Sunday, October 29, 2006
In my Arabic blog I have posted an evolving list of the top 100 thinkers, writers and scholars in the Arab World in the past 25 years as a way to document the positive impact such intellectuals have exerted on Arab culture. It is important to mention that this list is not about the magnitude of impact on the Arab public, since using this indicator will make me end up with a list that contains more than 50 names of clerics and religious stars of the new Arab satellites as well as the icons of fundamentalism who extert the highest negative impact on the collective Arab mind.
In contrast, this list is my own assembly of the best intellectuals who have contributed positively to Arab thought with clear committment to values of democracy, freedom, human rights, social justice and development. The list does not include any intellectuals who have supported Arab dictatorships, promoted the USA agenda, normalised with Israel or supported terrorist ideology.
I thought it would be useful to translate the top 20 names of this list into English with some description. Again this is a very difficult task to "eliminate" names of great thinkers but just for the purpose of summarising the list here is my top 20 of Arab thinkers and writers with no particular order.
1- Najib Mahfouz (Egypt): not just because he is the only Arab who won a Nobel prize in literature but this giant figure has contributed highly to the progress of rational thinking and enlightment in the Arab culture and almsot paid his life as a result when escaping an assasination attempt in 1994. He died two months ago.
2- Edward said (Palestine-USA): the greatest Arab who ever wrote in English. A commanding and credible figure in world culture and a man who has single-handedly corrected a lot of the myths that were leading the American political mind about the true nature of the Palestinian cause. He died three years ago.
3- Burhan Ghalioun: (Syria): Director of the Centre d’Etudes sur l’Orient Contemporain (CEOC) in Paris and a Professor of Political Sociology at the Universite de Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle). I consider him to be the best political scholar in the Arab World. Very robust academically and always committed to the cause of democracy in the Arab World without being a voice of the US administration. I advise each one to refere to him in political analysis.
4- Fahmi Huwaidi (Egypt): In an era where fundamentalist and irrational Islamists are controlling the Arab mind this Islamic Egyptian writer is a breeze of hope for rational thinking in the Islamic world. I always enjoy his well articulated and informed articles that focus on facts and do not manipulate the basic religious instincts of the readers.
5- Samir Amin (Egypt): the most dynamic neo-marxist intellectual in the Arab World. He has contributed significantly to the maturation of the Arab left and its theories of development. he has done a great job in linking Arab leftists and socialists with the global anti-globalization movement through the Third World Forum.
6- Muhammad Abed Al-Jaberi (Morocco): Managed to develop the most comprehensive intellectual project for the "analysis and critique" of the Arab mind. With a plethora of books and articles he contributed to the re-emergence of new Arab thought and was a part in many interesting intellectual debates across the Arab world.
7- Sadiq Jalal Al Azm (Syria): No Arab intellectual has ever rocked the foundations of the traditional religious dogma as this Syrian aristocrat who turned marxist. In the late sixties he took the Arab culture in storm by publishing his "critique of religious mind" debut book which was banned in Lebanon and he was prosecuted. later he published the mazing book entitled "the misery of satan" and never looked back since.
8- Hasan Hanafi (Egypt): has enough courage and innovation to try to integrate Islam with socialism in his own intellectual project about "Islamis left" in which he displays Islam as a social revolution with dynamic nature. In his quest he was faced with the most aggressive resistance from theologists and traditional islamists. After a recent lecture in cairo he has been accused of blasphemy.
9- Turki Al Hamad (Saudi Arabia): Enough to say that he is the leading liberal intellectual in the conservative Saudi cultural circle to tell the importance of his impact. He writes regularly for Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper and has published many interesting books on the criticism of traditional Arab culture and challenging religious and social taboos in Saudi Arabia.
10- Mohammad Jaber Al Ansari (Bahrain): Dean of the College of Higher Studies at the Arabian Gulf and one of the non-compromising democratic and liberal thinkers in the Gulf. Has a lot of impact on challenging the rigid traditional Arab culture and he always enjoys immunity from the infection of the USA supported liberal movement.
11- Firas Al-Sawwah (Syria): Done wonders in exploring the hidden dark secrets of the comparative religions in the region. His academic studies have dissected for the fisrt time the original texts of the three monolithic religions and orchestrated their "common origin". His book "The Mind's first journey" shoulkd not be missed by any Arab intellectual.
12- Khalil Abdul Kareem (Egypt): This scholar was the pioneer in re-presentig to the modern arab reader the truth behind the early satges of Islam. using the same credible historical resources usually used by religious scholars to describe a mythological platonic society of early Islam he has shown us beyond any doubt that all the individual characters that shaped Islam (except Mohammad PBUH) are all humans subject to mistakes and common bad bahaviours of all human beings.
13- Rashid al-Ghannoushi (Tunisia): the leader of al Nahda Party, the biggest Islamic party in Tunisia is the only Arab thinker (apart from Hasan Turabi) who has managed to put together a comprehensive modern Islamic theory that covers all practical aspects in Life. His thorough analysis and critique of the Political Islamic ideology, coupled with his scientific-based Tunisian education managed to help him to provide muslim and Arab scholars with a new approach to integrating Islam in the modern life.
14- Nawal Sa'adawi (Egypt): no female intellectaul in the Arab World has managed to advocate the feminism movement other than Nawal Sa'awai. Such a courageous and direct writer she was able to challenge all the social taboos which Arab Women are submerged underbeneath. Her books and essays were revolutionary and has also been a credible and committed member in the global solidarity and anti-globalization movements.
15- Nasr Hamid Aby zaid (Egypt): former Professor of Arabic literature at Cairo University. In 1995 a Cairo appeals court ordered Abu Zaid divorced from his wife on the ground of his alleged apostasy. With his wife he has been living in The Netherlands since. Another victim of the aggression of the religious doctorine in the Arab World. His collection of books and articles challenging conventional rigid religious thinking were too much to tolerate because tehy were based on the same resources that have been used to advocate the rigid thought.
16- Hisham Sharabi (Palestine): One of the most profound and respected Arab intellectuals. Sharabi has had an important role in building institutions to promote awareness and understanding of the Palestine issue and the Arab world from his exile in the USA. Despite half a century of exile, he has maintained a lively dialogue with the Arab world through his substantial contributions in Arabic and English.
17- Hussein Morowa (Lebanon): One of the most important marxism thinkers in the modern Arab history. The scholar is well known for his amazing book "The Materialistic Tendencies in Islamic Philosophy" in which he documented all the products of rational Islamic philosophy and created a new unknown awareness of the rationality of Islamic thought that was not discovered before. Unfortunately this great thinker was assasinated in Beirut in 1987. At the same year the other icon of Lebanese marxism movement Mahdi Amil was also assasinated.
18-- Mohammad Shahrour (Egypt): Has provided a storm among Islamic thought in 1990 with the publishing of his book "The Book and the Qu'ran" in which he developed a new reformist approach to reading Islamic religious texts. The main concept in his writings is his theory that After the first century of Islamic history, new methods of Islamization were created, with principles such as usul al fiqih (jurisprudence) and ilim al-qalam (theology). These sciences were created by political officials, within the framework of an oppressive political authority. Therefore, it is impossible to find in the usul al-fiqih, both in its Sunni or Shi'a versions, a place for concepts such as "constitution", "the rights of the people", or "the rights of the government". There is only elaboration on how to justify the power of ruler. But now, the Middle East is facing new concepts such as constitution, pluralism, civil society, democracy and opposition. So, the problem is how these concepts can be introduced into the Islamic religious tradition. Such a big and noble task that he was rewarded with the usual aggression from conservative clerics.
19- Hisham Ghassib (Jordan): One of the very few Arab intellectuals who have advocated the progress of scientific thinking. The Jordanian marxist has managed to accomplish success at both the scholarship level with his series of well articulated books on the scientific thinking and Arab culture while managing one of the most progressive and developing academic centers in Jordan which is the Prince Sumayya University of Technology PSUT).
20- Fatema Mernissi (Morocco): Another great figure in the Arab feminist movement. Her books and writing are more analytical and academic than Sa'dawi but still carries the same courage and direct approach. Exposing the hypocrisy of the male-dominated Arab society, she has contributed to breaking new grounds in social analysis linked to Islam and tradition.
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