Dimitri Gutas studies and teaches classical Arabic and the pre-modern intellectual tradition in Islamic civilization from different aspects. At the center of his concerns lies the study and understanding of Arabic in its many forms as a prerequisite for the proper appreciation of the written sources which inform us about the history and culture of Islamic societies. He also has an abiding interest in the transmission of Greek scientific and philosophical works into the Islamic world through the momentous Graeco-Arabic translation movement in Baghdad during the 8thth centuries AD 2nd-4th Hijri. The Lexicon is compiled in fascicles that appear in regular intervals, and interested graduate students in the Department have the opportunity to participate in the continuing project and sharpen their linguistic skills in both classical Arabic and classical Greek. In addition to his lexicographical interests in Graeco-Arabic studies, Dimitri Gutas has devoted a large part of his scholarly career to the edition and study of Greek philosophical texts translated into Arabic and their influence in the Islamic world.

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In fact, Islam, like all other religions, is the specific ideology of a particular, historically determined society i. The analysis of scientific activity in Islamic societies, therefore, can proceed only from the investigation of the social and political factors at play in each particular case.

Keywords: Islam and Science; problem of formulation of relationship; Islamic tradition; normative practice; early history of Islam. The problem that this journal is established to discuss with the hope that eventually some solutions may emerge, is stated in terms which themselves are part of the problem. It is as if the problem were, to put it in plain terms, if Islam was responsible for the glory of medieval Islamic civilization and the emergence of hundreds of scientists who taught not only Muslims but also Europeans, then why is the same Islam not creating the same circumstances of scientific efflorescence today or, to put the second question negatively, why is Islam responsible for the decay and scientific backwardness that one sees today in the Islamic world.

This understanding and formulation of the problem are completely false. There are two basic reasons for this. And if that is taken as normative, it would invalidate all later and positive developments in Islamic dogma which allowed it to adapt to changing circumstances. There are many different understandings of Islam, each identified by its historical time and locality, and with multiple contents, not always in harmony with each other.

There is nothing novel about such a formulation; it applies to all religions, and it is time for students of the Muslim world to take it seriously. Gutas, D. Second, Islam, as a religion, and at whatever historical moment it is taken, is a specific ideology of a particular, historically determined society. As such, like all other social ideologies that command adherence and respect by the majority of the population because of their emotive content, it is inert in itself and has no historical agency but depends completely on who is using it and to what ends.

In other words, like all ideologies, it is an instrument that can cut both ways, good and bad, and as such it lends itself to manipulation by the managers of society who may use it for whatever purposes their interest dictates. Thus, even if one takes a historically circumscribed definition of Islam as the set of beliefs of a Muslim population at a particular time and a particular place, even this Islam has no historical agency in itself but has to be seen in the context of the use to which it was put by those who wielded power at that time and place.

To take another example from the early cAbbasid period, a most crucial period for the development of the sciences in the Islamic world, we can consider the case of the caliph al-Mabmun who, in need of legitimation for his rule after a fratricidal civil war, saw fit to make use of religion for this purpose and presented himself as the champion of Islam in order to concentrate power in his hands.

This policy took many forms the institution of the mihna being the most famous one , including intensified warfare against the Christian Byzantines.

Or let us take another well-known example, the attitude of various legal scholars toward the study of logic. There is the famous fatwa by the Shafici Ibn al-Salah d.


Dimitri Gutas








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