Feb. 17, 1994
Vol. 13, No. 12

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    Kadi wins King Faisal Prize in Literature

    Wadad Kadi, Professor and Chairman of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, has been selected to receive the King Faisal International Prize in Arabic Literature. The prize, given by Saudi Arabia's King Faisal Foundation to scientists and scholars for "outstanding accomplishments on behalf of humanity," is awarded for work in the areas of Islamic studies, Arabic literature, medicine, science and service to Islam.

    "In the world of Arabic language and literature, receiving a King Faisal Prize is the equivalent of receiving a Nobel Prize," said President Sonnenschein. "The award is an appropriate and well-deserved recognition of the groundbreaking quality of Wadad Kadi's work."

    "I am awed. This is a great honor," said Kadi. "There is no doubt that seeing one's work appreciated on the scale of such a prestigious international award is wonderfully satisfying and deeply touching."

    Kadi shares the prize with Egypt's Aisha Abdul Rahman. This marks the first time the Faisal Prize in Arabic Literature has been awarded to Arab women. Kadi and Abdul Rahman were recognized for their separate work on early Arabic prose. The women are among eight scholars who will receive the Faisal Prize, including gold medals and certificates, in a presentation in late March in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

    The King Faisal Prize, awarded annually, is worth 350,000 Saudi riyals ($95,000). The prize was established in 1976 with $1.2 billion donated by eight sons of the king, who died in 1975. The first awards were given in 1979.

    The author of 10 books and more than 35 articles and reviews, Kadi is a researcher whose work focuses on the links between Arabic literature and political, sectarian and cultural Islamic thought. Her most recent work is a critical edition of the 10th-century prose work "al-Basa'ir wa l-dhakha'ir," a nine-volume anthology of various literary topics written by Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi, whom Kadi calls "one of the greatest writers of classical Arabic prose."

    "The Faisal Prize is a worldwide competition, with a selection committee as secretive as the Nobel committee," said Farouk Mustafa, Senior Lecturer in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations. "This year's award is especially significant in that in recognizing two of the most important female Arabic scholars, the Faisal selection committee is clearly moving toward a more inclusive recognition of universal ideals and values."

    Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Kadi received her bachelor's and master's degrees in Arabic literature at the American University of Beirut (AUB), where she also received a Ph.D. in Arabic literature and Islamic studies in 1973. She taught in AUB's department of religious studies for three years, and from 1976 to 1977 she was a lecturer fellow at Harvard. She then returned to AUB, where she served as associate professor in the department of Arabic and Near Eastern languages. She was a visiting professor at Columbia in 1985 and served as associate professor of Near Eastern languages and literatures at Yale from 1986 until 1988, when she joined the Chicago faculty as Professor. She was named Chairman of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations in 1991.

    Kadi is the second University of Chicago scholar to win the King Faisal Prize. In 1988, Janet Rowley, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine, won the Faisal Prize in Medicine for her identification of genetic markers in adult leukemia patients.

    This year's other Faisal Prize winners are Dennis Sullivan, New York University, science; William Anderson, University of Southern California, and Robert Williamson, Saint Mary's School of Medicine, London, medicine; Sheikh al-Said Sabiq Mohammed al-Tihami, Umm al-Qura University, Saudi Arabia, and Sheikh Youssef Abdullah al-Qaradhawi, Qatar University, Qatar, Islamic studies; and Sheikh Mohammed bin Saleh al-Uthaimin, a Saudi Muslim scholar, service to Islam.