Thursday, 16 September 2010
This year has obviously been an intense year in terms of the loss of Islamic thinkers, intellectuals and reformers. Earlier this year, the contemporary Islamic intellectual tradition witnessed the loss of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah in July followed by the Egyptian Nasr Hamed Abou Zayd two days later. Two days ago, Islamic intellectualism witnessed yet another loss.
Mohammed Arkoun was one of the most influential scholars in Islamic studies, an esteemed contributor to Islamic reform and a critic of the tensions embedded in his field of study. Arkoun will be best remembered for his advocacy of Islamic modernism and humanism.
Arkoun (1928-2010) was a native of the Berber village of Taourirt-Mimoun, in Kabylie, Algeria. Arkoun studied at the Faculty of Literature of the University of Algiers and at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Arkoun died on Tuesday, 14 Sept. 2010, at 82
He established his academic reputation with his studies of the history and philosophy of Ibn Miskawayh. As he began to consider how one might rethink Islam in the contemporary world, his questioning provided a counterpoint to the predominant interpretations of both the Muslim world and the non-Muslim West.
His intellectual discourse is described as one which "defends a postmodernist position, criticizes the 'Islamic reason' as well as the 'Eurocentric' Modernism, using an historical anthropological methodology, and aims at founding the new science of 'Applied Islamics'."
Click here for a full biography of Arkoun and a complete list of his works and publications in Arabic, English, French, Indonesian and Dutch. One of my favourite contributions by Mohammed Arkoun however is his 2002 book "The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought" and its 2006 revision "Islam: to Reform or to Subvert." Another of my favourite books by Mohammed Arkoun is "Humanisme et Islam: combats et propositions" published in French in 2005.
Below are two videos of Mohammed Arkoun discussing "holy ignorance" and "secularism" respectively. The videos are of an episode on Morocco's 'Télé 2M Monde'. The first video is one of my favourites. In it, Arkoun discusses the 'discourse of ignorance' and the 'institutionalisation of ignorance' in contemporary Islamic thought - from the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, post-colonial educational systems and other institutions and movements of knowledge (or ignorance).
I just came across the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar's section dedicated to the life and though of Mohammed Arkoun. Some wonderful articles celebrating the life and intellectual heritage of the late Arkoun who, to use Yassine Adnan's words, is the rightful heir to Ibn Rushd (Averroes). Yassine Temlali on the other hand, claims "death defeated Arkoun before he had won the battle for an Islamic enlightenment."