Western Views of the Muslim Study of Religions: A Critical Overview with Special Reference to Jacques Waardenburg
Muslim study of religions before modern times has claimed the attention of some modern Western scholars. At least three developmental phases of this nascent discursive field are discernable. Firstly, Western views of Muslim writings on different religions started appearing as prefaces, marginal notes, and introductions to the edited manuscripts since the early decades of the nineteenth century. In the next phase, instead of focusing on single books, some scholars started discussing a cluster of Muslim writings on a given religious tradition such as Christianity or Judaism. In the third phase, a few scholars have attempted to present more encompassing and systematic surveys of the Muslim perceptions of other religions. Jacques Waardenburg (1930-2015) is one such scholar, and therefore his views get a special mention in the present paper. The argument is that it is the self-understanding of the academic study of religion that defines the Western scholars’ appraisals of the classical Muslim contributions in this field. The paper proposes that the descriptive studies on religions and the polemics can and should be distinguished as two separate spheres of the classical Muslim intellectual tradition for better prospects of cooperation between the Muslim and Western traditions in the study of religion.