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Islamic Thought and Research in America

Like Europe, America is heir to the western intellectual tradition of the Middle Ages and, by extension, to that of Islam. However, unlike Europe, it lacks universities such as Oxford, Bologna and Paris, with a history of research into Islamic thought stretching back some seven to eight centuries. Though Arabic has been taught in older American universities, such as Harvard and Yale, since the 17th century AD, the scientific study of Islamic religion and thought only began in earnest in the 20th century, and became pervasive in the post-World War II period. None the less, in spite of this historical background, more effort is expended in the field of Islamic studies in the USA than it is in Europe. At the same time, many scholars of Islam in the USA are Muslims who are gradually taking over the chairs of Islamic studies at various universities, the same situation which occurred some fifty years ago with regard to the study of Judaism in America. This trend is also occurring in Europe, though at a slower pace. For instance, a Muslim was recently appointed to the newly-established chair of Islamic studies at London University. In case this trend comes to prevail, it would bring about a most significant development in the field of Islamic research, with important consequences not only for the Muslim community in America, but for the relations between the Islamic civilization and the west.

* source: Nasr , Seied Hossein "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.587


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