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Did Naguib Mahfouz Keep in Touch With the Man Who Attempted to Assassinate Him?

It was in 1994 that the whole nation shook at the thought of losing the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate and critically-acclaimed Egyptian author through an assassination attempt. But it seems there's a side to this story that we never knew.

Staff Writer

Did Naguib Mahfouz Keep in Touch With the Man Who Attempted to Assassinate Him?

It was on October 14th 1994 that those prosecuted for attempted murder – Amr Ibrahim and Mohammed Nagi, Islamist extremists said to be from the militia of the Muslim Brotherhood – carried out their mission after waiting outside novelist Naguib Mahfouz's home in the Agouza neighbourhood for hours.

Ibrahim was initially the assigned executer, but he felt anxious and hesitant at the last minute so Nagi took on the role and stabbed Mahfouz in the neck. However, due to his own fear and hesitation, the wound was not strong enough to cause death. The 'fatwa' against Mahfouz was for blasphemy, due to his Children of Gebelawi (1959), (1981) novel – apparently, he used the main characters as metaphors for the holy prophets of Islam.

What we have always heard about this incident was how it affected Mahfouz's health; he was unable to sit down and write for long periods of time, thus producing fewer texts. In 2006, he died at the age of 94. But, in those 12 years, was there any contact between him and his 'assassin'? According to Akhbar El Youm's Literature News, Ayman El Hakim claims there actually was.After they were arrested as suspects, Ibrahim and Nagi were sentenced to 'Scorpion Prison' – part of Torra prison known for its brutality and severe seclusion. There, Ibrahim took up ironing clothes to earn a bit of income. It seems that he also took up reading Mahfouz's literature, coming to the conclusion that his assassination attempt was unjustified – Mahfouz did not write anything wrong. Ibrahim then took the liberty to send Mahfouz a letter of apology with his mother – a letter to which Mahfouz responded, accepting his apology and forgiving him.

This incident was known in the novelist's close circles but the public was not privy to this information. It also didn't end at Ibrahim's plea finding a place in Mahfouz's heart – apparently, Mahfouz also requested for the authorities to transfer Ibrahim to the main Torra Prison buildings, which, after a lot of back and forth, happened. As a result, Mahfouz sent a telegraph to the prisoner, signed by him, congratulating him on the move.

According to Ayman El Hakim, Ibrahim treated the telegraph with sacredness; when he was released, he still carried it with him – a symbol of humanity, gratitude, forgiveness, and acceptance.