The Study of Orientalism at the Department of Orientalism:
An Evaluation and Analysis
Mazin S. Motabagani
Associate Professor- Orientalistics
In the year 1980 when the Muslim World was experiencing an awakening at the advent of the beginning of the fifteenth Hijrah century, it occurred to a group of scholars from different parts of the Muslim World and with the great support form the rector of the Islamic University of Muhammad ibn Saud Dr. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Turky that it was the time to establish a new field of scholarship concerning the field of Orientalism. This was the unit of Orientalism and Christian Missionaries at the
in Research Center .
Dr. Samarrai who headed the first unit for the study of Orientalism describes this step by quoting the rector of the University in his introduction to the Arabic translation of Abdul –Latif Al- Tibawi two critiques of the English speaking Orientalists saying “it is the purpose and intention of the University to show keen interests in the works published by Orientalists about Islam as a whole, its languages and cultures. It is indeed part and parcel of its academic mission which requires that we should take notice of the different studies that are being carried out by Orientalists in the fields of language, culture, and people of Islam. In pursuit of this objective, the University has established a unit in the Research Center for the Study of Orientalism as well as an independent department in the Faculty of Islamic Propagation in Madinah.”
Three years after the establishment of the unit in
, the department of Orientalism was
established as the sole department for this purpose in the whole Muslim World
at the Higher Institute of Islamic Daawa (Faculty of Daawa now) at Al-Madinah Riyadh
In this paper we shall deal with the topic in four different parts as follows:
Part I : Historical background this will be very brief indeed due to the nature of the audience in this esteemed conference
Part II: The department of Orientalism : goals and objectives.
Part III: The Curriculum and different subjects studies by the students.
Part IV: Evaluation of Samples of the MA and PhD theses granted by the department as well as an evaluation of the department as a whole.
When dealing with the topic of Orientalism one must mention with great respect and dignity the leading figure in this field Mustapha al-Sibaei who wrote the infamous book “ Assunna wa Makanatuh fi al tashreei al –Islami” ( Hadith Tradition and its role in the Islamic Jurisprudence.” Sibaei went on to visit the Islamic studies Centers in
Europe and look into the works of these centers and hold
debates with the leading Orientalists. He wrote his short monograph which is
still a reference in this field “Orientalists: Pros and Cons” And though we are
honoring Edward Said in this conference a due mention must be given to Sibiei
who did not just look into the works of some Orientalists but also fulfilled
his duties to visit them and establish a dialogue with them much earlier than
many nowadays who call for dialogue.
We must also mention Muhammad Al-Bahi who wrote his well known book “Modern Islamic Thought and its relation to Western Thought.” He added appendixes to his book including the first of the two articles published by Tibawi “ Critique of the English Speaking Orientalists” Al-Bahi added in his a book a categorizing of the Orientalists in through groups.
The list is long to mention all the names of the Muslim Scholars who wrote about Orientalism but we must mention that in the Indian Semi-Continent there appeared many leading scholars who also were interested in the works of Orientalism about Islam and some of them wrote extensively about this matter.
What also made it a must to study Orientalism is the great many Arab and Muslim Students who studied in the west in the different fields in the field of Human Sciences who became very influential in the literary as well as in almost all aspects of the intellectual life of the Arab and Muslim World. The influence of those who studies in the west under the supervision of Orientalists was so overwhelming. One professor told his students that any paper that does not have English reference in it will not be considered a good paper. Another one said to a student asking if the Quran can be used as guide to devising a methodology to the study of History. The teacher said: O my son don’t mix religion with science.”
Dr. Al-Umary complained in public lecture that many of his teachers in the university were adopting Orientalists’ views as their own without announcing that these views are those of their teachers the Orientalists as did Hassan Ibrahim Hassan in his famous book “ The Islamic History”
This influence reached media in its different fields (Journalism, Radio, T.V and other modes) when the Orientalists views are exposed while the real Islamic views are suppressed. This was so apparent in the field of literature when the so called Modernity trend was the dominant in most of the mass media.
The department of Orientalism: Goals and Objectives
Once again we find the words of Al-Turky very helpful in explaining the foundations of this department “…the first step one should take in counteracting any erroneous ideology or hostile doctrine is to study it thoroughly, collect all the necessary information, analyse it objectively and refute systematically.”
And in order to attain this goal it was decided that the level of studies is to be graduate studies leading to M.A and Ph.d’s in the different fields of disciplines undertaken by Western Scholars as follows:
The study of Orientalism phenomenon: its rising, goals and objectives and schools.
Islamic Studies such as Quranic, Hadith, Aqidah, history …etc.
The study of Orientalism Centers or Middle Eastern Studies in the West and the imminent scholars in this field.
The Study of Christian Missionary; their efforts, thought and centers.
The students who join this department were supposed to have studied Islamic studies in the undergraduate level. But were also required to take a written and oral examination to evaluate their level of competency in Islamic Studies. Some students were accepted from different background as Social Sciences or Humanities but were required to study certain subjects.
Students were required to be fluent in one of the European languages. When this condition is not fulfilled students were required to attend a number of courses in a
The aims of these studies are stated in the literature of the department and they are the following:
- Expose the students to the studies undertaken by Western Scholars about Islam and Muslism
- Bring to the attention of the students the positive sides of Islam and the misconceptions about Islam.
- To conduct analytical studies of Orientalism and the methodologies used by them to benefit from the positive points and to avoid the negative points of these studies.
- To shield the students against misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.
- To familiarize the students with Western scholarship of Islam and to establish ties with centers of learning in the west.
- To create cultural and scientific channels with the world of Orientalism through translation, conferences and direct contacts.
- To show the influence of these studies and their contribution in spreading the knowledge about Islam in the West.
- To fulfill a real need for such studies which have not been given the due attention throughout the Arab and Muslim Word.
Nature of studies in the dept.
The department will strictly adhere to the scientific methodology and the wise method of propagation. And will try to shed the light on the positive as well as the negative sides of the Orientalists’ works.