Qasim, Awn al-Sharif (1933–2006)

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Qasim, Awn al-Sharif

Awn al-Sharif Qasim was a leading scholar in Sudan for the last thirty years of the twentieth century. An expert on Arabic and Islamic culture and language, Qasim took a special interest in the history and people of Sudan. He was a professor and lecturer at the university level and a prolific author, writing over seventy books. He also served as his country's minister of religious affairs from 1971 to 1981.


Qasim was born in the ancient city of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, on 13 June 1933. He was raised in Khartoum North, where his father, who emigrated from Yemen in 1925, was a local religious authority and educator in Islamic studies.

Qasim attended the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Khartoum, the country's most prestigious and selective university, and earned his bachelor's degree in 1957. Following his graduation, he entered the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies and was awarded a master's degree in Arabic and Islamic studies in 1960. He remained at the University of London for another year, serving as a lecturer, before returning to Sudan in 1961 to take an academic post at the University of Khartoum, where he remained until 1971. He received a doctoral degree from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1967.

In 1971 Qasim left the University of Khartoum to become Sudan's minister of religious affairs, a position he held for the next ten years. During that time, in 1975, he founded the Institute for Islamic Studies in Khartoum. In 1982, Qasim returned to the University of Khartoum as a professor for two years. From 1984 to 1995, he lectured at the Khartoum International Institute for Arabic Language, serving as the institute's director in 1988. In 1990 Qasim once again returned to the University of Khartoum, this time as the university's president, where he remained until 1994. In 1996 he was named president of Omdurman Ahlia University.

Qasim earned numerous awards, including the Presidential Award for Scientific Achievements in 1981; the First Honor Golden Science Award for Excellence in Writing, presented by Egyptian president HUSNI MUBARAK, in 1993; and the Az-Zubair Prize for Innovation and Scientific Excellence in 2000.

Qasim died on 19 January 2006.


During his career as one of his country's top academics and most prolific writers, Qasim wrote more than seventy books. Titles include Doblmaciyat Muhammad (1972; The diplomacy of Mohammed), Fi ma'rakat al-turath (1972; In war of culture), Qamus al-lahjah al-Ammiyah fi'l-Sudan (1972; Dictionary of Sudanese Arabic), Risalat al-khatima (1977; The final message), Half-ayat al-Muluk (1988; Dictionary of the region of Halfayat), and Mawsu'at al-qaba'il wa'l-ansab fi'l-Sudan wa ashhar asma al-a'lam wa'l-amakin (1996; Encyclopedia of tribes and families in Sudan).

Several of Qasim's works were major undertakings that required years of research. For example, his dictionary of Sudanese dialects, Qamus al-lahjah al-Ammiyah fi'l-Sudan, spans over one thousand pages. His most ambitious work, the encyclopedia Mawsu'at al-qaba'il wa'l-ansab fi'l-Sudan wa ashhar asma al-a'lam wa'l-amakin, was the result of over ten years of research and encompasses 2,628 pages.


Qasim's encyclopedic works remain some of the leading authorities in the world. For example, Qamus al-lahjah al-Ammiyah fi'l-Sudan, his work on Sudanese dialects, has undergone numerous reprints, including a new edition published in 2002. Similarly, the six-volume Mawsu'at al-qaba'il wa'l-ansab fi'l-Sudan wa ashhar asma al-a'lam wa'l-amakin is considered one of the best compilations of information on Sudanese culture, people, and history available.


Qasim was a leading scholar and academic in Sudan for over thirty years. During that time, he contributed to the advancement of the Sudanese culture and affirmed Islamic and Arabic culture. His work continues to provide accessible ways to encounter the history and language of Sudan.


Name: Awn al-Sharif Qasim

Birth: 1933, Khartoum, Sudan

Death: 2006

Nationality: Sudanese

Education: B.A., College of Liberal Arts, University of Khartoum, 1957; M.A., School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1960; Ph.D., University of Edinburgh, 1967


  • 1960–1961: Lecturer, University of London
  • 1961–1971: Lecturer, University of Khartoum, Sudan
  • 1971–1981: Minister of religious affairs, Sudan
  • 1982–1984: Professor, University of Khartoum, Sudan
  • 1984–1995: Lecturer, Khartoum International Institute for Arabic Language
  • 1990–1994: President, University of Khartoum, Sudan
  • 1996: President, Omdurman Ahlia University, Sudan


Karrar, 'Ali Salih. "Recent Books: A Sudanese Encyclopedia of Tribes and Genealogies." Sudanic Africa 8 (1997). Available from

                                            Alisa Larson