APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA.

My previous anthologies on the origins of the Koran and the beginnings of Islam were received enthusiastically by several distinguished scholars who found that my compilations fulfilled an important function, proving  indispensable source books for researchers, teachers, students , and even making accessible to the educated public, in English translations, material buried in difficult to obtain Nineteenth Century German journals .

 In Dr. Chase Robinson’s  Islamic Historiography[1] the essay-collection, The Quest of the Historical Muhammad,[2] which I edited, makes several appearances in the footnotes.[3] What the Koran Really Says  was quoted at the opening talk of the International Conference at Notre Dame University on “Towards a New Reading of the Qur’än ” ( Indiana , USA ) which took place in April, 2005,  and was attended by some of the most distinguished Koranic scholars in the world.One speaker from the Middle East at the conference congratulated me on my efforts , and confided that he had used my writings with his students. Two other teachers not present at the Conference , Professor Peter von Sivers of the University of Utah and Professor Ervand Abramanian of City University of New York  also informed me a few years ago that they used The Quest for the Historical Muhammad with their students.

In his review in The Times Literary Supplement  Dr. Chase Robinson, of the University of  Oxford, offered this description of What the Koran Really Says[4]: “Here, as in previous collections, his stated purpose is to historicize Islamic origins, and to do this by making accessible a range of (mostly European) nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholarship through re-publication, translation, and commentary (the present collection continues to the task taken up in The Origins of the Koran: Classic essays on Islam’s holy book:”1998 [5], with which it can usefully be considered a companion volume). For the professional Islamicist, it is enormously convenient to have all these articles assembled together in a single work. For anyone interested in the Koran, it will be a boon to understanding Islam, and it is for that reader, more than for the Islamicist, that Ibn Warraq intends the volume”. [6]

Reviewing The Quest for the Historical Muhamamd, Professor Merlin Swartz of Boston University wrote something similar: “In this immensely valuable source, Ibn Warraq has collected seminal studies from several academic journals from the past 150 years….Regardless of one’s view, Ibn Warraq has performed a valuable service by bringing these important – and largely inaccessible – studies in a single volume, and by translating original German and French publications into English…Highly recommended to all colleges and university libraries and to public libraries with collections in the history of religion….”[7] In a personal letter,[8] Günter Lüling wrote, and furthermore gave me permission to quote, the following: ” I appreciate it very much what you have done with your anthologies for the progress of Islamic Studies”.

While it is always a pleasure to receive praise from whatever quarter it may come   surely the greater satisfaction must come when some scholar of Islam whom one expected to disapprove of one’s sceptical forays into their chosen field of studies offers some murmur of approval. Hence my delight at reading that Angelika Neuwirth, while disapproving of my “credulity”[sic][9] and my seeming endorsement of “only attempts at deconstruction of the ‘Qur’anic narrative ‘”   nonetheless found my collection What the Koran Really Says to be very meritorious.[10]

 Even more memorable, for me, was the invitation I received to visit the great Semiticist and Islamologist Maxime Rodinson in his apartment, overflowing with books, in Rue Vaneau in Paris. Rodinson asked me to autograph my first work, one which he had been asked to review by the politically hyper-correct Le Monde. To the latter’s chagrin, Rodinson  wrote a very favourable review describing the book as “very learned” , and expressing his desire for the book to be read widely. Le Monde, of course, refused to publish it, it can be found now in the bi-monthly  journal “Panoramique.” [11]

 Claude Gilliot in an extended review of three of my books in Arabica [12] finds my approach “refreshing” [13] despite finding my “freethought” as applied to religion in general, and Islam in particular a little negative. He applauds  my efforts at rescuing from oblivion certain scholars. Gilliot concludes on an appreciative note , “One of the merits , and not the least , of this collection , but also of Ibn Warraq’s introduction [my emphasis , I.W.] is to remind us, among other things, that we have yet to draw all the lessons [benefits]  that we could from the theories and methodology of John Wansbrough and his school on the birth and rise of Islam”.[14]

 Jacques Berlinerblau, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Languages at Hofstra University, wrote, ” …Ibn Warraq is to be lauded and admired for his critical heroism”, [15]  and David N.Myers of Princeton University [16]wrote: ” Armed with a healthy dose of disdain, Ibn Warraq has recently called attention to the reticence of Muslim scholars to undertake  critical study of Muhammad and early Islamic sources.”

 

[1] Chase F.Robinson.  Islamic Historiography , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003

[2] Ibn Warraq ed. The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, Amherst: Prometheus Books , 2000.

6 Robinson op.cit., , p.12 footnote 10 ; p.38, fn.25 ; p.89, fn.9         

7 Ibid., pp.90-91 fn.12          

[4] Ibn Warraq, ed. What the Koran Really Says . Amherst :Prometheus Books , 2002

[5] Ibn Warraq ed. The Origins of the Koran . Amherst : Prometheus Books,1998.

[6] Chase Robinson. From Hand to Hand , a review of What the Koran Really Says, in The Times Literary Supplement , London , 12 September, 2003, p.28.

[7] M.Swartz.  Review of The Quest for the Historical Muhammad in Choice, October, 2000.

[8] Email dated 24 November , 2005.

[9] ” Credulous ” Moi ? I am often accused of being too rationalistic and skeptical – Andrew Bostom once called me  “The Amazing Randi ” of Koranic Studies. The Amazing Randi is a distinguished skeptic , long associated with magazines like the The Skeptical Inquirer and The Skeptic. Randi is a debunker or rather tester of those who claim to possess special powers of a supernatural or paranomal nature, something he does with the help of rigorous experiments devised by himself. 

[10] Angelika Neuwirth .  Qur’an and History – A Disputed Relationship. Some Reflections on Qur’anic History and History in the Qur’an .    Journal of Quranic Studies  Vol V. 2003 (1 ) ,pp.1-18

[11] Panoramique [Paris ] , February , 2000. [ An English translation can be found at :http://www.secularislam.org/reviews/rodinson.htm. ]

[12] C.Gilliot .Review of Why I Am Not a Muslim , The Origins of the Koran , The Quest for the Historical Muhammad ,  Arabica , tome XLVII, 2000, pp. 566-571.

[13] Ibid., p.568 , end of second paragraph .

[14] Ibid., p.571.

[15]  Jacques Berlinerblau. The Secular Bible.Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2005, p.129.

[16] David Myers. Resisting History: Historicism and Its Discontents in German-Jewish Thought (Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World) Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003. Introduction p.175

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