Al-Tahtawi, Rifa’a (1801–1873) By Ibrahim, Mahmoud A. A.
Rifa’a Rafi’ al-Tahtawi was an Egyptian reformer and thinker who is widely recognised as the pioneer of the Egyptian ‘Awakening’ (nahda) in the 19th century. He stands at the cultural heart of the intellectual awakening of Egypt’s modernisation movement that sought to import and implement military, scientific, technical, and educational innovations from the West. His thought influenced many later scholars including prominent sheikhs such as Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida. Al-Tahtawi was born in Tahta in Upper Egypt into a family of prominent scholars. In 1817 he moved to Cairo to join the renowned al-Azhar University. His professor sheikh Hasan al-`Attar (1766–1834) had the greatest influence on him. In 1824, Rifa`a was appointed as an imam.