In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Grande Strategy

The Question of Ideas in the Muslim World

The Question of Ideas in the Muslim World

By Malek Bennabi

Originally translated into English from French a couple of people, most recently by Mohammed Tahir El-Mesawi. We have sought to give a simplified version for students. From a formal academic viewpoint, we recommend Tahir El Mesawi's translation. However, we feel his effort, though laudable has been somewhat difficult to understand. As a result we have attempted our own. So I have looked to try my hand at this, although my French is limited.

El-Mesawi has taken much issue of our work in a rather poor manner, despite us doing all this work without any financial benefit and despite his translation being unacceptably difficult to read for the vast majority of Muslim students. We feel he is complaining because of lost sales and limelight. He wrote to me stating that I was trying to steal his limelight. My mind doesn't work that way, I'm just trying to get the message of Bennabi out to the public by whatever means I can. In fact, it transpires that El-Mesawi wasn't even the first person to translate this book to English!

Re-translated, reworked and abridged by Meinhaj Hussain and open for further improvement through our open source effort.

Editor’s Note

While attempting to teach some friends the contents of Malek Bennabi’s The Question of Ideas in the Muslim World, I quickly found that most of my friends had a hard time reading the book. They found the language to be difficult to understand and the concepts hard to grasp. Given the obvious importance of Bennabi’s message, it became pertinent to make the message more accessible. I have therefore undertaken to simplify, re-translate and rework the book. There is some abridgment involved and I fear like Bennabi’s thoughts on how original ideas echo across history and lose their original notes, that his message in turn may be distorted by my own colored prism.

While I have reservations about some of Bennabi’s thoughts and ideas, I have (or hope I have, insh’Allah) left my baggage behind. I intend to undertake this task insh’Allah from a neutral perspective. I hope this work goes some way in making Bennabi’s work more accessible to the Muslim world, particularly to our younger generations.

Please note that these page are in constant flux as we continue to further simplify the work. We consider this an open source project and would request and appreciate any help. Please email us at for getting involved with the edits. If you find any errors or edits and are in a hurry, please use the comments section to advise us on edits. We are also working on using Malek Bennabi's work as a framework for an Islamic social sciences. Please email us if you are interested to join such an effort. 

The purpose of this project is to simplify and spread the thoughts and ideas of Malek Bennabi in as simple an English and as concisely as possible.



I began this work one decade ago, when I was in Cairo. As I had just gathered within and around myself all the necessary material for its completion, some abrupt circumstances the mentioning of which is beyond the special context of this preface diverted me from it. It would, however, suffice to just indicate that they had to do with the ideological struggle. This compelled me to change my work plan. Indeed, I immediately embarked on another work related to those circumstances[1]. The resumption of this work was postponed constantly until recently, when my friend Dr. Ammar Talbi visited me upon his return from his studies in Egypt. Knowing, since his student days in Cairo, the state in which I had abandoned this study, this dear friend now insisted that I should resume it. Finally, he persuaded me to do so.

As I decided to undertake this task, I became aware of what was irremediably lost in the old rough sketch I had hastily outlined in Cairo. Going back to my notes, I could not rediscover the content I had initially hoped to create, although I could still recognize the very words I had written. In fact, those notes were strewn on the sheets merely as guide marks or markers that would help me recollect what was inherent in me. Other elements derived either from a bookshelf or elsewhere would merely complement these elements.

In short, my notes were as dead as the bones one may discover by turning over an old grave. Thus, their content looks distant, hazy and uncertain; I would rather leave them as a memory... and perhaps the patient reader will one day discover in their yellowed pages the torn thread that may become for him, in the pages of this book as well as beyond, Ariadne's thread[2] which would guide him with more certainty in "the problem of ideas in the Muslim world".

We are far from presenting here an exhaustive study of this problem. However, I believe that by throwing light on both its topography and particular structure, this book will provide a relatively accurate idea, not only with regard to Muslim society, but also with regard to any other society. In so far as we succeed to express that idea, the aim of this book would be achieved.

Algiers: 21 Ramadan 1390 A.H.
21 November 1970 A.D.

[1] The author refers here to his book The Ideological Struggle in Colonized Countries.
[2] Ariadne. Character in Greek mythology who helped her lover to escape using a ball of thread. 

NOTE: The edits are presently light and a more comprehensively edited version will insh'Allah be available soon.

Chapter Two: The Child and Ideas
Vision Without Glasses


grandestrategy said...

walaikum Assallam Brother Tahir El-Mesawi,

I took the time to reply back to you in detail within 48 hours of receiving
your email. If you would kindly check your inbox to see if it fell by the
wayside, it may be more fruitful. In any case, I am forwarding the same
email to you again today.

Since you objected to the word "re-translate" and even though I defended
this word in my email to you, I removed it so that your mind is put at ease.
I thought your email and your tone has been less than appropriate to say the
least. If you feel I have violated your copyrights, please feel free to
pursue this formally.

Kind regards,

Meinhaj Hussain

grandestrategy said...

Between, the term reworked was available in the text from the very beginning
alongside re-translate. In addition, I fear that unless you change your
tone, you may not expect further answers from me.

Kind regards,

Meinhaj Hussain

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