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Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian scholar, reformer, and educator, was born in Tahta in Upper Egypt, to which his surname (nisba) refers. His male forebears were prominent ulama (Islamic religious and legal scholars). Following in their footsteps, Tahtawi received a traditional qurʾanic elementary education and then in 1817, at the age of sixteen, went to Cairo and enrolled in the ancient and venerable mosque-university of Al-Azhar. There he came under the influence of Shaykh Hasan al-ʿAttar (1766–1834), who acquainted him with some secular subjects outside the traditional curriculum, and with certain aspects of European thought. In 1822 Tahtawi himself became a teacher there.

Two years later, in 1824, he was appointed as a waʿiz (preacher, mentor) and imam of one of the regiments of the new Egyptian army of the ruler, Muhammad ʿAli. In 1826 Tahtawi was selected as one of four imams to accompany a military educational mission ...