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Philosophers of  the Arabs

Abdolrahman Alkawakeby

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Abdolrahman Alkawakeby (1854-1902), a Syrian literate, one of the leaders of education and Arabic reform movement, and a famous lawyer and writer.

His Life

Alkawakeby was born in Halab, Syria, from a well known family. His grand father from his mother was the responsible sheikh of Syria for jurisprudence (Mufti). His mother died on the age of six and he was raised by his aunt Safya in Antakya where he learned reading and writing. He came back to Halab after three years where he continued his studies and finished preserving "Koran". As a grown up, he studied Islamic sciences in Halab, which was rich of knowledgeable Islamic jurisprudents. He studied jurisprudence, literature, mathematics and natural sciences in the 'Alkawakebya school' which was supervised by his father and in which his father and a group of big names in Islamic sciences were teaching. This school included a rich library from which he gained wide knowledge about politics, society, history and philosophy.

Alkawakeby started his career by writing in newspapers and was appointed as a writer in 'Alfurat' newspaper which was issued in Halab. Afterwards he issued by himself a newspaper titled 'Alshhbaa' on 1877 in order to be able to convey his thoughts. This magazine was the first newspaper in Arabic, but did not last for long due to his daring writings, and was halted by the Ottoman government. On 1879 he issued another newspaper titled "I'tidal" (moderateness) and continued the same way of writing; however it was shut after short time as well.

After closing of his second newspaper he turned to study in the school of law and appointed in government as a member of the general committees of treasury, and education. However, he left his position and opened an office as a lawyer to defend people against power. Due to his continual writings against authority and despotism he faced a great deal of hindering and annoying relation with the government during his work. As a result he left the country and traveled to India, China and North Africa and stayed in Egypt where the authority of the Ottoman Empire was cut by the English occupation. In Egypt he became a well known writer and reformer.


His thought

Alkawakeby left a wide range of literature some of his writings where still a hand script and lost upon his sudden death. His most famous book is 'the nature of despotism' (طبائع الاستبداد) where he presented an analysis of the state of despotism and its nature, asserting that despotism is the essential reason of backwardness.