My paper argues that charity can be used as a lens to examine nationalism. Due to the transformation of the institution of charity in late nineteenth-century Egypt new charities were developed. In the nineteenth century charity was changing due to the state centralization policies of Mehmed ‘Ali (r. 1805-48), who founded state-run shelters and soup kitchens and enacted prohibitions against begging. Later because of decentralization policies under Said Pasha (r.1854-1863) and Khedive Ismail (r.1863-1879), there was a move away from state control of charity, and the gradual erection of a number of private charitable associations that aimed to help the “public” poor. I look at how the evolving nineteenth-century institutions of charity, both changes under Mehmed ‘Ali and later under his successors, differed from the “pre-modern” period. Is nineteenth-century charity similar to early charity, in particular the ‘awqaf (endowments) of Mamluk elites that became a symbol of the rulers’ beneficence? What did donation and beneficence mean in late nineteenth-century Egypt? And did the new charitable associations of the late nineteenth century, that were not an individual endowment (waqf) or state-controlled charity, begin to use their power of beneficence to improve the social conditions of people with the goal to mold a particular type of Egyptian citizen? This connection between charity and the modeling of a better citizen will constitute a central theme of my argument. My research concentrates on one Islamic charity created around the period of the 1881-2 ‘Urabi revolution, which are the years that are considered as the coming of age of the Egyptian nationalist movement. As such, my project’s periodization falls between 1879 and 1892 in order to obtain a detailed picture of charity within the early Egyptian nationalist movement. It focuses on the Islamic Philanthropic Society (IPS), founded in 1879, by ‘Abd Allah al-Nadim. The IPS was a nationalist organization, where both Egyptian territorial nationalism and Islamic nationalism were at work, with a mission to educate young poor Egyptians against what was perceived to be a growing foreign hegemony caused by the British occupation. Specifically, I will study how the IPS evolved, how its charity was donated, how it was received and perceived by its recipients in the late nineteenth century. My work expands on the current literature by looking at the connections between charity and nationalism, rather than looking specifically at the school/education side of the IPS alone. Instead of the individual contributing for themselves, or establishing their own endowment, like the many waqfs created to fund a madrassa or a kuttab, the new charitable associations of the late nineteenth century could be erected as joint charitable ventures, working not only for spiritual “reward,” but for the betterment of citizens.


Middle East Studies Center

Degree Name

MA in Middle East Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2012

First Advisor

Fahmy, Khaled

Second Advisor

Saad, Reem



Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Charities -- Egypt -- History -- 19th century.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

dīm, ʻAbd Allāh, 1845-1896.


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item


First, I would like to thank the students and professors at Cairo University-Department of Literature, English section for their taking me in for two years early on in my undergraduate studies. What I learned at Cairo University has stayed with me over the years and the experience is what made me want to come back and complete my Master's here in Cairo at the American University in Cairo. Secondly, I would like to thank one of my early mentors in Egyptian history and general theory Peter Gran who helped guide me in my studies and pushed me to apply to AUC. He is also where I first learned of â Abd Allah al-dim causing me to want to push deeper into the man and his charitable association. To Noha Azmy who gave me advice and helped me think deeper about the subject I owe you huge thanks. I have been humbled by my experience at AUC learning from some of the finest intellectuals in Middle East Studies and Egyptian History. I am indebted to the guidance that I received over the years on this project from Han Kholoussy who was always there when I needed her comments and feedback on early drafts and proposals. I am also thankful to Malak Rouchdy and Reem Saad for their critiques and thoughts on how to focus the project. Also, to Nelly Han, Sherene Seikaly, and Michael Reimer thank you for your help and advice over the past couple of years. I owe a special thanks to a Phd student from New York University, Ibrahim Kalkan, who introduced me to the Ottoman Archives helping me vigate the archives to find sources. To the staffs at the Egyptian tiol Archives and the tiol Archives in London I also owe a debt of gratitude for their patient help and assistance in finding sources. I must recognize my advisor Khaled Fahmy, who has carefully read and critiqued my work and whose conversations and advice I could not have done without. For his work to help me finish this thesis, especially in the revision and editing, I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. His ability to help clarify what I was trying to argue and to make it clearer and more succinct is something that I needed and will hopefully keep with me for years to come. To all my fellow graduate student friends and the group of fellows who encouraged, critiqued and listened over the years, a special thanks to you all. To the administrators at the Middle East Studies Center at AUC Lamis Makhlouf, Radwa Wassim and Hany Luke thanks for all the help and for putting up with my endless questions. To all my friends from Philadelphia who stuck by me and encouraged me along the way, I hope I can repay the favor. To my family, especially my mother and father, whose help I cannot repay, I will be indebted to them forever.