Literature

Literature

Arab Representations of the Occident: East-West Encounters in Arabic Fiction

Rasheed El-Enany, London and New York: Routledge, 2006. 255 pages.

In his Orientalism (Vintage Books: 1978), literature teacher and cultural critic Edward Said claimed that the entire corpus of academic, literary, and artistic knowledge about the Orient in general and theMuslim world in particular that the West had accumulated and shaped was built up solely to serve its desire to conquer, control, and subjugate the Orient. His thesis was widely discussed and influenced the study of the Middle East and the attitudes of numerous scholars.According to Said, theWest depicts the Orient as stagnant, static, exotic, submissive, and retarded, in contrast to the supposedly enlightened and superior West.

The Qur’anic Talut (Saul) and the Rise of the Ancient Israelite Monarchy: An Intertextual Reading

Using contemporary ideas of intertextuality, this study investigates the Qur’anic story of Talut (2:246-51), the first Israelite monarch, as it is set against the background of the Biblical account. A verse-by-verse analysis yields the Qur’anic sequence of events, which includes Talut’s nomination, the Ark’s appearance, crossing the river, Goliath’s defeat, and David’s succession. The Biblical counterparts, located within the books of Joshua, Judges, and I Samuel, feature such characters as Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, and Saul. The Qur’an is thereby reading the books of Joshua, Judges 6-8, I Samuel 1-7, and I Samuel 8-31 synoptically, and the Talut story is a harmonized account of these narratives. Reading between the two texts enhances the Qur’anic story, showing how it functions as a blueprint for the synoptic reading, in addition to furthering our understanding of Talut, who provides a typological prefiguration for Muhammad. However, the synoptic reading also enhances the Biblical story, showing the skill with which the multiple consecutive narratives implicitly argue for judgeship as opposed to kingship in the post-exilic context. 

Between the Seventh and the Twenty-first: Musings on Texts and Contexts in the Early Twenty-first Century

Monotheistic traditions of the Abrahamic variety have commonly conceived of the Divine interactingwith this world through the Divine Word. No surprise, then, that the Qur’an refers to the Jews, Christians, and Muslims as “People of the Book” (Ahl al-Kitab). Yet the task of seeking and finding God is not as simple as opening a book, even the Book. Reading religious words necessitates some self-awareness about the revelation’s context, the history of interpretations that stands between us and the text, and our own situatedness. What follows is a series of musings on these principles.

The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran

Christoph Luxenberg, Berlin: Hans Schiler, 2007. 349 pages.

Christoph Luxenberg’s (a pseudonym) highly controversial book, now available in English, has caused some to see in him an important ally in the war against Osama bin Laden and others to shake his book off as “orientalism.” There has been, in English at least, little substantive reporting on the actual arguments advanced. I will try to present a critical review of the main contentions and types of arguments Luxenberg offers in support.

Revising Culture, Reinventing Peace: The Influence of Edward W. Said

Naseer Aruri and Muhammad Shuraydi, eds., New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001. 190 pages.

In 1997, a group of scholars gathered at the University of Windsor to honor Edward W. Said and his lifetime achievements as a scholar and activist with a conference entitled “Culture, Politics, and Peace.” The present volume, a collection of the papers presented, show just how far reaching his influence has been over the last three decades. While his profound influence on comparative literature and Palestine studies are well known, this volume reveals how his writings have prompted generations of scholars to question taken for granted postulations, discourses, and paradigms in literature, area studies, and politics. The papers also applaud his role as an advocate of the Palestinian cause and the way he has tirelessly and critically observed and documented the Palestinians’ fate.

hikaayaat kaliila wa-dimna li-tulaab al-lughat al-carabiyya (Tales from Kalila wa Dimna for Students of Arabic [retold])

Munther A Younes, Ithaca, NY: Spoken Language Services, 2001., 206 pages, 3 audio CDs.

The title Kalila wa Dimna first came to my attention long ago in my second year of Arabic language study. Ahmad Amin mentions Kalila wa Dimna in passing in his autobiography, Hayati (Cairo: 1952), an excerpt of which I read in Farhat Ziadeh’s Reader in Modern Literary Arabic. Over the years, I tried occasionally to read a bit of the original and found the classical Arabic intimidating. The task of reviewing Munther Younes’s retelling of these stories represented the opportunity to taste the stories’ flavor without the drudgery of dictionary look-up. Among other accomplishments, Younes simplifies the grammar and lexicon to the point where intermediate students of Arabic will understand what they read without excessive struggle. This review will touch upon the structure and substance of Kalila wa Dimna itself and Younes’ approach to retelling the stories and their utilization as an Arabic language teaching tool.

The Language of Islamophobia in Internet Articles

Islamophobia, the hatred for and fear of Islam and Muslims, manifests itself in physical, political, cultural, linguistic and other forms. From the linguistic perspective, many words have been coined to perpetuate prejudices against Muslims and their religion. Expressions are freely used to associate Islam, which means “peace” in Arabic, with concepts and actions which the religion and practising Muslims do not approve of, much less condone. Expressions such as Islamic terrorism, Islamic fanaticism, Muslim extremists, Islamist and political Islam have been used pejoratively. To strike fear and misgivings in the minds of many Europeans, the British capital has even been mischievously called “Londonistan” by anti-Muslim elements. Known Islamophobic items taken from Internet articles need to be analysed to respond objectively to linguistic Islamophobia.

The Islamization of English Literary Studies: A Postcolonial Approach

Abstract

In today’s world where the former colonized are reshaping their relation with the colonizer, the concept of decolonizing or indigenizing education is widely discussed in postcolonial studies. Decolonizing/indigenizing education counters the western systems of knowledge’s hegemony over those of non-western systems of thought and requires the development of a new approach to education that keeps in view the indigenous societies’ socio-cultural and religious values and  traditions. The Islamization of Knowledge undertaking maintains a similar approach, but additionally requires an Islamic perspective on knowledge.  Among all western disciplines, English literature is arguably the most culturally charged and carries western value-laden ideas. This reality points to the need to look at it from Islamic perspectives. Based on this theoretical concept, this study seeks to establish the urgency and feasibility of Islamizing English (British) literary studies.

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