Friday, 11 March 2011

Orientalist & Islamic Studies

Orientalism in general is the study of the culture of the East (orient) through Western perspectives. The word "Orientalist" refers to the Western (mostly not only Christian or Jewish_ scholars of Islam. They focus their studies on the culture and civilizations of the Orient or East or Morgenland, of Asia including the study of language, literature, history and religion.

Orientalists are concerned not only with the great, living civilizations (such as Islam, India and China) but also with ancient civilizations no longer exist (such as Egypt and Mesopotamia). They was also known as Indologist, Sinologist, Arabist, Islamologist or Islamicist.

The term of "Islamic Studies" was actually emerged from Orientalism. It refers to the study of the religion of Islam and of various aspects of Muslim cultures and societies. This term also known as Islamologie, Islamstudien, Islamkunde Islamwissenschaft or simply Islamistik and Islamics. Islamic studies that carried out in the West was part of the Oriental studies, and was sometimes also called Arabic studies or Arabistik.

Orientalists started their project in Islamic Studies with the Translation Movement, whereby many books written in Arabic was translated into Latin. The movement took place mainly in Spain and Italy, but also in France, England and Germany. The first Quranic translation into Latin done by Orientalist was Robert of Ketton (de Chester), was given name Lex Mahumet Psedoprophete. (So, be careful of using this kind of Quranic Translation). Then, many other books written by Muslim scholars was translated into other languages by Orientalists.

Simultaneously, the Orientalists also produced a new approach known as 'Historical-Critical Method" especially used in their writing on the matter of Islam. The basic of this method is: 1. Form Criticism, 2.Source Criticism, 3.Redaction Criticism, 4. Textual Criticism. Among Orientalists who excellent in using this method was Theodor Noldeke, Goldziher, W. Montgomery Watt and many more. Consequently, many theories were developed from that method; Theory of influence, Theory of Origin, Theory of borrowing, Theory of evolution, and Theory of Development.

The Orientalists also made an attempt in:
  • Reconstruction of Islamic Historical Events
  • Restoration of Islamic Text
  • Copy-editing al-Quran
  • Questioning the Arabicity of the Quran
There are comparison of Islamic Studies carried out by Muslims and Orientalist. Islamic Studies done in the West by Orientalists and Islamologists are characteristically different because:
  • They look at Islam as a subject of study or as a kind of symbol for the focus of their research, and not as a divine truth and guidance for mankind.
  • They seek relevant data about Islam for the sake of research, regardless of the meaning that Muslims as adherents of Islam attach to them, and irrespective of the truth they recognize in them.
  • They investigate Islam as a social phenomena, approaching things Islamic from the historical, cultural, sociological, anthropological, political or literary perspective and not merely from the viewpoint of Religion.
  • They also introduce ridiculous categories like: 'Islamic thought' versus 'Islamic observed', 'militant Islam', 'fudamentalist Islam', 'classical Islam', medieval Islam', 'modern Islam', 'radical Islam', 'progressive Islam', 'liberal Islam', etc.
This summary of Orientalist and Islamic Studies was taken while attending talk by Dr. Syamsuddin Arif in his Intellectual lecture, organized by IYC IIUM and HAKIM.

The question by myself is How deep we study Islam compare to the Orientalist? How to counter back with them when we know some of them are more knowledgable on the Islamic matters compare to Muslims? Lets think about it and Muhasabah ourself while admitting that we are real Muslim and they are Kuffar...

During the Q&A Session, there are discussions on the matter 'Muslim Orientalist' such as Fazlur Rahman. We also have to know to counter Orientalist in the term of 'Istighhrab' opposite of 'Istishraq'. Therefore, we have to make a serious and critical study on the Orientalists' works by accessing through many languages.

Last but not least, Dr, Syamsuddin gave a serious reminder "Don't write anything that you can please Orientalists, because they will never please with Islam"

Allah said in Surah al-Baqarah, verse 120:

ولن ترضى عنك اليهود ولا النصارى حتى تتبع ملتهم قل إن هدى الله هو الهدى، ولئن اتبعت أهواءهم بعد الذى جاءك من العلم ما لك من الله من ولي ولا نصير.

Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: "The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance." Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah.


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