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Published in the 1-15 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition


Islam in western writings

On 14th September 2004, Prof. Adnan Ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan (Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Ummul Qura University, Makkah al-Mukarramah) delivered a lecture on Islam in Western Writing in the Department of Islamic Studies (A.M.U. Aligarh). The programme was presided over by Prof. Masadul Hasan, former Dean, Faculty of Arts (A.M.U.). Prof. Abdur Rahim Kidwai, Director, Academic Staff College (A.M.U.), was guest of honour in this academic session.

In his introductory remarks, Dr. Zafarul Islam Islahi, convenor of the Extra-Mural Lectures, pointed out that Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan had left a very rich legacy about the theme of the lecture. His critique of W. Muir’s work on the life of the Prophet (SAW) and that of W.W. Hunter’s book about Indian Muslims, his last article (Azwaj-i-Muttaharat) written as rejoinder of a treatise of a Christian scholar and a number his write-up published in Tahzibul Akhlaq and the Aligarh Institute Gazette are part of the same. Introducing the learned guest, Prof. A.R. Kidwai pointed out his deep interest in examining the English works from Islamic point of view and appreciated his Arabic and English books and articles giving his findings. These included his Arabic book in two volumes – Surat al-Islam fi al-Adab al-Injilizi. Welcoming Prof. Wazzan, Prof. Abdul Ali, Chairman of the Department, expressed great happiness at his visit of this seat of learning and explained the importance of the theme of his lecture in the present scenario. He also introduced the Institute of Islamic Studies of A.M.U. as the oldest centre of Islamic Studies in Asia and gave an account of its main achievements.

With reference to the Western Writings on Islam, Prof Muhammad Wazzan observed that inspite of some positive aspects these have many instances of distortion of facts and misinterpretation of Islam and Islamic way of life. There may be different causes for the same but a major one is ignorance and lack of knowledge about Islam as he had personal experiences through interaction with different categories of people during his stay in several Western countries. He stressed the point that the present situation demanded more and more scholarly works by Muslim intelligentsia on Islam and Islamic Shariah. Instead of adopting apologetic attitude, the Muslims should forcefully present Islamic point of view about the problems faced by human beings at large and should also exhibit Islamic teachings truly and honestly in their daily life. The learned speaker also pointed out that Islam is the greatest nimah of Allah Ta’ala for mankind and first of all, its followers are required to highlight its greatness, significance and being mercy for entire humanity.

In his presidential address, Prof. Masadul Hasan traced the history of Western writing on Islam and critically evaluated some of the well-known works produced by Western writers on Islam and Muslim rulers in medieval period especially after Crusades. He stated that there are different kinds of distortion about Islam and all these are required to be pinpointed while examining the works of Western scholars. He also called upon the Muslims to produce good works on Islam in English and other languages to remove misunderstandings about Islam, which are being created in different parts of the world through conventional and modern media. The lecture was followed by a lively discussion.

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