Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society

Interpreting Islam from Inside and Outside

Muslim scholars work in a long and rich tradition of knowledge-production in their own culture.

Traditionally the dominant form of knowledge was normative, understood in terms of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and the writing of history in the form of chronicles, with their compilations of reports and anecdotes. Western understanding of Muslim societies, true to the principles of philology, has from the beginning privileged the study of these written sources.

A critical reflection on the history and practices of the academic study of Islam and Muslim societies, however, has led to a consciousness of Islamic studies as a social practice and an understanding of its relevance for society as both an asset and a potential problem. At present a more nuanced view of what has become known as “Orientalism” has gained currency, stressing the importance of exchange and collaboration between scholars studying Muslim societies and Islam from the inside and from the outside.

In the coming years LUCIS will continue to promote the study of the scholarly production of knowledge on and in Muslim societies, in its complex relation to societal concerns, focusing especially on the exchanges between Muslim and Western scholars. Particular attention will be given to the rich heritage of Leiden University in this field, to be explored in an international context of critical studies of Orientalism.

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