Voir la version complète : Orientalism (Dar al Ifta Egypt)

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talib abdALLAH
04/07/2017, 15h49
The upsides:

There are actually many upsides to Orientalism:

The Orientalists are actually serving their goals diligently, faithfully and in full dedication. When Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje set his intention on writing a book about Makkah his wish to study it closely and directly was not obstructed by the fact that he is Christian and not supposed to enter Makkah. So he impersonated the identity of a Muslim and named himself Abdel-Ghaffar to be able to visit Makkah in 1884. He lived there for five months and he perfected Arabic language like an Arab. After he got back he wrote two books (Pilgrimage to Mecca & Mecca in the latter part of the 19th century) describing Makkah so profoundly with various maps attached. Orientalists, in general, are so amazingly patient in researching and studying fully their targets. They are also familiar with many old and new languages. Sheikh Mustafa Abdul-Razek pointed once to their relentless patience, their diligence, their wide knowledge and their effective approaches.

After attending the 25th Orientalists’ conference, Sheikh Amin Al-Kholy said, “Ignaty Krachkovsky presented a research about the rare Qur’an manuscripts in the 16th century and I highly doubt the many of the Muslim scholars know anything about these manuscripts, and this is something that cannot be underestimated.”

There is a state of total coordination and integration between the Orientalists in the various countries; they are always coordinating, cooperating and unifying their efforts in the field of Islamic and Arab studies. The channels between them are opened to the full through the conferences, the periodicals and the various other publications. The international conferences held by the Orientalists reached about 30 conferences between the years 1873 and 1968; not to count the seminars and regional meetings. Oxford Conference comprised 900 scientists from 25 countries, 85 universities, and 69 scientific associations. The work groups in each conference can reach fourteen work groups each group is specialized in some particular Orientalist study.

Focus! Each one can focus on one particular branch of Islamic studies and spend his whole life researching and inquiring about its every minute detail. That’s why we find them fully aware about all the Islamic or Arab researches published in our countries. Their private and public libraries are teaming with the various Arabic and Islamic references; old and new. There is also another fact known to all those who have been closely connected to Orientalists; they are never too conceited or proud to admit a mistake once the matter is brought to their attention; they realize that they can never fully grasp the Arabic language so they are open to criticism.

The Islamic Encyclopedia is one of the fruits of the international and scientific cooperation between the Orientalists at large. Its first edition was released in English, French and German in the interval between 1913 and 1938. Then it was translated into Arabic till the letter (Ein[1]). The Orientalists issued a new edition where they added all the articles that were written about the newest researches and all the new manuscripts that were discovered. This edition was released in the interval between 1954 and 1977. Naguib Al-Aqiqi pointed that the Arabic committee responsible for translating the Islamic Encyclopedia will start translating the new edition from the letter (Ein) so as not to start all over again after the part they finished from the old edition!

Carl Brockelmann’s book (Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur – History of the Arabic Literature) is in fact a preliminary source book that no researcher or pupil of Arabic or Islamic studies can do without. This book is not just dedicated to Arabic literature and philology; it also includes every Islamic record written in Arabic language. It is a workbook for the Arabic manuscripts (whether hand-written or printed). He also complemented his efforts by adding information about the biographies of the writers. It was first issued in two volumes in 1898 and 1902, and then it was followed by three large supplementary volumes between 1938 and 1942. The writer then re-issued the first two volumes in a new revised edition befitting the changes he introduced in the three following volumes. The author approved the request of the Arab League to translate the book into Arabic and unfortunately the whole project is still struggling till the present day. The Arab Muslim researcher, Fuat Sezgin (who studied under the German Orientalist Hellmut Ritter) continued the works of Brockelmann through his book “The Arabic Legacy” in German language. Some of it was translated into Arabic and he was awarded the King Faisal International Prize of Islamic Studies in 1978. We have to admit though that had it not been for the book of Brockelmann, Sezgin would have never written his.

Collecting the Arabic manuscripts from everywhere and by all means, preserving and maintaining them from any damage and taking care of them, indexing them and describing the manuscripts accurately kept them at the disposal of the interested researchers and in known places. Even the requests made to photocopy any of them were treated without any routine or complicated procedures. Ahlwardt even developed an index for the Arabic manuscripts in the Library of Berlin in ten volumes which reached the utmost state of art and accuracy. This index was issued at the end of the past century and it included indexes for about 10 manuscripts. Orientalists from all the European libraries and universities indexed the Islamic Arabic manuscripts found in the European libraries reaching tens or even hundreds of thousands in number. We also have to admit that moving all these manuscripts to Europe whether legally or illegally provided for them the utmost amount of care, attention and indexing. I say this while I feel so bitter and sorrowful because of the fate of the rare manuscripts that stayed in many of our Arab countries and because of terrible damage that afflicted them to the point of rendering them totally unusable.

Orientalists have a long experience in the field of lexicography, especially the indexed lexicon for the Hadith terminology which includes all the six famous authentic Hadith books, in addition to the books of: Al-Daremi, Mutta’ Malik and Musnad Ahmad. It was published in seven volumes and it is widely used by all the Islamic universities and institutes all over the world. This lexicon was compiled through the collaboration of a number of Orientalists and here we must never forget the efforts of August Fischer in issuing the old Arabic Lexicon sorted by the source words. Fischer spent 40 years compiling it and arranging it along with some other Orientalists.

They published many heritage books and we never came to know about such heritage (printed and verified) except through their efforts. This was not just limited to the Arabic texts; they even translated the various Arabic Islamic books into many European languages.

talib abdALLAH
04/07/2017, 15h52
The downsides:

After this overview about the Orientalists’ upside we need to have a look at the downsides in their way of thinking and their researching particularly when related to Islam. Below are some of the examples:

Orientalism adopts a particular mindset based on a fundamental idea of discrimination between the East and West since the East and West can never meet at one point. Kipling the colonial poet seems to think that the Westerners are reasonable, peace-loving, liberals, logical and able to acquire real values, while the Easterners have none of the above. Still Orientalism ignores an important fact which is simply that this Western civilization they so fondly describe as being the civilization of Christianity was originally based on the teachings of an Eastern man; Jesus Christ as well as being based on what they copied from the sciences of the Arabs and what the Arabs copied and developed from the previous civilizations. These undeniable facts defy the whole idea of the Orientalism which is based on discrimination between the East and the West. Christianity is an Eastern faith and claiming that the West is advanced since its faith is Christianity while the East is backward since its faith is Islam is utterly baseless. The advancement of the West in science in technology has nothing to do with Christianity just as much as the backwardness of the East also has nothing to do with Islam and can never be blamed on it. This backwardness is a punishment mostly deserved by the Muslims who abandoned their faith rather than embraced it as they claim.

Apart from all other sciences Orientalism has never developed its methods, approaches or studies. In studying Islam it has never been able to get over this aseptic theological background from which it originated. When it comes to this nothing is new under the sun till this day except for some anomalies. Various means are affirming and enforcing this traditional status till our present days. They still look at Islam from the perspective of the Medieval Ages and this is actually one of the things that led the secretary-general of the European Muslim Council in 1979 to denounce the Western media for its stance on Islam describing it as “unjust attempts to slander and distort Islam”. All of this is happening although the Vatican (in 1965) praised the facts that were brought by Islam about God, His Ability, Jesus, Mary, the prophets and the messengers and although Rudi Paret (the German Orientalist) said that the Eastern studies – since the mid 19th century – have been tending towards seeking the utter truth and siding away from any insincere intentions. The contemporary French Orientalist, Maxime Rodinson, has another opinion and seems to think that a revolution has overtaken the European perceptions of Islam which made the assessment of the Christians for Muhammad a sensitive issue since they no longer can claim his falsity (as a demonic impostor) as was the case in Middle Ages. At the time when we find some Christian thinkers being so careful in issuing a judgment or considering the problem we find other Catholic specialists who consider Muhammad “religiously genius” and other wondering if he can be considered a real prophet since St. Thomas Acquinas was a proponent of natural theology which defies infallibility and perfection. In another sense this rejects the real prophethood of the Prophet who is chosen by God through a revelation! It is not strange that the Orientalists differ with us in their opinion about Islam because the strange thing would be to agree with us; the whole launching pad from which they approach Islam is totally different from ours and for this particular reason they will always have a different view point from ours. Hence, we must never expect them to adopt our view point and start seeing Islam as a divine faith which concluded all the previous divine faiths, that Muhammad is the final Prophet of God, or that the Qur’an is a revelation that can never go wrong… etc. If they do any of this they’ll become Muslims and this was actually what happened with some of them who embraced Islam finally. But by embracing Islam they veered from the track of Orientalism and so we can’t expect all the Orientalists to change their faith or see things the way we see them. Still there are obvious priorities required for a proper scientific method. When I refuse a certain point of view I must explain to the reader this point of view first through the eyes of those who adopt it then I can contradict it. Based on this I conclude that the whole Islamic entity is based on believing in Allah and in Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) who got the Qur’an in the form of a revelation from Allah. Hence, the honest scholar must first explain this to his reader when he talks about Islam so the reader can understand the power of this faith (this belief system) in the history of Islam. After explaining this he can start contradicting if he likes. But to being, for starters, by imposing his perceptions which are based on his imaginations and illusions, this can never be an acceptable scientifically or ethically. As Dr. Hussein Mo’enes says, “Muhammad who is portrayed by the Orientalists is not the same Muhammad we believe in. He is a figment of their imagination. Same thing goes for Islam; the Islam they visualize is not the Islam that we believe in, it is the Islam of their own invention.” Hence, we can say that Orientalism in studying Islam is not taking a scientific approach but rather an ideological approach that seeks to propagate its own perceptions about Islam regardless of whether or not these perceptions are based on realities or delusions. It reminds us of what the Sophists did in the old times more or less. So if we describe the Orientalists in studying Islam (except for a thin minority) as being the Sophists of the modern age we wouldn’t be exaggerating at all. Still, and to be fair, we have to say that whenever the Orientalist studies stayed away from the Islamic faith whenever they came nearer to objectivity and farther from biasness.

The Orientalists tend to apply the Christian standards on Islam and its Prophet. Jesus, from their view point, is the base of their faith and that’s why Christianity is attributed to Christ. They applied the same rule blindly and considered Muhammad for the Muslims to be the same as Jesus for the Christians. They even dubbed Islam as “Muhammedanism”! There are also other dimensions for using this description such as suggesting that Islam is a man-made faith and not from God; but the same does not apply on Christianity since they believe Jesus to be the son of God. They also tend to draw on another comparison between Jesus’ celibacy and Muhammad’s marrying more than one wife, or that Jesus was peaceful, enduring and tormented whereas Muhammad was a warrior and a politician.

Confusing Islam (the religion and the teachings) as adopted from the Qur’an and Sunnah on the one hand and between the situation of the Muslims and the Islamic world on the other. The Islam of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, the way the contemporary Orientalist Kiesling sees it, is a dead Islam whereas the living Islam is the one that should be studied; it is the Islam found in the twisted habits of the various Islamic countries and infiltrating the lives of Muslims nowadays regardless of whether or not they are close or near to the original teachings of Islam.

They keep reiterating and emphasizing the importance of the different dissidents of Islam like the Bábism, the Baha'i, the Qadiani and the Bektashi and other sects whether old or new. They keep deepening the dispute between the Sunnis and Shiites, and they always consider the dissidents to have revolutionary thoughts and liberal minds. They always measure what they see in the Muslim world through their own rigid molds. Rodinson the Orientalists pointed this out once in saying that the Orientalists in the East did not see except the things they wanted to see, so they cared for much for the strange and little things. They did not want to advance the East so it would reach the status that Europe reached. Revival was the last thing they wanted for the East.

We miss a lot of objectivity in the writings of most of the Orientalists when they write about Islam. But when they write about other faiths like Buddhism or Hinduism, we find a lot of objectivity in how they present them. Islam, apart from all the other faiths that are found in the East or the West, is the target of their attack. Muslims, apart from all the followers of other faiths, are the ones they single out for their vile descriptions. All of this makes us wonder: why? Maybe the answer to this question can be found in the fact that Islam stands out as the only real shock that hit Europe, fear from Islam was the constant rule of the game. Up until the 17th century the Ottoman threat was looming over the European boarders and so they always felt threatened by it. So we could say that this whole complex turned into a state of chronic paranoia! Even at the time when the followers of Islam are the weakest they still feel threatened by it. But do Muslims realize this truth? The words of Muir make sense now when he said that the sword of Muhammad and the Qur’an are the most stubborn enemies yet known against civilization and freedom. What Gustave E. von Grunebaum claims that Islam is but a unique phenomenon that has not match yet in any other faith or civilization, because it is an inhuman faith that is incapable of evolving or acquiring objective knowledge, and because it is unethical, unscientific and authoritarian. Only then can we realize the secret underlying this constant deep hate against Islam and these baseless fabrications that have no share whatsoever in the field of science.

They give themselves the role of the accuser and the judge at the same time. At the time when the science of history just attempts to understand without accusing the society it’s studying, we find Orientalism giving itself the right to accuse and reject the Islamic tenets upon which the Islamic society is founded. This is mainly due to some pre-intentions that can never be described as purely scientific; just as Rudi Paret claims.

A group of Orientalists joined hands with the colonization that attempted to humiliate the Islamic world in an era that belongs to the modern age. Stefan Wild, the contemporary Orientalist, mentioned this fact about some of the Orientalists when he said that there’s a group calling themselves Orientalists who have dedicated their knowledge about Islam and its history for the sole purpose of fighting Islam and Muslims.

This is a painful reality to which all the honest Orientalists must admit. Among the various examples we have in this direction we must mention Carl Heinrich Becker (died in 1993) who founded the German magazine Der Islam for conducting a study that served the colonial interests of Germany in Africa. There is also Vasily Vladimirovich Bartold (died in 1930) who founded the Russian Magazine “Mir Islama – The World of Islam” who was assigned by the Russian government to conduct some researches serving the Russian interests in Central Asia. We also have the famous Dutch Islamist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (died in 1936) who played a focal role in forming the political and colonial interests of Holland in the East Indies. He took leadership roles under these colonial interests in the East Indies and Indonesia. As for the famous French Orientalist Louis Massignon he was an adviser to the Ministry of the French colonies for the North African affairs. There are many others like these who have dedicated themselves and their studies just to serve the colonization of Islam and the Muslims.

The call to reform Islam and the Muslims: The Orientalists claim that Islam is a rigid religion, that it no longer matches the spirit of the age and that it needs some radical reform for that purpose! One of them says explicitly that Islam must either adopt a radical reform or it must abandon the whole pace of life altogether. This call is directed upon the Muslims by outsiders who don’t even claim to know what they need to do about their religion. This so-called reformation is but an attempt to change the way Muslim see Islam and to get Islam as close as possible to look like Christianity. It is only proper to say that Islam owns some fundamentals that no one can ever change; the basic tenets of Islam. It also has some branches which can be adjusted according to the benefit of Islam. The way we Muslims understand reform is to reform the Islamic thought which is in need for constant revision to befit the requirements of the age and the nation and within the teachings of Islam. But the generic call to reform Islam or to renew it (as proposed sometimes) is something inconceivable! It sounds like emptying Islam from its content, or segregating it from mixing with the affairs of the society, or rendering it into just some wise teachings like Christianity. Some of the Muslims have even incriminated themselves in such calls of reforming Islam à la Orientalism. One of the strange books published by an Arab Muslim professor at the University of Frankfurt in Germany titled “The Crisis of Modern Islam” was issued more than ten years ago and in it the writer ardently calls for adopting the Western model in reformation by rendering their faith into just some duties that are not even mandatory. He sees this as the perfect solution for the crisis of Islam! That Islam will just be shunned from interfering in the lives of the Muslims just like the Western secular model. This is the story of how some Muslims have decided to spare the Orientalists from their relentless efforts to undermine Islam by deciding to take the axe and undermine it for them after the so many years they spent attempting to do it in vain.

talib abdALLAH
04/07/2017, 15h54
Our position from Orientalism :

After this whole overview for the upsides and downsides of Orientalist, we must discuss our position as Muslims from all this which brings us back to what our forefathers used to do in such situations.

The old and foreign intellectual trends, which represented some challenge to Islam and the authentic Islamic thought in the flourishing days of Islam, motivated the Muslims at these times to confront them solidly. Their confrontational stand was not just up to the level of the challenge but it even exceeded it. The Islamic thought defeated all these trends accurately and absorbed them fully. It confronted these trends using the very same intellectual weapons since the confrontation was strictly intellectual. After all these year, it seems now that history is showing us another rerun of the old confrontation which is also a war of thought and intellect. Such wars have their special weapons and artillery because losing this type of war is much detrimental and debilitating than losing a military war no matter how big it is. Let us take a pioneering figure in the history of Islamic thought like our great scholar Al-Ghazali who fought in so many intellectual battles and emerged victorious from all of them. What did he do? Al-Ghazali says in his book “Al-Munqidh minal-Dalal – The Rescuer from Error”, “One can never tell that a science is corrupt before he can encompass it fully and becomes equally knowledged in it as the most knowledged of its people, then he must surpass this level by reading everything that the maker of this science read. This is the only way we can tell that his claim is correct.”

Now let us measure on this and we will find that the Orientalists must acquire, absorb and study Islam fully and deeply as a first step to critique it correctly and to be able to have a ground for their claim that what it brings is false or corrupt.

This fact gives cold feet to the Orientalists who think a thousand times before writing anything that could bring them scientific criticism, expose them or prove their falsity. Rodinson himself confirms this reality when he said that there is only one way to criticize an Orientalist and this way starts with studying their writings in details and the criticism must be combined with real and constant self-criticism. We must be able to face ourselves with our defects and shortcomings to be fully aware of the problems faced by our age.

The upside of Orientalism might as well be in their constant attack to our past glories and not in praising us! We all know that many Orientalists praised us in their works and they praised our past civilizations, our scholars and our legacy; last to these was the German Orientalists Sigrid Hunke in her book “The Sun of Allah Shines Over the West”. But the downside of praise is that it sedates us and keeps our heads stuck in the clouds dreaming happily of our past. We might like to live in our happy dreams thinking ourselves to be glorious just because our ancestors were glorious. Jamal El-Din Al-Afghani once said, “The Muslims live in the past of what their fathers did. Every time you tell them, ‘Be the sons of Adam!’ They say, ‘Our fathers were so and so!’ They can’t realize that the glory of their fathers can never be achieved through being lazy as they are right now. Whenever the Westerners want to apologize for being lazy they say, ‘Can’t you see how our fathers were?’ It is true your fathers were real men but it is also true that you are not like them. So it is not proper to keep bringing up the glories of your father unless you want to do exactly like them.”

Hence, we say that the offensive and provocative side of the Orientalists could be doing us much good than the conciliatory side. This provocation could be a motive to shake us out of this intellectual slumber so we could start moving again, so we could build our own thoughts anew, so we could rearrange our cultural edifice and get up from our fall. This could be what Arnold Toynbee meant when he said that civilization is a response to the challenge, or in other words a reaction of a people to a challenge they face.

The response we’re talking about here is not just a response that exhausts our energy in anticipation for more strikes; it is a response that moves us from a weak situation to a stronger one. We must never suffice with the position of the attacked because the attacked is often weak, we have to change our position and this can never be achieved unless we changed our thoughts. We are not backward because we have no resources, we are backward because we have no thoughts and because our efforts are defused. This situation will never be changed except if we changed ourselves as Allah says, “Allah does not change the condition of a people's lot, unless they change what is in their hearts…”

We must also admit that Orientalism will keep deriving its strength from our weakness and that its existence is conditioned by the ineptness of the Islamic world to know itself. Orientalism, in essence, is a form of intellectual tutelage and once the Islamic world knows itself and decides to get up from its fall by shaking the burdens of cultural and intellectual backwardness off its shoulders, only then will Orientalism finds itself facing a real crisis; particularly the part of Orientalism that is fixated on Islam. When that day comes they won’t find any audience for them; neither in Europe nor in the Islamic world. To be more specific about the things we need to do let me bring to your attention the below points:

We must take it seriously; we must take into account that it has immense effects on various and wide sectors of learned people in the Islamic and the Western worlds alike. So we must study Orientalism profoundly and accurately. It is not enough to say that what they write is gibberish because even if it were, this gibberish is written in many languages and it is widely spread. Facing it must be on the very same scientific level and in fully effective words as Dr. Hussein Mo’enes says.

Instead of feeding our thoughts on the Islamic Encyclopedia that was compiled by the Orientalists before the WWII, which they themselves have surpassed by issuing an updated one a few years ago, we need to issue our own Islamic Encyclopedia in Arabic language and in the main European languages. This Encyclopedia must at least match the one issued by the Orientalists in design, compilation and scientific content. It must convey the Islamic view point in all the branches of Arabic and Islamic studies to the Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Unless we fill all the intellectual voids with thought and intellect, they will be left under the mercy of contrary (or even hostile) thoughts; and we can’t blame but ourselves if that happens.

We must unite our efforts in the Islamic world to establish a global and scientific Islamic institution whose allegiance does not belong to a particular country or any particular political, intellectual or religious school. Its first and foremost allegiance must be to Allah and His Prophet. It must be capable of attracting the Islamic and scientific cadres from all over the world. It must stand on equal footing with the Orientalist movement and it must have its own high-ranking periodicals and scientific journals in various languages. It must work on restoring our intellectual authenticity and our independence of thought. The really sorrowful thing is that all over the vastness of the Islamic world with its countries and inhabitants (reaching now over one thousand million) and with all our amazing abilities and resources we still do not have one scientific institution that matches the scientific and financial abilities of the Orientalist institution! Isn’t this something pathetic?

We must have a global missionary institution and by this I mean an organization for Islamic Dawa to call others to Islam on the one side, on another side to care for the new Muslims and on a third side to protect the Muslims by birth. This institution must issue Arabic and Islamic books in all the languages, it must care to correct all the wrong misconceptions about Islam and must propose Islam in a scientific method that befits the modern mind and presents Islamic solutions for the present-day Muslims.

We must prepare and compile an accredited translation for the Qur’an in all the living languages to block the way on many erroneous translations that are spread all over the world and which were prepared by Orientalists and are filled with falsehoods about Islam. We must also choose an ample amount of authentic hadeeth and translate them along with the translation of the Qur’an to be used by the non-Arabic-speaking Muslims and the non-Muslims who are interested in knowing about Islam from its origin.

We must work on purifying the Islamic heritage so it would be a fit intellectual feast for the Muslims. Our heritage surely has in it the good and bad! Although Islam can’t take the blame for all the superstitions, the delusions and Israelites that are contained in some of the heritage books, yet the Orientalists are using it as one whole lot. I’ll just give you one example in the story of the “Satanic Verses” which is mentioned in some of our books. The Orientalists got focused on this story and if we tried to accuse them of spreading falsehoods about us they will simply say that the story is mentioned in our authentic books!

Attempting to venture on the fields of teaching Arabic and Islamic sciences outside the Islamic world through the cultural agreements that are held between the Islamic countries and the countries of Europe and America. This can be done by sending qualified professors from the Islamic countries to study at the fortresses of Orientalism. Gradually we can correct the European misconceptions about Islam through diligent scientific efforts and not just through slogans. I believe that many European universities will be ready to respond to such calls.


[1]17th letter of the Arabic alphabet.


wa Asalamu 3alaykoum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

Subhanak Allahumma wa bi hamdik. Ashhadu al-la ilaha illa ant. Astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk

اللهمَّ صَلِّ عَلى سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ و عَلى آلِهِ و صَحبِهِ و سَلِّم
Allâhumma salli 'alâ Sayyidinâ Muhammadin wa 'alâ âlihi wa sahbihi wa sallim.

وسُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ وَ سَلامٌ عَلَى الْمُرْسَلِينَ وَالْحَمْدُ لِللهِ رَبِّ الْعَلَمِينَ
wa subḥāna rabbika rabbi l-ʿizzati ʿammā yaṣifūn wa-salāmun ʿalā l-mursalīn wa-l-ḥamdu li-llāhi rabbi l-ʿālamīn