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Hosni Hadhad, Egypt’s Oldest Doctoral Student, Dies at 85

/ 24 Jan 2022

Hosni Hadhad, Egypt’s Oldest Doctoral Student, Dies at 85

Hosni Hadhad earned a master’s degree at age 83 and was keen to pursue a doctorate too. Death, however, intervened. He recently passed away at the age of 85, according to news reports.

Hadhad was thought to be Egypt’s oldest graduate student. When others his age were joining the “retirees’ café,” he preferred the hardships of continuing to learn.

Hadhad was born in the village of Tellin, in Minya el-Qamh, in the Sharqia Governorate, east of the Nile Delta.

After obtaining a teacher training diploma early in life, he worked in the education sector. He advanced in jobs until he became an “education grade director” in the Minya el-Qamh educational administration.

“He was a serious student. … He did not miss a single lecture. He was persistent and diligent in his work, as if he were a young man in the prime of his life.”

Ahmed Hussein Saafan   The professor who supervised Hadhad's master's thesis

He joined Tanta University in 2014, at the age of 77, after reading a newspaper advertisement about its “open education” system. He enrolled in the Faculty of Arts and got a bachelor’s degree after four years, with a very good grade.

Warm Reception 

Although he was over 80, Hadhad was not satisfied with that and enrolled in graduate studies at Mansoura University’s Faculty of Arts. After a preparatory year, he completed, in less than a year, his thesis titled “The Artistic Imagery in the Poetry of Al-Khobz Arzi”.

Al-Khobz Arzi was an illiterate Abbasid poet who used to improvise poetry while working. Another poet, Ibn Lankak al-Basri, compiled a collection of his works. On this topic, Hadhad earned a master’s degree with an excellent grade.

In a televised interview in 2020, after he got his master’s degree, Hadhad expressed gratitude to his professors. He mentioned how Reda Sayyid Ahmed, then dean of the Faculty of Arts at Mansoura University, had received him saying: “You will be the pride of the college.”

At the same time, Hadhad was honored by the local authorities in Sharqia Governorate, amidst warm reception of researchers and academics.

His academic journey was not free of troubles, however. In another interview, he talked about having to leave home in Sharqia Governorate, before dawn, to reach Mansoura University in time to attend lectures. “I didn’t care, as I saw honor and respect from my professors and the dean of the college,” he said. “Thank God, I was not late for a single lecture.”

Hosni Hadhad is shown with members of the faculty committee that approved his master’s thesis in 2020.
Hosni Hadhad is shown with members of the faculty committee that approved his master’s thesis in 2020.

Hadhad also thanked his wife for her support. On the dedication page of his master’s thesis, he wrote: “I dedicate this thesis to my wife, Zainab Abdul-Ghani Muhammad Hussein, who has written out the Holy Qur’an 30 times by hand, even though she has only a primary school education.”

His message to young people, he said, “is to erase the word ‘impossible’ from their dictionary. If you are sincere in acquiring knowledge, be assured that God will help you achieve what you aspire to.”

A Serious, Diligent Student

Ahmed Hussein Saafan, an emeritus professor of Ancient Arabic literature at Mansoura University, supervised Hadhad’s master’s thesis.

In a phone call, Saafan told Al-Fanar Media that he had asked Hadhad on their first meeting, “Uncle Hosni, are you capable of work and giving? He replied: ‘God willing’.”

“Unlike young scholars, Hadhad was holding a pen, taking notes of what the discussion panels would say to researchers, to benefit from them in defending his thesis.”

Mohammad Sayyid Rabie   Former dean of the Faculty of Islamic and Arabic Studies in Damietta

Saafan chose Al-Khobz Arzi as the subject of Hahdad’s thesis. “He studied as much of Arzi’s poetry as was available to him,” he said.

Saafan added: “He was a serious student. … He did not miss a single lecture. He was persistent and diligent in his work, as if he were a young man in the prime of his life. He was passionate and eager to study.”

Lamenting Hadhad’s death, he said: “He set an example for youths to work, strive, and acquire knowledge as much as you can.”

Muhammad Sayyid Rabie, a former dean of the Faculty of Islamic and Arabic Studies of Al-Azhar University in Damietta, was a member of the committee that discussed Hadhad’s thesis.

Rabie related to Al-Fanar Media how Hadhad, before defending his own thesis, would attend the discussion panels of other students.

“Unlike young scholars, Hadhad was holding a pen, taking notes of what the discussion panels would say to the researcher, to benefit from them in defending his thesis.”

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Rabie added: “I was proud of him, and his eagerness to learn, at an age when others would prefer peace and comfort.”

Once Hadhad was asked about his wishes, his answer was to obtain a doctorate, “no more, no less.” On another occasion, he replied to the same question that he would seek to obtain a doctorate as long as he was still alive. Unfortunately, death cut short his dream.

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Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام