, 78.

[92] For a empathetic but dissenting Egyptian Marxist take on Musa’s thought, see Shukri Ghali, Salama Musa wa azma al-damir al-ʿarabi (Cairo: Maktaba al-Khanji, 1962). Naguib Mahfouz’s protagonist in Sugar Street, ʿAdli Karim, was modelled on Salama Musa. Education of Salama Musa, 236.

[93] Education of Salama Musa, 158.

[94] See John Calvert, Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islam (Cairo: AUC Press, 2010), 62-4. Mahmud ʿAbbas al-ʿAqqad, Rijal ʿariftuhum (Cairo: Dar al-Hilal, 1963).

[95] As a teenage he read backcopies ʿAbdallah Nadim’s satirical al-Ustadh, then discovered Carlyle, Hazlitt, Matthew Arnold and Macaulay. Louis ʿAwad, The Literature of Ideas in Egypt (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986), 166-78.

[96] Awad, Literature, 167.

[97] Awad, Literature, 168.

[98] Robin Ostle, “Romantic Poetry,” Salma Khadra Jayyusi, “Modernist poetry in Arabic,” Pirre Cachia, “The Critics,” in Modern Arabic Literature, ed. by M. Badawi (Cambridge: CUP, [1992] 2006), 82-131, 132-79, 417-42.

[99] Four collections of of his previously published articles appeared after the Diwan declaration: al-Fusual (1922), Mutalaʿat fi al-kutub wa al-hayat (1924), Murajaʿat fi al-adab wa al-funun (1925), and Sa ʿat bayna al-kutub (1927). They “contain detailed essays on Carlyle, Hazlitt, Thomas Hardy, Anatole France, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Max Nordau, Mutanabbi, Maʿarri. They demonstrate depth and variety of knoledge … fused with personal meditation and original insight. Carlyle had a special attenion for ʿAqqad, and so did Nietzsche. One could sense from ʿAqqad’s concentration of English and German Idealist thought that he was trying to build up a synthetic Idealistic philosophy in which the Absolute Spirit manifested itself in being and becoming, as near as possible to the Hegelian approach, but imbued with an advanced degree of philosophical pessimism. There is also n element of unsystematc transcendentalism in ʿAqqad’s approach to thought and literature. The individual is a titanic force shaping history and human destiny. ʿAqqad built himself a temple for the worship of the Absolute which he called Truth, Power and Beauty. Even liberty is not the old-fashioned utilitarian we find in John Stuart Mill, but an absolute category which we can only find in German thought. Similarly, it would be difficult to call ʿAqqad romantic in any English sense of the word. Awad, Literature, 171.

[100] Awad, Literature, 168.

[101] Only two have been translated into English: The Life of Jesus, and The Arabs’ Impact on European Civilization.

[102] Awad, Literature, 171. See also Hanssen and Weiss, Arabic Thought beyond the Liberal Age (New York: CUP, 2016), particularly Gershoni’s chapter 11.

[103] “Falsafa al-Mutannabi wa falsafa Nitsha,” and “Falsafa al-Mutanabbi – Bayna Darwin wa Nitsha,” republished in Mutalaʿat fi al-kutub wal-hayah (Cairo: al-Matbaʿa al-Tujjariyya al-Kubra, 1924), 157-164, 165-73.

[104] Elliott Colla, Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian Modernity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008).

[105] Hanah Arendt, Chantal Mouffe; James Tully, “The Agonic of Freedom of Citizens,” Economy and Society 28:2 (1999), 161-82.

[106] Filiks Faris, Amir al-manabir wa-mafkharat al-mahabir: majmuʿah, vol. 1, ed. by J. Tawq (Beirut: A. F. Faris, 2000), 26.

[107] Faris, Amir al-manabir, vol. 7.

[108] Nasser, too, was infuenced by his fervor. He wrote to a friend in 1935: Mustafa Kamil has said “To live in despair is not to live at all.” Jean Lacouture, Nasser, a Biography, tr. by D. Hofstadter (London: Secker & Warburg, [1971] 1973), 32.

[109] Peter E. Portman, “Greek Thought, Modern Arabic Culture: Classical Receptions since the Nahda,” Intellectual History of the Islamicate World 3 (2015), 291-315.

[110] Badawi, vol. 1, 125-41. Despite Badawi’s religious scepticism at the time, the Party’s slogan was: “Allah, the Country and the King.” Aḥmad ʻAbd al-Ḥalim ʻAṭiyah, “Nitsha/Badawi,” in  Dirasat ʻArabiya ḥawla ʻAbd al-Raḥman Badawi, ed. by A. Aṭiyah (Cairo, 2002), 429-49.

[111] Israel Gershoni, Confronting Fascism in Egypt: Dictatorship versus Democracy in the 1930s (Stanford: SUP, 2009).

[112] Ibrahim I. Yusuf, “Athr Nitsha fi al-ʿasr al-hadhir,” al-Muqtataf 90 (May 1937), 585-90. Idwar Manassa, “Imra’a fi hayah Nitsha,” al-Thaqafa 665 (1937), 26-8, and “Ghuram al-Faylasuf Nitsha,” al-Hilal 45 (1937), 885-88; Muhammad Fahmi (translator), “Ughniyya al-layl – Hakadha takallama Zaradusht,” al-Muqtataf  90 (May 1937), 585-90; Habib Jamati, “Junun Nitsha,” al-Hilal (date ?), 1321-24. ʿAbd al-Hamid Salim, “Lamma qara’tu al-faylasuf Nitscha lil-naqid fransi Emile Faguet,” al-ʿAsur 15 (November, 1928), 18 (April, 1929), 442-50.

[113] Badawi, p. 152. Greek Heritage in Islamic Civilization (1940), Introduction to Dissidents in Islam (1946), and later the controversial The History of Atheism in Islam (1950).

[114] Badawi, Sirat hayati, vol. 1, cited in Yoav DiCapua, “Arab Existentialism: An Invisible Chapter in the Intellectual History of Decolonization,” American Historical Review (2012), 1068. DiCapua also considered Badawi’s attempt at a synthesis a failure: “There never was an actual merging of these spheres in a fashion that, to borrow from Nietzsche, would have allowed Arab philosophy as a whole “a past a posteriori from which [it] might spring, as against that from which [it] do[es] spring.”

[115] Badawi, vol 1, 152. Le problème de la mort dans la philosophie existentielle: Introducton historique à une ontologie (Cairo” ʿAin Shams University/Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale, 1965).

[116] Badawi’s attempt to base Arabic Existentialism on the Islamic Sufism.

[117] In his “Nietzsche” we find most bases of Badawi’s political philosophy: “If World War I, gave the world the chance for a political revolution, let the present one, World War II, lead to an intellectual and spiritual revolution. We are really in an inevitable need for such a revolution which helps us get rid of all traditional values and inherited belief. We need to take off the old version toward life and existence replacing it with a totally vivid one full of life and full of force…”. In addition to the secular tendency embodied in his call for an intellectual revolution through which all traditions including religions should be destroyed, Badawi also appeared as an adopter of Nietzsche’s political philosophy calling for eliminating all types of democracies and liberties considering these as results of the ʿweak’ morality adopting Nietzsche’s masters-slaves morality.” (Hala Ali, 2009: 22).

[118] Badawi, Nitsha, 3-4. Also Sprah Zarathustra, 318-19.

[119] Badawi leaves out “Zwölf! / Die Sieben Siegel / (Oder das Ja-und-Amen-Lied)”

[120] Badawi, vol. 1, 151: ʿAbd al-Raziq wrote a review in al-Siyasa al-Usbuʿiyya.

[121] Lacouture, Nasser, 60.; Badawi, vol. 1, 153-4. Gay Science, “Pioneers” #283.

[122] Hala Ali, The Role of Alienation in the Thinking of ʿAbd al-Rahman Badawi (1917-2002) (Erlangen University: Doctoral Dissertation, 2008).

[123] In a 1936 interview Pirandello said: “A serious theatre, mine. It demands the complete participation of the moral-human entity. It is certainly not a comfortable theatre. A difficult theatre. A dangerous theatre. Nietzsche said the Greek put up white statues against the black abyss, in order to hide it. I instead topple them, in order to reveal it.” Quoted in David Kornhaber, The Birth of Theatre from the Spirit of Philosophy: Nietzsche and the Modern Drama (Evanston: Northwestern Univesity Press, 2016). See also Michael Rösner, “Nietzsche und Pirandello: Parallelen und Differenzen zweier Denkbilder,” Priandello-Studien, ed. by J. Thomas (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1984), 9-25.

[124] Gamal Abdul Nasser, Egypt’s Liberation; The Philosophy of the Revolution, introduction by Dorothy Thompson (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1956), 87-88.

[125] Badawi, vol. 1, 353ff.

[126] Badawi, vol. 1, 381. See Elizabeth Holt, “‘Bread or Freedom’: The Congress for Cultural Freedom, the CIA and the Arabic Literary Journal al-Hiwar (1962-1967),” Journal of Arabic Literature 44:1 (2013): 83-102.

[127] Badawi, vol. 1, 377.

[128] Yoav diCapua, “Arab Existentialism,” and his “Challenging the Arab Intellectual Guard: The Fall of the udaba’ (1940s-60s),” in Arabic Thought Against the Authroitarian Age: Towards an Intellectual History of the Present, ed. by J. Hanssen and M. Weiss (New York: CUP, forthcoming).

[129] Jean-Paul Sartre [1964], Colonialism and Neocolonialism (London: Routledge, 2001). See also Kwame Nkrumah’s definition of the neo-colonial state: “it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality, its economic system and thus political policy is directed from outside.” Antony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge: CUP, 2004), 118.

[130] British historian Albert Hourani, Druze leftist politician Kamal Jumblat, Syrian Baʿathist Zaki Arsuzi, Moroccan philosopher Muhammad ʿAziz Lahbabi, Lebanese philosopher-politician Charles Malik and many others were influenced by different combinations of these philosophers at the beginning of, if not throughout, their careers.

[131] See Ali Kadri, “Arab Socialism in Retrospect,” in his The Unmaking of Arab Socialism (New York: Anthem Press, 2016), 29-75.

[132] Yasmin Ramadan“The Emergence of the Sixties Generation in Egypt and the Anxiety over Categorization,” Journal of Arabic Literature 43: 2-3 (2012), 411. See also, David DiMeo, Committed to Disillusion: Activist Writers in Egypt from the 1950s to the 1980s (Cairo: AUC Press, 2016).

[133] Hala Halim, “Scope for Comparatism: Internationalist and Surealist Resonances in Idwar Kharrat’s Resistant Literary Modernity,” in Arabic Humanities, Islamic Thought: Essays in Honor of Everett K. Rowson (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 425-67. Kharrat’s concept of “a new literary sensibility” has affiliations with “The Literature of the wounded” in 1970s China (Barlow 1991), as well as Erich Fromm’s and Herbert Marcuse’s critiques of socialist realism that were being translated into Arabic from 1970 onwards.

[134] Hala Halim, “Literary Manifestos Since the Seventies: Introduction and Translation,” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 11 (1991): 98-112.

[135] Quoted in Samia Mehrez, “Experimentation and the Institution: The Case of Idaʿah 77 and Aswât,” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics No. 11 (1991): 115-140.

[136] Critique of Religious Thought, tr. by G. Stergios (Berlin: Gerlach, 2015). First published in 1969, the author was briefly imprisoned, lost his job at the American University of Beirut and face charges for inciting confessional strife. A Marxist Syrian and pro-Palestinian activist at the time, al-ʿAzm received his Ph.D. from the philosophy department at Yale in 1961 where he worked on Bergson and Kant. The chapters “The Tragedy of Satan (Iblis),” and “Deception in Contemporary Western Christian Thought” were the most controversial. He quotes al-ʿAqqad’s Iblis (p. 90), Badawi’s al-Isharat al-Ilahiyya (p. 99, 101) in the first, and Nietzsche, “On those Who are Sublime,” from Thus Spake Zarathustra and “Wanderer and his Shadow,” from Human All too Human (p. 170-73 and p. 179-80, respectively).

[137] Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzu Menschliches. Quoted in Orientalism: a Reader, ed. by A.L. Macfie (New York: NYU Press, 2000).

[138] See, for example, Kristin Ross, May ’68 and its Afterlives (Chicago: CHUP, 2004).

[139] Stuart Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left (London: Verso, 1988) (1988); Wendy Brown, “Resisting Left Melancholy,” Boundary 2 Vol. 26, No. 3 (Autumn, 1999), 19-27; Caryl, Christian, Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century (New York: Basic Books, 2014).

[140] See, most notably, Anouar Abdel Malek, “Orientalism in crisis,” Diogene, 11:44 (December 1963), 103-140, Maxime Rodinson, Islam and Capitalism, tr. by B. Pearce (London: Allen Lane, 1974), Bryan S. Turner, Marx and the End of Orientalism (London: Allen & Ynwin, 1978), and on the pages of the shortlived Hull group’s Review of Middle Eastern Studies (1974-76). Within the discipline, some ʿappreciative’ if not romantic voices also exist: e. g. Raymond Schwab [1950], The Oriental Rennaissance: Europe’s Rediscovery of India and the East, 1680-1880 (New York: Columbia, 1984); Norman Daniel [1960], Islam and the West (London: Oneworld, 1993); Montgomery Watt, The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe (Edinburgh: University Press, 1972).



[141] Samer Frangie, “On the Broken Conversation between Postcolonialism and Intellectuals in the Periphery,” Studies in Social and Political Thought 19 (2011), 41-54. See also Fadi Bardawil, “When All This Revolution Melts Into Air: The Disenchantment of Levantine Marxist Intellectuals” (Ph.D. Diss., Columbia University, 2010).

[142] Sadek Jalal al-ʿAzm, “Orientalism in Reverse,” Khamseen (1981) 5-26.

[143] Binder, “Deconstructing Orientalism,” in his Islamic Liberalism, 85-127; Clifford James, “On Orientalism,” in his The Predicament of Culture (Cambridge, Mass: HUP, 1988), 255-76; Dennis Porter, “Orientalism and its Problems,” in Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory, ed. by P. Williams and L. Chrisman (New York: Routledge, 1993) 150-161.

[144] Aijaz Ahmad, “Orientalism and After: Ambivalence and Metropolitan Location in the Work of Edward Said,” in his In Theory; Classes, Nations, Literatures (London: Verso, 1992), 159-219.

[145] Ahmad, “Orientalism and After,” 129-30.

[146] Said, Orientalism, 129-32, 203.

[147] “Wir Philologen” in William Arrowsmith, Notes for ʿWe philologists,’” Arion, N.S. ½ (1974): 279-380; also the passages on language and perspectivism in The Will to Power, tr. W. Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1969).

[148] Nietzsche, On Truth and Lie in an Extra-moral Sense in Kaufmann’s The Portable Nietzsche, p. 46-7.

[149] C.p. Gary Shapiro, “Nietzsche Contra Renan,” History and Theory 21:2 (1982), 193-222.

[150] Gramsci fills the conceptual gaps in Said’s discourse analysis, of course. See his disavowal of Foucault in his The World, the Text, the Critic, esp. p. 218-25, 243-47.

[151] See Terry Eagleton, Terry, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (London: Blackwell Publishing, 1990), and Alan Megill, Prophets of Extremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

[152] See Arabic lecture by Jordanian professor of Philosophy, Wa’il Abu Shalha, “Thus Spake Mahdi ʿAmil,” on May 2, 2016:

[153] Althusser, Essays on Ideology (London: Verso, 1984), 67. Quoted in Ibrahim Abu-Rabiʾ, “Mahdi ʿAmil and the Unfinished Project of Arab Marxist Philosophy,” in his Contemporary Arab Thought; Studies in Post-1967 Arab Intellectual History (London: Pluto, 2003), 318-343.

[154] Révolution Africaine, 1963. Samer Frangie, “Theorizing from the Periphery: The Intellectual Project of Mahdi ʿAmil,” IJMES 44 (2012), 465-482; Miriam Younes, “A Tale of Two Communists: The Revolutionary Projects of the Lebanes Communists Huasayn Muruwwa and Mahdi ʿAmil,” Arab Studies Journal 24:1 (2016), 98-116. Gilbert Achcar, Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism (London: Saqi, 2013), 167.

[155] Al-Tariq 54:4 (1997), 108-207. See also Georges Labica’s introduction to the translation of ʿAmil’s L’État confessionnel: le cas libanais (1996).

[156] Mahdi ʿAmil, Marks fi Istishraq Idwar Saʿid and Hal al-qalb lil-sharq wa-al-ʻaql lil-gharb?: Marks fi istishraq Idward Saʻid (Beirut: Dar al-Farabi, 1985).

[157] Abu-Rabiʾ, “Mahdi ʿAmil,” 322.

[158] Frangie, “Theorizing from the Periphery.”