FARHAT J. ZIADEH, the founder of the Jackson School’s Middle East Center and the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilization at the University of Washington, died on June 8, 2016 at the age of 99. Professor Ziadeh was an eminent scholar of Islamic law, a barrister, an Arabic grammarian, a leading figure in the development of the field of Middle East studies in the United States, and a mentor to generations of students and scholars of Middle East studies.

Born in Ramallah, Palestine, Farhat Ziadeh received his B.A. from the American University of Beirut in 1937, and graduated from the University of London in 1940 with an LL.B. Unable to return to Palestine during World War II, Ziadeh, came to the United States where he worked under Philip K. Hitti as an instructor of Arabic in the Army Specialized Training Program at Princeton University. In 1946, he returned to London to become a Barrister-at-Law from Lincoln’s Inn. The following year he was appointed magistrate in Safad, Palestine by the Palestine Mandate Government—a post he held until the end of the Palestine mandate in 1948. He returned to Princeton University in 1949 where he became a tenured professor and where he published An Introduction to Modern Arabic (with R. B. Winder, 1958); as well as A Reader in Modern Literary Arabic (1964), textbooks that served to train generations of students of Arabic.

In 1966, Ziadeh was invited to come to the University of Washington to develop a new program in Near Eastern studies. As he was building this new program, Ziadeh published Lawyers: The Rule of Law and Liberalism in Modern Egypt in 1968. A mere four years after his arrival at the UW, in 1970, Ziadeh had transformed the small Near Eastern studies program into a new department at the University named the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literature and was appointed its first departmental chair. In 1974 Ziadeh wrote a successful grant for a federal Title VI Middle East Center, now located in the Jackson School. As the Center’s first director, Ziadeh laid the groundwork that has made it possible for the Jackson School’s Middle East Center to be the oldest continuously federally funded area studies center at the Jackson School.

Beyond the University, Farhat Ziadeh was a leading figure in the early formative years of the development of the field of Middle East studies in the United States. He was an original member of the group of scholars who founded the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the field’s largest professional organization, and served as its president in 1979-80.  Ziadeh was the president of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic, 1975-76 and, from 1983 to 1989, was the director of the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA), then a consortium of eighteen American universities engaged in training students and faculty at the American University in Cairo.

Farhat Ziadeh retired from the University of Washington in 1987 but remained active in the field of Middle East studies. In 1997, he received MESA’s Mentoring Award “in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the education and training of others in Middle East studies,” and in 2012 was elected an honorary fellow of MESA.

Professor Farhat J. Ziadeh’s remarkable career, his leadership and sustained support of the field of Middle East Studies, as well as his generosity, serve as an inspiration and a legacy that the Middle East Center is honored to carry forward.


A public celebration of the life of Farhat Ziadeh will be held at the University of Washington Club, 4020 East Stevens Way, University of Washington campus on Saturday, August 13, 2016 at 1 p.m.


To make a gift in the memory of Farhat J. Ziadeh, contribute:


Farhat J. Ziadeh Endowed Fund/University of Washington


Payable to Farhat J. Ziadeh Endowed Fund/University of Washington

Address: University of Washington, c/o Sharon Dana, Box 354882, Seattle, WA 98195


For Farhat J. Ziadeh’s obituary see:



Contributed by Felicia J. Hecker, Associate Director, Middle East Center