American Univesity of Beirut

AUB collaboration with international experts examines Islamic studies today

Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications,

A two-day conference entitled “Towards the Reconstruction of Islamic Studies” was organized at AUB to initiate discussion on the foundations, norms, methods, and problems of the discipline of Islamic studies. AUB’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Media Studies; Department of Arabic and Near Eastern Languages; and the Sheikh Zayed Chair for Arabic and Islamic Studies collaborated to host the conference.

Experts from around the world gathered to examine and identify key elements necessary to reconstruct the discipline of Islamic studies in a new age and, at the same time, integrate the experiences accumulated over the years within the discipline. 

Seven panels comprised the conference, dealing with the reformation of Shari’a sciences; connecting social sciences to Islamic studies; reforming religious studies through examining global and Arab case studies; and the renewal of modern religious thought. Panelists included professors and specialists from Canada, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, Syria, and Tunisia, contacted and collaborated with by the conference organizers: Drs. Ridwan al-Sayyid, Sari Hanafi, and Bilal Orfali. 

"The enormous Islamic heritage forced the Europeans to think about the civilizational and cultural history of Islam," said Dr. al-Sayyid, currently the Visiting Sheikh Zayed Chair in Arabic and Islamic Studies at AUB. "This was also encouraged by the discovery of the great civilizations of China, India and Iran before Islam. Europeans began to write on Arabic civilization and its cultural, intellectual and political history.  The idea of publishing the Islamic heritage was realized as a basis for Islamic studies, accompanied by the idea that revival comes only through that heritage."

In his keynote address, al-Sayyid gave an overview of the development of the discipline of Islamic studies, and how it intertwined with the political scene throughout its formation.

Dr. Nadia El Cheikh, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, stated that the panelists "have great experience in writing and teaching in the fields of Islamic studies. We will benefit greatly from this process of discussion, dialogue and critique, which will occur about various fields of studies of Islam in these two days."

During the conference, panelists discussed elemental aspects within Islamic studies. Discussions took place between leading authorities in Qur’anic studies, the humanities, new exegetical methods of interpretation, contemporary religious discourse, and comparison of diverse insights.
The connection of Islamic schools to philosophy, the role of Sufism, the relationship between literature and Islamic law, and the relationship between social sciences and Islamic law were addressed by panel speakers. 

Attended by around 100 people, the conference offered an opportunity to re-examine and innovate in the realm of Islamic studies, and, with input from experts worldwide, presented valuable contributions and revisions to the discipline. 

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