King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) recognizes excellence in 5 categories: Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language & Literature, Medicine, and Science, since 1979

Mohammad Bahjat Al-Athari

Winner of the  
KFP Prize for  
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Topic: Studies on Arabic Literature During the 5th and 6th Centuries A.H.


Nationality: Iraq

Mohammad Bahjat Al-Athari was born in Baghdad in 1904. He memorized the Holy Quran at the age of 6. In addition to studying Arabic language, literature, and Islamic Sharia in formal Iraqi schools, he privately studied French, English and Turkish languages and was mentored in religion and Arabic language studies by renowned local scholars, including the legendary Shaikh Mahmoud Shukri Al-Alousi, the Mufti of Baghdad. Al-Athari became a teacher of Arabic, then Inspector of Arabic in the Iraqi Ministry of Education and Administrative Director in the Ministry of Endowments. In 1951, he was appointed professor of Arabic literature and Ethics in the Police College in Baghdad, beside his responsibilities in the Ministry of Education.

Mr. Al-Athari retired in 1963 to become a full time writer and scholar of Arabic. He authored numerous books and edited many others on different aspects of Arabic language and arts, including analyses of several early Arabic texts and anthologies, particularly an edition of Imad Ed-Din Al-Asfahani’s Kharidat al-Qasr wa Jaridat al-Asr, a landmark of ancient Arabic prose, poetry, and literary criticism. Mr. Al-Athari also published hundreds of articles and made numerous other contributions not only to the study of Arabic literature but also history and Islamic studies. He was a celebrated poet.

In 1949, he co-founded the Iraqi Science Academy and became its Vice-President and chief editor of its journal. He was also elected to the Arabic Language Academies of Cairo, Damascus and Amman, the Royal Moroccan Academy and the International Advisory Council of Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation. His life and works were subjects of graduate degrees, and a compilation of his major literary contributions was published by the Iraqi Science Academy. Al-Athari died in 1996.

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