What is Islamic studies?

Islam is practised not merely from west to east in a range stretching from Morocco to Indonesia and across every country in between, but also in a lot of Africa and now in Europe and America. There are areas of Lebanese Muslims residing in Brazil and Gaelic-speaking Pakistanis in north-west Scotland. And Islam may be the fastest-growing religion in the world. One in five people on this planet are Muslims Tafsir al ahlam , therefore this indicates fair to attempt to learn a great deal more about them.

Islamic studies, as shown in the west, is just a discipline that attempts to spell out what the Islamic world has achieved previously and what the future keeps for it. Their previous should indeed be rich. In 732, a hundred years following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the Arab conquests had developed the greatest empire that the world had however observed, stretching from central France to the edges of China. It was held together by the Islamic trust and by Arabic, the language of the Qur’an. The gilded world of the ninth-century Abbasid court – whose capital, Baghdad, rivalled Rome – is evoked in the experiences of the Thousand and One Nights. Here the caliphs established an school, the House of Wisdom, which offered as a interpretation center wherever Arabic versions (later produced also in Toledo, in Spain) were made of the efforts of Graeco-Roman, Persian and Indian culture in viewpoint, literature, arithmetic, astronomy, medicine and other fields of scientific learning. These works, preserved from oblivion by the Arabs, achieved the west, were translated into Latin and finally produced the Renaissance possible. Muslim Spain, for instance, was ages in front of the rest of Europe in their lifestyle; their capital, Cordoba, had street light, underground sewage, hot and cool operating water, community bathrooms and other amenities while other American cities were sunk in squalor. Moorish knowledge in irrigation and agriculture produced the gardens of Spain a byword for the arts of leisure.

At the heart of the discipline of Islamic studies would be the languages of this world and the analysis of Islam as a trust and a functional guide for daily life. This implies shut study of the Qur’an and the sayings of Muhammad. Beyond that, large sides beckon, like the processes of Islamic law, Sufism (Islamic mysticism), political believed, the key divisions of the trust (Sunnis and Shi‘ites), Arab, Persian and Turkish literature and the role of women. Islamic art produced rugs, luxury ceramics, precious small paintings and buildings of world renown like the Alhambra and the Taj Mahal. The great carry of Islamic record ,informed by its own chroniclers, requires students from the increase of Islam and the life span of the Prophet Muhammad, right through to the initial Arab dynasties and then more afield; to the later interaction between Arabs, Turks and Persians, to the Crusades, by which Muslims (here Saladin may be the charismatic figure) and Crusaders co-existed, usually harmoniously, and realized from one another in unexpected methods, and to the gunpowder empires of early modern period – the Turkish Ottomans, the Persian Safavids and the Indian Mughals. The history is taken into modern occasions by learning how Muslims responded to the military and social encroachment of the West, achieving liberty, and the roles they play in the current globally interconnected world.

The English Academy sponsors research wherever it is carried out – in universities, museums and other institutions – into most of the subjects mentioned above and many more. This Muslim culture remaining their imprint on the languages of Europe, with words of Arabic source like admiral, bedding, liquor, espresso, sugar, oranges and lemons, algebra, logarithm, cotton, newspaper, kebab. There are over a hundred stars in the atmosphere with Arabic names. We urgently need to get to learn Muslims, including their trust and their civilisation, better.

Carole Hillenbrand CBE is Professor Emerita at the School of Edinburgh and Professorial Other of Islamic History at the School of E Andrews. She was selected a Other of the English Academy in 2007. In 2016 she was awarded the English Academy/Nayef Al Rodhan Prize for Global National Knowledge on her book ‘Islam: A Famous Introduction'(Thames and Hudson, London, 2015).