Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times. The Arabist. About This website. Issandr El Amrani. Ursula Lindsey. The Arabist Podcast.
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Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times. The Arabist. About This website. Issandr El Amrani.
Ursula Lindsey. The Arabist Podcast. In Translation. The Sabry Guide. Cairo Magazine. I have been reading about the origins of the Great Fitnah in Islam. It is easy to discover that the best book there is on the subject is by the brilliant Tunisian scholar, Hichem Djait: La Grande Discorde, which appeared in an excellent Arabic translation but not in an English translation.
Djait is largely unknwn in US academia although he is in my opinion one of the best contemporary scholars on Islam. This is a man who is equally fluent in German philosophy--in German--and in French historiography--in French--and in Arabic writings--in Arabic.
Only one of his books is available in English, L'Europe et l'Islam. That book should be read along with Said's Orientalism and Rodinson's La Fascination de l'Islam as the essential readings on the subject and Irwin's latest Dangerous Knowledge, albeit as a critical counterpoint. In the introduction to his book on Fitnah, Djait points out with surprise that there are no studies about the subject, with the exception of a book by Taha Husayn which is literary in nature.
Husayn contrary to his reputation was quite apologetic in his writings on Islam. Djait is great in being critical of Orientalist literature and critical of the early Islamic sources. Politically, Djait surprises me: this brilliant scholar has Saddamist Arab nationalist sympathies. Hichem Djait's Fitna is incredibly rich, detailed history and the best book on the subject I know of. Whatever you do, don't get the book with the same main title by Kepel. Djait's book is the real thing, and considering the creepy anti-Shiism rising in the Sunni Arab world it's probably worth re-reading.
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On Hichem Djait
Djait was born in Tunis , Tunisia to a conservative upper-middle-class family. His erudite father and some of his uncles and relatives were Islamic sages or sheikhs , which made the name of the Djait family become traditionally associated with the Zeytouna Mosque as well as with Islamic Fiqh and Iftah or jurisprudence. He had his secondary education at Sadiki College , where he studied French, world literature , Western philosophy , Arabic , and Islamic Studies. His training at Sadiki College made him discover Enlightenment thinkers and the ideals of the Renaissance and the Reformation which were rather different from the teachings of his family's conservative milieu. Djait later travelled to France where he received the "Aggregation" diploma in History in Among such publications, one may mention The Great Fitna or The Great Discord first published in and which represents a seminal study and a revolutionary reading of Islamic history following the death of Prophet Muhammad.