Modern Societies and the Science of Religions: Studies in Honour of Lammert Leertouwer

By Gerard Wiegers | Go to book overview

DISCUSSIONS ON ORIENTALISM
IN PRESENT-DAY SAUDI ARABIA1

QASIM AL-SAMARRAI

Leiden Institute for the Study of Religions.


INTRODUCTION

'There is scarcely any academic pursuit, in the realm of the humanities, which has more unfortunate antecedents than Islamic and Arabic studies in the West'.2 With these words ʿAbdul Latîf al-Tîbâwî begins his first of two critiques of English-speaking Orientalists in which he depicts the trends prevailing in the European Orientalists' writings in general and about the Arabs as a nation and Islam as a religion in particular.

In my capacity as the first head of the newly established unit to deal with Orientalism as a Western discipline in the Research Centre of the Islamic University of Muhammad ibn Saud in Riyadh, I was asked to translate the two critiques of al-Tibawi into Arabic. In his introduction to my translation of al-Tibawi's aforesaid article, the then rector of the University, ʿAbd Allâh b. ʿAbd al-Muhsin al-Turkî, unequivocally phrases the motives for establishing the new unit, which has now become an independent department within the faculty of Islamic Dawa in al-Mariina, as follows:

It is the purpose and intention of the University to show a keen interest
in the works published by Orientalists about Islam as a whole, and its
languages and cultures. It is indeed part and parcel of its academic
mission, which requires that we should take notice of the different stud-
ies that are being carried out by the Orientalists in the fields of lan-
guage, culture, and people of Islam. In pursuit of this objective, the
University has established a unit in the Research Centre for the study of
Orientalism in Riyadh as well as an independent department in the
Faculty of Islamic Daʿwa in al-Madina.3

1 An earlier version of this article appeared in Âlam al-Kutub, vol. 14/4 July-
August 1993), 422-431.

2 Al-Tibawi 1963: 185.

3 Al-Tibawi 1411/1991.

-283-

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