Born in Egypt in 1922 and educated at Fuad Al-Awal and Ain Shams Universities, Mustafa Nasif joined the latter university as a lecturer in 1952 and became full professor in 1966. He taught ancient Arabic rhetoric and literature for several decades and chaired the Department of Arabic Language more than once. Upon his retirement in 1980, he was appointed Professor Emeritus of Arabic. He was known in academic circles throughout the Arab world, having taught in many Arab Universities and the American University in Cairo. In the 1950’s he was invited to lecture on his “New Horizons in Metaphores” at London University and “The Theory of Meaning in Modern Arabic Literary Criticism” at Harvard.
Professor Nasif’s scholastic contributions had profoundly impacted the current understanding and interpretation of classical Arabic rhetoric. He examined the subject in the light of modern concepts, exploring previously unknown aspects and raising intriguing questions about the history, development and uniqueness of Arabic rhetoric and its association with other components of Arabic culture. He suggested that it was an Islamic, rather than a pre-Islamic, phenomenon that grew within the broader context of culture and was influenced by the spiritual and political atmosphere of the time. Through his intellectual pursuits and research for more than 60 years, he was able to redefine classical Arabic rhetoric, de-marginalize it and make it a cornerstone for understanding both classical and modern Arabic culture. He also made significant contributions to other genres of classical and contemporary Arabic literature and language. He authored or co-authored around 25 books and book chapters, and numerous articles. Many of his publications are used widely as standard textbooks and references in Arab universities.
In addition to King Faisal International Prize for Arabic Language and Literature, Nasif’s scholarship was recognized by several other awards and honors including the Egyptian Order of Distinction (First Class) and State Prize in Literature, and prizes from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. He died in January 2008.
Professor Nasif has been awarded the Prize for his comprehensive, diversified and highly original research into Arabic rhetoric as it relates to the origins from which modern Arabic rhetoric derives. His studies reflect new concepts and an excellent awareness of the progress of modern Arabic rhetoric.