16 April, day of knowledge

Abdelhamid Ben Badis

Every year, on April 16th, Algeria celebrates the day of knowledge. The founder of the Algerian Islahist movement, Abdelhamid Ben Badis having prematurely died on that day.

There is a lot to say on Ben Badis’s vision and activity, and on his association‘s actions, successes and failures or mistakes. But I am not going to talk about them. I will just say that despite all the mistakes they made, Ben Badis and his friends have started something in Algeria, without which history would have probably evolved differently. Their schools where they taught Arabic and Islam helped regenerate the Algerian Muslim identity in the Algerians’ minds, and the history lessons recreated some of the self-esteem the population had lost after one century of French occupation.

Today, many Algerian intellectuals and politicians esp. from the nationalist/conservative/Islamist sides claim they are the heirs of Ben Badis (exactly like many do with Malek Bennabi), but let’s read these short excerpts from Ben Badis’s articles and reflect on how they match… or not with the actions of those self-proclaimed heirs.

“The Algerian Nation is not France, cannot be France and doesn’t want to be France.” from Echihab, 1936.

“Islam has freed intelligence from all the beliefs which are based on authority. It gave intelligence its full sovereignty so it could decide of everything using its own judgement and wisdom.” from Echihab, 1931.

“In case of conflict between reason and tradition, reason must make the decision.” from Echihab, 1931.

“As Algerians, we aim at assembling the Algerian Nation, reviving the National feeling in its children, and instilling in them the will to educate themselves and be active, until they awaken as a Nation which deserves to live.” from Elmountaqid, 1925.

Ben Badis official website.

Alternative biography.

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4 thoughts on “16 April, day of knowledge

  1. Have you read the book “من ذكرياتي عن الإمامين الرئيسين” by Baaziz Ben Omar?
    Good book. The author writes about Ibn Badis and El Ibrahimi from his memories, while a young student…besides, the book is easy to read and Ben omar has a beautiful style.

    • No I haven’t, but I’ll try to get it next time I go home.

      Have you noticed the idle talk this commemoration has generated in the press, between those who love Ben Badis, those who hate him, those who say he was a nationalist, those who say he was against the war (even though he died long before), those who say he was for the war but Ibrahimi was against, those who say he was a pro-Arabs, those who say he was pro-Amazigh, those who say he was a reactionary backward salafi, those who say he was a modern Muslim, etc.
      It is so tiresome esp. that the same applies to the martyrs as well. The most recent episode being Sadi’s book.

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