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Philosophers of  the Arabs

 Abd al Hamid Ben Badis
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Al-Emam Albelhamid Ben Badis (1889 -1940), a leader of the reform movement in Algeria and founder of the society of Muslim 'scientists' (in the Islamic sense "Ulama") in Algeria.

 His Life

Abd al Hamid Ben Badis was born in Constantine, a city in the North-East of Algeria. Sheikh Ben Badis was an emblematic figure of the Islamic Reform movement in Algeria. Abd al Hamid Ben Badis was of an old town middle-class family which claimed descent from the Zirids a Berber Muslim dynasty founded in the 10th Century by Bologhine ibn Ziri.


Ben Badis grew up in a scholarly and religious household and as a result memorized the Quran at the age of thirteen.

He was still very young when he was placed under the tutorship of Hamdan Lounissi. Lounissi exerted a significant influence on the youth of Ben Badis. Lounissi was a stalwart defender of the rights of the Muslim Inhabitants of Constantine. Lounissi extracted from the youth Ben Badis a promise to never enter into the service of France (the Colonial Power in Algeria).

In 1908, Ben Badis, decided to begin his first voyage in order to advance his learning. He traveled to Tunis and therein the Zeitouna University. This was, at the time, a great center of learning and knowledge, particularly in the Islamic fields of studies.

At the Zietouna University Ben Badis horizons widened. He learned a great deal of the Islamic Sciences and Arabic Language. He met many Academics who left an indelible mark on his personality and his viewpoint on Islam. In 1912 he obtained his diploma. He stayed on at the university for a further year teaching.

Ben Badis then embarked on his pilgrimage or Hajj in Mecca and Medina Ben Badis stayed on in Madinah for three months and commenced to giving lessons to pilgrims and residents in the Prophets mosque, Al-Masjid al-Nabawi.

 His Thought

In Madinah Ben Badis encountered Muslim Reformist Sheikh Bachir Al Ibrahimi. They would regularly meet in order to formulate a clear plan for reform of Islam in Algeria. This was the start of a long friendship which spurred the Islamic Reform movement In Algeria into a position of prominence and influence. He urged Ben Badis to move permanently to Algeria and work against the ills of Maraboutic ideas, ignorance in Islamic Knowledge and against cultural and religious decline in the Muslim population of Algeria under French occupation.

After his departure Ben Badis visited Syria and Egypt. At the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo he met with renowned academics of Literature and Islamic sciences.

Return to Algeria

In 1913 Ben Badis returned to Algeria and settled in Constantine. He commenced teaching at the Sidi Qammouch mosque. The courses were for men, women, children and adults. He gave people instruction in Islamic sciences, Arabic Language and literature and history. It was at this point that Ben Badis conceived the idea of establishing a Muslim organization of religious scholars and leaders

In 1931 Ben Badis founded the Association of Muslim Algerian Ulama. This was a national grouping of many Islamic scholars in Algeria from many different and sometimes opposing perspectives and viewpoints. The Association would be a great influence On Algerian Muslim Politics up to the Algerian War of Independence. In the same period it set up many institutions where thousands of Algerian children of Muslim parents were Educated. The association also published a monthly magazine, the Al-Chihab and Ben Badis contributed regularly to it between 1925 and his death in 1940. The magazine informed its readers of the associations ideas and thoughts on religious reform and spoke on other religious and political issues.

In addition to working against deviations in the correct practice of Islam Ben Badis and his associates strived to save Algerian Culture from being eclipsed by French Values and morals Badis and other Islamic scholars resisted against the suppression of Algerian patriots; working as a journalist during those years he regularly denounced the fascist propaganda and the anti-Semitic intrigues of the French occupiers.