Zaabalawi by Mahfouz
Do you think that Mahfouz wants his readers to believe that Zaabalawi is a real person? Does he want us
to think that the narrator of the story believes that Zaabalawi is a real person? Whatever your opinion,
explain your reasons for it.
Zaabalawi by Mahfouz has the qualities of both the traditional stories told in mystical traditions
as well as those of modern stories. Mahfouz’s father believed that Zaabalawi was a saint of God
who removed worries and troubles. Author’s father friend also believed that Zaalabawi is a
miraculous person. Characters portrayed in the story believed that Zaabalawi was a mysterious
person and that he exhibited powerful magic. When people were in trouble, they would just have
to look for him, and they would be healed and counseled.
Mahfouz’s does not want his readers to believe that Zaabalawi is a real person. The author gives
him many traits as spoken by the characters that have had contact with him. The author portrays
Zaalabawi as a mystery that and also as someone who possesses every good quality that a real
person can not have. No one knows of the whereabouts of Zaabalawi except at the bar where he
can be found at specific evenings. Gods possess a variety of characters that make people worship
them and also look for them for peace of mind and advice. The author characterizes Zaabalawi as
a God, and it is for people to look for him though he can’t be found physically. Zaabalawi helps
everyone in need irrespective of where they come from which is a characteristic of gods. Hence,
it is evident that the author wanted readers to look beyond the physical being and believe in
supernatural powers exhibited by gods and that by engaging with the gods, one can receive
Also, the narrator of the story believes that Zaabalawi exists still he does not quench his thirst of
trying to find him. The narrator and all who seek Zaabalawi tend to obtain wisdom and blessings.
When they find him, they find inner peace within themselves as well as joy in their hearts. The
narrator believes he is real though he is also ambiguous as he resides in people’s mind in the
form of the spirit of peace. He continuously looks for him because he does not have peace with
himself and wants to connect with Zaabalawi. He only exists in people’s minds and only see him
when he is drunk. He is as God. No one has seen God, but everyone believes that he exists.
Every cultural society believes in their God and he has universal characteristics since he is said
to be a god of hope, peace, healing, and all things that make people satisfied. Since Zaabalawi is
characterized as a God, the narrator believes that he is real, but he has never seen him or touch
Though God already exists in the story and that Zaalabawi is like a saint who serves under him,
Zaabalawi is still supernatural and has powers to heal people and bring them peace. That’s why
everyone who spoke of him gave differing opinions that still characterized a god. He has not
been found by the narrator, and he is still in search of him but still believes that he will not find
him. Everyone seeks greater divine power to for guidance and peace. Zaabalawi is that power
that people seek and talk about when they have a connection with him which is not physical.
Zaabalawi is real but virtual. He exists in the minds of those who go to seek him for divine
Naguib Mahfouz (1963). Zaalabawi