Arab Thought in Need of Revival
The Moroccan Philosopher Mohammed Abed al-Jabri wins
Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought 2008
“An under-developed country can only pursue the path of real development, if education is made prevalent on a wide scale: ‘If we allow a hundred roses to bloom, we shall reap more of its fruits than we ever hoped for’“
M. Abed al-Jabri
Mohammed Abed al-Jabri is a lecturer in Philosophy and Islamic Thought at
Within 50 years al-Jabri enriched the Arabic library with several distinguished theses, scholarly works and studies on new interpretations of the Arab cultural heritage as the first necessary steps towards cultural development. Al-Jabri believes that the past must be re-examined and assimilated into the present within a deeper understanding of world culture.
The complex questions that al-Jabri was occupied with all the time were: Why did the development of knowledge in the Arab Islamic culture come to a halt after the Medieval Golden Age? Can a modern renaissance be initiated without enlightening the mind? Al-Jabri’s approach to these questions was a critical, rational and epistemological methodology. Al-Jabri refuses an interpretation of history which is based on what he calls ”antiquated understanding of cultural heritage”. According to al-Jabri we should try to build our future out of a conscious understanding of the present circumstances and peculiarities of our history and its characteristics.
Al-Jabri’s work on the enlightenment of the mind began in 1980, when al-Jabri wrote several books on this subject. His ideas spread all over the Arab world and were publicly criticized and discussed.
In his publication series Naqd al-fikr al-arabi (Critique of Arab Thought) al-Jabri analyses Arab thought by studying the cultural and linguistic structures from the beginning of literature until today and examining the development of political and ethical patterns of thought over time. Al-Jabri coined the expression ”the resigned mind “ (al-aql al-mustaqil), by which he refers to the conventional ways of thinking in the Arab world that hinder independent thought and shy away from discussing important cultural issues. Al-Jabri concludes that Arab thought is in need of a revival. In that context some of al-Jabri’s most important works were published in the 1980s, beginning with Nahnu wa-t-turath (Our Cultural Heritage and Us) 1980, which can be regarded as an introduction to his book series Naqd al-aql al-arabi (Critique of Arab Reason), which appeared in four parts (books): Takwin al-aql al-arabi 1984 (The Genesis of Arab Thought), Bunyat al-aql al-arabi 1986 (The Structure of the Arab Mind), al-Aql as-syiyasi al-arabi 1990 (The Arab Political Mind), al-Aql al-akhlaqi al-arabi 2001 (The Arab Moral Mind).
In their famous dialogues collected in the book Hiwar al-mashriq wa-l-maghrib (Dialogue of East and West) al-Jabri and the Egyptian philosopher Hassan Hanafi discuss important current political and social issues. These dialogues, later known as “dialogue of the eighties” aroused controversial reactions in the Arab world and had far-reaching influence in political circles.
In the 1990’s al-Jabri more extensively dealt with the problems of modern
Arab thought. In a series of short expositions he substantiated his critique
of Arab reasoning: “Democracy and Human Rights“ 1994, “The Question of
Culture in the Arab World“ 1994, “Religion, State and Applying Islamic Law (Shari’a)“ 1996, „The Intellectuals of Arab Civilization“
1996, “Problems of Modern Arab Thought“ 1997. One of al-Jabri’s
main aims in writing his book “The Intellectuals of Arab Civilization” was to
limit the alienation of Arab intellectuals from their own history. He also
wanted to stress upon the exploitation of religion for political ends and the
importance of having an independent understanding of history. As an example
he mentions the conflicts Ibn Hanbal faced in the
Eastern part of the Arab world (Mashreq) and Ibn
Rushd (Averroes) in the Western part of it (
In this context it should be pointed out that al-Jabri has intensively dealt with Ibn Rushd (Averroes) by supervising the publishing and providing the introduction and commentaries for critical editions of numerous original manuscripts (excluding Ibn Rushd’s commentary works on Aristotle). Ad-Daruri fi s-siyasa (The Essentials in Politics), in which Ibn Rushd summarizes and comments on Aristotle’s’ Politica, has survived only in its Hebrew translation. Together with a scholar colleague, al-Jabri translated it back into Arabic and took care to bring it over into the idiom and linguistic style contemporary to Ibn Rushd.
Al-Jabri’s most recent publications is his introduction to the Koran (Madkhal ila al-qur’an al-karim: at-ta’rif bi-l-qur’an 2006) and the first two parts of an interpretation of the Koran, in which he arranges the verses in chronological order of revelation: Fahm al-qur’an al-hakim 2007 at-Tafsir al-wadih hasab tartib an-nuzul 2008.
Unfortunately, for health
reasons al-Jabri will not be able to travel to
Ibn Rushd Fund for Freedom of Thought
Tel.: 0049 (0) 721-1517745