Mohammed Arkoun biography
Mohammed Arkoun was an Algerian scholar and thinker. He was considered to have been one of the most influential secular scholars in Islamic studies contributing to contemporary intellectual Islamic reform. In a career of more than 30 years, he had been a critic of the tensions embedded in his field of study, advocating Islamic modernism, secularism, and humanism. During his academic career, he wrote his numerous books mostly in French, and occasionally in English and Arabic. He appeared on numerous occasions on French TV and magazines, on Berbère Télévision speaking in Kabyle, his mother tongue, and on Al Jazeera speaking in Arabic.
Mohammed Arkoun Academic career
Mohammed Arkoun was born on1 February 1928 in Taourirt Mimoun, a Berber village in Great Kabylia in northern Algeria. His family were traditional religious and relatively poor. His father was a shopkeeper in Ain al-Arba’a, a wealthy French settlement in east of Oran. He attended primary school in his Berber-speaking home village until he was nine-years-old. As the eldest son, he was expected to learn his father’s trade, while continuing to attend primary school. He studied at the Faculty of Literature of the University of Algiers and at the Sorbonne in Paris (agrégé in Arabic language and Literature, 1956 and Ph.D., 1968). He established his academic reputation with his studies of the history and philosophy of Ibn Miskawayh. As he began to consider how one might rethink Islam in the contemporary world, his questioning provided a counterpoint to the predominant interpretations of both the Muslim world and the non-Muslim West. As the editor of Arabica, he broadened the journal’s scope, and played a significant role in shaping Western-language scholarship on Islam. He is the author of numerous books in French, English and Arabic, including most recently: Rethinking Islam (Boulder, Colorado, 1994), L’immigration: défis et richesses (Paris, 1998) and The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought (London, 2002). His shorter studies have appeared in many academic journals and his works have been translated into several languages.
Mohammed Arkoun was decorated as an Officer of the French Légion d’honneur in July 1996. In 2001, Professor Arkoun was asked to deliver the Gifford Lectures, which enable a notable scholar to contribute to the advancement of theological and philosophical thought and was announced as the recipient of the Seventeenth Georgio Levi Della Vida Award for his lifelong contribution to the field of Islamic Studies.
Mohammed Arkoun taught at the Lyon 2 University (1969-1972), as a professor at the Paris 8 University, and at the New Sorbonne University of Paris (1972-1992). He was a Fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (1986–1987 and 1990) and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.A (1992-1993), visiting professor at University of California, Los Angeles (1969), Princeton University (1985), Temple University, the University of Louvain-la-Neuve, Wallonia, Belgium, (1977-1979), the Pontifical Institute of Arabic Studies in Rome and the University of Amsterdam (1991-1993) and served as a jury member for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. At the time of his death he was Emeritus Professor at La Sorbonne as well as Senior Research Fellow and member of the Board of Governors of The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), At IIS, he has taught various graduate courses including unthought in contemporary Islamic thought, rethinking Islam, contemporary challenges of Muslim world and traditions for almost a decade.
Mohammed Arkoun photoMohammed Arkoun
Mohammed Arkoun Death
Arkoun died on the evening of September 14, 2010, in Paris.In a tribute to the Algerian Islamic scholar Mohammed Arkoun, who died at the age of 82 in Paris, France, on Tuesday, September 14, 2010, Algeria’s Minister of Culture, Khalida Toumi, said that Professor Arkoun “believed in dialogue between cultures and civilizations of which he was an ardent activist” and “his sincerity and dedication to bringing people and religions together have made him a true messenger of peace and harmony between different societies.” In her condolence message she also stated that he was “the author of books in the field of critical thinking who taught in the most prestigious universities of the East and the West.”
Mohammed Arkoun Ideology
Mohammed Arkoun advocated a radical paradigm shift that would allow for the rethinking of Islam as a cultural and religious system and subvert ideological and dogmatic constructs with hegemonic claims. He was committed to contribute to an archaeology of the hidden, repressed, and marginalised elements of Islam, in order to uncover, and set free, what he called, ‘the exhaustive tradition’ of Islam. Most of his work is written in French rather than Arabic. In order to counter-act the philological and historical bias of traditional Islamic studies, he advocated what he called “applied Islamology”—following Roger Bastide’s concept of “applied anthropology.” Applied Islamology aims to establish a “disciplinary space between political and historical sciences” (Arkoun, The answers, 25), taking into consideration elements of the courte and longue durée, as well as contemporary social factors. Arkoun has developed an inclusive approach which seeks to deal with Islamic tradition in its entirety, including elements characterised by the representatives of orthodoxy (or official religion) as heterodox, and therefore marginalised and repressed. He has adopted a multifaceted and holistic approach which looks between traditional dogma and axioms. Arkoun’s critique of Islamic reason serves as the unifying theme, or leitmotif for the different concepts he elaborated over the course of time.
Books By Mohammed Arkoun
- Arab Thought, ed. S.Chand, New Delhi 1988.
- Rethinking Islam : Common questions, Uncommon answers, today, Westview Press, Boulder 1994.
- The concept of revelation : from the people of the book to the societies of the book, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California 1988.
- The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought, London 2002.
- Islam: To Reform or to Subvert, Saqi Books, London, 2006.
- Title number five is a revised edition of title number four.
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