Several years ago as I was waiting to attend to one of my appointments, I came across a booklet left on the table beside me. It contained a long article that impressed me at first glance due to its exquisitely logical presentation. Dr Fouad Zakariyya wrote the article.
I used to hear about the late Dr Zakariyya, although most of the things I heard were negative and unsuitable to mention. Despite that, I considered him one of the icons of Arab cultural ruins.
Personally, he possessed ideas or idea which did not conform to mainstream religious ideology, and such a trait warrants attribution of heresy.
I came to know him better through his enlightening ideas and the glamour of his footprints on the horizon of Arab Thought as a whole, precisely in Philosophy. After that, I read more about him. I got fascinated with his simplicity in presenting an idea and his closeness to the ordinary person.
His articles were suitable for almost every intellectual category, whether the ordinary person or academic expert. His academic work is cluttered with information worth contemplating on.
Years later, I read about a symposium which would be held in Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center in which the main topic was Dr Zakariyya. The symposium brought together several university lecturers of his time and his students when he taught Philosophy at Kuwait University. Indeed, it was an event I could not afford to miss.
The event started with a speech delivered by Dr Shafeeqa Bastaki, who talked about knowledge and how philosophical research could attract opposition. It did not take long to realize that the symposium was about the virtues and attributes of this renowned thinker and the impact of his philosophical principles.
The next speaker was Dr Majed Abdul-Hafidh who narrated Dr Zakariyya’s stances on the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait. This is in addition to his altercations with others on what he called as individual and rational modernity apostasy. This prompted me to compare his saying, “I rebel, therefore I am,” to that of French Philosopher and Mathematician René Descartes who said: “I think, therefore I am.”
This comparison led to the realization of the simplicity of his personality and his words such as, “Dervish without borders in Arab world.”
Another speaker, Dr Abdullah Al-Jasmi, focused on Dr Zakariyya’s position on Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Many of his kind failed to align his courage with the victim. He described his ideological cohesion as between ideas and practice, revealing that he was one of his students who applauds his way of teaching and simplifying complicated philosophical concepts. He added the late Zakarriya was against ideologist and totalitarianism. Instead, he sided with enlightenment and being a critic of cultural phenomena.
Dr Muhammad Al-Sayyed discussed scientific or critical thinking, wondering if there are Arab philosophers. He pointed out the philosopher phenomenon no longer exists in this age, even in the Western world. He said Philosophy has been assimilated into other scientific and humanity studies, indicating the late lecturer loved Mathematics.
Several guests in this informative symposium spoke about their personal impression of Dr Zakariyya and his literary contributions as he left a series of publications which the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters continues to publish, in addition to his writings that keep on being republished.
For better publicity, Kuwaiti Writers Association (KWA) should have organized this symposium considering its experience and network which would have enabled many people to know about such an enlightening forum, and eventually, gathered more audience.
“How easy it is to accuse people with a different opinion of being agents or traitors, and perhaps heresy, just because they do not conform to mainstream opinion,” Egyptian philosopher and critic of Islamist thought Dr Fouad Zakariyya (1927-2010).
By Yousef Awadh Al-Azmi