Tue . 18 Dec 2018

Sadiq Jalal al-Azm

sadiq jalal al-azm, sadiq al-azm
Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm Arabic: صادق جلال العظم‎‎ Ṣādiq Jalāl al-‘Aẓm; 1934 – December 11, 2016 was a Professor Emeritus of Modern European Philosophy at the University of Damascus in Syria and was, until 2007, a visiting professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University His main area of specialization was the work of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, but he later placed a greater emphasis upon the Islamic world and its relationship to the West, evidenced by his contribution to the discourse of Orientalism1 Al-Azm was also known as a human rights advocate and a champion of intellectual freedom and free speech2


  • 1 Early life and education
  • 2 Career
    • 21 Controversy and arrest
    • 22 Prominent views
  • 3 Bibliography English
    • 31 Books
    • 32 Articles
  • 4 Interviews
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Early life and educationedit

Al-Azm was born in Damascus, Syrian Republic, into the prominent Al-Azm family3 The Al-Azm family rose to prominence in the eighteenth century under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in Greater Syria, which was acquired in 1516 by the cosmopolitan Turkish Empire

Al-Azm was schooled in Beirut, Lebanon, earning a BA in Philosophy from the American University of Beirut in 1957 Al-Azm earned an MA in 1959 and a PhD in 1961 from Yale University, majoring in Modern European Philosophy


In 1963, after finishing his PhD, he began teaching at the American University of Beirut His 1968 book Al-Nakd al-Dhati Ba’da al-Hazima Self-Criticism After the Defeat Dar al-Taliah, Beirut analyzes the impact of the Six Day War on Arabs Many of his books are banned in Arab nations with the exception of Lebanon

He was a professor of Modern European Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Sociology at the University of Damascus from 1977 to 1999 He continued to be active in lecturing at European and American universities as a visiting professor In 2004, he won the Erasmus Prize with Fatema Mernissi and Abdulkarim Soroush In 2004 he received the Dr Leopold Lucas Prize awarded on behalf of the Protestant Faculty of the University of Tübingen by Professor Eilert Herms with an address entitled "Islam and Secular Humanism" 45 In 2005, he became a Dr Honoris Causa at Hamburg University In 2015 he was awarded the Goethe Medal by the president of the Goethe Institute

Controversy and arrestedit

Al-Azm was at the center of a political controversy in December 1969 when he was arrested in absentia with his publisher by the Lebanese government; he had fled to Syria only to later return to Beirut to turn himself in, where he was jailed in early January 1970 He was charged for writing a book that aimed at provoking feuds among the religious sects of Lebanon This was after publication in book form of various essays that previously appeared in journals, magazines and periodicals Together, they comprised the 1969 book, Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini Critique of Religious Thought Dar al-Taliah, Beirut In it, Al-Azm's rebuke of political and religious leaders and the media who supported them for exploiting their populations' religious sentiments was relentless and made him enemies He applied a Marxist-materialist critique to religion, not to discredit people's religious commitments, but to expose how "Arab regimes found in religion a crutch they could use to calm down the Arab public and cover-up for their incompetence and failure laid bare by the defeat, by adopting religious and spiritual explanations for the Israeli victory"6

Al-Azm was released from prison in mid-January 1970 after the "Court decided in consensus to drop the charges filed against the Defendant Sadiq Al-Azm and Bashir Al-Daouk due to the lack of criminal elements they were charged with" 7 Subsequent editions of Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini include the Documents from the Tribunal and continue to be published in Arabic to this day, though with restricted access in the Middle East

Al-Azm long believed his arrest was motivated by other factors, perhaps as a way to "settle scores with their critics and foes" Regardless, the arguments Al-Azm raised in Critique of Religious Thought continue to be debated, and there have been numerous books published in Arabic furthering the positions of both sides of the debate The most thorough chronicling of the "affair", to use the author's own words, outside the Middle East was in the German journal, Der Islam, by Stefan Wild in an essay translated "God and Man in Lebanon: The Sadiq Al-Azm Affair" in 19711

Prominent viewsedit

Al-Azm was a critic of Edward Said's Orientalism, claiming that it essentialises 'the West' in the same manner that Said criticises imperial powers and their scholars of essentialising 'the East' In a 1981 essay, Al-Azm wrote of Said: the stylist and polemicist in Edward Said very often runs away with the systematic thinkerwe find Saidtracing the origins of Orientalism all the way back to Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides and Dante In other words, Orientalism is not really a thoroughly modern phenomenon, as we thought earlier, but is the natural product of an ancient and almost irresistible European bent of mind to misrepresent the realities of other cultures, peoples and their languagesHere the author seems to be saying that the 'European mind', from Homer to Karl Marx and AHRGibb, is inherently bent on distorting all human realities other than its own

Within a decade, Al-Azm became an active participant in the dialogue surrounding free speech and the 1988 publication of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

Bibliography Englishedit

Al-Azm wrote numerous books and articles in Arabic, and some have been translated into European languages including Italian, German, Danish, French Neither Al-Nakd al-Dhati Ba’da al-Hazima nor Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini has been translated in its entirety into English, though selections of Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini have appeared in English translation in John J Donohue and John L Esposito's Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives 19822007, 2nd Ed2 Additionally, chapter two of Nakd al-Fikr al-Dini was translated into English in a 2011 Festschrift in honor of al-Azm's career published under the title Orientalism and Conspiracy: Politics and Conspiracy Theory in the Islamic World, Essays in Honour of Sadiq J Al-Azm3


  • 1967 Kant's Theory of Time New York, Philosophical Library
  • 1972 The Origins of Kant's Arguments in the Antinomies Oxford, Clarendon/Oxford University Press
  • 1980 Four Philosophical Essays Damascus, Damascus University Publications
  • 1992 The Mental Taboo: Salman Rushdie and the Truth Within Literature London, Riad El-Rayess Books
  • 2004 Islam und säkularer Humanismus Islam and Secular Humanism, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005 ISBN 3-16-148527-0
  • 2011 Self-Criticism After the Defeat Saqi Books London4
  • 2013 Secularism, Fundamentalism, and the Struggle for the Meaning of Islam Collected essays in 3 volumes – Vol 1: On Fundamentalisms; Vol 2: Islam – Submission and Disobedience; Vol 3: Is Islam Secularizable Challenging Political and Religious Taboos Gerlach Press, Berlin 2013–2014, ISBN 978-3-940924-20-9
  • 2014 Critique of Religious Thought First English Translation of naqd al-fikr ad-dini with a New Introduction by the Author Gerlach Press, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-940924-44-5


  • 1967 "Whitehead's Notions of Order and Freedom" The Personalist: International Review of Philosophy, Theology and Literature University of Southern California 48:4, 579-591
  • 1968 "Absolute Space and Kant's First Antinomy of Pure Reason" Kant-Studien University of Koln, 2:151-164
  • 1968 "Kant's Conception of the Noumenon" Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review Queen's University, 6:4, 516-520
  • 1973 "The Palestinian Resistance Movement Reconsidered" The Arabs Today: Alternatives for Tomorrow Columbus, Ohio: Forum Associates Inc, 121-135
  • 1981 "Orientalism and Orientalism in Reverse" Khamsin No8: 5-26 Reprinted in Alexander Lyon Macfie, Ed Orientalism: A Reader New York: New York University Press, 2000 217-238"5 See Reference 1 for full article link
  • 1988 "Palestinian Zionism" Die Welt Des Islams Leiden, 28: 90-986
  • 1991 "The Importance of Being Earnest About Salman Rushdie" Die Welt Des Islams 31:1, 1-49 Reprinted in DMFletcher, Ed Reading Rushdie: Perspectives on the Fiction of Salman Rushdie Amsterdam/Atlanta: Rodopi, 19947
  • 1993/1994 "Islamic Fundamentalism Reconsidered: A Critical Outline of Problems, Ideas and Approaches" South Asia Bulletin, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East Part 1:13:93-121 8 Part 2: 14:73-98 9
  • 1994 "Is the Fatwa a Fatwa" In For Rushdie: Essays by Arab and Muslim Writers in Defense of Free Speech Anouar Abdallah, et al New York: George Braziller10
  • 1996 "Is Islam Secularizable" Jahrbuch fur Philosophie des Forschungsinstituts fur Philosophie"
  • 2000 "The Satanic Verses Post Festum:The Global, The Local, The Literary" Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 20:1&211
  • 2000 "The View from Damascus" New York Review of Books June 1512
  • 2000 "The View from Damascus, cont'd" New York Review of Books August 1013
  • 2002 "Western Historical Thinking from an Arabian Perspective" in Western Historical Thinking: An Intercultural Debate Edited Jorn Rusen New York: Berghahn Books Original German 1999 14
  • 2004 "Viewpoint: Islam, Terrorism and the West Today" Die Welt Des Islams 44:1, 114-12815
  • 2004 "Time Out of Joint" Boston Review October/November 16
  • 2008 "Science and Religion, an Uneasy Relationship in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim Heritage" Islam and Europe: Challenges and Opportunities Marie-Claire Foblets, Ed 17
  • 2010 "Farewell, Master of Critical Thought" On the passing of Egyptian intellectual Nasr Abu Zayd 18
  • 2011 "Orientalism and Conspiracy" In Orientalism and Conspiracy See above, pgs 3-28
  • 2011 "The Arab Spring: 'Why Exactly at this Time'" originally published in Arabic in Al Tariq Quarterly Beirut Summer 2011, English translation by Steve Miller in Reason Papers: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Normative Studies vol 33 Fall 2011 full text


  • 1997 "An Interview with Sadik Al-Azm" Arab Studies Quarterly, summer19 Also appeared in The June 1967 War After Three Decades Edited by William W Haddad, Et al Washington, DC, Association of Arab-American University Graduates 1999
  • 1998 "Trends in Arab Thought: An Interview with Sadek Jalal al-Azm" Journal for Palestine Studies, 27:2, 68-8020
  • 2000 "Analysis: The Rise and Rise of Bashar" BBC news report June 2121
  • 2005 "An Arab Exit Strategy" An Internet interview with Sadik al-Azm, Vali Nasr, Vahal Abdulrahman and Ammar Adbulhamid on Open Source Radio November 10 22
  • 2009 Portrait Sadiq Al-Azm: An Argumentative Arab Enlightener 23
  • 2011 Interview with Sadiq Jalal al-Azm: A New Spirit of Revolution
  • 2013 Interview with Dr Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm: The Syrian Revolution and the Role of the Intellectual, Al-Jumhuriyya Group


  1. ^ Macfie, A L 2000-01-01 "Orientalism and Orientalism in Reverse" Orientalism: A Reader NYU Press ISBN 9780814756652 
  2. ^ "Syrian intellectuals call on the Baath congress to revive 'Damascus spring'" 2006-03-19 Retrieved 2016-12-14 
  3. ^ al-Azm, Sadiq Jalal 2008, "Science and Religion, an Uneasy Relationship in the History of Judeo-Christian-Muslim Heritage", Islam & Europe, Leuven University Press, p 129, ISBN 9058676722 
  4. ^ http://wwwdoiserbianbrs/img/doi/0353-5738/2013/0353-57381301293Dpdf
  5. ^ http://wwwpolylognet/fileadmin/docs/polylog/16_rez_Ben-Abdeljelil_Al-Azmpdf
  6. ^ Introduction to Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini
  7. ^ Appendix: Documents from the Tribunal of the Author and Publisher

External linksedit

  • Essay: Sadiq Al-Azm: The Fight over the Meaning of Islam
  • 2008 "Democracy and the Middle East: A View from Damascus" Lecture at the Kennedy Center for International Studies 04/09/2008
  • 2010 Sadik's comments on the Ground Zero Mosque at the TwoSeas Forum for Dialogue, "Should the West welcome new mosques Should the East welcome other places of worship"
  • A Collection of Sadik's essays and interviews can be found at the forum "What is said about Arabs and Terrorism": 24

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