What made you decide to focus on Islamic studies in your research?
The field of translation played a significant role in my passion for Islamic Studies. My PhD research projects delves into classical Islamic texts that shed light on an array of dogmas. By comparing classical Ashʿarī thought with the writings of the notorious anthropomorphist Ibn Taymiyya, the project introduces excerpts for the works of Ibn Taymiyya, Abu al-Hasan al-Ashʿari, al-Bāqillānī, Ibn Baz, al-Hararī and other scholars whose works have not been thoroughly examined in Western academia.
Can you tell us about the text(s) you are translating for the project and how they relate to your broader interests?
I initially started translating Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s fiqh manual: al-Maḥṣūl fī ʿilm Uṣūl al-Fiqh (What can be Obtained in the Science of the Principles of Jurisprudence), but after translating a significant chuck, the topics seemed to diverge from the key purpose of the project. After consulting Dr Rebecca, we agreed to move on to a move pertinent classical book. Now, I am working on translating one of the most prominent books in Arabic literary theory authored by ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī’s Dalāʾīl al-ʿIjāz fi-l-Qurʾān, generally translated as Proofs of the Miraculous Inimitability of the Qurʾān. In it, he lays the foundations for Arabic literary theory and the significance of this knowledge. He also investigates a number of topics. In addition to being a renowned philologist, al-Jurjānī was an avid followed of the Shāfiʿī school of jurisprudence as well as a faithful adherent to the Ashʿarī theological school of thought. So, after delving into meticulous linguistic arguments, he sometimes focuses on the Ashʿarīs’ response to a number of dogmas upheld by the Muʿtazilīs. This intersects perfectly with my fields of expertise: kālam, classical Islamic theology and sectarianism, whilst concurrently illustrating the beauty of the Arabic language.
How would you compare the experience of working on these translations with the experience of drafting a dissertation and other forms of scholarship? Do these different kinds of scholarly practices enrich each other in your experience?
Working alongside Dr Gould has certainly polished my skills! I greatly benefitted – and still do – form her feedback and guidance. Both, my PhD and MA dissertations examined a vast array of works and endeavoured to shed light on a number of topics, and this proved overwhelming! On the other hand, I find that, simply, translating is a rather smooth process that allows the translator to pick the terms that best reflect the original text. Certainly, the culmination of years of academic scholarship provided me with all the tools to thrive in this project.
Any thoughts about the place of balagha within Islamic culture and Islamic studies? Does it form a central part of the curriculum today, either in Europe for scholars of Islam or in the Muslim world?
Sadly, many studies on classical or modern-day Islamic studies have disregarded the role that balagha plays in conveying the religious rules. It has been closely associated with language studies and no more incorporated in Islamic curriculars. Dr Rebecca’s project bridges the gap and reintroduces the intersection between balagha and classical Islamic studies.