Rifa'a Tahtawi: Free Paper

Published: 2023-09-06
Rifa'a Tahtawi: Free Paper
Essay type:  Reflective essays
Categories:  Culture Biography Science Personality Muslim
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 904 words
8 min read

On reading about the story of Rifa Tahtawi, I can imagine him as one of the most prominent Islamic translators and modernists. His work was effective in the transformation and continual development of the Egyptian world as a result of studying and comparing their culture and religion, with that of the European world. There may be contradictions that have Arisen, tied to the life of Tahtawi, and his attitude towards science as well as its principles which made understanding some of his principles quite difficult. Tahtawi, however, covers a lot of fronts for being absolutely consistent. Nearing the end of his life, in the 19th century, he foresaw heliocentricity as well as Newton for Protelmy. I believe that his work was crucial for Islamic modernism, and to bring to life its culture with overall integration. Towards the end of his life, he had a change of heart that I shall reflect upon in this passage.

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Rifa Tahtawi seems to have been more at ease with the political ideals as a source of Enlightenment as opposed to science. This is because using political ideals, it could be observed from the passage that he didn't have to cut very radically into the intellectual roots. Apart from the issues of the legislature, which tends to make a low from reason as well as experienced in the era of the Ottoman, the Qanun law established, and philosophy put in place did not have any metaphysics that all devout Muslims were inclined to deny. The concept of liberty, freedom, equality, government legitimization by the community of faithful as well as representation of institutions as providers and guarantors of justice are ideas and concepts that have easily been supported by the readings of the Qur'an as well as the Sunna.

From the readings that I have managed to go through in terms of class literature and extra reading, I have established that there is a myriad of reasons that could have made Rifa Tahtawi have a change of heart during the end of his life. For instance, it was at this point that Tahtawi ran into contradiction during the process of reconciling the constitution and the Sharia, as well as when he was equating the Sharia principles with the political principle, that the French people had derived from the natural Law. However, I think that his actions were justified, and my feelings for his change of heart was merely a representation of his inner feelings, and how he saw the world. It could be seen from the passage that even though Tahtawi had these feelings, he stood on safer ground, as a result of being able to express himself with little or no restraint both theologically and psychologically. He also had high respect towards the receptivity of his audience, even though he also had to be careful so as not to alienate in any way, the absolutist leader or ruler that he served.

I feel that when it came to sciences as well as many of the related technologies, Tahtawi commended all the benefits that were befitted to the human society while also shunning the various treacherous, as well as the alien philosophical basis on which the advantages derived sustenance. Even though the issues on the ground might have appeared negative to him, it was his belief in the little positive that he saw the social benefits of the western science as noted in the sum of his content as a writer. At the start of his career, one of the things that come as an afterthought is the negative side. As can be noted from the passage, this side comes out in a quite protecting statement, which was tucked away way towards the end of his Paris book.

Towards the end of his career, the negative side comes out very valiantly during his rejection of Copernicus as well as Newton for Ptolemy. However, I can suggest that he saw that the qualifications with respect towards mathematical astronomy that one system is equivalent to the other and this argument was made by the apologist for Galileo as well as the Copernican system which was in place during the 16th and the 17th century in the periodic Europe of the time. Most Muslim reformers and thinkers who attempted reconciling science and religion also encountered primarily the same theological issues and intellectual challenges which the proponents of science had met back in Europe. However, Muslim thinkers were pressed towards resolving the problem overnight, yet it had taken many centuries in Europe. Tahtawi argues in a book that he wrote after the one in Paris that 'science does not exist in itself.' In this passage, he implies that science exists as a result of a set of ideas that have been realized only in particular political and social conditions. Also, he suggests that science is only possible if there is a condition of freedom within the society within which it exists. In the end, I feel that his change of heart as a result of his inner devotion to science and his desire to link science, politics, and social conditions.


Community.dur.ac.u. n.d. Rifa'A Rafi' Al-Tahtawi: An Early Egyptian Reformer (1801-1873)*. Accessed June 18, 2020. https://community.dur.ac.uk/daniel.newman/al-Tahtawi.html.

Livingston, John W. . 2018. "Western Science and Educational Reform in the Thought of Shaykh Rifaca Al-Tahtawi." International Journal of Middle East Studies 1-26.

Winckler, Barbara . 2005. Rifa'a Rafi' al-Tahtawi: France as a Role Model. Accessed June 18, 2020. https://en.qantara.de/content/rifaa-rafi-al-tahtawi-france-as-a-role-model.

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