Egyptian Pan-Arabism, Secularism and the Lebanese and "Suraqiyans" (Syrians-'Iraqis) in the 1930s and 1940s
Dennis Walker
Part 1:
Establishment Egypt and Pan-Arab Unification in the 1940s


Some Syrian politicians and thinkers had labored to propagate secular, non-sectarian interpretations of pan-Arabism designed to reconcile Lebanon's Christians to membership in a revived independent Syrian state.  But the pan-Arabist movement in both Egypt and Lebanon/Syria drew its strength from a public reaction against not simply Western control but Western civilization.  Because of the "crisis in orientation" after 1930, it was in Egypt that the majority of the intelligentsia most nearly shared the Islamic neo-traditionalism of the masses and offered the most active support to the project of reviving an Islamic civilization distinct from that of the West that was "invading" the Middle East region.

The Egyptian Prince Muhammad 'Ali and the Restoration of Islamic Law

Of course, the association of the call for Arab unity with that for the restoration of Islamic law was much more marked in Egypt than in Syria. There was, at least, a time conjunction between the movement for an Arab union in Egypt that culminated in the country's sponsorship of the Arab League and the anti-western current demanding that Western-originated man-made laws be replaced by the indigenous Islamic laws.  Official pan-Arabism in Egypt might therefore seem to sensitive Lebanese Christians (and indigenous Copts) not simply to run parallel with, but to be an extension of, a deeper religion-inspired Arabo-Islamism. 
For Egyptians or Lebanese Christians, official pan-Arabism must have seemed to have reactionary implications. At a time when King Faruq was being hailed in Egypt as "the first Muslim and the first Arab" [in Sabri 'Abd al-Majid's book  Ayyam al-Faruq  : see al-Muqattam 9 January 1945 p. 5], the Prince Muhammad Ali, the heir to the Egyptian throne, denied that there was any need to replace existing Islamic laws permitting divorce and polygamy.  He denounced "a small handful inside Egypt who are concerned only to change our customs and the injunctions of our religion and preoccupy themselves only with imitating the Westerners and think that that is the means to make the land develop and progress". The veteran Prince claimed (quite truthfully although did he too again harbor freemasonic layers of meaning?) that only a small minority in the towns was calling for change in the laws and that the majority, especially in the countryside, was happy with the legislation being religious- "sound texts that keep pace with every time and place and which are unchangeable and faultless".
The main argument that the Prince adduced for the preservation of the religious Islamic character of Egypt's law codes was the international one of Egypt's standing among the nations.  Egypt "prides itself that she is the leader of the Islamic lands and the bearer of the standard of Islam, that her ruler is the greatest Muslim ruler in the eyes of the Muslims".  "Egypt boasts that the noble al-Azhar mosque is the greatest Islamic university in the world, the qiblah (prayer direction) of the glances of the Muslims in the Eastern and Western reaches of the globe": to preserve that standing in the league of the world of Islam, Egypt had to continue to champion the religious law [["al-Amir Muhammad 'Ali Yatahaddathu 'an al-Khalal al-Hukumi wa Taqyid al-Talaq wa Ta'addud al-Zawjat" (Prince Muhammad 'Ali Talks about Malfunctions in Government Administration, Limiting of Divorce and Polygamy)  al-Muqattam 14 July 1945 p. 3]].
Muhammad 'Ali's argument, of course, made no overt reference here to an explicitly Arab nationalism, although the type of pan-Islamic policy of leading "the Islamic lands" pursued by both the Khedive 'Abbas and by the youthful King Faruq had shaded off into explicitly Arab movements.  Prince Muhammad 'Ali himself urged the British to adopt a policy favorable to the emergence of pan-Arab entities when in 1938 he suggested to Sir Herbert Samuel that "a form of unity between Palestine, Transjordan, Syria and Lebanon would assuage the fear of the Palestinians of being swamped by Jewish immigrants" [[Kedourie, The Chatham House Version p. 81 citing a letter by Samuel to the Colonial Secretary 7 April 1938]]. The Prince Muhammad 'Ali's suggestion does not necessarily throw a decisive light upon the exact relation in which he conceived Egyptians to stand vis-a-vis the pan-Arab political entity he proposed to Asia. The omission of Iraq - a potential rival to Egypt - from the proposed federation suggests however that the Prince envisaged Egypt playing some role in conjunction, with the suggestion that it might become one of dominance.
We have seen that Prince Muhammad 'Ali in the Ottoman period in his youth envisaged non-sectarian Arabness as bringing Egypt and the Arabic West Asians together, in addition to the other bond of Ottomanism in West Asia.  Yet he too had been touched by, or kept a wary eye upon, the swing to Islamism and Islamic wide identity in Egypt, in the 1930s and 1940s. The Prince's 1945 statement in al-Muqattam, however, could have evoked little enthusiasm among Christians. In his statement printed in al-Muqattam, Muhammad 'Ali of course did not state that Egypt should enter into a political union or confederation with any state, Islamic or Arab. He rather spoke about a community of Islamic states that was more than an association of peoples concerned with religion or culture-interests held in common, since the faith of Egypt made Egypt the bearer of the "standard" of Islam in the Islamic lands.  Although he blurred the possibilities for political association, the Prince suggested that pan-Arabism had a religious nature in that he used language identical to that which other groups used to justify an alliance with the Arab states.  Egypt was the leader of the whole Islamic world because, for example, "the noble al-Azhar mosque is the greatest Islamic university in the world" - which echoes the earlier 1938 argument of the Young Egypt (Misr al-Fatat) leader Ahmad Husayn that Egypt would be "the beating heart of this" [pan-Arab] "Union because she was so for 1,000 years - that is, from the day that the al-Azhar mosque was set up" [Misr al-Fatat 11 August 1938 p. 6].
For Christians in Lebanon and Egypt, then, it must have seemed in the late 1930s and in the late 1940s that there was a fairly close relation between (a) the mounting Arab identification of the majority of conscious Muslim Egyptians and of many Muslim Syrians and (b) the mounting neo-traditionalist religious Islamic reaction against Western secular civilization that found its expression in the drive to reestablish a widened Islamic Law - which would have displaced Christian minorities from the mainstream of national life.  Those Egyptian politicians who were most visibly responsible for transforming pan-Arabism from an alternative minority ideology into an official policy of government were precisely the ones who were apparently the most receptive to the demands of the religious Islamist element for the neutral Western legal codes that had come to dominate all save personal law to be replaced by Islam's religious law.

'Ali Mahir Pasha, the Invention of Egyptian Pan-Arabism and Palestine

'Ali Mahir Pasha is perhaps the most vivid instance of this conjunction of pan-Arab political leanings and receptivity to the cause of restoration of the religious law.  Colombe notes "the hope and the interest aroused among the 'ulama of Cairo by the decision that the government of  'Ali Mahir Pasha took in 1938 to entrust to two commissions the task of elaborating a new civil code, and a new personal code 'more in harmony with the intellectual and moral development of Egypt' ". 
The decision was accompanied by a strong campaign by the religious traditionalists to free Egypt from "legislative servitude to Europe", and to if not apply Islamic law "in all its rigor [then at least] to make it the basis for a recasting of legal codes" [[Marcel Colombe,  L'evolution de l'Egypte, 1924-1950  (Paris: G.P. Maisonneuve, 1951) pp. 130-131]].
'Ali Mahir became chief of the royal cabinet soon after Faruq came to the throne and acquired great influence as the king's political advisor. It was during his tenure of office that an active pan-Arab policy was initiated.  Royal Chamberlain 'Ali Mahir, and 'Abd al-Rahman 'Azzam, aided the development of a pan-Arab foreign policy by King Faruq. These men and their party, inspiring the King or inspired by him, "invented" [=reinvented] and pushed pan-Arabism as a policy for the new Egypt in which the monarchy was widening its roles in politics.  However, Kedourie notes that the adoption of their policy by Nahhas Pasha and the Wafd was crucial to Egypt's negotiation of the formation of the Arab League with the other Arabic state-entities, and in thus getting pan-Arabism off the ground [[Elie Kedourie, The Chatham House Version pp. 216, 218]]. Apart from the conjunction in 'Ali Mahir's polices of patronizing Islamic neo-traditionalism internally in Egypt with pan-Arabism abroad, he also reconnected nationalism in Egypt and the anti-Ottoman secessionist Arab ethnic nationalism of the pre-1918 Arab Asia by his appointment of 'Aziz 'Ali al-Misri as chief of staff when he took office in 1938.
In 7 February-13 March 1939, the British convened a Round Table Conference in London on Palestine to which the Arab states and Egypt were invited along with the Zionists.  The Egyptian Prime Minister, then Muhammad Mahmud Pasha, decided to lead, himself, the Egyptian delegation to the St James Conference. It was then suddenly announced that 'Ali Mahir would go instead, and would take with him 'Abd al-Rahman Azzam, Egypt's ambassador to 'Iraq, Sa'udi Arabia and Iran - and later to become Secretary-General of the Arab League.  While Egypt in the 1930s and 1940s gradually became more aware of the issues and interests of the other Arabic peoples, smaller in populations and less politically institutionalized than her, that shift was relative to the 1920s.  Egyptian hierarchism to outside Arabic-speakers continued and Egypt at the St James Conference in London and subsequently sometimes aided the vital interests of the Palestinians in an unattuned way the did not always help them.  The Egyptian delegation headed by 'Ali Mahir for a while did not put itself forward much at the St James Round Table conference.  In the 9th plenary session, Mahir put forward the agreed Arab demand for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, but held out "reasonable guarantees and safeguards" for the existing Jewish community in Palestine and for Britain's imperial interests there.  While the Egyptian political system was now involving itself more in  Palestinian and other Suraqian causes and interests, it remained at St James like an impartial "elder brother" nudging both the West Asian Arabs and the Zionist  yishuv  (settlement) in Palestine towards an agreed-upon settlement that might not be all that hard to negotiate [[For the St James Conference, see James Jankowsky and Israel Gershoni,  Redefining the Egyptian Nation 1930-1945  (CUP 1995) pp. 186-189]].
Again, we must remember that the period of the late 1930s and early 1940s when official Egypt begins to take up pan-Arabism was one of deteriorating relations between Copts and Muslims.  A political crisis in 1937 occasioned resurgence of religious tensions between some in the two Egyptian groups: the change of  "Coptism" was enough to ruin the prestige of the Wafd, and while "Nahhas Pasha was represented by all his opponents as 'ungodly', the young Faruq received the title of 'the Pious King' " [Colombe 145].  The Misr al-Fatat movement of the Egyptian Muslim  effendiat  had initially opposed pan-Arabism in the 1930s, its opposition immediately provoked by suspicion that it was a movement promoted by Britain to serve her imperial interests in the Middle East, but more fundamentally by the movement's incompatibility with a nationalism based on a geographical Egyptian homeland and Pharaonic race, as against the problematical linguistic-cultural community upon which pan-Arabism was founded. We have noted that as the Party gave increasing endorsement to an alliance of the Arab states in the late 1930s, it did so in terms of anti-colonialist "Islamic Empire", and of Islam rather than any Arabism conceived as a culture.
It seems significant that as the Misr al-Fatat, molded no doubt by a mounting public mood, became more pan-Arab, and involved itself more in the affairs of Arab Asia, it became more Islamist in its ideology. Under-estimating the initially dominant element of isolationalist Egyptian particularism and neo-Pharaonism in the movement's ideology, Colombe stressed its later rowdy puritanical campaigns for the closing of wine-shops, banning of prostitution, and severe repression of promiscuity in public places [C 139-141].  Colombe sees such puritanism as a manifestation of opposition to the rapid Westernization of Egyptian society, and he traces the Misr al-Fatat's  transformation into a formally Islamist party.  "Under the new name of the Islamic Nationalist Party, which it adopted in March 1940, the Association accentuated its religious  tendencies. It gave prominence in its program to the renewal and reapplication of Muslim law: reestablishment of zakat, abolition of interest-taking and usury, the drawing up of laws by a council of ulama and jurists, the amending of the (Egyptian) Constitution in conformity with the principles of the  shari'ah  [C 142].
Of Arabism or political Arabism conceived as a human cultural-national community, Misr al-Fatat seems, from the limited primary journalism that this researcher consulted, to have long remained innocent. The party never became innovative within Egyptian pan-Arabism, tending rather to drift on the swell of public feeling.  Thus, even when the "Young Egypt" leader Ahmad Husayn recognized that all the five elements for unity - "language and religion, and the common past and the common national aspirations, that is to say interest" - are to be found in their entirety among the Arab states in Egypt and Syria and in Iraq, he virtually ruled out the possibility of the Misr al-Fatat providing leadership or direction or taking any initiative for giving this "unity" and "tarabut" (links and bonding) a closer and more complete form.  "I am not able as of now to define the type of relations between these states in its final form, for these are questions that time will decide, and circumstances" [Misr al-Fatat 11 August 1938 p.6].
But "Young Egypt" did, after initial misgivings, come to give vocal support to the struggle of the Palestinians, and did endorse the idea of an alliance of Arab states on grounds of a common Islam.  And it did, as its position shifted from particularist isolationism to pan-Islamism in this fashion, not merely develop or reveal a negative communal alienation from the Copts but adopted a positive program for the internal reconstruction of Egyptian society and polity on the basis of Islamic law.  This was a striking somersault, for Ahmad Husayn himself had entered politics in 1930 while a student of Western-secular law as the representative of the Coptic Salamah Musa's secular, non-sectarian League for the Boycott of Non-Egyptian Manufactures on the Faculty of Law at Cairo University.  Husayn's abandonment of his nationalism that had been intent to integrate Muslims and Christians in Egypt, and his apparent abandonment of his own professional formation as a West-patterned lawyer, merely underlines how powerful was the Islamo-Arab current in the period of the gradual abandonment of  (a) the particularist isolation of the 1920s for (b) the internal remoulding of Egypt after Islam's definitive design for man.
The Copts in Egypt and the Maronites in Lebanon could not but have drawn the conclusion, exaggerated although it might be in the case of Misr al-Fatat, that the promotion of pan-Arabism would be synonymous with the promotion of the scheme of an Islamic state.
Even those Maronites who were profoundly attached to unitary, classical, definitive forms of Arab culture in Lebanon, and to membership in an effective Arab League cultural life that might develop some loose political community, might therefore be expected to keep a certain distance from the movement.  And even if it were erroneous to identify the Misr al-Fatat too closely with the mainstream of the pan-Arabist movement in Egypt, it was close to or allied with the monarchy that was an important promoter of the pan-Arab current. A commitment to Islam and its religious law is indeed to be noted in the thought of those Egyptians most closely identified with - and most innovative in - the pan-Arab tendency and movements developing in Egypt.

Part 2:
Ideological Interaction Between Egyptians and Fertile Crescent Intellectuals in the 1930s and 1940s


The Syrian nationalist thinker Antun Sa'adeh repeatedly warned the Syrians and the (Fertile Crescentese) Suraqians during the 1940s that the forms of pan-Arabism developing in Egypt might have negative side-effects for the Syrian lands. Sa'adeh argued that the Egypt-based pan-Arabism drew its appeal from old pan-Islamic community emotions and was in reality a narrowed jazzed-up pan-Islamism likely to harm the Suraqians' development of viable political nationality, and their self-modernization, in various ways. Antun Sa'adeh was well informed about the past history of the pan-Islamic and Islamic Arab proto-nationalist movements in Egypt as far back as the late nineteenth century: his arguments have force and are not to be dismissed out of hand. Sa'adeh made the important point that what pan-Arab identifications had centered in Egypt historically had taken the form of Islamic religious movements.   Referring to the movement for the "Arab Caliphate" sustained by the Khedive 'Abbas from Egypt as far back as the period of pre-WWI British colonial rule, Sa'adeh described one variant of Egyptian Arabism as "the political Egyptian Arabism the aim of which is the creation of a Muhammadan Caliphate to which are to be annexed as much of the neighboring lands as possible". Such Egyptian Arabism was an expression of "religious nationality" ( al-jinsiyyat al-diniyyah ), argued Sa'adeh, who nonetheless was also aware of the profit-seeking ( naf'iyyah) capitalist current in Egyptian Arabism that founded banks in the Suraqian lands  [[Antun Sa'adeh,  al-Islam fi Risalatayhil-Masihiyyah wal-Muhammadiyyah   (Bayrut: 3rd ed. 1958) pp. 203-206]].
Clearly, if this Islamic pan-Arab call from Egypt won a following among Syria's Muslims, the Arabic-speaking Christians of Lebanon, the mandated Syrian State, Palestine and Iraq would not be attracted much to the resultant Islamic pan-Arab movement. Sa'adeh also referred to the possibility that political unity between Egypt and some Arabic-speaking lands in West Asia would partition the lands that Sa'adeh and his followers were resolved to weld into one pan-Syrian political nation-state. Sa'adeh noted the demand that Palestine be annexed to Egypt, which would "disintegrate Syrian Unity" (i.e. detach Palestine from any future political unification of Greater Syria or the wide Suraqiya) [[206]].  Sa'adeh wrote his book al-Islam fi Risalatayhil-Masihiyyah wal-Muhammadiyyah (Islam in its Two Christian and Muhammadan Messages) in 1941 and 1942.  Sa'adeh did not name the quarters in Egypt that had been advocating that Egypt annex Palestine. However, the plan was discussed publicly by King Faruq's Egypto-Syrian press propagandist Karim Thabit in March 1938. The idea of annexing Palestine to Egypt was considered by the Egyptian Palace and by aligned "pan-Arab" Egyptian politicians in the late 1930s and in the 1940s [3].
Egypt-based pan-Arabism led some Muslim Syrians away from the modernizing, sects-integrative Syrian national tradition represented byAntun Sa'adeh, which would unite Syria's Muslims and Christians in one political nationality. The Muslim Syrians who gravitated to Egypt-centred pan-Arabism became gradually conditioned to religion-inspired enterprises that would alienate their Syrian Christian compatriots and obstruct Syria's modernization.
We do not in this paper address the question if instruments of integration existed in actuality or potentially, in the Arab World at that time to integrate it into a coherent political ("pan-Arab") community. However, one of the aspects of integration attempted by (Egypt-based or Egypt-orientated) pan-Arab intellectuals in the 1930s and 1940s was the unification of the diverse codes of law of the Arabic-speaking countries. On this point - pan-Arab standardization of law codes - the incompatibility of the sects-integrative Egyptian national community and the pan-Arab identification is clear. Pan-Arab standardization of the Arabic-speaking countries' law codes entailed blending the traditional codes of the most theocratic peninsular Arabian states - Sa'udi Arabia, Yemen, Musqat and 'Uman - (these states were almost completely Muslim in population) with the modern, secularized, Europe-influenced laws that had been developing in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan and Iraq.  After the secularist phase of the 1920s, modernizing-educated Egyptians increasingly demanded Islamization of laws in Egypt. Thus, one consequence of pan-Arabism could only be the "Islamization" of laws in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Transjordan and Iraq - alienating Christians of these lands out of the particularist-nationalist communities that they had been building with their Muslim compatriots.

Dr Yusuf Haykal and Islamic Law

The side-effects that Egypt-centred pan-Arabism could have in geographical Syria (Sham, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and the linked 'Iraq) were illustrated in a 1945 work by the Palestinian Dr. Yusuf Haykal. Born on 15 August 1912, Haykal was educated at London University, and at the University of Paris where he took his Doctorate. He was a District Judge in Palestine from 1943 to 1945 and Mayor of Jaffa from 1945 to 1948; subsequently he served in the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan's diplomatic service.
To some extent, Yusuf Haykal may have to be viewed in terms of period contexts and entrapment, although that would not be easy to show.  Because of the time-conjunction, the movement of pan-Arabism that centered around Egypt and the Arab League was associated with the reaction after 1930 against the Western civilization among even the Western-cultured intelligentsias of the region: this association came to give socio-economically Islamizing orientation or internal content to the apolitical, regionally integrative aspects of Arab League activities.  The Palestinian Dr Yusuf Haykal's mid-1945 volume  Nahw al-Wahdat al-'Arabiyyah  was an attempt to convey to the Egyptian reading public a pertinacious, logical argumentation for the creation of a new pan-Arab federal super-state from the existing independent Arabic-speaking particularist nation-states.  In it, he tried to suggest various specific, practical measures in which, apart from other practical aspects of their integrations, the contrasting social and cultural institutions of the particularist states could be standardized as a preparation for ultimate state integration.
Palestinian, Lebanese or (Shami) Syrian Muslim intellectuals, such as the Palestinian Dr. Yusuf Haykal, faced a choice of two alternative courses after World War II. They had to choose between two possible political national communities, two sets of people with whom to associate, that by that time made conflicting demands for loyalty: (a) Integrated, cohesive undifferentiated political community with Syria's (Sham's), Palestine's, Lebanon's, Iraq's Arabic-speaking Christians; (b) Pan-Arab political community with traditionalist Muslim Arabs in the Arabian peninsula (Sa'udi Arabia, Yemen, Musqa the and 'Uman) and (c) with educated Muslim Egyptians who had developed concepts and laws influenced by the liber West in the 1920s, but many of whom in this period of the 1940s were in some dimensions of their psyches reacting against the West and reverting to salafist Islamic religious revivalism.
Influenced by Egypt's now in the main Arabo-Islamist intellectuals, Dr Yusuf Haykal - a Palestinian who had been well educated in Europe' secular laws - found himself more and more drawn into, enmeshed and in fact trapped into, this particular form of pan-Arabism, so destructive of sects-integrative nationality.
Yusuf Haykal's growing Islamist orientation was clear from the "solutions" that he proposed to the great diversity of law codes in the Arabic-speaking countries of the East. History had divided the Arabic-states into diverse legislative categories: (a) those in which a purely Islamic law was still current - Sa'udi Arabia, Yemen etc -, (b) those in which the Islamic law had been modified or superceded by the Western-type laws introduced under the Ottomans, and (c) finally the divison between Arab countries that had adopted laws derived from England because they had fallen under British rule, and those countries that had tended, because they had fallen under French rule or "mandate", to draw rather from French law.  Legally, therefore, the Arab states which the pan-Arabists intended to ultimately unite in a Federation presented great legislative diversity. Faced with the problem that this diversity of legal codes presents for integration, Yusuf Haykal took refuge in what he supposed was indigenously "Arab" and the common background legally of all Arab countries, as he believed - ie. the Islamic Law. One function that Yusuf Haykal envisaged for his proposed supra-national "Council of the Allied Arab States" was to standardize the law in all Arab counties - commercial as well as civil and penal laws.  Yusuf Haykal believed that the "unification of legislation - especially its commercial law, penal (jaza'i) law and civil law forms - is easy and simple because it has in these Arab lands single bases, that is the Islamic law supplemented by individual judgement (ijtihad)". 
Like most of' the Westernized Egyptians who participated in the powerful current of Arabo-Islamic feeling in the 1930s and 1940s, Yusuf Haykal was here adopting a position of neo-traditionalism rather than simple traditionalism: he was calling for only a partial rejection of the West. He was calling for the preservation of the spirit and main features of' the Islamic law, rather than of the letter of traditional codes: "We are certain that the Islamic law, if rightly understood, and if the procedures for legislation in it - which are restricted only by Reason/Intellect and the interest of' the group - are carried out, is capable of producing laws that completely accord with the requirements of the modern age while preserving the real valid principles which this upright religion has brought" [[Yusuf Haykal,  Nahw al-Wahdat al-'Arabiyyah  (Towards Arab Unity) (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif 1945) pp. 80-81]].
Yusuf Haykal's proposals to impose Islamic law throughout all the Arabic-speaking countries would have been completely unacceptable to the non-Mulsims in geographical Syria - Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Transjordan etc. If actualized, Haykal's proposals would have unprecedentedly "Islamized" the daily life of' every Syrian Christian. For example, Haykal proposed Islamic laws as a basis for the Arab world's standardized modern commercial law. He was becoming more ultra-"Islamist" here than classical Islam's Arabs and Muslims themselves, since early Islamic regulations on commercial matters were usually ignored by classical Muslim rulers.  The progressive secular-orientated Christians in Natural Syria wanted equal citizenship with their Muslim compatriots on the basis of undifferentiated, religions-neutral law codes. Proposals such as Dr. Yusuf Haykal's to Islamize law in the Arab world only provided weapons for the isolationist Catholic-sectarian forces in Lebanon to evoke an Islamic peril, supposedly threatening Lebanon's Christians. Yusuf Haykal's book served the interest of the isolationist minority in Lebanon because it lent credibility to their charges that the Arab unification current and the League of Arab States would reimpose Muslim supremacy.
Yusuf Haykal was a member of the Fertile Crescent's modernist, progressive intelligentsia and had mastered the best that Western intellectual civilization had to offer. The rigid, retrograde features of his book  Towards Arab Unity   did not represent his native Pa1estino-Syrian orientation. Rather, once he adopted a pan-Arab community identification, he had to subordinate his Suraqian progressive bent to the revivalist Muslim predelictions of the Egyptians - the main extra-Syrian group with whom he had to forge the pan-Arab community.  His 1945 book on Arab Unity contained a few uneasy attempts to check the indiscriminate, unrealistic pan-Islamism that pervaded Egyptian pan-Arabism. Haykal knew how profoundly amorphous pan-Islamism influenced educated Muslim Egyptians, the main readers of his book, published in Cairo: he had to draw a certain readership.
Arab unity as projected by Yusuf Haykal thus held out for Christian Lebanese the prospect of incorporation into a far-flung Arab federation that would have as its standardized law, civil, commercial and criminal, a code derived from traditional Islamic Law.  (Haykal proposed leaving "other laws, modern legal codes in the Arab world, and especially financial ones" to the jurisdiction of the individual federating Arab states). The Christian Lebanese would again find themselves subject to an Islamic law religiously alien to them at the same time as they lost their particular-national sovereignty: a return to their situation under the Ottomans before the Jabal won autonomy in 1860.
Muslim Egyptians and pan-Arab Syrians foolishly kept underlining this drive that worried the Christian Lebanese and Suraqians.  In March 1945, Sa'id al-Ghazi, Chairman of the Bar Council of the Lawyers of Syria was in Cairo to discuss the arrangements for the 2nd Conference of Arab Lawyers to be held in Lebanon. al-Muqattam's correspondent asked if it "would be easy to realize the concept of unification of the legal cultures and legislation in the Arab lands?" al-Ghazi gave the optimistic reply that "this is no difficult matter for men: the matter can be dealt with if these lands borrow their legislation from the [Sunni] Islamic law schools (al-madhahib al-Islamiyyah): then, this dream would become a reality".
With this Islamization of law in the air in pan-Arab Cairo and even being taken up from the Egyptians by some Muslim Shami Syrians, Lebanon's neighbours, it is not surprising that some Christian Lebanese intellectuals adopted a cold, procrastinating or obstructive attitude to pan-Arab legal integration. The Chairman of the General Council for the Bar of Lawyers of Lebanon, Edmond Kabbar, far from shared al-Ghazi's enthusiastic expectation that the laws of the Arabic-speaking lands could be unified quickly through Islamization.  Kabbar, also in Cairo to prepare for the same pan-Arab law conference, argued in contrast that unification of the Arabic countries' laws "is impossible in the present time.  We are attempting to surmount this obstacle by holding conferences until when the project matures and this objective, the realisation of which every Arab desires, may be achieved" [ al-Muqattam 27 March 1945 p. 3].
Yusuf Haykal's Broader Thought
and Objectives


As a fine modern Palestinian and then Jordanian legist originally educated in France, in injecting some elements from old Islamic laws into the unifying of the institutions and cultures of the Arab particularist nation-states, Yusuf Haykal was to some extent selective or trying to limit or contain the additions from the Shari'ah. He could be ruthlessly selective of the shari'ah elements so as to maintain a massive presence of modernist and liberal laws patterned from the West.  He would be drastically reinventing the shari'ah.  Yusuf Haykal therefore called for Islamic law to again be made into a flexible and expanding entity by reopening the door of ijtihad (new original judgements by individual legists) so that "laws could be drawn up that are appropiate to the present age without contradicting the upright [Islamic] law" [YH 81].  No doubt there is some ambivalence towards the Islamic law in Yusuf Haykal's thought and his position in his book is, intentionally or the reverse, ambiguous.  It might be interpreted as a form of neo-traditionalism or Arabo-Islamism by which he aimed tactfully to inject Islam and its institutions into the socio-economic life of his proposed pan-Arab federation. Or it might be interpreted as a subersive Westernization program formulated as a means to take over Islam, or reduce it to purely emblemic formal "principles", the thrust of which might be drastically blunted by unrestricted "maslahah" - human interest. 
Like Sati' al-Husri replying to the influential Grand Shaykh of al-Azhar al-Maraghi, Yusuf Haykal stood in a somewhat defensive position  vis-à-vis  the amorphous pan-Islamism that he knew to have been so profound an influence in the mentality of his Egyptian audience.  Haykal tried to give priority to building Arab unity: the peoples of the Islamic religion were scattered over three continents, having different languages and diverse historical memories and customs: they do not share common economic or political interests. "Because of that, they do not share substantial factors of unity and Islamic unity is [hence] a far-off prospect". But although as decisively against projects of pan-Islamic unification in comparison with narrower Arab unification as was al-Husri, Yusuf Haykal quickly added that "Arab unity does not contradict a feeling of sympathy for the Islamic lands: nay, it strengthens that sympathy and makes possible the strengthening of cultural and religious relations with them" [YH 39]. But elsewhere, Yusuf Haykal by implication denounces neo-Pharaonic particularism as being essentially anti-Islamic, as aiming to eliminate the Quran through its return to the pagan forefathers: and he clearly feels that this is enough to damn it. Yet his pan-Arabism is clearly and finally distinct from pan-Islamism: the group to which political community is to be confined is that circumscribed by the geographical area within which Arabic is the language of daily life. But it has, despite Yusuf Haykal's modernism, an obvious Islamic coloring: Islam is the substance of what is standard and indigenous within the Arab homeland: it is, along with the literary language to which it gave the definitive form, a crucial common element.
Islamic law is a national Arab legacy in Yusuf Haykal's thought, however outdated he may have believed much of the body of its specific provisions to have been.  His call for the educational systems and economies and the laws of the Arab states to be standardized, was formulated with one constant goal in mind: he designed the measures to further the true, single-minded objective - political unification.  Thus Yusuf Haykal prefaced his demand for law to be standardized between the Arab countries by observing that the "unification of education in the Arab lands is a vital matter that is inescapable, whether the Arab unity is achieved or not, since the variation of curricula in the Arab lands creates different orientations and is a barrier between them" [YH 80].  By speaking of educational and other forms of internal standardization as separate from the final Wahdat al-'Arabiyyah (Arab Unity), Yusuf Haykal reveals that he meant by that "Arab Unity" not different forms of coordination of internal cultures and institutions between individual Arab states but a political amalgamation of these states into a federation. 

Patterns in Egyptian-Suraqian Interaction 

In an era of decolonization that raised the question of what was indigenous but still viable in modernity, some Egyptian intellectuals who had been liberals gave their pan-Arabism Islamizing twists. However, in Syria also some multi-lingual Muslim intellectuals of Western education shared the dream of substituting an Islamic for the inmoving Western civilization. Yusuf Haykal, although by his formation a highly modern Palestinian legist educated in the West, was not devoid of impulses to give an Islamic bent to this question of unifying of the institutions and cultures of the various particularist nation-states.
Egypt-centred pan-Arabism aroused retrograde, divisively traditionalist, "Islamic" emotions among some Syrian Muslims who participated in coordination with it.  Their voicing of pan-Islamic Arabism alienated Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian Christians, who not only held aloof from pan-Arabism and the Arab League but became less ready to accept Muslim Syrians as partners for local Syrian political community. The issue of law illustrates this divisive impact of Arabism in Syria. Pan-Arab Syrians got entangled in the drive of revivalist Islamic Egypian "pan-Arabs" to restore a comprehensive Islamic law.  Islamic law was regarded as the indigenous Arab national law that could eliminate a lot of diversity.