The Builder Magazine

March 1930 - Volume XVI - Number 3
Source :

Freemasonry in Egypt

OUR estimable Grand Secretary, Bro. D. R. Cheney, receives many communications and pamphlets in several different foreign languages. Not being adept in them, he has for some years past enlisted the writer's assistance to translate important matters.


Last summer he informed the writer that he had heard of some trouble in the Grand Lodge in Egypt, and asked for examination and report of what was in a copy of its 1928 proceedings, which he furnished. This pamphlet turned out to be partly in Syrian and partly in French. A brief report was furnished to the Grand Secretary for his files. Discovering the name of our Grand Secretary mentioned in Syrian, because he had sent them his photograph, a copy of his name was sent to him. He said it looked easy but was hard to write, so he gave up using it officially.


Believing that something about Egyptian Masonry and their dissension might interest others, this article has been prepared. The proceedings mentioned contain much detail of the unfortunate events. Therefore only a summary of this will be given and a little space taken in addition to tell of the splendid humanitarian work carried on by that Grand Lodge.


Sometime in 1900 or 1901, Abd el Meguid Youne was Grand Secretary of the National Grand Lodge of Egypt. During that time Prince Mohammed Aly, brother of the ex-khedive, was initiated but held no office. Youne and some colleagues conspired with the Prince virtually to capture the Grand Lodge, and to amend its constitution or by-laws to allow the election of the Prince as Grand Master. Youne and the Prince were both well known in foreign jurisdictions. The official signature of the former was very familiar.


In 1901 an attempt was made to carry out their plans. This brought a strong reproof from Idris Ragheb, then Grand Master, who obtained from the Prince a letter dated April 6, 1901, written on Grand Lodge stationery, signed by Mohammed Aly and endorsed by Idris as witness. Therein the Prince acknowledged fidelity to his Masonic obligations, and promised obedience to the laws and rules of the National Grand Lodge, which he thereby also recognized. A photo print of this letter is published, showing the original signatures.



Evidently Youne and his fellow conspirators were not done. They wanted the prestige of the Prince, and the latter's conceit was so flattered that he was willing to join them and become a party to these iniquitous schemes. Thus the disturbances were continued until 1922, when the Prince was in it personally.


In the summer of 1922 some brethren who were not in good standing, and lodges suspended for cause, combined to petition for a change of the laws in order to make the Prince eligible as Grand Master. It appears a Grand Master was to be elected later, and this was the time when they proposed to act. The Prince agreed to be a candidate. He had never been warden or master, not even what they term an "active member" of a lodge, and according to the constitution was ineligible.


Idris Ragheb was again Grand Master that year. After a perusal, he issued a decree denying the petition, and cited laws forbidding its allowance. The dissident group then sought to arrange matters by making the Prince an active member of Lodge "The Nile." The Grand Master responded by giving that lodge a certain time to rescind its irregular action. It refused to do so and its charter was suspended, and some members of other lodges who were involved in promoting the action were also suspended. The Prince was disciplined on the ground of his ignorance of Masonic law, and that he was supposed to have acted in good faith.


The suspended members organized to go to the Grand Lodge meeting of September 28, 1922, to carry out their schemes. They appeared in force, invaded the Grand Master's office and demanded their reinstatement. To restore quiet he said those qualified as delegates could take part in the work. After inquiry from the chair as to whether all present were lawfully there, he began the session. Immediately a demand was made to change the laws to allow the candidacy of the Prince. The Grand Master ruled it out of order and refused any debate. The revolting group persisted in discussion and caused a tumult and confusion. To safeguard the dignity of Masonry, the Grand Master was obliged to close the Grand Lodge, which was done in form, the election being postponed to a later date to be announced. The officers then left the room.


Thereupon an assistant deputy Grand Master, Taha Ibrahim, seized the gavel and caused those present to proceed with the election. The Prince was declared elected Grand Master by acclamation.


The following day Grand Master Idris Ragheb and brethren went to the temple in the morning, as was customary, but the rebellious group, assisted by profane, roughly refused them admittance. On October 3 the Grand Lodge met again and re-elected Idris Ragheb, and elected other officers, including Mohammed Rifaat as Grand Secretary, who is still in that office. Since then, however, Sayed Aly has been elected Grand Master and was in office when the proceedings were published.


Youne took the records, seals and archives and used them to send out communications in the name of the schismatic party, under the name of the Grand Lodge. They took possession of furniture and personal property, which they were later forced to return by court proceedings.


Prince Mohammed also had the audacity to pretend to be Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite. This brought forth a decree on March 20,1925, from Mohammed Heddaya, the real Sovereign Grand Commander, suspending the Prince and depriving him of all his rights and privileges. It would appear that he is still suspended and persona non grata.


The conduct of Youne, and the lack of information, has caused confusion in foreign jurisdictions. The Grand Lodge of Montana in 1927 returned to the rightful Egyptian Grand Lodge the appointment certificate of a Grand Representative. Later learning of the mistake, an apology was made, accompanied by a request that the certificate be returned to them. This shows the result brought about by such unfortunate troubles, which are not to be overcome for years.


All through this lengthy period the Grand Lodge not only had to deal with the fraud and misrepresentations of Youne and his associates, in deceiving well-disposed persons in Egypt, and seriously interfering with domestic Masonic activities, but it was continually annoyed by these acts carried on in foreign jurisdictions. In June, 1926, they took advantage of the visit in Egypt of Bro. John Er. Cowles, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction, A. & A. S. R. They appealed to him to make a careful investigation of official documents. This he did and delivered to them a certificate stating that he found the regular and recognized Grand Lodge is the one of which Ferik Sayed Aly was then the Grand Master. This was deposited in its archives, and later an article relating this was published in The New Age.


In spite of these exasperating occurrences, the Grand Lodge shows it is not revengeful. It states in the 1928 proceedings, forgetting the evils caused by the dissidents, it has charitably opened its doors. More than once has it offered them its hand in the hope Masonry would pardon them upon repenting. In recalling to the sheep-fold these misguided brothers, the Grand Lodge would rejoice in their presence, regretfully broken since their departure. This noble sentiment rings clear and true. The Grand Officers are men of high reputation and occupy responsible government and civil positions.


Now what has this harassed Grand Body done for humanity? The National Grand Lodge of Egypt has founded an orphanage. Poor lads from seven to twelve are accepted, regardless of their religion. They receive school instruction and are taught trades. There are illustrations showing the boys in comfortable surroundings, being instructed in carpentry, chairmaking, weaving rugs, printing, etc. It is intended to use land about the buildings for a course in agriculture. One illustration shows a real lively band in uniform and with modern instruments, led by their adult instructor. King Fuad I gave this orphanage a liberal donation and is friendly to Masonry, although probably not a member of the Order.


The Grand Lodge has also taken great interest in education. It has a strong desire to eliminate ignorance in its native country. Promoting this object they founded and carry on the "Wadinnil" primary school. They found a demand for secondary or advanced grades, of which many children were deprived in the state schools for lack of accommodation. They met this need by organizing a secondary school. Boys and girls are admitted in both schools and the illustrations show a contented and happy lot of teachers and pupils.


Thus Masonry is doing its duty for little brothers and sisters in Egypt, just as we aim to do in our great and powerful country. It proves that Masonry is universal, knows but one Supreme Architect, and recognizes no political boundaries in its good works. When the true and noble realm of the brotherhood of man is recognized, a clear vision discovers there no battleships, no poison gases. That vision believes in what an Italian proverb says, " with the dawn of every day, a happiness." Let that be the unceasing work inherited from the Tyrian Grand Master, whose monument our real masters never have been forgotten - never shall forget.


Since preparing the preceding article the writer's attention is directed to the 1929 Foreign Correspondence Report of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, covering Egypt for 1927. It is only fair to my readers that the claims of the opposition be stated. The only present source available is that mentioned, the writer not having the original proceedings in hand.


Prince Mohammed Aly appears as Grand Master of the schismatic body, and in his address of 1927 states that their foreign affairs are "marvelously good." Grand Officers of New York visited them. Following this are statistics relating to what they label "The National Grand Lodge of Egypt." There are seventy-five lodges, working in Greek, Arab, Hebrew, French and English, "approximately 6,000 members." It is asserted that the Grand Lodge, of which M.W. Bro. His Highness Prince Mohammed Aly is Grand Master, is the lawful continuation of the National Grand Lodge of Egypt, of which M.W.Bro. Idris Bey Ragheb was Grand Master for thirty-five years. The schism dates from 1922, when a majority, wanting a change, elected the Prince by a large vote. Idris left with a minority, and under this aged leader they continued to function under the official title. The courts decided against this organization in "several actions" which were instituted. In 1924-25, ninety-eight old members "returned" to this organization. It is recognized by forty-five Grand Jurisdictions, among them England, Ireland, Scotland and "several" Canadian, Australian and United States Grand Lodges. Mohammed Aly and Younis are Grand Master and Grand Secretary.


The account of the meeting Sept. 28, 1922, is recited as above, except it is said that there was a dispute about constitutional qualifications for Grand Master, and the Grand Treasurer asked that it be submitted to vote. ldris, refusing this, vacated the chair "sor a moment," returned, disposed of a few matters, left with his Deputy Grand Master and seventeen members, taking home with him, "so it is reported, " the great seal and important registers of the Grand Lodge.


Then election took place and the Prince was declared elected by overwhelming vote. Idris formed his own organization and used the Scottish Rite to defeat his opponents, which prevented healing of the breach.


The Connecticut writer remarks in his review as follows:


It is regretted that a small fraction of members endeavor to function as schismatic Grand Lodge, headed by a deposed Grand Master. There is some surface evidence that they are encouraged by certain U.S. Scottish Rite influences.. This has caused inadvertent errors on the part of some U.S. Grand Secretaries, the writer among them, who wrongly listed in 1928 proceedings Mohammed Rifaat as Grand Secretary. The legitimate Grand Secretary is Abdul Meguid Younis. Prince Mohammed Aly continues as Grand Master.


The present writer regrets that he has not access to the original 1927 text that the good Connecticut brother reviewed, also that this brother did not have the 1928 answer of the other body hereinbefore reviewed. It might have altered his judicial opinion of who are the legitimate Egyptian Grand officers, and also as to Scottish Rite interference.


It is appropriate, however, to mention a few other things for the better guidance of American Freemasonry. The 1928 proceedings evidently try to answer the accusations with great length and care. The exact text of parts of the constitution involved is set out.


Art. 29. No brother can be elected Grand Master if he is not an active and contributing member of a constituent lodge of the National Grand Lodge of Egypt, and unless he has filled the office of Grand Warden.


The amendment petitioned for was:


A prince of the royal family having the degree of Master may be elected Grand Master, setting aside the conditions required by Art. 29


The "aged" Grand Master directed attention to other articles, which forbade receiving any proposition contrary to the fundamental principles of Freemasonry. That the petition modifying Art. 29 was solely in favor of a member of the royal family, and manifestly opposed to the principle of equality, a basis of our Order. That the decree of the Grand Master was legal on this fact.


Furthermore he sets out Art. 49, that all amendments must be submitted to the Permanent Committee one month before meeting of the Grand Lodge which is to consider them. That statutes cannot be altered except by a majority of not less than three-fourths of the members of the Grand Lodge. Also that no proposition for amendment can be considered unless in writing, signed and supported by one- third of the members present at the Grand Lodge. The petitioners ignored the Permanent (i.e. Standing) Committee. The Grand Lodge had 408 members, the petition had 110, a protest had 144.


In 1928 we find that Taha Ibrahim is member of a standing committee, having evidently regretted his part in that disorderly proceeding. "Al Nil" Lodge, No. 243, is on the list and appears in good standing again.


Sayed Aly, Grand Master, is a Division General, and Secretary to the Minister of War and Marine; other Grand Lodge Officers hold notable positions under the government, and are evidently dignified and respected citizens.


The roster shows actual names and addresses of 103 lodges and officers. There are 71 Arab, 11 French, 9 Greek, 6 Italian, 4 Armenian, 1 Russian, 1 Turkish.


In the disorderly meeting, a Bro. Bryant was a leader of the petitioners. No English lodge is on this list, and the Prince's organization seems to have them. It leads to a suspicion of some political quarrel having brought on the strife. This may have led to recognition by English Grand Lodges. How, ever that may be, Idris appears to have presented a very strong ease on both facts and law, in favor of the lodge he represents.


In the foreign section they name a number of U.S. Grand Lodges, a large number of European and South American, New Zealand, the Scottish Rite Northern and Southern of U. S. and of Canada, as all recognizing that body.


The Prince's body does not seem to show any Masonic charity work, or any answer whatever to the constitutional questions distinctly involved in proper upholding of that organization. It is certainly not clear how the constitution was amended to make the Prince lawful Grand Master. There is no assertion on his part that the text stated by Idris, or the amending petition are incorrectly quoted. Nor any explanation by him how the constitution was law fully changed to qualify him a Grand Master. No explanation or denial of his letter is referred to. The Grand Lodges of America would do well to call for complete translation of the Egyptian constitution, and a complete statement, with proper exhibits, in behalf of the Prince, as to changes which make him Grand Master or his organization legal.


It should be kept in mind his body claims to continue from the admittedly legal one, of which Idris was Grand Master, therefore the succession must be proved to be legal Grand Lodges would then be in better position judicially to decide which is the lawful body in Egypt than to have the Prince, or some Prince's ghost writer, settle it for them.




The 1927 report of the Prince Aly organization gives seventy five lodges as adhering to it. The Annuaire published by the International Masonic Association, lists seventy-seven. These are grouped by localities, and apparently retain their original numbers. The lowest number is 37, and the highest is 278. Al Nil, No 243, mentioned in the article, appears on this list so that it has evidently returned to the allegiance of the other Grand Lodge since this list was compiled.


It is evident that the group headed by Prince Aly has had a "better press" than its rival. The Annuaire has no information to offer about the latter except the names of the Grand Master his Deputy, and the Grand Treasurer and the Grand Secretary. It offers no opinion as to the rights and wrongs of the Schism. - Ed.