x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Scholar who left cultural mark on the Emirates

During the 1970s, Ezzeddin Ibrahim was a key figure in many of the initiatives that shaped the modern emirate.

Ezzeddin Ibrahim strove to promote the moderate face of Islam while refuting negative stereotypes and misconceptions about his faith.
Ezzeddin Ibrahim strove to promote the moderate face of Islam while refuting negative stereotypes and misconceptions about his faith.

The Egyptian-born Ezzeddin Ibrahim, who served as a cultural adviser to the Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the UAE, was an acknowledged Islamic scholar whose expertise served the emirate well. During the course of a 50-year career, he called eloquently for inter-Muslim solidarity, articulating his message both in person - appearing as a key speaker at many international conferences - and through the written word in various publications and journals. In his adopted homeland of the UAE, he held a number of important posts at several of Abu Dhabi's key institutions.

Born in Cairo in 1928, Ibrahim studied Arabic Literature at the University of Cairo, and subsequently completed a BA in Education and Psychology at Ain-Shams University. In 1963, he graduated with a PhD in Literature from London University and accrued honorary degrees from institutions as diverse as Malaysia University and the University of Wales. For much of his early career, he worked across the Middle East, holding a number of educational and administrative positions in the fields of education and scientific research in Egypt, Libya and Syria. For the Ministry of Education in Qatar he devised a series of study programmes and compiled a number of textbooks. In Saudi Arabia, he held the eminent post of Professor Arabic Literature at Riyadh University.

In 1968, he moved to the UAE and settled in Abu Dhabi. As the cultural adviser to Sheikh Zayed his duties were concentrated mainly in the cultural and educational sectors and he worked in conjunction with the Ministries of Education, Culture and Information, and Islamic Affairs. For four years, he served as the vice chancellor of the UAE University in Al Ain. As a mark of recognition for his significant contribution to the cultural life of the capital he was granted citizenship of the UAE.

During the 1970s, he was a key figure in many of the initiatives that shaped the modern emirate. He proposed the need for, and aided in, the establishment of the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi, which comprises the National Archives, the National Library and the Institute of Culture and Art. On behalf of the Presidential Court, he organised a broad cultural programme in co-operation with the Women's Union. A delegated member and director general of the Zayed bin Sultan al Nahayan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, he also supervised a number of Islamic Studies Chairs established by the late Sheikh Zayed in several European and Asian countries.

An affable man, with an orderly mind, Ibrahim was celebrated in academic circles for serving Islam with his considerable knowledge and intellect. As a religious scholar he was actively involved in meaningful dialogue on the nature of the three monotheistic faiths, and how they might better tolerate one another. He was universally acknowledged to be an eloquent representative of Islam who also exhibited a profound understanding of both Christianity and Judaism, and he strove to promote the moderate face of his faith while refuting the many negative stereotypes and misconceptions held about it. A generous man, he used his position close to Abu Dhabi's ruling family to benefit others whom he considered to be in need.

Together with Denys Johnson-Davies - the most recognised name in Arabic literary translation - Ibrahim worked on a number of titles, including a translation of Forty Hadith Qudsi, a collection of the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, and its companion volume, An-Nawawi's Forty Hadith. At the time of his death, the two men were working on a translation of selected passages from the Holy Quran that were to be classified by subject - "a daunting task", according to Johnson-Davies.

Ezzeddin Ibrahim Mustafa had been suffering from cancer of the liver. He died in London on his way back to Abu Dhabi having undergone treatment for his condition in the United States. He is survived by his wife and three children. His two daughters are both doctors. They, together with his son, work in Abu Dhabi. Ezzeddin Ibrahim Mustafa, born 1928; died January 30. * The National