Humanist Movement in the Thought of Youssef Al-Gweiri

( 1938 - 2018 )

Today, we will delve into the concept of the humanist movement in the writings of Youssef Al-Gweiri, a concept that became evident in several of his articles but was particularly pronounced in his beautiful book “From the Notebook of a Man Who Was Not Born.” This book narrates the memoirs of a man living in the year 2565, presented in a format resembling science fiction novels.



The essence of the humanist movement, or the Humanism movement, is the unification of the human race and its union in a cultural, intellectual, and political crucible. This was indeed happening in the world described by Al-Gweiri in his memoirs. On page 70, the hero tells his wife about the bridge that connects Africa and Europe, which symbolizes the unity of humanity. Al-Quwairi here glorifies the unity of humanity, rejecting the clash of civilizations.



In the world of Al-Gweiri’s protagonist, progress is characterized by the significant role played by science. Understandably, science is a central idea in Al-Gweiri’s thought, being the key to advancement. In the memoirs, scientists consistently hold a superior position in debates and through their scientific institutions, playing a central role in leading and continuously nurturing this advanced world with ideas.



Prominent figures and scientific institutions, such as Ali Al-Ghati, a member of the World Language Council, Catherine Al-Dernaoui at the Institute of Biological Research, and Dr. Murad, a physics professor at Tabruk University, reflect the importance of scientific figures and institutions in this world. Symbolically, places are named after these scientists, transforming the name of Nafusa Mountain into Hakim Masoud Mountain in appreciation of a scientist’s status in this world.

One of Al-Gweiri’s prominent humanist ideas aligns with the humanist movement, emphasizing his opposition to wars, arms trade, and nuclear armament. This is evident in his writings, such as the transformation of military equipment into industrial machines and trains and the elimination of armies in the novel “From the Notebook of a Man Who Was Not Born.”



Another crucial point in Al-Gweiri’s humanist thought is his aversion to the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare, as highlighted in his article “The Effects of the Bomb” in the book “In Literature and Life.” He warns of the disasters that atomic war brings to humanity and emphasizes the role of global institutions, intellectuals, and writers in educating others about the nature of atomic war and its disastrous effects.



Another significant aspect of Al-Gweiri’s thought is language. In his article “Language and Wolves,” he explains that language evolves and aids in progress. In Al-Gweiri’s futuristic world, humanity has reached a point where it has a unified language, a concept that has intrigued philosophers and thinkers of the humanist movement. The idea is that language could be a factor in unifying humanity, reducing conflicts, and ending nationalist tendencies.



Let’s delve into Youssef Al-Gweiri’s stance on nationalistic tendencies. Al-Gweiri stands as one of the staunchest opponents of nationalism, viewing the idea of interaction among contemporary human cultures as one of the most crucial concepts that must be applied.



In his article “Dialogue with a White Collar” in the book “Within Sight,” Al-Gweiri emphasizes the importance of cultural interaction on a global scale. He asserts that there is no longer any nationalist culture on Earth, and if it exists, it’s only within the archives of extinct civilizations. Any living and present national culture must be inherently interactive with the rest of human civilizations.



Returning to Al-Gweiri’s futuristic world, characterized by progress and modernity, led by science and technology, it’s important to note that despite this advancement, the world has not lost its authenticity and beauty. This is evident in details such as renaming the city of Ghadames to its Amazigh name, Ghadzil, as mentioned on page 63. This reflects Al-Gweiri’s acceptance of cultural diversity and freedom of expression.



Moreover, despite the emphasis on progress and modernity, Al-Gweiri maintains the importance of preserving heritage and history. The integration of the future with the authenticity of the past is a key aspect of his vision.



Al-Gweiri underscores the value of beauty in conjunction with progress. He believes in preserving aesthetic values as “a humane value in itself.” Cities in the futuristic world are not only advanced but also retain a sense of history and time, unlike modern cities that lack this essence.



In Al-Gweiri’s future world, art flourishes with cinemas, musical performances, and concerts. Even the routine of residents includes visits to such places, like the Baroni village mentioned by Al-Gweiri with its four modern cinemas.



Despite Al-Gweiri’s emphasis on the importance of beauty, art, and authenticity, he strongly criticizes etional rhetoric and the manipulation of emotions in speeches. He believes that superficial ideas presented in a passionate manner are often successful and well-received, hence the absence of traditional or religious orators in his futuristic world.


Another significant aspect of Al-Gweiri’s thought is the advancement of ethical values. He criticizes outdated values such as gender preference and the association of women’s clothing with morality. Al-Gweiri believes in the evolution of moral values, challenging rigid ideologies.


In his futuristic world, Al-Gweiri promotes diverse and tolerant cultural and religious backgrounds, as indicated by the symbolic names of characters like “Catherine Al-Dernaoui” and “Wajdi Atoon.”



Furthermore, the futuristic world envisioned by Al-Gweiri is characterized by a highly progressive and supportive stance on women’s rights and independence. Relationships are depicted as open and free of fear or repression.



Lastly, Al-Gweiri maintains a positive and hopeful outlook on the future, acknowledging progress while recognizing the essential challenges that come with it. He concludes, “The new always needs time to take root and grow.”



This encapsulates Youssef Al-Gweiri’s thought—a humanistic and enlightened perspective at the core of historical progress.