Iǧtihād and taqlīd in Sunnī and Šīʿī Islam

The theme of iǧtihād and taqlīd, by pointing to the notional antagonism between independent reasoning on the one hand and submission to the argument of authority on the other, plunges us into the heart of the debates among Muslims, Sunnis as well as Šīʿis, on the most essential issues of their faith: What is authority in Islam? What are its sources of reference? What is the place of rational reasoning as authority? What role do the revelation of God and the Sunna of the Prophet —or Imāms, for Šīʿis— play in relation to reason?

Since the relationship between taqlīd and iǧtihād is complex, the thematic dossier of this issue of MIDEO proposes to deepen both logics in the light of the Islamic heritage. The history of Islamic thought shows that distinctions have indeed been made between the fundamental principles (uṣūl) and the branches of Fiqh (furūʿ), that relationships have been elaborated with other connected notions (iḫtilāf, ittibāʿiǧmāʿtarǧīḥ), that taqlīd has been evaluated in different ways (ḥarāmmaḏmūmmubāḥ), and that distinctions have been made between degrees of iǧtihād. Beyond the rivalry between the two logics, it was necessary to verify whether or not these notions are within a continuum, and that they are not incompatible, although these two hegemonic perspectives oppose one another.

Click here to read it online (full text free edition)…

Human Fraternity and Inclusive Citizenship

Fadi Daou, Fabio Petito and Michael D. Driessen, Human Fraternity and Inclusive Citizenship: Interreligious Engagement in the Mediterranean, Milan: Ledizioni, June 2021, 194 pages.

Polarization and discrimination linked to religion have been increasing in many parts of the world, including on the two shores of the Mediterranean. Against this background, however, seeds of hope have emerged from a number of religious leaders who have called for a new narrative of human fraternity and inclusive citizenship

This report analyzes the opportunities which human fraternity and inclusive citizenship offer for government-religious partnerships aimed at building more inclusive and peaceful societies across both shores of the Mediterranean and puts forward interreligious engagement as a new policy framework that recognizes and amplifies these novel dynamics. 

Can the interreligious narrative of human fraternity help to create new inclusive forms of citizenship? How can governments and international organizations better partner with religious leaders and communities to concretely build inclusive societies from the MENA region to Europe? 

The question of women at the heart of the spiritual renovation of Islam

Asma Lamrabet

Euro-Arab Foundation of the University of Granada

icon-calendar Sunday February 21ˢᵗ, 2021

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Click here to watch the lecture on Youtube (in French with Arabic subtitles)…

Like many Muslim women working in intellectual and activist networks (Karamah in the United States, or Musawah in Malaysia), Mrs. Asma Lamrabet tries to go beyond the misogynistic, patriarchal and legalist approach that has prevailed in Islam, especially through jurisprudence (fiqh), by highlighting an ethical and spiritual approach. Rather than relying on a few verses (on inheritance, testimony, or polygamy) and drawing from them general legal principles for all that concerns “the Muslim woman”, the ethical-reformist reading aims at a holistic (šumūlī) reading of the Qurʾān, which takes into consideration the objectives of the Law (maqāṣid al-šarīʿa). Those are, among others, the common good (al-maṣlaḥa al-ʿāmma), the removal of constraint (rafʿ al-ḥaraǧ), the establishment of justice (iqāmat al-ʿadl). The status of women must be understood in the light of general Qurʾānic values such as justice (al-ʿadāla), equity (al-qisṭ), compassion (al-raḥma), piety (al-taqwā), love (al-maḥabba), wisdom (al-ḥikma), collaboration in righteousness and piety (al-taʿāwun ʿalā al-birr wa-l-taqwā), protection of the vulnerable (ḥimāyat al-mustaḍʿafīn fī al-arḍ), and not in the light of five or six verses interpreted too quickly and used as intangible legal principles.

The hope for renovation that this ethical reading brings is at the service of the liberation of all —especially the weakest— and not just of women, who have been made completely invisible in the Muslim tradition.

What is the horizon of Qurʾānic studies in the West? (12ᵗʰ‒18ᵗʰ centuries)

Sana Bou Antoun

PhD student at Paris-IV Sorbonne Université

icon-calendar Tuesday November 10ᵗʰ, 2020

Western studies of the Qurʾān have a very ancient history, dating back to the 12ᵗʰ century, and it is important to study this history in order to better understand the stakes of the current situation. Consisting mainly of translations exercises accompanied by commentaries in which extensive philological remarks and polemical content are intertwined, these Qurʾānic studies bear witness to the ambivalent relationship between West and East, and therefore between European specialists in Semitic languages and the Qurʾān.

Several factors have triggered the interest of scholars in Europe in the Middle Ages for the Qurʾān. Some scholars initially considered that the Arabic language could be used to better understand Hebrew and other Semitic languages. Others had a plan to convert Muslims to Christianity. And finally, others wanted to better understand Islam, which they spontaneously analyzed as a Christian heresy.

If before the 12ᵗʰ century the Qurʾān was known to the West only through the eyes of Eastern Christians, the Latin translation of Robert of Ketton in 1143 provided direct access to the text to Western scholars. Using an elegant Biblical Latin language, and relying on classical commentaries, such as that of al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923), the translation of Robert of Ketton is certainly intended to refute the Qurʾān, but by taking it seriously.

The situation changed in the 14ᵗʰ century with the humanist scholars during the Renaissance era, who were in a conflictual relationship with the Ottoman Empire, and who insisted more on the political dimension of the figure of the Prophet Muḥammad than on his ethical and eschatological message. Humanists also relegated Arabic to a second place behind Hebrew. The first translations into European vernacular languages were published in this time.

The anti-clericalism and anti-Christianity of the 17ᵗʰ and 18ᵗʰ centuries in Europe then tended to present Islam as a more rational religion than Christianity. As for the dominant position of Hebrew in Semitic studies, it was reinforced by Protestantism.

As John Tolan writes, Qurʾānic studies in the West have first and foremost been a mirror for the European intellectual tradition, reflecting its own internal questions, concerns and debates on Biblical and religious issues in general.

The Periodical MIDEO

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Read MIDEO online!

All the articles published before 2015 are downloadable in PDF format from our catalogue.

You can also consult the detailed tables of content and publishing houses of MIDEO. Since issue 31 (2015), MIDEO is published by IFAO and is also freely available online. It is possible to buy the older issues at IFAO in Cairo.

Next thematic issues

  • MIDEO 37 (2022): Reciting in the early Islamic Empire (deadline: May 31ˢᵗ, 2021)
  • MIDEO 38 (2023): Islamic theologies of disasters (deadline: June 30ᵗʰ, 2021)
  • MIDEO 39 (2024): The Cairo Edition of the Qurʾān 1924 (under preparation, deadline: June 30ᵗʰ, 2022)
  • MIDEO 40 (2025): The literal meaning (under preparation, deadline: June 30ᵗʰ, 2023)

Submitting an article or a review

If you wish to submit an article related to the topics of the next issues, a text edition or an article that fits in the general purpose of the Institute, if you wish to submit a book review on islamology, you can send your text directly to the director of MIDEO ().

Please pay attention to the Guidelines for MIDEO‘s authors.

Authors who would like MIDEO to publish a review of their book should send a copy to the following address:

Emmanuel PISANI
Director of MIDEO
222 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris – France

The History of MIDEO

MIDEOMiscellanies of the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies in Cairo—is a periodical set up in 1954 by IDEO’s first members. These Miscellanies are mostly academical contributions from the members of the Institute and from scholars collaborating with them. Its articles are in French, in English or in Arabic.

Meeting the objectives of the Institute, MIDEO publishes original works on Islam according to its sources; it focuses on theological and philosophical issues as well as on the history of doctrines. It aims at moving beyond the mutual misunderstandings that exist between our cultural and religious traditions, and this through in depth research. It pays a close attention to the contemporary evolutions of scholarly research on these topics.

The diversity of the topics covered, as well as the relevance of some contemporary issues, can be inferred by consulting the list of articles published since 1954. Since 2004, the monographs collection “Les Cahiers du Midéo” completes the periodical. Since issue 30 (2014), each issue of MIDEO gathers articles on a specific topic as well as text editions and varia. Beginning with issue 31 (2015), MIDEO is freely available online.

Interactions between Twelver Shiites and Christians

This volume 35 is made up of a dossier gathering most of the papers presented at the conference held in April 2018 at the Institut Catholique de Paris on the interactions between Imamites and Christians. Starting from the hypothesis that history, theology, and literature bear witness to the intercultural dimension of encounters and relationships, the authors show how the identities of each person have been shaped and constructed. The history of missionaries, accounts of travels, diplomatic letters from writers or polemicists shed light on the reality of these exchanges and the linguistic, cultural and theological transfers, beyond a dogmatic, hegemonic and closed vision of theological statements.

Click here to read it online (full text free edition)…

De Koran herontdekt

Emilio Platti, De Koran herontdekt, Averbode: Uitgeverij Averbode|‌Erasme N.V, 2020, 96 pages.

De afgelopen jaren is het wetenschappelijk onderzoek naar het ontstaan van de Koran en de vroege Islam in een stroomversnelling geraakt. Islamoloog en dominicaan Emilio Platti behandelt in dit boekje twee nieuwe belangrijke inzichten.

Hij beschrijft de invloed van jodendom en christendom op de profeet Mohammed en de vroege Islam. Daarnaast verduidelijkt Platti dat de algemeen aanvaarde tekst van de Koran (de textus receptus) vroegere versies kent die naar Mohammed zelf teruggaan. De auteur verduidelijkt de consequenties hiervan voor een beter begrip van de Koran en van de Islam.

Click here to buy the book online…

Mysticism Comes to School

Notes on a Work in Progress, by Simon Conrad

PhD student at Princeton University

icon-calendar Tuesday October 20ᵗʰ, 2020

When he returned from Cambridge in 1930 with his doctorate in his pocket after nine years of study, Abū al-ʿIlā ʿAfīfī (1897‒1966) was determined to introduce Sufi studies at the Egyptian University. This idea was considered preposterous by his peers, who wanted to entrust him with the teaching of logic.

His doctoral work consisted in systematizing Ibn ʿArabī’s (d. 638/1240) thought, which he treated as a philosopher of intuition, on par with contemporary philosophers such as James (1842‒1910) or Bergson (1859‒1941), rather than as a mystic. If on a personal basis, it is indeed mysticism that interests ʿAfīfī, defined as the intuitive understanding of the divine, his academic project is above all to propose an analysis of the texts of the Arab-Islamic heritage with contemporary tools.

A discreet intellectual and mystic, ʿAfīfī nevertheless entered into public debates with his contemporaries on the question of the opposition—which he refused—between a supposedly spiritual East and a materialistic West, or on the epistemological status of intuition: he considered that intuition could indeed be a source of knowledge in its own right.

Abū al-ʿIlā ʿAfīfī, like others invested in bringing the mystical tradition to the fore at this time, constitutes a missing link in the history of the Arab thought in the era of decolonization, and sets the stage for more flamboyant thinkers such as Abū al-Wafā al-Taftāzānī (1930‒1994) and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Badawī (1917‒2002).