I do not know if you have heard of Abdul Wahab El-Messiri, who died on July 2, 2008, or read any of his books. He was an exceptional thinker and a prolific writer. If you have not read any of his works, at least read his short, easy to read and extremely amusing book titled “The World from the Western Perspective” (2001).
El-Messiri wrote many wonderful and deep books on many different levels of difficulty. He wrote about life, life conditions, meanings, Zionism, language, terminology, poetry, writing, and he also wrote beautiful children’s books. Most of his books, like the children’s books, are easy and fun, yet enriching to read. They all express a life view that is at once firm yet kind, open and generous.
Moreover, every corner of his life manifested his thoughts. His home, the way he dealt with people, his son’s wedding party, etc. are all expressions of different sides of his kind and giving personality that is deeply rooted and nonjudgmental. He detested both hypocrisy and lying and would not have them in his life or his books, so his heritage is free of both.
My first intellectual contact with his thinking came when I was writing my doctorate dissertation. I needed a theoretical framework on which to base my ideas, and I kept looking until I read one of his books. I found what I needed and much more. He proposed an analysis model that goes beyond the concepts of objective and subjective into how broad an analysis model can be. He believed that true objectivity is not realistic and that we are all at some level or another subjective. We all have our prejudices so the measure of evaluation is not in proving that we are objective but in being fair. This is an idea further explored in a collaborative work that studied the parameters of mapping and assessing prejudice rather than denying its existence.
I never met the man in person but I spoke to him on the phone a few times and I went to his beautiful house in Cairo and received the generous gift of many of his old books I could not find in print. In the course of my brief moments of personal contact with him, mostly by phone, he touched my soul with his profound intelligence and simplicity and he became very dear to my heart. I later mourned his death as I would the loss of a father. His mind, words and books were rich, yet easily accessible.
He was a great man! May he always rest in peace.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.