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ISMA’IL RAJI AL-FARUQI(1921-1986), Islamic scholar and activist. Born in Jaffa, Palestine, Fqrugi received an education that made him trilingual (Arabic, French, and English) and provided him with multicultural intellectual sources that informed his life and thought. He studied at the mosque school, attended a French Catholic school, College des Freres (St. Joseph) in Palestine, and earned a bachelor’s degree at the American University of Beirut (1941). Having become governor of Galilee in 1945, Faruqi was forced to emigrate from Palestine after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948; he then earned masters degrees at Indiana and Harvard Universities and a doctorate in philosophy from Indiana University (1952).

Both a poor job market and an inner drive brought Far uqi back to the Arab world, where, from 1954 to 1958, he studied Islam at Cairo’s al-Azhar University. He subsequently studied and conducted research at major centers of learning in the Muslim world and the West as Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the Institute of Islamic Studies and a Fellow at the Faculty of Divinity, McGill University (1959-1961), where he studied Christianity and Judaism; Professor of Islamic Studies at the Central Institute of Islamic Research in Karachi, Pakistan (1961-1963); and Visiting Professor of History of Religions at the University of Chicago (1963-1964).

Isma`il al-Faruqi taught in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University (1964-1968) and then became Professor of Islamic Studies and of History of Religions at Temple University (1968-1986). During a professional life that spanned almost thirty years, he wrote, edited, or translated twenty-five books, published more than a hundred articles, was a visiting professor at more than twenty-three universities in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and served on the editorial boards of seven major journals.

For Faruqi, Arabism and Islam were intertwined. His Arab-Muslim identity was at the center of the man and the scholar. His life and writing reveal two phases or stages. In the first, epitomized in his book On Arabism: Urubah and Religion, Arabism was the dominant theme of his discourse. In the second, Islam occupied center stage, as he increasingly assumed the role of an Islamic activist leader as well as of an academic. His later work and writing focused on a comprehensive vision of Islam and its relationship to all aspects of life and culture.

Living and working in the West, Faruqi presented Islam in Western categories to engage his audience as well as to make Islam more comprehensible and respected. Like the founders of Islamic modernism in the late nineteenth and early “twentieth centuries, he often presented Islam as the religion par excellence of reason, science, and progress with a strong emphasis on action and the work ethic.

If during the 1950s and 1960s Farfuqi sounded like an Arab heir to Islamic modernism and Western empiricism, by the late I96os and early 1970s he progressively assumed the role of an Islamic scholar-activist. This shift in orientation was evident in the recasting of his framework: Islam replaced Arabism as his primary reference point. Islam had always had an important place in Farfigli’s writing, but it now became the organizing principle. Islam was presented as an all-encompassing ideology, the primary identity of a worldwide community (ummah) of believers and the guiding principle for society and culture. Like Muhammad ibn `Abd alWahhab and Muhammad `Abduh, Farfigi grounded his interpretation of Islam in the doctrine of tawhid (the oneness of God), combining the classical affirmation of the centrality of God’s oneness (monotheism) with a modernist interpretation (ijtihdd) and application of Islam to modern life. In Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life, he presented tawhid as the essence of religious experience, the quintessence of Islam, and the principle of history, knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, the ummah (Muslim community), the family, and the political, social, economic, and world orders.

This holistic, activist Islamic worldview was embodied in this new phase in his life and career as he continued to write extensively, to lecture and consult with Islamic movements and national governments, and to organize Muslims in America. During the 1970s he established Islamic studies programs, recruited and trained Muslim students, organized Muslim professionals, established and chaired the Islamic Studies Steering Committee of the American Academy of Religion (1976-1982), and was an active participant in international ecumenical meetings where he was a major force in Islam’s dialogue with other world religions. Farfigi was a founder or leader of many organizations, including the Muslim Student Association and a host of associations of Muslim professionals, such as the Association of Muslim Social Scientists; he served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the North American Islamic Trust; he established and was first president of the American Islamic College in Chicago; and in 1981 he created the International Institute for Islamic Thought in Virginia.

At the heart of Farfiqi’s vision was the islamization of knowledge. He regarded the political, economic, and

religiocultural malaise of the Islamic community as primarily a product of the bifurcated state of education in the Muslim world with a resultant loss of identity and lack of vision. Faruqi believed that the cure was twofold: the compulsory study of Islamic civilization and the islamization of modern knowledge.

Isma’il al-Faruqi’s life ended tragically in 1986 when he and his wife, Lois Lamya’ al-Farfigl, also an Islamic scholar, were murdered by an intruder in their home.

[See also Education, article on Islamization of Knowledge]


Works by Isma’il Raji al-Faruqi

On Arabism. 4 vols. Amsterdam, 1962.

Christian Ethics. Montreal, 1967.

“Islam and Christianity: Diatribe or Dialogue?”,Journal of Ecumenical Studies 5.1 (1968): 45-77.

“Islam and Christianity: Problems and Perspectives.” In The Word in the Third World, edited by James P. Cotter, pp. 159-181. Washington, D.C., 1968.

Historical Atlas of the Religions of the World. New York, 1974. “Islamizing the Social Sciences.” Studies in Islam 16.2 (April 1979): 108-121.

Islam and Culture. Kuala Lumpur, 1980.

“The Role of Islam in Global Interreligious Dependence.” In Towards a Global Congress of the World’s Religions, edited by Warren Lewis, pp. 19-38. Barrytown, N.Y., 1980.

Essays in Islamic and Comparative Studies. Washington, D.C., 1982. Collection of essays edited by al-Faruqi.

Islamic Thought and Culture. Washington, D.C., 1982. Collection of essays edited by al-Faruqi.

Islamization of Knowledge. Islamabad, 1982.

Trialogue of the Abrahamic Faiths: Papers Presented to the Islamic Studies Group of the American Academy of Religion. 2d ed. Herndon, Va., 1986. Collection of essays edited by al-Farfuqi.

Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life. 2d ed. Herndon, Va., 1982.

Outer Sources

Esposito, John L. “Ismail R. al-Farugi: Muslim Scholar-Activist.” In The Muslims of America, edited by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, pp. 65-79. New York and Oxford, 1991.

Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, Muhammad. Sources of Islamic Thought: Three Epistles on Tawhid. Translated and edited by Ismail Raii al-Farfigi. Indianapolis, 1980.

Quraishi, M. Tariq. Ismail R. al-Farugi: An Enduring Legacy. PWnfield, Ind., 1986.

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/faruqi-ismail-raji-al/

  • writerPosted On: November 26, 2012
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