Newsletter February-March 2022

The 53ʳᵈ Cairo International Book Fair ended with the memory of evenings dedicated to poetry and Arabic calligraphy, and multiple educational suggestions for the youngest. We were delighted by these wonderful initiations. However, as we walked through this prodigious maze of corridors strewn with mounds of books, we wondered if we were not also witnessing a form of reduction in Islamic publications that long ago made the reputation of this event. Year after year, the reality of secularization seems to be surreptitiously rooted in the Egyptian world and to be more and more visible. Whatever the case for the IDEO and its library, the Fair is always a must! Our late brother Emilio Platti had already asked for his ticket last August. He would not have missed the Book fair for anything in the world. The Book fair… what a weird expression! The idea of a fair fits so badly with the act of reading. Although, on thinking about it, just as we turn a book over and over again before buying it, or ask publishers about their new and reprinted books, researchers know that we must turn over and over again the words of the books on which are listed the high thoughts of the philosophy, theology or mysticism of previous eras. To think and rethink over and over, to contextualize, to ask in the hope that a glimmer, a light, maybe a fire, will emerge and will challenge our knowledge and open us up to a better understanding and let us discover the hidden secret of these words from other times and other people. Books call for other books, those of commentaries and those of commentaries of commentaries. It is the brilliant intuition of our new way of cataloging to establish the relationships that cross time between works and authors. Books that contradict each other, books that answer each other, books that, let’s admit it, are sometimes unreadable. Through reading, exploring, getting back to a word, a concept, or the statement presented on the fabric of a flavescent page, and through searching for the semantic resonance in its historical context, and the evocative power of an ante-Islamic poem or the political and religious allusions of the Dīwāns, the researcher progresses, and science progresses with him as well. The work is salutary because, as the poet says, “reading reintroduces lazy minds into the spiritual life”. In books we find an impulse that comes from someone else to join us from the depths of the ages in a moment of loneliness, where they speak to us, and we listen to them. There we meet our neighbor, sometimes far away in time and space; we discover his taste in things, his interesting ideas, his crazy, worrying or terribly scary world. But homo legens is always on the move. Reading to Islamic thinkers does not make a Dominican a Muslim, but we can’t say it doesn’t have an impact. Perhaps that is why Father Farid Jabre was once accused of becoming a disciple of al-Ġazālī. The quick judgment is a bit undue, but by his constant reading, the Lazarist scholar had already known, how to understand al-Ġazālī and finally made him contemporary.

Lectures and contributions

On February 13ᵗʰ, Emmanuel Pisani, OP participated in an online lecture entitled “Brotherhood, from one shore to the other of the Mediterranean” as part of the international day of universal brotherhood organized by the Friends of the IDEO and the French association Chrétiens en Méditerranée. Watch the video on YouTube… (in French)

On February 23ʳᵈ, Guillaume de Vaulx gave a talk entitled “The case of ḥayawān versus insān in the Epistles of the Iḫwān al-ṣafā. The long trip and arduous journey in understanding these three words”, in the seminar “Animals in the philosophy of the Islamic world”, organized by the University of Munich in Germany. 


On February 8ᵗʰ, we welcomed Ms. Claire de Galembert, researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in political sciences. She gave us her thesis dedicated to Father Anawati, and donated to the library her last two books De la religion en prison (2016) and Islam et prison (2020).

From February 3ʳᵈ to 17ᵗʰ, we received Jean Jacques Pérennès, OP director of the French School for Biblical and Archaeological Studies in Jerusalem (EBAF) and Anthony Giambrone, OP vice-director and director of studies.

On February 16ᵗʰ, we welcomed Mr. Richard McGregor, Associate Professor in the department of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, USA.

On February 16ᵗʰ, we welcomed Ms. Ilaria Betti from the section, Human Rights, Civil Society, Gender, Migration, Security and Governance, of the Delegation of the European Union in Egypt.

On the same day, February 16ᵗʰ, we invited Professors Oussama Nabil and Mona Sabry from al-Azhar University and partners in the project Adawāt.

Scholars’ House

In February 2022, we had the pleasure to receive in the Scholars’ House Ms. Louise Gallorini, who recently completed her PhD in medieval Arabic literature at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, Ms. Lilli Baručić, a master’s student in Islamic studies at the American University in Cairo, Mr. Jean-Roch Dumont, student curator of museums in training at the Museum of Egyptian civilization, and Ms. Madeleine Guillermit, a medical student who is volunteering this year at the French NGO Œuvre d’Orient.

Article on the IDEO

David Hoekema, “The Dominican Friars whose Library is Transforming Islamic Studies. How a rare books collection in Cairo expanded into a Center for scholarship and interfaith conversation”, Christian Century, February 11ᵗʰ, 2022.

Upcoming Activities

Starting March 14ᵗʰ, Emmanuel Pisani, OP will give a six-session online course on the topic of “Islam and Otherness” at the Institute of Science and Theology of Religions in Paris (ISTR), every Monday from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. (Paris time). To register as an auditor, please contact (in French):

On March 15ᵗʰ, the IDEO will resume its seminars with Professor Youssouf Sangaré on the topic of “The Islamic heritage under debate”. This seminar is organized by the IDEO as part of the Adawāt project and will take place in the seminar room at 5:00 p.m.

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