Meet Two Amazing Moroccans: The Stories of Mohammed Abed al-Jabri and Merieme Chadid
By: Claire Boyle/Arab America Contributing Writer
Morocco is famous for many things: its beautiful architecture, food, desert, culture, and many other things, but were you aware that the country is also known for its intellectuals? Meet these two famous Moroccans, Mohammed Abed al-Jabri who was an Arab philosopher, and Merieme Chadid who is an astronomer and explorer. Al-Jabri and Chadid may have lived in two different timeframes, but their contributions to the betterment of Moroccan society, culture, thought, and science is timeless. In a brief introduction, Al-Jabri was an important authority on Islamic thought and Chadid is famous for “becoming the first Moroccan woman to set foot on Antarctica.” So, it is time to learn more about both of these wonderful Moroccans and their numerous accomplishments.
Mohammed Abed al-Jabri:
Mohammed Abed al-Jabri was a famous Moroccan philosopher who lived from 1935 to 2010. Because of his work, he is considered to be “one of the most known Moroccan and Arab philosophers.” His work consisted of “philosophy, in general, but he also taught Arab philosophy, and Islamic thought at the Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco.” Besides teaching at the Mohammed V University, he also received both his bachelor’s and Ph.D. in Philosophy at this institution. His most famous work is called the Critique of Arab Reason which is sometimes loosely translated as the “Critique of the Arab Mind.” His research focused on both the esteemed Arab philosopher and historian, Ibn Khaldun who lived in the 14th to 15th centuries, and the idea of Arab Futurism.
Al-Jabri was what is considered a “futurist” in philosophy. Futurists believed in the power of machines, and the movement originated in the early 1900s due to the development of “automobile technologies.” Futurism began in the art world and then it transferred on into philosophy and other disciplines. Futurists believed and supported the use of violence to “destroy cultural institutions such as museums and libraries.” They basically wanted to get rid of the ‘old’ and replace it with the ‘new’ – new as in technologies, art, and other mediums. Futurists saw society as decaying, and that it was time to replace what was known of the world with the unknown and exciting items to come ‘in the future.’
Al-Jabri became well-known for the numerous works he published including in numerous languages. In Arabic, he wrote about identity, and Ibn Rushd who was a “Berber jurist who lived in 12th to 13th-century Andalusia.” In the Western languages, Ibn Rushd’s name is Romanized as ‘Averroes.’ During his lifetime, he also published in English, French, and German. In 2008, two years before he died, Al-Jabri, was awarded the “Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought which is a German award for a person, people, or organization who contributed to democracy and freedom of speech in the Arab World.”
Finally, al-Jabri is well-known in his homeland of Morocco, but his work, knowledge, and beliefs deserve to be disseminated throughout the rest of the world. He was also known to support “socialism of the Moroccan Left and later in life, al-Jabri became a political theorist.” Essentially, he desired a new way forward for Morocco.
Merieme Chadid is famous for two things. She was the first Moroccan woman to walk on Antarctica, and on that icy land, she placed the first Arab flag (Morocco’s) in Antarctica! She was born in 1969 and hails from Casablanca, Morocco. As a young girl, she read a work about Johannes Kepler and decided that astronomy was the career for her. Chadid is an amazing woman; she has a master’s degree in Physics and Mathematics as well as that she is a dual-PhD holder in Astronomy and Space. She also has a special European designation of Habilitation, a degree that is akin to a doctoral dissertation or possibly a post-doctoral fellowship.
In the past, Chadid focused her research toward installing telescopes in Chile’s Atacama Desert, and after visiting Antarctica, she fell in love with the solemn bliss of the snowy area and has continued to research there for decades. She works in Antarctica in an area called Dome C which is described as the coldest and most inhospitable place on Planet Earth, and yet, that is where Chadid feels the most at home in her research and studies. Before Antarctica, she installed telescopes in Chile, and then during her PhDs, she moved to France to work on “imaging sciences and became an engineer astrophysicist.” She has no plans to change her work location as Chadid has found her calling on the icy and frigid terrains of Antarctica which are quite different than the white sands of Morocco from which she comes.
Finally, perhaps, one of her other greatest achievements is one that is unseen as in that her work will inspire other young Arab Americans and all women to become interested in the fields of astrophysics, astronomy, science. Her work will continue to inspire female scientists that they can, too, excel in these sciences, push themselves to the limits that nature will allow in the coldest region on the planet, and assure women they can succeed in this field. In conclusion, she has pushed the field of scientific research forward with her innovative research in Antarctica.
So, why are these two amazing Moroccans so important? They pushed themselves to the highest level of scholarship that their fields have allowed them, for Al-Jabri, it was philosophy, and for Chadid, these are astronomy, exploration, and astrophysics. Both of them have surely inspired young Moroccans to follow in their footsteps to seek a career in academe whether it be science or the humanities. Perhaps, their most important achievement is they represent the best of Morocco!
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