In Memoriam: Farhat Ziadeh (1917–2016)

June 24, 2016

Professor Emeritus Farhat Ziadeh, the founder of both the Middle East Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilization, University of Washington, Passed away on June 8, 2016, at the age of 99 years old.

Born in Ramallah, Ottoman Empire, in 1917, Ziadeh earned his BA from the American University of Beirut in 1937 and his L.L.B. in 1940 from the University of London. Unable to return to Palestine because of World War II, he moved to the United States where he was recruited by Philip K. Hitti to teach Arabic in the Army Specialized Training Program at Princeton University, a position he held 1943–45. In 1946, he returned to England where he became a Barrister-at-Law, Lincoln’s Inn, London. During 1947–48, Ziadeh was a magistrate with the government of Palestine.

Ziadeh returned to Princeton in 1948 as an Arabic instructor in the Department of Oriental Languages and Literatures. From 1949 to 1954 he was a lecturer and from 1950 to 1954 also served as the editor of the Arabic Service of Voice of America. In 1954 he was promoted to assistant professor and in 1958 to associate professor. In addition to teaching Arabic, he taught courses on Islamic institutions and on Muslim jurisprudence and legal organization. In 1966, he left Princeton to join the faculty at the University of Washington to develop and head a new Program in Near Eastern Studies. He retired in 1987. Upon his retirement, a conference was held in his honor and the papers published as Islamic law and jurisprudence, edited by Nicholas Heer and published by University of Washington Press (1990). In 2001 The Farhat J. Ziadeh Distinguished Lecture in Arab and Islamic Studies Series was established in his honor.

In addition to his academic positions, Ziadeh was appointed director of the Center for Arabic Study Abroad from 1983 to 1989, was elected president of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic (1975–76), and was elected president of the Middle East Studies Association (1979–80). He also served as a member of MESA’s board (1969–71), on the advisory board of the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, and on editorial boards for the Arab Law Quarterly and the Arab Studies Quarterly.

His publications include History of the American People (in Arabic; Princeton University Press, 1946); Arabic-speaking Americans, with Habib Ibrahim Katibah (Institute of Arab American Affairs, 1946); Arabic Primer (Princeton University Press, 1949); An Introduction to Modern Arabic, with R. Bayly Winder (Princeton University Press, 1957); translator of Falsafat al-tashri?? fi? al-Isla?m by S?ubh?i? Rajab al-Mah?mas?a?ni?. (Brill, 1960); A Reader in Modern Literary Arabic (Princeton University Press, 1964); Lawyers, the Rule of Law, and Liberalism in Modern Egypt (Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, 1968); editor of Kita?b adab al-Qa?d?i? by Ahmad ibn Amr Khassaf (Qism al-Nashr bi-al-Jamiah al-Amrikiyah, 1979); and Property Law in the Arab World: Real rights in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States (Graham & Trotman, 1979).

At Princeton, he is fondly remembered by a generation of Arabic-language students. The textbook he co-authored with R. Bayly Winder was still being used into the 1980s in the first-year Arabic class taught in the Department of Near Eastern Studies.

To read his obituary in the Seattle Times click here

An autobiographical essay, “Winds Blow Where Ships Do Not Wish to Go,” by Ziadeh appeared in Thomas Naff, ed., Paths to the Middle East: Ten Scholars Look Back (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993).