Salama Moussa Redirected from Salama Musa

Salama Moussa
Salama mousa.jpg
Born1887 (1887)
Zagazig, Egypt
Died4 August 1958(1958-08-04) (aged 70–71)
Cairo, Egypt
Notable worksMan at the Top of Evolution
سلامة موسى

Salama Moussa (or Musa; 1887 – 4 August 1958) (Arabic: سلامه موسى‎  pronounced [sæˈlæːmæ ˈmuːsæ], Coptic: ⲥⲁⲗⲁⲙⲁ ⲙⲱⲩⲥⲏⲥ), born into a wealthy, land owning Coptic family in the town of Zagazig located in the Nile delta, Egypt.[1] Salama Musa was a journalist, writer, advocate of secularism, and pioneer of Egyptian socialism. He wrote or translated 45 published books; his writings still influence Arab thought and he is frequently referred to. Salama Musa campaigned against traditional religion and urged Egyptian society to embrace European culture.[2] He looked for political and economic independence of Egypt from the British colonization. To this end he corresponded with Gandhi who provided him with his tools of economic struggle against the British hegemony over the Indian textile industry. Mousa made use of his contact with Gandhi in helping out the national Egyptian industrialist Tala'at Harb (1867-1941) to set up independent outlets for the Egyptian textile industry nationwide in Egypt - an attempt that was vehemently resisted by the British colonial powers of the time. Mousa pleaded, for instance, in his book Ha'ula'i 'allamuni (Those who inspired me, Cairo, 1953) for the independence of thought and indigenous creativity of the contemporary Egyptians and Arabs. Mousa went in his youth to England and adhered there to Bernard Shaw's Fabian Society.

Early life

Musa's father died when Salama Musa was still a young child, leaving the family an inheritance that allowed them to live comfortably. Salama Musa received his elementary education in a Coptic school, but in 1903 he moved to Cairo to receive a secondary education. The Khedivial College where Musa attended was run like a military camp with harsh punishment for misbehavior dished out by the British instructors.[3] In Cairo during the early 20th century there was rising anti-British sentiment rooted in the nationalist movement, and Qasim Amin's movement for the liberation of women was creating a stir. While in Cairo, Musa was exposed to writers such as Farah Antun, Jurji Zaydan, and Ahmad Lutfi Al-Sayyid that discussed modern and at the time radical ideas such as Social Darwinism, women’s rights, and nationalism. Growing up as a religious minority in Muslim dominated Egypt he was attracted to these ideas. After secondary school Musa was interested in studying European literature and science, but was unable to receive a postsecondary education in Egypt, because this advanced education was monopolized by Al Azhar and Dar al-‘Ulum, both of which required students to be Muslim.[4]


In 1907, Musa traveled to France to continue his education and he was exposed to a modern, secularized Europe rampant with socialist ideologies. Musa also experienced a new and empowered woman[who?] with social freedoms. In Montlhéry, a small village near Paris, he started studying socialism and evolution, and the French language.[5]

Musa studied Egyptian civilization upon his return to Egypt in 1908.[6] In 1909 he moved to England to improve his knowledge of the English language, and briefly studied law at Lincoln's Inn. In England, socialism was on the rise as well as ideas of Social Darwinism, Musa had a lot of interactions with members of the Fabian Society and became a member in July 1909. Musa embraced Fabian ideas of getting rid of the landed classes and empowering the peasant the ideas, and wanted to realize them in Egypt.[6]

In 1910, he wrote his first book, Muqaddimat al-superman, comparing European life with the lives of the Egyptians and the social injustices they faced on a daily basis. In 1914, Salama Musa returned to Egypt and started his first weekly magazine, Al-Mustaqbal, with Farah Antun and Yaqub Sarruf on topics such as evolution, national unity, and socialism. The British-controlled government responded to these radical ideas by shutting down the magazine after 16 issues.[2]

The 1920s were an active time for Musa as well as Egypt and were considered a revolutionary period in culture and literature; Musa formed a socialist party, which was promptly dissolved under pressure and intimidation by the government.[7] In the same year, he proceeded to establish the Egyptian Academy for Scientific Education, which was, after only 10 years of operation, shut down by the government as well.

Musa wanted Egypt to shift to a Europeanized thought and abandon old traditions and customs regarding the role of women in Egyptian life and secularism and so was criticized and attacked. In 1936, he proclaimed that socialism would sweep Egypt before he turned 100 years old. He spent a brief stint as editor for the social affairs ministry and, in 1942, Musa was jailed on charges of sabotage, which were trumped up charges for criticizing the ruling family.[3]


The 1952 revolution was a turning point in Egyptian history where Nasserism was taking hold and nationalization of Egypt had begun. Salama Musa remained an important figure during this period and was appointed supervisor of the science section in Akhbar el-Yom, a position that he held until his death in 1958.[1]


Salama Musa believed that the minority Copts were descended from the Pharaohs and therefore the true Egyptians. He fought to try to get the Egyptian dialect taught as the official language.[3]

In the 1930s Musa affirmed his belief in a shared humanity and was an advocate of secularism, democracy, and the liberation of women. Salama Musa at this time supported workers' and peasants' rights, an improved working environment, and reforms in public education. Seminars led by Musa discussing social issues drew large crowds of young intellectuals. However, Musa abandoned these ideas in the mid 1940s and retreeted to Coptic communalism.

Salama Moussa became seriously ill and died on 4 August 1958, a few months after turning 71.[1]


  • Divine Thoughts and Their Origin (1912)
  • Treatise about Socialism (1913)
  • The Most Well-known Love Affairs in History (1925, revised and renamed Love in History around 1949)
  • Reading Matters on Elections (1926)
  • Dreams of a Philosopher (1926)
  • Freedom of Thought and Its Representatives (1927)
  • Secrets of the Inner Life (1927, revised in 1948)
  • History of Art and the Most Well-known Pieces of Work (1927)
  • Today and Tomorrow (1928)
  • Descent and Development of Mankind (1928, revised in 19523)
  • Stories (1939)
  • About Life and Culture (1930, revised and renamed in 1956: Culture and Life)
  • Our Duties and the Tasks of Foreign Countries (1931)
  • Gandhi and the Indian Revolution (1934)
  • Renaissance in Europe (1935, in 1962 posthumously revised and renamed What Is Renaissance)
  • Egypt, a Place Where Civilization Began (1935, expanded edition in 1948)
  • The World in 30 Years (1936)
  • Modern English Culture (1936, expanded ed. in 1956)
  • Our Life as from 50 (1944, expanded ed. in 1956)
  • Freedom of Thought in Egypt (1945, this piece of work clearly shows, how much Salama Moussa was influenced by the European culture, in particular by Voltaire.)
  • Eloquence and the Arabic Language (1945, expanded ed. in 1953 as well as posthumously in 1964)
  • My and Your Intellect (1947, expanded ed. 1953)
  • The Years of Salama Moussa's Apprenticeship (1947, posthumously expanded 3ed. in 19589 This piece of work is of the first renowned autobiographies of the Arabic Language Area)
  • The True Path of the Young People (1949)
  • Psychological Attempts (1953, changed to Attempts in 1963)
  • These are My Mentors (1953, among them a very obstinate discussion on Goethe's works, posthumously expanded ed. in 1965)
  • The Book of Revolutions (1955)
  • Psychological Studies (1956)
  • The Woman Is not the Plaything of the Man (1956, a very early dispute about the liberation (emancipation) of the woman at that time, especially in the orient)
  • George Bernhard Shaw (1957, who he has met and got to know in England, posthumously expanded ed. in 1977)
  • Attempts of the Young People (posthumously 1959)
  • Forbidden Writings (posthumously 1959)
  • Mankind is the Pride of Creation (posthumously 1961)

See also


  1. ^ a b c Goldschmidt Jr., A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Egypt. 2000 Ed. Pg 139
  2. ^ a b Meisami, S. Julie, Starkey, Paul. Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, Volume 2. Routledge, New York, NY 1998 pp. 554-555
  3. ^ a b c Musa, Salama. The Education of Salama Musa. E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands. 1961
  4. ^ Ibrahim, A. Ibrahim "Salama Musa: An Essay on Cultural Alienation". Middle Eastern Studies. Vol. 15, No. 3 (October 1979), pp. 346-357
  5. ^ Egger, Vernon. "A Fabian in Egypt: Salamah Musa and the Rise of the Professional Classes in Egypt, 1909-1939." International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 20, No. 1 (February 1988), pp. 123-126
  6. ^ a b Egger, Vernon. "A Fabian in Egypt: Salamah Musa and the Rise of the Professional Classes in Egypt, 1909-1939.", Lanham, MD 1986 University Press of America, Inc
  7. ^ Sami, A. Hanna., George, H. Gardner. Arab Socialism: A Documentary Survey. E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands 1969, pp. 49-57

External links

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