Schooled in Islam

February 27, 1998

Shabbir Akhtar is wrong to generalise that the ulama are mere "slaves of the Book" (THES, February 13). For over a year, until last August, I worked in the Library of Congress's Cairo field office, selecting from thousands of monographs received from all over the Arab world.

While I can vouch that there is evidence to support Akhtar's claim in the intellectual output of the ulama, there is is also a good deal of interesting and original work being published. For example, one of the last titles I selected, from a batch of Syrian imprints, used Koran and Hadith quotations to criticise the ongoing phenomenon of suicide bombings from a traditional religious perspective.

Yet beyond these two opposing tendencies of originality and slavishness, there is a third which, because it is cloaked in the language of democracy, goes largely unnoticed in this society, and which Akhtar himself appears to overlook.

Far from having "gang-raped" the text, members of the high-profile campaign for state funding of Muslim schools in England and Wales, it would seem, adopted an approach to the Koran and Sunnah which could best be described as Platonic.

Roderic Vassie. Editor, the Classified Handlist of Arabic Manuscripts Acquired since 1912 (vol.1: Islamic law; vol.2: Koranic sciences and Hadith), British Library 1995.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns