Historical Methodology and Dogmatic Islamophilia
(English Original of „Historische Methodologie und die Forderung nach Wohlwollen gegenüber dem Islam“)
1. Historical Methodology and the Believer
A few years ago I was invited to a conference at The Hague by Professor Hans Jansen, the great Arabist. After listening to series of grim papers all day long, Hans and I headed for the nearest bar. I was to give my talk the next day and I asked him what I should talk about. He replied, you must begin with a joke, there were not enough jokes. So I shall begin with a joke, first told me by Joe Hoffmann, which in fact is relevant to the theme of my present paper, that is, historical methodology, and the consequences of scientific research into the origins of early Islam and Christianity, consequences for the believer above all.
The time: the 1950s. Place: The Holy Land. Two archaeologists are working on a site they believe is the true location of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Golgotha just outside ancient Jerusalem. After months of careful digging they came across two skeletons several feet apart, and thinking perhaps these were the bones of the thieves crucified at the same time as Jesus, they shifted their attention to a spot where Jesus himself would have been crucified. Sure enough they find some bones, and the remains of a cross, and after weeks of further digging and carbon-dating analysis conclude that these remains were of Jesus. Furthermore, the archaeological details were consistent with the account of the crucifixion as found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. They looked at each other as they realized the implications of their findings, particularly for the Resurrection. This discovery was far too important to release to the public without first involving some eminent theologians. They immediately thought of Rudolf Bultmann, perhaps the leading theologian of his day, and author of „The Gospel of John (1941)“, now considered a classic in the field of research into the historical Jesus. Our archaeologists phoned him, and explained in breathless tones their discovery and its consequences. Bultmann listened patiently and was then silent for twenty seconds. Finally, in a thick German accent he said: „You mean he really existed!“
Soon after 11 September, 2001, the left-wing British weekly journal The New Statesman published an article provocatively entitled „The Great Koran Con Trick“ by Martin Bright. The article was essentially a more crude and self-consciously sensationalist version of an article written by Toby Lester, a couple of years earlier, entitled ‚What is the Koran?“ . Bright rehearsed the familiar theories of the revisionists, centered on the work of John Wansbrough of the School of African and Oriental Studies [SOAS], and those influenced by him, scholars such as Patricia Crone, Michael Cook, Andrew Rippin, and Gerald Hawting. The article resulted in many letters to the Editor, and six of them were published the following week [17 December, 2001]. The longest was from Patricia Crone, writing from the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. In her letter, Crone wrote, „modern historians are not interested in the truth and falsehood of the religion they study at all. They study religions as historical factors shaped by their environment and acting back on it in turn, much as scientists study the formation of dust clouds or the evolution of plants. Religious beliefs shape the world they interact with, whether the person studying them happens to share them or not; all that matters is what they meant at the time, not what they mean now“. A little further, Crone continues, „[Historians] have no intention of making the Muslim house come down, nor indeed could they even if they did. Religion does not belong in the domain open to proof or disproof by scholarship or science“.
Michael Cook, Crone’s one-time colleague and co-author of Hagarism, also wrote to the journal. Here is the full text of his letter: „It is prefectly true that some of various academic theories about the origins of Islam are radical. But it would be wrong to suggest that they ‚prove‘ the traditional Islamic account of the beginnings of the religion to be false. They don’t. Neither, so far as I know, do the early Koranic fragments found in Yemen prove anything like that. They are exciting to experts, they scatter a few apples over the cobbles, but they don’t upset the apple-cart. In any case, it is hard to see why academic theories about the origins of Islam should be any more ‚devastating‘ than theories about Jesus have been to Christianity. Academic work does occasionally enliven the halls of learning, but it doesn’t devastate world religions. They don’t play in the same league“.
Now the remarks of both Cook and Crone are misleading to say the least. First, Crone seems to imply that all historians are only engaged in historical sociology of religion, investigating what it meant to be Muslim, and how Muslims saw and experienced their own religion, and are not interested in the truth and falsehood of the religion studied. Not only does this not characterize the work of all historians, it does not even characterize her own. In Hagarism, co-written with Michael Cook, Slaves on Horses , God’s Caliph  written with Martin Hinds, Roman Provincial and Islamic Law , Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam , Crone challenged the accepted views on early Islam. Hagarism, for instance, exploded the „the acadmic consensus and demolish deference to the Muslim view of things, thus making it possible to propose radical alternative hypotheses for the origins of Islam“, in other words, alternative accounts of what really happened. 1 They clearly rejected the Islamic tradition.
Second, Cook and Crone imply that academic research has no consequence for the religion or the believer, but they themselves clearly saw the implications of their own scholarly work, for they admit in the preface to Hagarism, that without exposure to „the sceptical approach of Dr. John Wansbrough to the historicity of the Islamic tradition . . . the theory of Islamic origins set out in this book would never have occurred to us“ (p. viii), and that this approach led them to a theory which is „not one which any believing Muslim can accept: not because it in any way belittles the historical role of Muhammad, but because it presents him in a role quite different from that which he has taken on in the Islamic tradition. This is a book written by infidels for infidels, and it is based on what from any Muslim perspective must appear an inordinate regard for the testimony of infidel sources“ (pp. vi-viii). Why the recourse to the „infidel sources“, that is, the non-Muslim historians of the period of the Islamic conquests? Their reply: „Virtually all accounts of the early development of Islam take it as axiomatic that it is possible to elicit at least the outlines of the process from the Islamic sources. It is however well known that these sources are not demonstrably early. There is no hard evidence for the existence of the Koran in any form before the last decade of the seventh century, and the tradition which places this rather opaque revelation in its historical context is not attested before the middle of the eighth. The historicity of the Islamic tradition is thus to some degree problematic: while there are no cogent internal grounds for rejecting it, there are equally no cogent external grounds for accepting it. In the circumstances it is not unreasonable to proceed in the usual fashion by presenting a sensibly edited version of the tradition as historical fact. But equally, it makes some sense to regard the tradition as without determinate historical content, and to insist that what purport to be accounts of religious events in the seventh century are utilizable only for the study of religious ideas in the eighth. The Islamic sources provide plenty of scope for the implementation of these different approaches, but offer little that can be used in any decisive way to arbitrate between them. The only way out of the dilemma is thus to step outside the Islamic tradition altogether and start again“.(p. 3)
What an extraordinary avowal: a history „written by infidels for infidels“. What on earth do they mean? Do they mean Muslims should not read it? Why? Because the account in Hagarism is not true? Or more simply, they believe it is true but it is an account no Muslim will find acceptable. Are Muslims not capable of accepting the truth? Must Muslims be always protected from the truth? Why are their sensibilities more important than, say, those of the Christians or Jews?
Pace Cook and Crone, the implications of their theses are indeed „devastating“. Any research that casts doubt on the traditional Muslim account of the Koran, the Rise of Islam and the life of Muhammad is totally unacceptable to Muslims. The two final letters reveal the enormous gulf between the attitudes to research in Islam and Christianity. The pen-ultimater letter writer, Robin Oakley-Hill, remarked that, „It is hardly fair to characterise western Koran scholarship as neo-colonial given that western academics subject Christianity to far more rigorous- frequently destructive-examination….Perhaps Islam could do with a [Pope] John XXII and some liberation theology“.
Oakley-Hill’s point had been made by John Wansbrough himself over thirty years earlier:
„As a document susceptible of analysis by the instruments and techniques if Biblical criticism [the Koran] is virtually unknown. The doctrinal obstacles that have traditionally impeded such investigation are, on the other hand, very well known. Not merely dogmas such as those defining scripture as the uncreated Word of God and acknowledging its formal and substantive inimitability, but also the entire corpus of Islamic historiography, by providing a more or less coherent and plausible report of the circumstances of the Quranic revelation, have discouraged examination of the document as representative of a traditional literary type.“2
Little seems to have changed nineteen years later, for Andrew Rippin lamented:
„. . . I have often encountered individuals who come to the study of Islam with a background in the historical study of the Hebrew Bible or early Christianity, and who express surprise at the lack of critical thought that appears in introductory textbooks on Islam. The notion that „Islam was born in the clear light of history“ still seems to be assumed by a great many writers of such texts. While the need to reconcile varying historical traditions is generally recognized, usually this seems to pose no greater problem to the authors than having to determine „what makes sense“ in given situation. To students acquainted with approaches such as source criticism, oral formulaic composition, literary analysis and structuralism, all quite commonly employed in the study of Judaism and Christianity, such naive historical study seems to suggest that Islam is being approached with less than academic candour.“3
The last letter to the Editor of the New Statesman was from a Christian clergyman, and clearly reveals that Christianity has absorbed the lessons not only of the Enlightenment, but Biblical Criticism. The Reverend Richard Craig wrote,
„In spite of huge advances in biblical scholarship, Ann Widdicombe [a Conservative Member of the British Parliament] can still assert in her review of [the book] Mary: The Unauthorized Biography, that St.John’s Gospel is an eyewitness account of the life of Christ. Most scholars reject such a view. Martin Bright’s report is welcome evidence that scholarly investigation of the origins of Islam is beginning the long and painful path trodden by Christian theologians‘ inquiry into our sacred texts. Widdicombe’s acceptance of the literalist view of the gospels is till widely held by many sitting in church pews, even though the clergy have been taught otherwise for 50 years or more“.
Cook, in his letter, also claims that the Koranic fragments from the Yemen do not
„prove“ a great deal. But they do. As Gerd Puin told Toby Lester, „So many Muslims have this belief that everything between the two covers of the Koran is just God’s unaltered word. They like to quote the textual work that shows that the Bible has a history and did not fall straight out of the sky, but until now the Koran has been out of this discussion. The only way to break through this wall is to prove that the Koran has a history too. The Sana’a‘ fragments will help us to do this.“ Andrew Rippin was also enthusiastic, „The impact of the Yemeni manuscripts is still to be felt. Their variant readings and verse orders are all very significant. Everybody agrees on that. These manuscripts say that the early history of the Koranic text is much more of an open question than many have suspected: the text was less stable, and therefore had less authority,than has always been claimed.“4
If what Puin and Rippin say is correct, then the consequences are again „devastating“, a fact recognized by R.Stephen Humphreys, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who argued,
„To historicize the Koran would in effect delegitimize the whole historical experience of the Muslim community. The Koran is the charter for the community, the document that called it into existence. And ideally-though obviously not always in reality-Islamic history has been the effort to pursue and work out the commandments of the Koran in human life. If the Koran is a historical document, then the whole Islamic struggle of fourteen centuries is effectively meaningless.“5
In brief, pace Cook and Crone, historians do try to establish what really happened and their research has profound implications for the believer and the religion’s own traditional view of itself. The three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are particularly vulnerable to the historical sciences, since the validity of their respective dogmas are closely predicated on or anchored in putatively historical events, in a way that Buddhism, for example, is not. The historical Buddha, that is if he is indeed a historical figure, only said „follow my argument“, and if his life proved to be a pious legend, his argument would still remain, and „Buddhism“ would not be shaken in its foundations. As Van Harvey said in his classic The Historian and the Believer, the deontology, as the French would say, of the historian, that is to say the moral obligation of the historian as historian and hence the critical historical method
„has the profoundest of implications for religious belief in general and Christian belief in particular“.6
I lean heavily on Van Harvey’s The Historian and the Believer- which incidentally by a happy coincidence is dedicated to Rudolf Bultmann- in what follows.
Ernst Troeltsch [1865 -1923], the German Protestant theologian who wrote on the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of history, spent a large part of his life trying to grapple with the significance of the historical-critical method, whose development he considered „one of the great advances in human thought; indeed, that it presupposed a revolution in the consciousness of Western man“.7
The historian’s will-to truth guided his aim which was nothing less than discovering what really happened. With objectivity, the historian was able to discover that much of what had been previously accepted as fact was in reality fiction, that many long-trusted witnesses were actually credulous spinners of tales and legends. The essential questions kept in mind by the skeptical historian were „whether or not something actually happened; whether it happened in the way it is told or in some other way“.8 Troeltsch argued that the presuppositions of the critical historical method themselves were basically incompatible with traditional Christian faith, based on a supernaturalistic metaphysics. He believed that this incompatability was clearly evident in the domain of Biblical criticism. The assumptions on which the method rested were irreconciliable with traditional belief. While the theologian regards the Scriptures as supernaturally inspired, the historian must assume that the Bible (or, of course, the Koran, though Troeltsch himself kept to Christianity) is intelligible only in terms of its historical context and is subject to the same principles of interpretation and criticism that are applied to other ancient literature. Or, they must be understood, as Maxime Rodinson expressed it in the Islamic context, by „the normal mechanisms of human history“. Explanations in terms of the supernatural intervention of God will only act as a hindrance to true historical understanding. For the skeptical historian all historical claims have only a greater or lesser degree of probability.
Troeltsch was unflinching in facing up to the consquences of the critical historical method. He wrote,
„Once the historical method is applied to Biblical science and church history, it is a leaven that alters everything and, finally, bursts apart the entire structure of theological methods employed until present“.
Troeltsch formulated three principles on which he believed the critical historical inquiry was based, and which were incompatible with traditional Christian belief: (1) the principle of criticism: our judgments about the past are provisionally true, open to revision in the light of criticism by peers, by the discovery of new evidence, and so on; (2) the principle of analogy: we are able to make such judgments of probability only if we presuppose that our own present experience is not radically dissimilar to the experience of past persons; and (3) the principle of correlation:
„the phenomena of man’s historical life are so related and interdependent that no radical change can take place at any one point in the historical nexus without effecting a change in all that immediately surrounds it. Historical explanation, therefore, necessarily takes the form of understanding an event in terms of its antecedents and consequences, and no event can be isolated from its historically conditioned time and space“.9
The third principle, the principle of correlation, led Troeltsch to conclude that no critical historian could make use of supernatural intervention as a principle of historical explanation since that broke the continuity of the causal nexus, and
„no event could be regarded as a final revelation of the absolute spirit, since every manifestation of truth and value was relative and historically conditioned. Troeltsch believed that ‚history is no place for absolute religion and absolute personalities‘ „.10 F.H.Bradley and Marc Bloch made the same point when they postulated that among the presuppositions of critical history were (1) the uniformity of nature and (2) the causal connection. Bloch wrote that all history assumes that „the universe and society possess sufficient uniformity to exclude the possibility of overly pronounced deviations“.11
History, in effect, presupposes all the sciences. It presupposes physics, for example, when the historian assesses the capabilities of weapons in the battle of Waterloo; it presupposes astronomy, when the historian evaluates reports about the sun having stood still as in Biblical story of Joshua [Joshua X.12-13]12. In fact, as Morton White noted,
„It seems impossible to put a limit on the number of sciences history does presuppose“.13
Central to the critical historian’s method is the notion of autonomy, with which Immanuel Kant identified enlightenment. Enlightenment, Kant argued, is man’s release from all authority that would deprive him of his freedom to think without direction from another. The motto „Have the courage to use your own reason“ summed up „his declaration of independence against every authority that rests on the dictatorial command, ‚Obey, don’t think‘ „.14 Kant elevated the will-to-truth above the will-to believe. It is entirely fitting in this context to note that the entire Enlightenment was launched by Baruch Spinoza. As Jonathan Israel, a colleague of Crone’s at the Institute for Advanced Study, in his magisterial work of extraordinary learning, scope and analysis, Radical Enlightenment, put it, „Spinoza and Spinozism were in fact the intellectual backbone of the European Radical Enlightenment everywhere, not only in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, and Scandinavia but also Britain and Ireland.“15 And the work that did more than any other to bring about this profound revolution in human history was Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico- Politicus published clandestinely but nonetheless courageously by the Dutch publisher Jan Rieuwertsz [c.1616-87] in Amsterdam in 1670. For Spinoza the Bible is purely a human and secular text, theology is not an independent source of truth. „..Spinoza offers an elaborate theory of what religion is, and how and why religion construes the world as it does, creating a new science of contextual Bible criticism. Analyzing usage and intended meanings, and extrapolating from context, using reason as an analytical tool but not expecting to find philosophical truth embedded in Scriptural concepts.“16 In his attack on the very possibility of miracles, and the credulity of the multitude, Spinoza’s Tractatus made a profound impression everywhere -in England, Italy, Germany and France. Spinoza, in effect, denounces clerical authority for exploiting the credulity, ignorance and superstition of the masses. Spinoza’s ideas were easy to grasp in one sense even by the unlettered , ideas such
„as the identification of God with the universe, the rejection of organized religion , the abolition of Heaven and Hell , together with reward and punishment in the hereafter, a morality of individual happiness in the here and now, and the doctrine that there is no reality beyond the unalterable laws of Nature, and consequently, no Revelation , miracles or prophecy „.17
What poetic justice that it was Spinoza’s Biblical Criticism that launched the Enlightenment! Can Cook and Crone still maintain that Biblical and Koranic Criticism do not upset the apple-cart, that their effects are not less than devastating?
The historian is autonomous because he cannot and must not accept the testimony of an authority uncritically. For „no witness simply hands down a complete, photograph-like description of an event; rather, he selects, alters, interprets, and rationalizes“. The witness’s thoughts, and the very way of thinking are conditioned by the prevailing culture, at a particular moment in history. As Van Harvey summarized,
„if the historian permits his authorities to stand uncriticized, he abdicates his role as critical historian. He is no longer a seeker of knowledge but a mediator of past belief; not a thinker but a transmitter of tradition“.18
An associated principle for the historian that prevents his or her autonomy from becoming mere subjectivism is the public communication of the historian’s conclusions so that these conclusions can be rationally assessed by his peers, and those who have the competence to do so. The historian must give reasons, that is, evidence for his or her claims, which are implicit appeals to other persons. Only such responsible dialogue, such submission of our theories, hypotheses, and conjectures to rational scrutiny by the academic and intellectual community can lead us closer to genuine knowledge, to the truth. As R.G. Collingwood who was a British philosopher and a historian wrote,
„History has this in common with every other science: that the historian is not allowed to claim any single piece of knowledge, except where he can justify his claim by exhibiting to himself in the first place, and secondly to any one else who is both able and willing to follow his demonstration, the grounds upon which it is based“.19
This principle immediately rules out the Genetic Fallacy, whereby the contingent characteristics of the historian are often used to exclude, a priori, the validity of his arguments or conclusions. Muslims tend to dismiss Koranic criticism if it emanates from a European as neo-colonialism; the work of Israeli or Christian scholars are willfully neglected as biased. Only a Muslim, it is argued can criticize Islam; it must be scrutinized from the inside. This argument leads to the absurd conclusion that only a Marxist can criticize Marxism, Stalinist Stalinism, and fascist fascism; though, of course, Muslims themselves are happy to avail themselves of any opportunity to criticize Christianity. Undoubtedly, historians are no different, no better no worse than the rest of the human race, they exhibit all sorts of predilections and prejudices that we find reprehensible. But these are irrelevant in our assessment of their work as historians, as Islamologists. Lawrence Conrad has shown, for instance, that Theodor Nöldeke was an anti-semite „whose publications and private correspondence flaunt bigotry and prejudice of a level [that was]…highly offensive“.20 I hardly need to spell out the importance of Nöldeke for Islamic Studies. Similarly, though he had what Rodinson calls a „holy contempt for Islam, for its ‚delusive glory‘ and its works, for its ‚dissembling‘ and ‚lascivious‘ Prophet,“21 and despite his other methodological shortcomings, Henri Lammens, according to F. E. Peters, „whatever his motives and style . . . has never been refuted.“22 Lawrence Conrad makes a similar point that despite Lammens’s well-known hostility to Islam, he offers a „number of useful insights.“23 Rodinson also concedes Lammens’s partiality, but once again realizes that Lammens’s
„colossal efforts at demolishing also had constructive results. They have forced us to be much more highly demanding of our sources. With the traditional edifice of history definitively brought down, one could now proceed to the reconstruction.“24
The provenance of an argument is not relevant, as long as it is submitted to rigorous examination. Now I personally have been accused of having some hidden agenda by a distinguished professor who teaches at a university in a city, which the British satirical journal, Private Eye, would describe as „not unadjacent to Lake Michigan“. I wonder what that agenda could possibly be- world domination no doubt- but is it relevant to the usefulness of my anthologies to scholars? As Albert Schweitzer wrote25,
„For hate as well as love can write a Life of Jesus, and the greatest of them are written with hate: that of Reimarus, the Wolfenbuttel Fragmentist, and that of David Friedrich Strauss. . . . And their hate sharpened their historical insight. They advanced the study of the subject more than all the others put together. But for the offense which they gave, the science of historical theology would not have stood where it does to-day.“
The letter from the Reverend Richard Craig that I quoted at the beginning underlines decisively the point made by Van Harvey, namely, „the battle of the independence of the Biblical historian has been largely won“. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Koranic scholars.The rights established by Ernest Renan and other nineteenth-century European scholars to examine critically and scientifically the foundations of Islam-whether of the Koran or the life of the Prophet-have been squandered in a welter of ecumenical sentimentality resulting in a misplaced concern for the sensibilities of Muslims. For instance, very recently in an essay entitled „Verbal Inspiration? Language and Revelation in Classical Islamic Theology,“26 Professor Josef van Ess expressed his concern for the tender susceptibilities of Muslims by stopping short, being a non-Muslim himself, his critical analysis out of respect for the way that Sunni Islam treats the history of thought! Mohammed Arkoun very sensibly replied that such an attitude was unacceptable scientifically, for historical truth concerns the right of the human spirit to push forward the limits of human knowledge; Islamic thought, like all other traditions of thought, can only benefit from such an epistemological attitude.27 Besides, continues Arkoun, Professor van Ess knows perfectly well that Muslims today suffer from the politics of repression of free thought, especially in the religious domain. Or to put it another way, we are not doing Islam any favors by shielding it from Enlightenment values.
Some Western scholarship has moved from objectivity to Islamic apologetics pure and simple; a trend remarked in 1968 by Maxime Rodinson:
“ In this way the anticolonialist left, whether Christian or not, often goes so far as to sanctify Islam and the contemporary ideologies of the Muslim world. . . . A historian like Norman Daniel has gone so far as to number among the conceptions permeated with medievalism or imperialism, any criticisms of the Prophet’s moral attitudes, and to accuse of like tendencies any exposition of Islam and its characteristics by means of the normal mechanisms of human history.Understanding has given way to apologetics pure and simple“.28
Maxime Rodinson, commenting on the work of Father Y. Moubarac and Louis Massignon, remarked that their perspective represented „a necessary reaction against an understanding of a text in terms that were too often foreign to the text, and a tendency to isolate themes from the religious context to which they belong-tendencies which were characteristic of the nineteenth century. However, the historian must occasionally ask himself if the reaction has not gone too far. Some of the methods of this school of thought must be a matter of concern to historians. To study the internal logic of a faith and to show respect are very legitimate objectives. The scholar has a perfect right to attempt to re-experience within himself the ‚fire‘ and the exigencies of the religious consciousness under study. However, the elements that comprise a coherent system could indeed have derived from a variety of very different sources and might well have played an entirely different role in other systems.
„Respect for the faith of sincere believers cannot be allowed either to block or deflect the investigation of the historian. . . .
One must defend the rights of elementary historical methodology.“29
It is certainly disgraceful that, what Karl Binswanger called, the „dogmatic Islamophilia“ of modern Islamicist scholars helped to deny Gunter Luling a fair hearing and destroyed his academic career.30 German Islamicists are to quote Arabist Gotz Schregle wearing „spiritually in their mind a turban,“ practicing „Islamic scholarship“ rather than scholarship on Islam. Equally reprehensible has been the imputing of various „suspect“ motives to the work of Wansbrough and those influenced by him.31 Western scholars need to unflinchingly, unapologetically defend their right to examine the Islam, to explain the rise and fall of Islam by the normal mechanisms of human history, according to the objective standards of historical methodology (which relies on conjectures and refutations, critical thought, rational arguments, presentation of evidence, and so on). The virtue of disinterested historical inquiry would be fatally undermined if we brought into it the Muslim or Christian faith. If we bring subjective religious faith with its dogmatic certainties into the „historical approximation process, it inevitably undermines what R. G. Collingwood argued was the fundamental attribute of the critical historian, skepticism regarding testimony about the past.“32
As Bernard Lewis wrote, „…[We] may, indeed, we must study the history of Atlantic slavery and expose this great shame in the history of the Western world and the Americas north and south, in all its horror. This is a task which falls upon us as Westerners and in which others may and should and do join us. In contrast, however, even to mention -let alone discuss or explore – the existence of slavery in non-Western societies is denounced as evidence of racism and of imperialistic designs.The same applies to other delicate topics as polygamy, autocracy, and the like. The range of taboos is very wide“.33
I should like to remind Bernard Lewis, his students and his admirers of his own words, (editor’s note: please check the following quotations!)
„There was a time when scholars and other writers in communist eastern Europe relied on writers and publishers in the free West to speak the truth about their history, their culture, and their predicament. Today it is those who told the truth, not those who concealed or denied it, who are respected and welcomed in these countries.
Historians in free countries have a moral and professional obligation not to shirk the difficult issues and subjects that some people would place under a sort of taboo; not to submit to voluntary censorship, but to deal with these matters fairly, honestly, without apologetics, without polemic, and, of course, competently. Those who enjoy freedom have a moral obligation to use that freedom for those who do not possess it. We live in a time when great efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to falsify the record of the past and to make history a tool of propaganda; when governments, religious movements, political parties, and sectional groups of every kind are busy rewriting history as they would wish it to have been, as they would like their followers to believe that it was. All this is very dangerous indeed, to ourselves and to others, however we may define otherness- dangerous to our common humanity. Because, make no mistake, those who are unwilling to confront the past will be unable to understand the present and unfit to face the future“.34
Bruce Lincoln, Professor of the History of Religions in the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, has conveniently laid out thirteen theses35 for any historian of religion to follow if she is to fulfill her duty as a historian. The historian must keep to the methods of historical research even when examining religions. Here are some of Lincoln’s points, in his own words,
– History, in the sharpest possible contrast, is that discourse which speaks of things temporal and terrestrial in a human and fallible voice, while staking its claim to authority on rigorous critical practice. To practice history of religions in a fashion consistent with the discipline’s claim of title is to insist on discussing the temporal, contextual, situated, interested, human, and material dimensions of those discourses, practices, and institutions that characteristically represent themselves as eternal, transcendent, spiritual, and divine. The first of these is „Who speaks here?“, i.e., what person, group, or institution is responsible for a text, whatever its putative or apparent author. Beyond that, „To what audience? In what immediate and broader context? Through what system of mediations? With what interests?“ And further, „Of what would the speaker(s) persuade the audience? What are the consequences if this project of persuasion should happen to succeed? Who wins what, and how much? Who, conversely, loses?“ Reverence is a religious, and not a scholarly virtue. When good manners and good conscience cannot be reconciled, the demands of the latter ought to prevail.
– Many who would not think of insulating their own or their parents‘ religion against critical inquiry still afford such protection to other people’s faiths, via a stance of cultural relativism. One can appreciate their good intentions, while recognizing a certain displaced defensiveness, as well as the guilty conscience of western imperialism.
– Beyond the question of motives and intentions, cultural relativism is predicated on the dubious–not to say, fetishistic–construction of „cultures“ as if they were stable and discrete groups of people defined by the stable and discrete values, symbols, and practices they share. Insofar as this model stresses the continuity and integration of timeless groups, whose internal tensions and conflicts, turbulence and incoherence, permeability and malleability are largely erased, it risks becoming a religious and not a historic narrative: the story of a transcendent ideal threatened by debasing forces of change.
– Although critical inquiry has become commonplace in other disciplines, it still offends many students of religion, who denounce it as „reductionism“. This charge is meant to silence critique. The failure to treat religion „as religion“–that is, the refusal to ratify its claim of transcendent nature and sacrosanct status–may be regarded as heresy and sacrilege by those who construct themselves as religious, but it is the starting point for those who construct themselves as historians.
– When one permits those whom one studies to define the terms in which they will be understood, suspends one’s interest in the temporal and contingent, or fails to distinguish between „truths“, „truth-claims“, and „regimes of truth“, one has ceased to function as historian or scholar. In that moment, a variety of roles are available: some perfectly respectable (amanuensis, collector, friend and advocate), and some less appealing (cheerleader, voyeur, retailer of import goods). None, however, should be confused with scholarship“. (editor’s question: independant quotations?)
Finally there are those who tell me that even though historians maybe right in exposing history hitherto repressed or simply denied, this was not the right historical moment to express it, at this time of a war on terror when we are trying to convince Muslims round the world that we are not at war with them but those who have a perverted interpretation of the great religion of Islam.
Sir Isaiah Berlin once described an ideologue as somebody who is prepared to suppress what he suspects to be true. Sir Isaiah then concluded that from that disposition to suppress the truth has flowed much of the evil of this and other centuries . The first duty of the intellectual is to tell the truth .By suppressing the truth , however honourable the motive , we are only engendering an even greater evil.
We are all beholden to all historians for helping us to see more clearly, and more honestly past events that have such an important bearing on present travails. In the words of Albert Schweitzer ,
„Truth has no special time of its own. Its hour is now, always, and indeed then most truly when it seems most unsuitable to actual circumstances“.36
I shall end Part One with a joke, concerning those theologians that Van Harvey calls, „dialectical theologians“, that is those who tried to come to some sort of accommodation with critical inquiry and the historical methodology which put so much „knowledge“ in doubt.
Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich are taking a break together, fishing on Lake Geneva. They are having a lovely time, smoking their pipes and chatting idly. It’s hot and they are getting thirsty. So Barth stands up, steps out of the boat, and walks across the water to the shore, where he gets some beers and then returns to the boat. But the drinks don’t last long. So Barth says to Tillich: „Your turn, Paul.“ Tillich gets up, steps out of the boat, walks across the water, and fetches some more beers. It is really hot now, and the drinks are soon finished. Bultmann is beginning to sweat profusely, so finally Barth tells him: „Come on, Rudolf, it’s your turn now.“ With a slight tremor in his knees, Bultmann gets up, steps out of the boat-and sinks like a stone. Fortunately he manages to swim to the surface; he drags himself back into the boat and sulks at the far end. Tillich turns to Barth and says: „Do you think we should have told him where the stepping stones are?“ Barth looks at him in astonishment and replies: „What stones?“
2. Dogmatic Islamophilia of Western Islamologists
Consider the following remarks, and try to guess in what sort of publication they might have first appeared:
„Archaeologists increasingly have questioned accepted assumptions about biblical history and the biblical narrative….“
„Archaeological finds, however, at times call into question the historicity of the biblical narrative. For instance, some archaeological sites seem to deny Joshua’s alleged conquest of Canaan by showing neither a destruction layer nor traces of walls nor even settlement from that era (e.g., Jericho, Ai). Realizing the highly theological and literary character of the Book of Joshua, some scholars have concluded that its accounts are selective and biased, having minimal historical value in reconstructing the events of the past.“
„There is no reference in Egyptian sources to Israel’s sojourn in that country, and the evidence that does exist is negligible and indirect.“
„Archaeological material has raised questions regarding certain assumptions and claims based on biblical literature. At times this evidence clearly contradicts biblical narrative; on other occasions, data that might have corroborated the literary account are conspicuously lacking.“
No, these observations of a gently skeptical nature do not come from the pages of The Skeptical Inquirer but from a chapter by Lee I. Levine entitled „Biblical Archaeology“ in Etz Hayim, Torah and Commentary, published by The Jewish Publication Society for The Rabbinical Assembly, The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, in New York, 2001. Thus in a book that contains the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch along with an English translation and English commentary, we find a thoroughly objective, rational account of the implications of archaeology- science, in other words- for the historicity of the Torah. Even the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has absorbed the historical methodological insights of the Enlightenment and the Higher German Biblical Criticism, and has noted the perturbing consequence for the believer.
One cannot imagine a similar introduction to a translation of the Koran, which has not been submitted to a skeptical scrutiny. Instead we have the extraordinary claim worthy of an Islamic fundamentalist made by A.J.Arberry ,in the introduction to his translation , “ ….[T]he Koran as printed in the twentieth century is identical with the Koran as authorized by ‚U?m?n more than 1300 years ago „. One wonders how Arberry knows that the present printed Koran [ The Egyptian version of 1342 A.H. ?] is identical to the so-called ‚U?m?nic one ; did he look at and compare dated manuscripts that can be said to be genuinely ‚U?m?nic ? No wonder Arberry does not feel obliged to reveal which Arabic text he used, let alone manuscript.
The reasons for the reticence of many Western scholars of Islam to submit it to rigrous analysis are many and various, including:
Political correctness leading to Islamic correctness;
The fear of playing into the hands of racists or reactionaries to the detriment of the West’s Muslim minorities;
Commercial or economic motives;
Feelings of post-colonial guilt (where the entire planet’s problems are attributed to the West’s wicked ways and intentions);
Plain physical fear;
Intellectual terrorism of writers such as Edward Said.
Said not only taught an entire generation of Arabs the wonderful art of self-pity, and intimidated feeble western academics, and even weaker, invariably leftish, intellectuals into accepting that any criticism of Islam was to be dismissed as orientalism, and hence invalid.
But the first duty of the intellectual is to tell the truth. Truth is not much in fashion in this postmodern age when continental charlatans have infected Anglo-American intellectuals with the thought that objective knowledge is not only undesirable but unobtainable. I believe that to abandon the idea of truth not only leads to political fascism, but stops dead all intellectual inquiry. To give up the notion of truth means forsaking the goal of acquiring knowledge. But man, as Aristotle put it, by nature strives to know. Truth, science, intellectual inquiry and rationality are inextricably bound together. Relativism, and its illegitimate offspring, multiculturalism, are not conducive to the critical examination of Islam.
Said wrote a polemical book, Orientalism (1978), whose pernicious influence is still felt in all departments of Islamic studies, where any critical discussion of Islam is ruled out a priori . For Said, orientalists are involved in an evil conspiracy to denigrate Islam, to maintain its people in a state of permanent subjugation and are a threat to Islam’s future. These orientalists are seeking knowledge of oriental peoples only in order to dominate them; most are in the service of imperialism.
Three further factors need to be taken into account to explain the otherwise puzzling spectacle of Western scholars swallowing whole the entire Islamic narrative as to its own rise and formation.
First, The first modern apologists of Islam- even in its fundamentalist mode-were Christian scholars who perceived a common danger in certain economic, philosophical, and social developments in the West: the rise of rationalism, scepticism, atheism, secularism; the Industrial Revolution; the Russian Revolution and the rise of communism and materialism. Sir Hamilton Gibb writes of Islam as a Christian „engaged in a common spiritual enterprise“.37 But let us beware of skepticism: „Both Christianity and Islam suffer under the weight of worldly pressure, and the attack of scientific atheists and their like“, laments Norman Daniel.38
Hence the tendency amongst Christian scholars to be rather uncritical; a tendency not to wish to offend Muslim friends and Muslim colleagues. Either there were explicit apologies if the writer felt there was something offensive to Muslim eyes, or to use various devices to avoid seeming to take sides, or to avoid judging whatever issue was under discussion.
Christian scholars such as Watt, who was curate of St.Mary Boltons, London, and Old St Paul’s, Edinburgh and ordained Episcopalian minister, and who was one of the most influential Islamic scholars in Britain of the last fifty years, and Sir Hamilton Gibb saw skepticism, atheism and communism as the common enemy of all true religion. They followed Carlyle in hoping for spiritual inspiration from the East. Here is Watt:
„Islam- or perhaps one should rather say, the East -has tended to overemphasize Divine sovereignty, whereas in the West too much influence has been attributed to man’s will, especially in recent times. Both have strayed from the true path, though in different directions. The West has probably something to learn of that aspect of truth which has been so clearly apprehended in the East“
Throughout his article Religion and Anti-Religion, Professor Watt can barely disguise his contempt for secularism.
„The wave of secularism and materialism is receding,“ notes Watt with approval, „most serious minded men in the Middle East realize the gravity of the problems of the present time, and are therefore aware of the need for a religion that will enable them to cope with the situations that arise from the impingement of these problems on their personal lives“. Watt then goes on to discuss the work of Manfred Halpern, who „speaks of the Muslim Brethren in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere , together with movements like Fida’iyan – i Islam in Persia and Khaksars and Jama’at-i Islam in Pakistan, as neo- Islamic totalitarianism, and points out their resemblances to fascism, including the National Socialism of Germany under Adolf Hitler. From a purely political point of view this may be justified, and the resemblances certainly exist. Yet in a wider perspective this characterisation is misleading. It is true that these movements sometimes ‚concentrate on mobilizing passion and violence to enlarge the power of their charismatic leader and the solidarity of the movement … ‚ , and that ‚they champion the values and emotions of a heroic past, but repress all critical analysis of either past roots or present problems‘. Yet political ineptitude and even failure do not outweigh their positive significance as marking a resurgence of religion … The neo- Islamic mass movements, far from being tantamount to national socialism or fascism are likely to be an important barrier against such a development“.39
Watt’s wonderful euphemism for fascism is „political ineptitude“; and we are asked to overlook this fascism, and instead asked to admire it for its „positive significance as marking a resurgence of religion“. Watt’s support for, what Amir Taheri calls, Holy Terrorists is worth pondering. It must not be forgotten that the Muslim Brethren was a terrorist organisation whose founder made no secret of his admiration for Hitler and Mussolini. After the end of the Second World War, Hassan’s Muslim Brethren launched a series of attacks at civilian targets; cinemas, hotels and restaurants were bombed or set on fire, women incorrectly dressed were attacked with knifes. There were also a series of assassinations. Yes; we are asked to overlook this in the name of religious resurgence.
Watt reveals even more disturbing qualities- a mistrust of the intellect and a rejection of the importance of historical objectivity and truth:
„This emphasis on historicity, however, has as its complement a neglect of symbols; and it may be that ultimately ’symbolic truth ‚ is more important than ‚historical truth'“.40
In „Introduction to the Quran „, Watt seems to have a very tenuous grasp on the notion of truth- indeed objective truth is abandoned altogether in favour of total subjectivism
„… the systems of of ideas followed by Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and others are all true in so far as they enable human beings to have a more or less satisfactory ‚experience of life as a whole‘. So far as observation can tell, none of the great systems is markedly inferior or superior to the others. Each is therefore true. In particular the Quran is in this sense true. The fact that the Quranic conception of the unity of God appears to contradict the Christian conception of God does not imply that either system is false, nor even that either conception is false. Each conception is true in that it is part of a system which is true. In so far as some conception in a system seems to contradict the accepted teaching of science- or, that of history in so far as it is objective – that contradiction raises problems for the adherents of the system, but does not prove that the system as a whole is inferior to others. That is to say, the Quranic assertion that the Jews did not kill Jesus does not prove that the Quranic system as a whole is inferior to the Christian, even on the assumption that the crucifixion is an objective fact“.41
In this astonishing passage of intellectual dishonesty, Watt performs all sorts of mental gymnastics in an effort to please everyone, not to offend anyone. Leaving aside the problem of the vagueness of Watt’s terminology- terms like“experience of life as a whole“, „conception“, „Quranic system“- we can now understand what we set out to understand at the beginning of this enquiry, namely, why British Islamicists have been so uncritical of Islam.
„The non-Muslim scholar, continues Watt, „is not concerned with any question of ultimate truth, since that, it has been suggested, cannot be attained by man. He assumes the truth [my emphasis, I.W.], in the relative sense just explained, of the Quranic ststem of ideas.“ Under such conditions, the scholar is not likely to be critical of anyone’s „belief system“ as long as it meets his or her „spiritual needs“.
The above attitude exeplified by Watt was brilliantly exposed and attacked by Julien Benda in his classic „Betrayal of the Intellectuals“. He wrote, „But the modern ‚clerks‘ [intellectuals] have held up universal truth to the scorn of mankind, as well as universal morality. Here the ‚clerks‘ have positively shown genius in their effort to serve the passions of the laymen. It is obvious that truth is a great impediment to those who wish to set themselves up as distinct; from the very moment when they accept truth, it condemns them to be conscious of themselves in a universal. What a joy for them to learn that this universal is a mere phantom, that there exist only particular truths, ‚Lorrain truths, Provencal truths, Britanny truths, the harmony of which in the course of centuries constitutes what is beneficial, respectable, true in France“.42 Watt would add „a Muslim truth, a Christian truth, and so on; or as he put in Islamic Revelation,
„Each [great religion] is valid in a particular cultural region, but not beyond that“.43
The sentimental ecumenical tradition established by scholars such as Watt and Gibb continues to this day. We can follow the gradual introduction of this tradition in the pages of the journal The Muslim World, which was founded in 1911 [originally titled The Moslem World] to promote the work of Christian Missionaries in the Middle East. Since 1938 it has been edited by the Hartford Seminary. The first issues of the journal were highly critical of various aspects of Islam- I have already cited Charles Watson’s description of Islam as totalitarian which appeared in its pages in 1937. Its first editor was a committed Christian and a considerable scholar, Samuel Zwemer [1867-1952]. In 1929 he was appointed Professor of Missions and Professor of the History of Religion at the Princeton Theological Seminary where he taught until 1951. He had an almost perfect command of Arabic and a thorough knowledge of the Koran, often referred to as „the lion-hearted missionary who tried to confound the Muslims out of their own scriptures using the Christian Bible“.44
By the late 1940s, however, the journal began publishing articles very favorable to Islam, and by 1950s its pages were dominated by scholars such as Watt. It is now co-edited by a Muslim and a Christian- converting Muslims to Christianity is no longer considered respectable by Liberal Christians who instead bend over backwards to accommodate Muslims- as for example calling on all Christians to use the term „Allah“ instead of God45: generous gestures not reciprocated by the Muslims.
To bring the story to the present, one cannot leave out the case of John Esposito, a Catholic, and Professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He is also the director of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the same university. While studying for his doctorate at Temple University, Esposito came under the influence of the Islamist, Ismail R.Faruqi, „Palestinian pan-Islamist and theorist of the ‚Islamization of knowledge‘, around whom had developed a personality cult.“46 Esposito tried to present Islam and Islamism in western categories thereby hoping to create a more favorable attitude to them in the West.
„Why not place Islamist movements in the political category of participation, or even democratization?“47 Esposito then went on claim that Islamist movements were nothing other than movements of democratic reform! It was sheer „Orientalist“ prejudice that prevented Westerners from seeing this. Esposito wrote that Americans would „have to transcend their narrow, ethnocentric conceptualization of democracy“ to understand :Islamic democracy that might create effective systems of popular participation, though unlike the Westminster model or the American system“.48
Esposito, and his close collaborator, John Voll asserted with great confidence that every Islamist state or movement was either democratic or potentially democratic. John Voll appeared before a congressional committee in 1992 pleading on behalf of Sudan, which Kramer describes aptly as „a place without political parties, ruled by a military junta in league with an Islamist ideologue“. For Voll the Sudanese regime was „an effort to create consensual rather than a conflict format for popular political particpation“, and in his opinion,
„It is not possible, even using exclusively Western political experience as basis for defintion, to state that if a system does not have two parties, it is not democratic“.49
Martin Kramer sums up Voll’s grotesque apology for Islamism thus:
„And so American congressman were instructed by the president-elect of MESA [Middle East Studies Association] that a country with no political parties, presided over by a coup-plotting general, ridden by civil war, with a per capita gross domestic product of $200, still might qualify somehow as democracy. This was not deliberate self-parody; it was merely Esposito’s logic advanced ad absurdum.“50
Just months before 9/11, Esposito wrote,
„focusing on Usama bin Laden risks catapulting one of the many sources of terrorism to center stage, distorting both the diverse international sources and the relevance of one man.“
Still earlier he had predicted that the 1990s would
„be a decade of new alliances and alignments in which the Islamic movements will challenge rather than threaten their societies and the West.“
In 1994, he claimed that Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, was only a community-focused group that engages in „honey, cheese-making, and home-based clothing manufacture.“ While he saw nothing sinister in Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat’s call for Jihad, it was in reality comparable to a „literacy campaign“.
After 9/11, Esposito blamed America first. „September 11,“ he said, „has made everyone aware of the fact that not addressing the kinds of issues involved here, of tolerance and pluralism, have catastrophic repercussions.“
Even more disgracefully, Esposito refuses to acknowledge that the application of the Shari’a, or Islamic law, inevitably leads to a totalitarian society as in former Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, present-day Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Sudan. Freedom House ranks these countries as the worst offenders of human rights in the world. Furthermore, each one of these countries has been linked to the export of international terrorism. And yet, Esposito writes that
„contrary to what some have advised, the United States should not in principle object to implementation of Islamic law or involvement of Islamic activists in government.“51
Second factor leading to the apologetic nature of Islamologists is Saudi money being poured into Western universities. In December, 2005, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the grandson of Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the founding king of Saudi Arabia, gave Georgetown and Harvard University $20 million each. Anthony Glees52 has demonstrated that eight British universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have accepted £233.5 million from Saudi Arabia. Prof Glees claimed that the propagation of one-sided views of Islam and the Middle East at universities amounted to anti-Western propaganda. Glees said,
„Britain’s universities will have to generate two national cultures: one non-Muslim and largely secular, the other Muslim.We will have two identities, two sets of allegiance and two legal and political systems. This must, by the Government’s own logic, hugely increase the risk of terrorism.“
A report in the Guardian [U.K.] quoted Dr Denis MacEoin, Islam expert at Newcastle University, as saying that academics were nervous about handling topics that might upset their sponsors:
“ ‚It’s part of an overall belief that only Muslims can teach Islam, which in an academic context is entirely wrong. It would soon remove the possibility for genuine academic debate.‘ He said increasing numbers of students with Salafist – a more traditional form of Islam – backgrounds were taking Islamic studies and could be upset by ‚proper academic critical debate‘. ‚It does threaten academic freedom and critical thinking,‘ he warned.“53
Dr. MacEoin was dismissed many years ago from his university post because his ideas were not acceptable to the Saudis funding the Islamic department.54
The third factor which inhibits the critical scrutiny of the Koran and the whole Islamic Tradition is the presence of Islamic colleagues on campuses throughout the Western world. Starting probably in the 1960s, Western universities in their search for diversity began appointing Muslims to teach about Islam- as though only Muslims were qualified enough to teach it. Some of them were competent and rigorous but many Muslim scholars, unfortunately, were also incompetent, and were tenured early on despite the poverty of their scholarship. They now wield enormous power on these campuses, and faculty heads are terrified of rocking the boat, and offending their Muslim colleagues who can shamelessly mobilize local imams to create bad publicity if, for example, the Islamic Department tries to invite a scholar such as Christoph Luxenberg. Professor Joseph Hoffmann had originally planned to hold a conference that looked skeptically at the sources and scriptures of the three Abrahamic religions at a well-known divinity school in Eastern United States, but had to abandon the idea because of the hostility of one Muslim faculty member. (The conference eventually did take place on the West coast in 2007.)
The unfortunate result is that academics can no longer do their work honestly. A scholar working on recently discovered Koranic manuscripts showed some of his startling conclusions to a distinguished colleague, a world expert on the Koran. The latter did not ask, „What is the evidence, what are your arguments, is it true?“ The colleague simply warned him that his thesis was unacceptable because it would upset Muslims.
Western scholars need to defend unflinchingly our right to examine Islam, to explain its rise and fall by the normal mechanisms of human history, according to the objective standards of historical methodology.
Democracy depends on freedom of thought and free discussion. The notion of infallibility is profoundly undemocratic and unscientific. It is perverse for the western media to lament the lack of an Islamic reformation and wilfully ignore books such as Anwar Shaikh’s Islam – The Arab Imperialism, or my Why I am Not a Muslim. How do they think reformation will come about if not with criticism?
1 Ibn al-Rawandi. Origins of Islam: A Critical Look at the Sources, in The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, ed. Ibn Warraq, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2000, p.95.
2 John Wansbrough, Quranic Studies (Oxford, 1977), p. ix.
3 Andrew Rippin, Muslims. Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Vol. 1:The Formative Period (London, 1991), p. ix.
4 Toby Lester, What is the Koran? in What the Koran Really Says, ed. Ibn Warraq, Amherst: Prometheus Books. 2002, pp. 109-110
6 Van Harvey. The Historian and the Believer. Toronto, Ontario: The Macmillan Company, 1966, p.xii
7 Van Harvey. Op.cit., pp.3-4.
8 Van Harvey, op.cit, p.4
9 Van Harvey, op.cit., pp14-15.
10 Van Harvey, op.cit., pp29-30.
11 Marc Bloch. The Historian’s Craft, trans. Peter Putnam, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1954, p.115, quoted in Van Harvey, op.cit., p.71.
12 There is an amusing account of a scene in a classroom in, I think, the 1850s in a story set in a mining town of California, by Bret Harte [1836-1902]. A placid compliant child called Clytie is asked to read from a book of Bible stories: „Clytie looked at the master, and the master nodded. Then Clytie spoke softly: ‚Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and it obeyed him‘.There was a low hum of applause in the schoolroom, a triumphant expression on McSnagley’s face, a grave shadow on the master’s, and a comical look of disappointment reflected from the windows. M’liss skimmed rapidly over her astronomy, and then shut the book with a loud snap. A groan burst from McSnagley, an expression of astonishment from the schoolroom, and a yell from the windows, as M’liss brought her red fist down on the desk, with the emphatic declaration: „It’s a damn lie. I don’t believe it!“. Bret Harte.The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Tales, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920, p.269
13 Quoted in Van Harvey, op.cit.,p.81.
14 Van Harvey, op.cit., p.39.
15 Ibid., p.vi.
16 Ibid., p.202
17 Jonathan I.Israel. Radical Enlightenment. Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. p.296
18 Van Harvey, op.cit.,pp.41-42.
19 R.G.Collingwood. The Idea of History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946, p. 252, quoted in Van Harvey, op.cit.,p.44.
20Lawrence I. Conrad, „Ignaz Goldziher on Ernest Renan: From Orientalist Philology to the Study of Islam,“ The Jewish Discovery of Islam, M. Kramer , ed., (Tel Aviv: the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 1999), p.167.
21 M. Rodinson, „A Critical Survey of Modern Studies on Muhammad,“ inStudies on Islam, ed. M. Swartz (New York, 1981), p. 24.
22 F. E.Peters, „The Quest of the Historical Muhammad,“ International Journal ofMiddle East Studies 23 (1991): 291-315.
23 Lawrence I. Conrad, „Abraha and Muhammad Some Observations Apropos of Chronology and Literary Topoi in the Early Arabic Historical Tradition,“ Bulletin of theSchool of Oriental African Studies 1 (1987): 225.
24 M. Rodinson, „A Critical Survey of Modern Studies on Muhammad,“ in Studies on Islam, ed. M. Swartz (New York, 1981), p. 24-26.
25 A. Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, trans. W. Montgomery (London, 1945), pp. 4- 5
26 Reprinted in The Quran As Text, ed. Stefan Wild (Brill, Leiden, 1996).
27 Mohammed Arkoun, review of The Quran As Text, in Arabica 45, no. 2 (July1998): 274-75.
28 M. Rodinson, „The Western Image and Western Studies of Islam,“ in The Legacy of Islam, ed. J. Schacht and C. E. Bosworth (Oxford, 1974), p. 59.
29M. Rodinson, A Critical Survey of Modern Studies on Muhammad, p. 57.Emphasis added
30 G. Luling, „Preconditions for the Scholarly Criticism of the Koran and Islam, with Some Autobiographical Remarks,“ in The Journal of Higher Criticism 3 (Spring 1996): 73-109
31 See, for example, R. B. Serjeant’s review of Wansbrough’s Quranic Studies, JRAS (1978): 76-78.
32 R. Joseph Hoffmann and G. A. Larue, eds., Jesus in History and Myth,(Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1986), p. 199.
33 B.Lewis , Other People’s History in Islam and the West , New York: Oxford University Press 1993. p.123
34 Ibid., p.130
35 Bruce Lincoln, Theses on Method, in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion vol. 8 (1996): 225-27.
36 Norman Cousins, ed. The Words of Albert Schweitzer. New York: Newmarket Press, 1966, p.19.
37 H.A.R.Gibb. Modern Trends in Islam. Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1947.
38 Norman Daniel. Islam and the West. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1960, p.307.
39 William Montgomery Watt, Religion and Anti-Religion, in Religion in the Middle East:Three Religions in Conflict and Concord, ed. A.J.Arberry, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969, pp.625-627
40 William Montogomery Watt, Islamic Revelation in the Modern World, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1969, p.116
41 William Montogomery Watt ,Introduction to the Quran Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,1977 p.183.
42 Julien Benda The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, Boston: Beacon Press, 1955, pp.76-77.
43William Montogomery Watt, Islam and the Integration of Society, London: Routledge, Kegan and Paul, 1961, p.278
44Samuel Zwemer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Marinus_Zwemer : accessed 15 November, 2007.
45In August, 2007,Bishop of Breda, Tiny Muskens:
accessed 15 November, 2007.
46 Martin Kramer. Ivory Towers on Sand. The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America. Washington, D.C.: The Wsahington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001, p.49.
48 John Voll and John L.Esposito, „Islam’s Democratic Essence„, Middle East Quarterly 1, no.3 (September 1994) p.11, quoted in Martin Kramer. Ivory Towers on Sand. The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America. Washington, D.C.: The Wsahington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001, p.50
49 Quoted in Martin Kramer. Ivory Towers on Sand. The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America. Washington, D.C.: The Wsahington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001, p.50
50 Martin Kramer. Ivory Towers on Sand. The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America. Washington, D.C.: The Wsahington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001, pp.50-51
51All the quotes in the last three paragraphs are from Campus Watch, Esposito: Apologist for Militant Islam, published by FrontPage Magazine, September 3 2002, accessed Nov.30, 2007
52 Ben Leach, “ ‚Extremism‘ Fear in Islam Studies Donations“ in Telegraph On-line, 13 April, 2008, available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1584954/Extremism-fear-over-Islam-studies-donations.html. Accessed, 29 March, 2010.
53 Anthea Lipsett, Concerns over Funding of Islamic Studies, 17 April, 2008.Guardian, available at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/apr/17/highereducation.uk. Accessed 29 March, 2010.
54 Daniel Easterman. New Jerusalems, London, 1992, pp.92-93.