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Following three successful regional conferences since 2001, the Dallas
chapter of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS) hosted a
gathering of domestic and foreign scholars called for the purpose of analyzing
the Islamic intellectual tradition and its interaction with the West.
This one-day conference was held, in cooperation with the Muslim
Students Association, at the University of Texas, Dallas, on June 4, 2005.
Imam Yousuf Kavakci (president, AMSS southwestern regional chapter)
opened it with a Qur’anic recitation, after which Basheer Ahmed (conference
chair), Asad Rahman (MSA President), and Rafik Beekun (AMSSNational
President) welcomed participants. Ali Mazrui (Albert Schweitzer
Professor of Humanities and Executive Director of the Institute of Global
Cultural Studies at Binghamton University) formally opened the conference.
All of these speakers stressed the need for closer interaction among
scholars of various faiths and cultural backgrounds.
About 300 attendees, presenters, and session chairs belonging to the
three Abrahamic faiths were present. The main thrust of all presentations
was cross-cultural learning as regards Islamic learning from the past; the
Islamic intellectual contribution to Europe’s Renaissance and Reformation;
and the decline and ways to restore the Islamic intellectual tradition.
The first panel started with Dilnawaz Siddiqui (Clarion University of
Pennsylvania, retired), who referred to the Qur’anic command to learn
from two readings: the universe in light of the Qur’an, and the Qur’an in
view of one’s observation of the universe. Stressing the unity of all humanity,
Islam promotes common and equal access to learning regardless of gender,
race, caste, or any other secondary consideration.
Ilai Alon (Tel Aviv University, currently at the University of Chicago)
showed how Muslims acquired classical Greek learning, restored it to its
rightful place in their own ummah-wide academy, and finally introduced it
to Europe. He particularly dealt with the Muslims’ acceptance of various
aspects of Socrates’ philosophy and its critique by Muslim scholars in light
of Qur’anic values ...