Adawāt: Tools for Critical Thinking in Islamic Studies

icon-calendar May 1ˢᵗ, 2018 ‒ April 30ᵗʰ, 2022

On March 27th, we signed a four-year (2018-2022), 500,000 € contract with the European Delegation in Egypt to finance activities with several partners:  the Institute of Manuscripts of the Arab League in Cairo, Al-Azhar University, and the French Institute of Egypt. This money will finance several activities whose common goal is to provide students, researchers, and teachers of Islamic studies the tools that will allow them to study Islam from a critical perspective.

  • Installation of AlKindi software at the Institute of Arabic Manuscripts (IMA): the Institute of Manuscripts owns a collection of microfilms of Arabic manuscripts from around the world, and the IDEO owns a collection of printed works, including more than 20,000 texts of the classical Arab heritage. By merging our databases, our catalog will thus give researchers access, for any given text, to the references of the editions that the IDEO possesses and to the references of the manuscripts listed by the IMA. We will enrich the editorial history of these texts and facilitate research in Islamic studies.
  • French classes at al-Azhar: the French Institute in Egypt will provide 20 hours of weekly classes for three years in three different entities in al-Azhar: the Faculty of Human Sciences (for women), the Faculty of Language and Translation (for men), and the Center for Teaching French (CFE) which directly depends on the Sheikh of al-Azhar and gathers the best students of the faculties of theology. These classes will be validated by DELF (Diploma of Studies in French language). We would also like to facilitate students’ access to the university’s resources in French.
  • Educational training sessions in France: the French Institute, over the next four years, will send eight assistant professors each year to France from the above three entities to take a one-month educational course. The training of these assistant professors will allow a longer-term impact on the level of French their students will acquire.
  • PhD workshops: Each year, for three years, we will invite a French-speaking professor of Islamology to come to facilitate three sessions of a doctoral workshop with the students from the above two faculties. We wish to expand the horizons of the doctoral students in international research and allow them to have personal contact with French-speaking researchers.
  • Assistance for the international mobility: the project will also finance each year, for three years, the travel of two professors from each of the two faculties so they may participate in conferences.
  • International conferences in Cairo: Finally, the IDEO will organize two conferences in Cairo, based on the model of its first two (organized in 2016 and 2018). These conferences will provide an opportunity for Egyptian students, professors, and researchers to present their work and exchange ideas with researchers from around the world.

The IDEO and its partners in Egypt, with the support of the European Union, wish to assist in the training of the new generation of specialists in Islam who will work closely with the ongoing international academic work, by means of the French language, and make available to all researchers an online reference database in Islamic studies.

Web Portal of Libraries of the Orient

icon-calendar 2017 ‒ 2020

bnfThe National Library of France (BnF), as part of its international programs of shared digitalization, launched their project of a new digital web portal named “Libraries of the Orient” for the preservation, digitalization, dissemination, and enhancement of the heritage of Francophone libraries in the Mediterranean Orient.

IDEO’s library  was selected to participate in this web portal, which has been available for use on Gallica since September 12, 2017.

The corpus of works covers the countries bordering the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea: Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq. Moreover, it centers around major periods linked to the history of the region: oriental archaeology, oriental churches, the Ottoman Empire, Franco-Arabic relations from Napoleon I to the Second World War/ the question of the East.

The volume, as an initial phase, is estimated to be comprised of 5,000 documents for the public domain, of which 2,500 are from the BnF and 2,500 from its partners. They include printed works, manuscripts, maps and plans, photographs, posters, images and, in the future, sound and audiovisual documents.

Partners of the web portal of Libraries in the Levant

The participation of IDEO’s library

IDEO’s specialized collection of works concerns the Arabic-Muslim heritage of the first ten centuries of the Hijra. Priority is thus given to editions of texts by Arab-Muslim authors. Section  icon-tags 9 of the library focuses on a general spectrum of Arabic-Muslim culture. It includes not only works on religious sciences, but also secular literature or of the history of sciences. IDEO’s library has 11,510 works whose publication date is between 1800 and 1945.

Among the 1,404 periodicals that the IDEO’s library houses today, 964 are in European languages and 440 are in Arabic. Only 286 are still in publication, of which 171 are in European languages and 115 are in Arabic. The library contains 87 titles of Arabic periodicals published between 1800 and 1945.

Works on Arabic literature, Sufism and history will make up most of what IDEO’s Library will provide for the web portal.

Post-liberal models of religious pluralism

Rémi Chéno

After a short foray into the Jain logic and its model for the status of enunciation in a debate, Rémi Chéno pursues his research on the possibility of a pluralistic approach to religions.

SalvationsIn his famous book, The Nature of Doctrine, 1984, George Lindbeck opposed the cultural-linguistic model, now called post-liberal model, to the propositional cognitive model of classical metaphysics, and to the expressive experiential model of liberal theology. On preliminary examination, these three models refer respectively to three different theories of truth: the pragmatic theory, the realist theory of correspondence and the idealistic theory of coherence. But these associations operate only approximately. Continue reading Post-liberal models of religious pluralism

The reception of Sībawayh’s Kitāb in the West

Jean Druel

icon-calendar September 2015‒September 2020

Couv SibawayhIn her PhD research (1992, published in 1995 under the title Les voies de la transmission du Kitāb de Sībawayhi, Brill) Geneviève Humbert has reveaIed the existence of a North African (Kairouan?) parchment of Sībawayh’s Kitāb, probably dated 5th/11th century. It’s a very rare parchment (not paper) that roughly contains one sixth of the Kitāb (chapters 327 to 435 of Derenbourg’s edition).

Geneviève Humbert studied in great detail the history of the transmission of the Kitāb, both in the East and in the West, and according to her, this parchment contains a quite different version of the Kitāb than the “official” version circulated by al-Mubarrad (d. 285/898). In particular, it seems that the “canonical corpus of internal glosses” found in all other manuscript is not found in its matn.

Here are, always according to Geneviève Humbert, names of Andalusian grammarians who played an important role in the transmission of the Kitāb in the West.

In this research, Jean Druel wishes to focus not on the transmission of the text, as did Geneviève Humbert, but on the grammatical lessons that can be drawn from this different text. Does this peculiar parchment contain significantly different lessons? Does it bring a new light, not only on the reception of the Kitāb but on Sībawayh’s teachings?


IDEO is partner of the academic platform PLURIEL.

logo_plurielPLURIEL has been initiated by the Federation of the Catholic Universities in Europe and Lebanon. It aims to promote the link between researchers on Islam and the Muslim-Christian dialogue, in connection with Eastern Christians, and to foster the interaction between academics, social actors and economic organisations. The aim is also to open up research fields on Islam and to develop methodological tools to avoid cultural misunderstandings.

Continue reading PLURIEL

The 200 Project

icon-calendar March 2013‒February 2016

Logo 200 SiteFollowing its call for proposals, a contract entitled “Historic contextualization of 200 authors of the Classical Islamic heritage” was signed on 19 December 2012 with the European Union under the European Instrument for Human Rights & Democracy (reference EIDHR/2012 / 308 681) for an amount of € 155,000.

This contract offers a qualitative leap for AlKindi version 4 since it opens an opportunity to enrich our catalog with greater historical contextualization and intertextuality, which will highlight all the resources of the new software.

200 authors of the classical Arabic cultural heritage will be given priority, including al-Gaḥiẓ (d. 255/869), al-Farābī (d. 339/950), Ibn Sīnā (Avicenne, d. 428/1037), al-Bīrūnī (d. 440/1048), al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111), Ibn Rushd (Averroes, d. 595/1198), Ibn ʿArabī (d. 638/1240), Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), Ibn Qayyim al-Gawzīya (d. 751/1350), Ibn Khaldūn (d. 808/1406), Ibn Ḥagar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 852/1449), and al-Suyūṭī (d. 911/1505).

The catalog will integrate the historical context of the relationships between authors and their works. This new contextual light will help avoid misinterpretation, identify the innovative accents of each work or author, and underline the central ideas of the schools of thought.

Enabling a critical and respectful reading of the turāth

In Arabic, the term “critical thinking” (tafkīr naqdī) is often understood as distrustful of the Arab or Islamic culture and is unbearable for many Arab researchers. They find it difficult therefore to adopt a historical perspective as researchers in the West do. They prefer to consider classical culture in its internal consistency and organic development, an ahistorical approach that brings out the specific beauty of Arab culture but tends to minimize the breaks and therefore becomes inadequate to help to meet new cultural challenges. The AlKindi catalog makes possible a more helpful historical reading of the turâth.

In addition, the sense of a particular work in the turâth is difficult to capture because many of its authors are compilers of the works of the ancients. Their genius has often been to summarize, rearrange, or to compile the works of their predecessors rather than to create an original or innovative work: the contextualization of theirs works is therefore essential to understanding them.

Towards the mapping of the Arab-Muslim turāth

This leaflet was created for the launch of The 200 Project, and gives a general look on the development perspectives that were initiated by this project and the AlKindi v4 project.