Mohammed Naguib

Mohamed Naguib
محمد نجيب
1st President of Egypt
In office
18 June 1953  14 November 1954
Prime Minister Himself
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Preceded by Fuad II (as King of Egypt and the Sudan)
Succeeded by Gamal Abdel Nasser
Prime Minister of Egypt
In office
8 March 1954  18 April 1954
President Himself
Preceded by 1st President of Egypt
Succeeded by Gamal Abdel Nasser
In office
17 September 1952  25 February 1954
Monarch Fuad II (until 18 June 1953)
President Himself (from 18 June 1953)
Preceded by Ali Maher
Minister of War and Navy
In office
17 September 1952  18 June 1953
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by Ali Maher
Succeeded by Abdel Latif Boghdadi
Personal details
Born (1901-02-19)19 February 1901
Khartoum, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
Died 28 August 1984(1984-08-28) (aged 83)
Cairo, Egypt
Nationality Egyptian & Sudanese
Political party Military/Liberation Rally
Spouse(s) Aziza M. Labib (died in 1970)
Religion Sunni Islam[1]
Awards Order of Nile
Order Egypt
Military service
Allegiance  Egypt
Service/branch Egyptian Army
Years of service 1918 - 1954 [2]
Rank Major General
Battles/wars 1948 Arab-Israeli War

Mohamed Naguib (Arabic: محمد نجيب, Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [mæˈħæmmæd næˈɡiːb]; 19 February 1901 28 August 1984) was the first President of Egypt, serving from the declaration of the Republic on 18 June 1953 to 14 November 1954. Along with Gamal Abdel Nasser, he was the primary leader of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, which ended the rule of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty in Egypt and Sudan.

Early years

Naguib's full name was Mohamed Naguib Yousef Qotp Elkashlan; he was born on 19 February 1901 in Khartoum, Sudan,[3] which was united with Egypt at the time. He was the eldest of nine children of an Egyptian, Youssef Naguib, and a Sudanese woman Zohra Ahmed Othman. His family name, "Elkashlan," was popular in Egypt at that time, due to well-known scientific personalities such as Saad Elkashlan and Abdulsamad Elkashlan. He came from a long line of army officers; his father served in the Egyptian army in Sudan.

Naguib spent his formative years in Sudan, where, as a child, ostriches and monkeys were his playmates, in a house decorated with hunting trophies like elephant tusks, tiger-skin rugs and rhinoceros and gazelle heads on the wall. Naguib's favourite game, however, was playing at soldiers with his younger brother, Ali. Having built a toy fortress in the front yard, Naguib would spend hours conquering inches of land with his toy soldiers.

Nevertheless, Naguib's father did not want his sons to follow in his footsteps, believing from his own experience as an officer in the Egyptian army that the army at that time was little more than a group of auxiliaries waiting for British orders. He believed that Naguib could serve Egypt better in civilian life, and he even had Ibrahim Urabi, son of the 1882 revolutionary Ahmed Urabi, speak to Naguib and caution him that by joining the military he would become only "a supervisor in the service of the British."

As a result, Naguib first studied to become a translator, and later in his life earned a law degree, an MA in political science and another MA in civil law. He never completed his doctorate because his career in the army, undertaken in defiance of his father's wishes, by then had begun to take off. Nevertheless, he found the time to polish his language skills, learning English, French, Italian and German. Naguib also began to study the Hebrew language in the 1950s, and soon after the Revolution he ordered that Hebrew be taught at military college and at Cairo and Alexandria universities, realising that the Egyptian army had been handicapped during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War by the fact that very few soldiers could interpret Israeli communications.

While studying in Khartoum, Naguib had often been censured and sometimes even whipped by his British tutors for criticizing Britain's occupation of Egypt and Sudan. At this time, Naguib chose Napoleon as a role model, even deciding to sleep on the floor instead of on a bed to imitate the great French general. Soon, however, Napoleon was replaced in Naguib's affections by Mustafa Kamil, the founder of the National Party, and later he found another mirror in Saad Zaghlul. Some years after he was ousted from power, Naguib also came to somewhat admire Gandhi.

After the death of his father in 1916, the family moved to Cairo, while Naguib and Ali finished their studies in Sudan.

Military career

Naguib worked as a guard in Cairo, but in 1924, he was moved again because of a political association deemed unacceptable by the authorities. He married in 1927, pursuing his legal studies while continuing a career in the army. By 1931, he was ready to resign from the army, but as a result of an unexpected promotion he decided to turn his attention to his military career once again.

In 1934, he remarried and was transferred to the Coast Guard, where he was employed to chase smugglers across the Sinai desert, mixing with the bedouin and helping treat their illnesses. In 1940, he was again promoted. However, despite generally favorable relations between Naguib and King Farouk, Naguib refused to kiss the king's hand. A brisk hand shake was the best Naguib could offer.

Any illusions Naguib might have had about the nature of Farouk's rule evaporated on 4 February 1942 after a standoff at Abdeen Palace in Cairo between the British and the king. In protest at Farouk's concessions to the British, allowing them to choose the prime minister, Naguib sent in his resignation, saying that "since the army was not called upon to defend Your Majesty, I am ashamed to wear this uniform and ask your permission to resign.". On this occasion, Farouk turned down Naguib's resignation. He again attempted to resign in 1951 when Hussein Serri Amer, widely thought to be corrupt, was made head of the Coast Guard. Again, the resignation was refused.

Meanwhile, Naguib had continued to climb the military ladder, serving in Palestine during the Palestine War in 1948.[3] While on active service in Palestine, Naguib would dedicate 30 minutes every morning to reading the Qur'an, a habit he picked up in childhood, to strengthen his resolve in times of adversity.

Free Officers Movement

In 1949, Naguib secretly joined the Free Officers movement, and a year later he was promoted to the rank of Major-General. The general is considered one of Egypt's few heroes from the war in Palestine and enjoyed wide respect in the country. The Free Officers, led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser were young members of the military all under thirty-five and all from peasant or lower-middle-class backgrounds. Nasser's goal was to overthrow King Farouk and end the British domination of Egypt and Sudan. Knowing that officers of such youth would not be taken seriously, he asked General Naguib to assume leadership of the movement. While this proved successful in strengthening the Free Officers, it would later cause great friction between the two men. Despite his disapproval of his fellow military top brass, Naguib remained in the army in order for the Free Officers not to lose their highest-ranking officer and most influential member, although many today argue that his position on the top was merely a figurehead leader to the revolutionary Free Officers Movement to lend credibility to the group.

Finally on 6 January 1952, Naguib won the elections at the army Officers' Club, almost a revolutionary step in itself, since ordinarily the king's appointees held the executive roles in the Club. However, the Free Officers' increasing influence in the army, together with Naguib's reputation, resulted in the defeat of the king's nominees, and Naguib won with a landslide victory.

Farouk was contemplating removing Naguib from his post when Egypt was thrown into turmoil following the 26 January Cairo Fires. Meanwhile, the noose was beginning to tighten around the Free Officers, and investigations being carried out to uncover dissidents in the army. The executive committee of the Officers' Club was dissolved and the Free Officers brought their plans for a revolution three years forward, taking power in July 1952.

Revolution of 1952

President Mohamed Naguib with Chinese Muslim Kuomintang National Revolutionary Army General Ma Bufang

On 23 July 1952, the Free Officers commenced the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 with a coup d'état to depose King Farouk. Naguib was appointed, first as Commander-in-Chief of Army, in order to keep the armed forces firmly behind the junior officers' coup. In September, Naguib was appointed Prime Minister of Egypt and a member of the Royal Regent Council, with Nasser serving in the background as Minister of the Interior.

Naguib was at the forefront of the Free Officer's movement, lending it legitimacy in the eyes of the people, the army, politicians and foreign powers. Within 24 hours of the beginning of the revolution, the newly formed Revolution Command Council (RCC) had asserted that their movement's peaceful intentions, with Naguib as its leader. Naguib's was a familiar name at the time, unlike those of the other Free Officers, who were too young and too junior in rank to have made a name for themselves.

On 24 July, Naguib met former prime minister Ali Maher to ask him to form a government and communicate the revolutionaries' demands to the King, at that time in Alexandria. On 25 July, Naguib led a group of RCC members to Alexandria to supervise the ousting of the King, the RCC at the time being divided over what Farouk's fate should be. Some wanted him to be put on trial, while others wanted him to abdicate and be sent into exile. Naguib and Nasser supported exile, and after a vote, it was agreed that Farouk should abdicate in favor of his infant son Ahmed Fuad, who became King Fuad II, and should then be exiled.

On 26 July, Naguib arrived to say his farewells to the former King, arriving late and catching up with Farouk by boat, a few minutes after Farouk had set sail. After an awkward silence on the deck of the royal yacht El-Mahrousa, Naguib reminded Farouk that until the 1942 standoff with the British the army had been loyal to the monarchy, but that things had changed since then. Naguib said, "Sir, we were forced to do what we did," to which Farouk replied, "Yes, I know. Your mission is a difficult one. As you know, governing Egypt is not an easy task." Naguib later stated "I could not feel joy for his defeat".

The succession of Fuad II was designed to deny the British a pretext for intervention, allowing the revolutionaries to maintain that they were opposed only to the corrupt regime of Farouk, not to the monarchy itself. However, after consolidating their power, they quickly moved to implement their long-held plans for abolishing the monarchy and the aristocracy. Ali Maher's government resigned on 17 September 1952 and Naguib was appointed Prime Minister. On 18 June 1953, almost 11 months after the revolution, Naguib declared the end of the Egyptian and Sudanese monarchy and the establishment of the Republic of Egypt.


Naguib (left) and Gamal Abdel Nasser during celebrations for the second anniversary of the revolution, July 1954
Naguib in the last days of his life

With the declaration of the Republic, Naguib was sworn in as its President. At this time, Naguib had become simultaneously the president, the prime minister and chairman of the RCC and forming a government mostly composed of army officers. Nasser became deputy prime minister, and it was already apparent that he had a strong grip on domestic affairs. However, Naguib remained the most senior officer in the government and the national leader of the country and of the RCC, even as a struggle for power was brewing.

Naguib began to clash with other RCC members over how the Revolution's goals should be implemented. He wanted to phase out the political influence of the military and return the country to civilian rule, believing that the role of the military was not to rule the country, but rather to protect those in power. The army, he thought, could interfere to change a corrupt regime, but then it should withdraw.

As Naguib wrote later in his book, Egypt's Fate,

"at the age of 36, Abdel-Nasser felt that we could ignore Egyptian public opinion until we had reached our goals, but with the caution of a 53-year-old, I believed that we needed grassroots support for our policies, even if it meant postponing some of our goals. I differed with the younger officers on the means by which to reach our goals, never on the principles."

Nasser, by contrast, thought that any talk of democracy, or of a multi-party system, or of the withdrawal of the army from politics, would allow the Wafd, the Muslim Brotherhood and the other political parties to regain the ground they had lost in 1952. In addition, although on paper Naguib appeared to wield a lot of power, being simultaneously president and prime minister, his authority was curtailed by the fact that he needed a majority vote of the RCC for any decision to be taken, and his opinion was often ignored by the other members of the RCC. The offices he occupied meant that Naguib was responsible for the government's decisions, even though he rarely sanctioned or supported them, and this meant that he was increasingly becoming merely the puppet of others. Eventually, Naguib presented Nasser, by now the real power in the RCC, with an ultimatum: either he was given real power, or he would resign.

In late 1953, however, Nasser accused Naguib of supporting the recently outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and of harbouring dictatorial ambitions. A brief power struggle broke out between Naguib and Nasser for control of the military and of Egypt. Nasser ultimately won the struggle and managed to force Naguib to resign from the presidency of Egypt in November 1954.

Last declaration by Mohamed Naguib before his arrest 1954

On 25 February 1954, the RCC announced Naguib's resignation as president, saying that Naguib was "demanding absolute authority, which is not acceptable." Street protesters brought Naguib back to power the next day, but despite mass support and his reappointment, Naguib's days in power were numbered. Though reinstated as president on 26 February, Nasser now became prime minister and RCC chairman, Naguib's office therefore becoming largely ceremonial.

After the Presidency

Mohamed Naguib Metro Station in Cairo

Following his resignation, Naguib was then isolated by President Nasser in a suburban Cairo villa owned by Zienab Al-Wakil, wife of Mustafa an-Nahhas Pasha, ex-Prime Minister of Egypt. Naguib was released from his isolation in 1972 by President Anwar Sadat. He died on 28 August 1984 at the age of 83 and he had a military funeral that was attended by President Mubarak. In the same year, his memoirs were published under the name I was a President of Egypt. The book was reprinted several times and was also translated into English under the title The Fate of Egypt. A station of the Cairo Metro is named in his honour. A major road in Al Amarat District of Khartoum is also named after him.

In December 2013, interim Egyptian president Adly Mansour awarded the Order of the Nile, the highest state honour; to the name of the late President Mohamed Naguib. The award was received by Mohamed Yusuf Mohamed Naguib.

See also


  1. Nissim Rejwan, Arabs Face the Modern World: Religious, Cultural, and Political Responses to the West, First edition, (University Press of Florida: 1998), p.74
  2. "ذاكرة مصر المعاصرة - السيرة الذاتية". Modern Egypt. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
  3. 1 2 "Muḥammad Naguib". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 22 December 2012.

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mohammed Naguib.
Political offices
Preceded by
Fouad II
as King of Egypt and the Sudan
Head of state of Egypt
Succeeded by
Gamal Abdel Nasser
New title
President of Egypt
Succeeded by
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Preceded by
Ali Maher
Prime Minister of Egypt
Succeeded by
Gamal Abdel Nasser
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