Sa‘D Zaghlul

SA‘D ZAGHLUL (1858-1927)

A statesman and one of the best-known leaders in the modern of Egypt. Born at Ibyanah in the province of Gharbiyyah, he enrolled at al-Azhar University and became a disciple and follower of Shaykh Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, the Islamic polemical thinker. He was also in contact with Shaykh Muhammad ‘Abdu, whose eloquence and oratory skills were an inspiration to him.

When Muhammad ‘Abdu became editor of the official newspaper, Al-Waqai’i‘ al-Misriyyah, in 1880, he asked Sa‘d Zaghlul to assist him. Sad Zaghlul continued working for Al- Waqa’i‘ until May 1882, when he transferred to the Ministry of Interior. In September of the same year, he was appointed the director of the Legal Department of Giza Province. It was then that he cast off his Azharite cloak and started to wear European clothes.

He was an active supporter of the ‘Urabi revolt and wrote inflammatory articles, which resulted in his being dismissed from his government post in October 1882. Consequently, he set up his own law practice. In 1892 the government appointed him to alternate on the Court of Appeals, which set a precedent for the entire legal profession, as Zaghlul was the first lawyer to be appointed to a juridical post.

In 1906, Zaghlul was appointed the minister of education. This marked a turning point in the policy of ministerial appointments, as the appointment to such posts had previously been restricted to members of the Turkish aristocracy. That shift was, in fact, symbolic of the response of the British occupation authorities to the pressure exerted upon them by the Egyptian nationalist movement. In 1910, after the assassination of BOUTROS GHALI, he was appointed the minister of justice in the Muhammad Sa‘id cabinet. But in March 1912 he resigned in protest against legal procedures taken by the prime minister in support of British occupation authorities against the leaders of the nationalist movement, without consulting with him.

In 1913 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly and at the end of World War I, together with ‘Ali Sha‘rawi and ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Fahmi, he presented the Egyptian demands to the British high commissioner in Cairo. His confrontation with British policy in Egypt resulted in his deportation to on 9 March 1919. His forced exile ignited the most important popular and nationalistic revolution in the of the country and resulted in the formation of the largest political party, the Wafd, led by Sa‘d Zaghlul. In response, the British authorities were compelled to release him, and allow him to go to Paris to present the patriotic movement’s demands to the Peace Conference there.

Sa‘d Zaghlul’s followers in Cairo succeeded in organizing a large-scale campaign to boycott the Milner Commission, sent by the British government to investigate the reasons behind the 1919 revolution. As a result, the British Government agreed to hold negotiations in London between Sa‘d Zaghlul and Lord Milner, which failed.

In 1920 Sa‘d Zaghlul returned to Egypt and despite defeat, he continued to mobilize Egyptian patriotic forces against the British presence and against moderate dissenters under the leadership of ‘Adly Yakan. He was again exiled in December 1921, this time to the Seychelles, where he suffered from a decline in his state of health resulting in his transfer to Gibraltar, where he remained until 1923. He returned home one year after Egypt had been granted a defective independence by the declaration of 28 February 1922 and the promulgation of the 1923 constitution, allowing the formation of a parliament by general and public election.

Sa‘d Zaghlul was intent throughout the struggle for independence on unifying both elements of the nation, Copts, and Muslims. He had invited a number of Coptic leaders into the Wafd party, of whom the most distinguished was Wassef Ghali, the son of the former prime minister Boutros Ghali; Jurji Khayyat; and Sinot Hanna.

In January 1924, Sa‘d Zaghlul formed a cabinet. Despite King Fouad’s opposition, he insisted on appointing two Coptic ministers, Murqus Hanna and Wassef Boutros Ghali, out of the ten members of the cabinet. This set a precedent for the Wafd (see POLITICAL PARTIES) in all of its subsequent ministries.

The end of his term of office coincided with the assassination of Sir Lee Stack, sirdar (head) of the Egyptian army, governor-general of Sudan, and one of the principal representatives of the British occupation in Egypt. As a result, a British ultimatum was addressed to Zaghlul, which led to his resignation on 24 November 1924. Two years later, however, public elections were held and once again the Wafd was victorious under his leadership, winning by an overwhelming majority. Despite this, the British opposed his forming a new cabinet and Sa‘d Zaghlul accepted instead of the chairmanship of the House of Representatives, which post he continued to occupy until his death on 23 August 1927.


  • Mahmud al-‘Aqqad. Sa‘d Zaghlul, Sirah wa Tahiyyah. Cairo, 1936.
  • ‘Abd al-‘Azim Ramadan. Tatawwur al-Harakah al-Wataniyyah fi Misr (1918-1936). Cairo, 1968.
  • ‘Abd al- Khaliq Muhammad Lashin. Sa‘d Zaghlul wa Dawruh fi al- Siyasah al-Misriyyah. Cairo, 1975.
  • Ahmad ‘Abd al-Rahim Mustafa. Tarikh Misr al-Siyasi min al-Ihtilal ila al-Mu‘ahadah. Cairo, 1967.
  • Landau, J. Parliaments and Parties in Egypt. New York, 1954. Lloyd, G. L., Baron. Egypt Since Cromer. 2 vols. London, 1933-1934; repr., New York, 1970.
  • Muhammad Ibrahim al-Jaziri. Sa‘d Zaghlul. Cairo, 1954. Newman, P. Great Britain and Egypt. London, 1928.