Friday 18 October 2013

Intellectual Archive: Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd

The Jadaliyya website, which has grown into one of the most prominent platforms for alternative voices from the Middle Eastern and North African parts of the Muslim world has established an archive offering a useful introduction to the intellectual legacy of one of the pioneering scholars of Islam from the Arabic-speaking world during the final decades of the last century and the early years of the new millennium.

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd has done ground-breaking world in the subfields of Qur'anic studies and in the discourse analysis of religious thinking in the contemporary Muslim world. His writings drew the attention of inquisitive young Muslims both at home and abroad, and some of his writings have been translated into Turkish, Indonesian, French, German, and Italian.

On the other hand, his proposition to approach the Qur'an as  literary text that can be subjected to text analytical and semiotic investigations also earned him the hostility of reactionary Muslim bloc. In the combustible political-religious climate of the Egypt in the early 1990s, which saw not only bloody confrontations between violent extremist and the Egyptian security forces, but also the assassination of the writer Farag Foda and a failed attempt on the life of Nobel Prize laureate Naguib Mahfouz, Abu Zayd saw no other option than going into exile in Germany and the Netherlands. His premature death in 2010, cut short the life and career of Muslim humanist and innovative academic.

For those who can read Arabic, click here to read brief sketches and view video clips of a number of talks. For those who don't, here are a few interviews in English:

Part 1 & 2