Egyptian Coptologist. He was born in the Coptic village of in the province of in Upper Egypt within reach of the ancient monastery of Our Lady known as DAYR AL-MUHARRAQ. He was accustomed from his early youth to accompany his family in attending weekly services at that monastery. After the completion of the liturgy, he used to linger with the monks and discuss the Coptic language with them. His interest in the language probably began here. With his departure to live in Cairo, this interest was accelerated, and he began to study Coptic systematically and scientifically from all available manuscripts in the patriarchal library, which V ordered to be placed at his disposal. In the meantime, he learned modern foreign languages and is said to have become proficient in English and French, as well as in Arabic and Coptic.

At home, he insisted on the use of Coptic as the only language of communication. Although the use of Coptic had long been limited to churches as a liturgical language, he urged other Coptic families to use it as a spoken and living language. This implied the teaching of Coptic to Arabic-speaking Copts, so he hastened to open classes for Coptic language instruction in Cairo. Though these classes were enthusiastically received and widely frequented, apparently very few families were able to implement his scheme of rendering Coptic their daily means of communication.

He established a special periodical entitled Majallat ‘Ayn Shams for the promotion of his ideas. Further, he imported a special printing press from Germany, with hieroglyphic as well as Coptic letter sets for the publication of his sources. It is said that this was the second specialized press brought into Egypt, the first being the printing press of the Institut français d’Archéologie orientale in Cairo. With it, he was able to publish his own Coptic grammars and most of the liturgical books hitherto available only in manuscript in churches. Throughout his life, he assumed the post of professor of Coptic in the newly established CLERICAL COLLEGE. One of his main contributions was his attempt to compile the first -Arabic dictionary, of which he completed five parts before the work was interrupted by his death.

His other publications include Majmu‘ al-Alfaz al-Qibtiyyah (Cairo, 1901), a collection of Coptic words that had passed into Arabic; Al-Durus al-Nahwiyyah fi Ma‘rifat al-Lughah al-Qibtiyyah (Coptic Grammar; 2 pts., Cairo, 1894); Al-Kutub al-Ibtida’iyyah fi Ta‘lim al-Lughah al-Qibtiyyah (Coptic Language; 1st ser. Cairo, 1897); The Psalms (in Coptic), followed by Biblical canticles and prayers, accompanied by an Arabic translation, revised and corrected by Hegumenos ‘ABD AL-MASIH SALIB AL-MASU‘DI and by Macarius, archbishop of Asyut, and Labib (Cairo, 1897); Kitab al-Absalmudiyyah al-Sanawiyyah al-Muqaddasah (Cairo, 1908-1911); The Burial Rite (Coptic; Cairo, 1905); The Rite of Unction and the Prayer of Abba Stherpon (Cairo, 1909); Liturgical Texts in Coptic and Arabic (5 vols., Cairo, 1900-1902); Les Théotokies, Vols. 1-2 (Cairo, 1911); and Al-Jawharah al- fi ‘Ulum al-Kanisah (Encyclopedia of Doctrine, Usage, etc.) by Yuhanna ibn Zakariyya, known as Ibn al- Sabba‘, with Coptic equivalents by Labib (Cairo, 1902).


  • Kammerer, W., comp. A Coptic Bibliography. Ann Arbor, 1950; repr. New York, 1969.
  • Masri, I. H. el-. The Story of the Copts. Cairo, 1978.