Tradition, Translation and Colonization: The Graeco‐Arabic Translation Movement and Deconstructing the Classics
In the Western tradition, there is a sort of ‘intellectual fundamentalism’ that refuses to acknowledge the contribution of Islamic culture to the fields of sciences and to the Humanities. The same ethnocentricism which conceals the fact that the Arabs made significant strides in the field of science, and particularly in mathematics and medicine is also at work in the study of the classics as well as in philosophy. As a matter of fact, it created a diremption between the Islamic culture and the classical heritage it helped preserve. This chapter begins by examining the ethnocentric underpinnings of the Western tradition which made Islam and classicism incongruous notions. It argues that Islam is part of the fabric of Western epistemology. Through the study of the role played by the translation movements from Greek to Arabic and from the latter to Latin, the chapter undertakes the project of deconstructing the foundational idea that the classics are inherited directly from ancient Greek and Latin. Arguably, this fundamentalism and the religious fanaticism which putatively came to be associated with this culture represent two sides of the same coin: both are in fact sustained by an Orientalism which subjected the latter to the colonial rules of the former. Contra the Orientalizing characterization of Islam as a religion of fanaticism, it is shown that through translation it in fact promoted rationalism. The chapter provides a critique of Western colonialism which suppressed the contribution of the Arabs. Through a consideration of Frantz Fanon and Abdelkabir Khatibi, it argues that a genuine decolonization must be sought at the level of European thought.
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