Born into a lower middle-class Muslim family in the Gamaleyya quarter of Cairo, Mahfouz was named after Professor Naguib Pasha Mahfouz (1882–1974), the renowned الشهير Coptic physicianطبيبwho delivered him. Mahfouz was the seventh and the youngest child in a family that had five boys and two girls. The family lived in two popular districts of the town, in el-Gamaleyya, from where they moved in 1924 to el-Abbaseyya, then a new Cairo suburb; both provided the backdrop for many of Mahfouz’s writings. His father, whom Mahfouz described as having been “old-fashioned”, was a civil servantموظف حكومى, and Mahfouz eventually followed in his footsteps. In his childhood Mahfouz read extensively. His mother often took him to museums and Egyptian history later became a major theme in many of his books.
The Mahfouz family was devoutمتدينين Muslims and Mahfouz had a strictly Islamic upbringing. In an interview, he painfully elaborated نشآon the stern religious climate at home during his childhood years. He stated that “You would never have thought that an artist would emergeيظهر او ينحدر من from that family.”
The Egyptian Revolution of 1919 had a strong effect on Mahfouz, although he was at the time only seven years old. From the window he often saw British soldiers firing at the demonstrators, men and women. “You could say,” he later noted, “that the one thing which most shook the security of my childhood was the 1919 revolution.” After completing his secondary education, Mahfouz entered King Fouad I University (now the University of Cairo), where he studied philosophy, graduating in 1934. By 1936, having spent a year working on an M.A., he decided to become a professional writer. Mahfouz then worked as a journalist at er-Risala, and contributed to el-Hilal and Al-Ahram. The major Egyptian influence on Mahfouz’s thoughts of science and socialismالاشتراكية in the 1930s was Salama Moussa, the Fabian intellectual.
Mahfouz left academia and pursued a career in the Ministry of Religious affairs. However, he was soon moved to a role in the Ministry of Culture as the official responsible for the film industry, due to his apparent atheism.
A longtime civil servant, Mahfouz served in the Ministry of Mortmain Endowments, then as Director of Censorship in the Bureau of Art, Director of the Foundation for the Support of the Cinema, and finally as a consultant to the Ministry of Culture.
Mahfouz left his post as the Director of Censorship and was appointed Director of the Foundation for the Support of the Cinema. He was a contributing editor for the leading newspaper Al-Ahram and in 1969 he became a consultant to the Ministry of Culture, retiring in 1972.
Mahfouz remained a bachelorاعزب until the age of 43. The reason for his late marriage was that he labouredجاهد under his conviction that with its numerous restrictionsقيود and limitations عقبات , marriage would hamperيعوق his literary future. In 1954, he married an Egyptian woman, with whom he had two daughters.
He published 34 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts and five plays over a 70-year career. Many of his works have been made into Egyptian films. He was a board member of the publisher Dar el-Ma’aref. Many of his novels were serialized in Al-Ahram, and his writings also appeared in his weekly column, “Point of View”. Before the Nobel Prize only a few of his novels had appeared in the West.
Clash with fundamentalistsالاصوليين
As a consequence نتيجة of his outspoken صريح support for Sadat’s Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1978, his books were banned in many Arab countries until after he won the Nobel Prize.
Like many Egyptian writers and intellectualsالمفكرين , Mahfouz was on an Islamic fundamentalist “death list”. He defended Salman Rushdie after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini condemned Rushdie to death in 1989, but also criticized his Satanic Verses as “insulting” to Islam. Mahfouz believed in freedom of expression and although he did not personally agree with Rushdie’s work, he did not believe that there should be a fatwa condemning him to death for it. He also condemned Khomeini for issuing the fatwa, for he did not believe that the Ayatollah was representing Islam.
The appearance of The Satanic Verses brought back up the controversy surrounding Mahfouz’s novel Children of Gebelawi. Death threats against Mahfouz followed, including one from the “blind sheikh,” Egyptian theologian Omar Abdul-Rahman. Like Rushdie, Mahfouz was given police protection, but in 1994 Islamic extremists almost succeeded in assassinating the 82-year-old novelist by stabbing him in the neck outside his Cairo home.He survived, permanently affected by damage to nerves in his right hand. After the incident Mahfouz was unable to write for more than a few minutes a day and consequently produced fewer and fewer works. Subsequently, he lived under constant bodyguard protection. Finally, in the beginning of 2006, the novel was published in Egypt with a preface written by Ahmad Kamal Aboul-Magd.
Death and funeral
In July 2006, Mahfouz sustained an injury to his head as a result of a fall. He remained ill until his death on August 30, 2006 in a Cairo hospital.
Mahfouz was accorded a state funeral with full military honors on August 31, 2006. His funeral took place in the el-Rashdan Mosque in Nasr City in Cairo.
Mahfouz dreamed that all of the social classes of Egypt, including the very poor, would join his funeral processionموكب . However, attendance الحضور was tightly restricted by the Egyptian government amid protest by mournersالمشيعين . Mahfouz was the only Arabic-language writer to have won the Nobel Prize.