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Redirecting Postcolonial Theory: Arab-Islamic Reason, Deconstructionism, and the Possibility of Multiple Critique.

This article makes three central claims. First, it explores the extent to which critical revisions done on pre-colonial Arabic and Islamic Humanities by Mohamed al-Jabiri and Mohamed Arkoun may respond to a process of re-envisioning non-Western Humanities as part of the pedagogical and political concerns of postcolonial theory. Moving into Arkoun's hermeneutic act of shattering the traditional boundaries of revelation, the second line of argumentation reinserts deconstructionism, seen as a nexus in interdisciplinary discourse between postcolonial theory and Arab-Islamic critique. The article concludes that reorienting an alternative notional framework for a sub-field across these two disengaged disciplines must compel a move towards "multiple critique." The latter meshes the study of the Islamicate worlds and the analysis of their interconnected Western lineages by augmenting inquiries concerning medieval classical knowledges, while sustaining a theoretical resistance to Western ethnocentric Orientalism.


Intramural Calling

In this article, I start by considering a brief meditation on this issue's collocation, "Mapping New Directions in the Humanities." I will deal with what I consider ubiquitous theoretical intimations. Perhaps the redirection inferred in the title implies a swerving from the creative, speculative, and critical essence of what the Humanities is, or has been thus far over the centuries. Alternatively, the swaying itself may come out of a need to abandon an obsolete direction dislodged by epistemic shifts, paradigmatic transitions, or historic exigencies. For direction inevitably involves a self-regulating process that leads to a destination. Thinking a new direction is then explicitly veering towards uncharted locations and, therefore, fresh maps and realities. I want to suggest from the very outset--as I look at the interdisciplinary landscapes between postcolonial studies and contemporary Arab thought--that in the idea of outlining a new direction, there is an in-built interruption of direction's "original" drive for teleology. Redirection, then, suspends finality/finitude (or its appearance as such) and opens up the possibilities for change, hesitation, and suspicion. To imagine new directions for the Humanities is to continue to unsettle the restrictions imposed by the telos and the logos. The latter grapple with disquietude only in their process of becoming and self-questioning and, thus, opening a plenitude of meanings and connections between disciplines. Hence, "mapping," in both its materialization as a fresh road to be taken and a new destination to be targeted, describes that uncompromising judgment of constant dirigibility internal to humanistic disciplines. Mapping is "innate" to the Humanities' secular and secularizing formations. These aim to theorize and narrate culture, society, and subjectivity, and, in turn, foster the possibilities for such theories and concepts to subvert and reshape cultural, social norms and perceptions. To redirect the Humanities with all of its foundational or emerging disciplines and sub-disciplines in philosophy, theology, philology, language, literature, history, the arts, anthropology, linguistics, religion, criticism, law, the social sciences, and many more is to recognize the fact that culture and society are irrepressibly reinvigorated, reimagined, and reconstructed. In other words, every direction rooted in its temporality and historic specificity may demand its own mobility in order to preserve its own duration/durability, political or pedagogical impact and presence. The speedy evolution of technological modes of expression, design, and analysis, for example, has shifted our classic sense of the Humanities into the new concept of "Digital Humanities." Of course, the relationship between the two is not necessarily exclusionary or regressive in quality or even purpose, but the "digital" in and next to the term "humanities" (now becoming a phraseme) is what marks that moment of neoteric agility. By loosening the tracks of the Humanities, we may ultimately operate some strategic deviation, which comes out of an intramural calling or out of that movement of differance inside what Derrida calls tradition's "auto-immunity" (Acts 82), which allows re-direction itself to proceed with self-assurance. Mapping new directions is inescapably multi-directional and political.

One of my major concerns in this article is to attempt to test this possibility of measured realignment of interdisciplinarity in relation to the limits of postcolonial theory. Postcolonial theory--deeply grounded in the humanistic enterprise and sensibility of European enlightenment and its homo europeus--arrives in the midst of a decolonizing pursuit of resistance to structures of imperial power, and takes on the emergency of "writing back." Early anti-colonialist intellectuals, leaders, or civil rights activists like Leopold Sedar Senghor, Franz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Eqbal Ahmad, Mehdi Ben Barka, Nelson Mandela, 'Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi, W. E. B. Du Bois, and many others had grounded ideological and conceptual parameters of a postcolonialist consciousness always on the move.

To answer the question, then, of a fresh trajectory for postcolonial theory in relation to contemporary Arab thought, I will be making three central claims. First, I shall investigate to what extent the critical revisions done on pre-colonial Arabic and Islamic--mainly classical Humanities--by Mohamed al-Jabiri (1935-2010) and Mohamed Arkoun (1928-2010) may respond to this process of re-envisioning non-Western Humanities as part of the pedagogical and political concerns of postcolonial theory. I read their intellectual schemes together operating with the assumption that they exhibit blindness and insight. This selection depends more on my own anxiety to carve out a counter-chronological, "self-deconstructionist" terrain of interpretation that brings nuanced, fluid, and problematizing methods of humanistic analysis mostly excluded in postcolonial debates. 1 have chosen al-Jabiri and Arkoun because their critical judgments of "double critique"--to use Abdelkebir Khatibi's terms (11)--unveil two constructively conflicting redirections of Arab-Islamic reason itself. Furthermore, the epistemic "decolonizing" drive of their work, in what they respectively called "Critique of Arab Reason" and "Critique of Islamic Reason" through "Applied Islamology," underscores a revealing paradox. On the one hand, their hermeneutic recalibration of Arab-Islamic reason has had an extensive impact in the Arab and Islamic worlds for over 30 years, yet, on the other hand, their decolonizing effort had gone almost unnoticed by postcolonial scholars.

As I move into Arkoun's hermeneutic act of shattering the traditional boundaries of revelation and the divine, my second line of argumentation reinserts deconstructionism. I consider the latter a nexus in interdisciplinary discourse between postcolonial theory and Arabic-Islamic critique. For Arkoun, the mobility of reason alone disassembles the telos and the logos of orthodoxy. Third, I move to conclude that reorienting an alternative notional framework for a sub-field across these two disengaged disciplines must compel a move towards "multiple critique." The latter meshes the study of the Islamicate worlds and the analysis of their interconnected western lineages by augmenting inquiries inside, outside, and across medieval, classical knowledges--always sustaining a theoretical resistance to Western systems of ethnocentric Orientalism.

I. Postcolonial Disciplinary Borderlines

The term "postcolonial" and its other compounded labels, "postcolonial theory," "postcolonial studies," "postcolonial critique," have all been probed from the start (see Ashcroft et al.; McClintock et al.; Ahmad; Dirlik; etc.). John McLeod has recently pointed out that the field of postcolonial studies has been characterized by a history of conceptual quarrels. Since the emergence of Said's Orientalism, the discipline has been "persistently quarreling inwardly with its conceptual and political character, its shortcomings and elisions, and the precarious position of the postcolonial intellectual." (McLeod 98). Postcolonial theory is entrenched in the variety of philosophical-conceptual lineages, enunciations, deliberations, negotiations, and appellations associated with the Humanities since at least its residual rise out of medieval and Renaissance Europe. Far less then, postcolonial theory has barely dared to recover humanistic impulses coming from the Islamic east. Equally, it has paid less attention to the Humanities of the Easternized Christian West through Islamic Spain and the Mediterranean Sea. The contribution of the medieval translation movement of the House of Wisdom, or the role of Abbasid Baghdad at the turn of the eighth century in disseminating Greek sciences and philosophy may amount at times to no more than name dropping of a vanished past, or a declaration of an "inconvenient truth" to be brushed away ad libitum.

This epistemic and methodological conundrum raises several questions. What axioms of (un)intelIigibiIity do we detect as postcolonial theory effectively engages, or fails to engage, with fields and disciplines that examine the Islamicate world and its reasons? Why is it that postcolonial theory has locked the domain of Islam to political and religious discourses? Why has it consistently ignored fundamental questions about "post colonialist" movements of critique and "double-critique" operating outside the periodizing boundaries of European Enlightenment? What is it that isolates a critically sovereign knowledge of the Islamic Arab world from sculpting new pathways in the postcolonial debates about the Humanities? What happens when the beckoning to map a redirection for postcolonial theory has to do less with content, thematization, information, annals and more with form and questions of approaches and pedagogical attitudes and decisions? Should postcolonial theory incorporate those pre-colonial archives and their internal contemporary zoetic revisions?

Several readings have emerged in the last twenty years grappling with questions of limits, theoretical predicaments, and outstanding promises for postcolonial studies to keep a theoretical grip on rising dynamics of real oppression and discursive obscurantism. Postcolonial studies continues to expand its "Siamese" fields such as Subaltern studies, Diasporic studies, Trans-national studies, the least critical colonial and postcolonial cases (see Boehmer and De Mul; Forsdick and Murphy). Other corrective gestures pertain to crossing over to hyphenated subfields such as Medieval (see Lampert-Weissig), Biblical studies (see West), Theology (see Moore and Rivera), Renaissance (see Raman), eighteenth-century British literature (see Kaul), Romantic literature (see Bohls), Victorian literature (see Brantlinger), Modernist literature (see Patke), postwar British literature (see MacPhee). Postcolonial perspectives have permeated multiple disciplines by now, and, in the process, every discipline begins to interrogate potentially its defunct methodical and didactic assumptions. Interdisciplinarity of this type usually generates new rhetorics of conceptual up-to-datedness.

Some of the most recent and critical voices include demands on postcolonial theory to deliver its promises on the ground. Rumina Sethi reallocates postcolonialism (by distinguishing between postcolonial studies and postcolonial theory) less in academia and more in practices of activism and revolutionary resistance based on a more sustained critique of globalization (111-12). Lisa Lampert-Weissig, like several others, has noted postcolonial theory's parochial tendencies to focus more on the Anglophone tradition (1). She demands that postcolonial theory find for itself a new prism through which it can understand "ideologies of colonialism" through medieval literature and culture. From her perspective, the fields of postcolonial and medieval studies are well established and "have interrelated genealogies" (20).

Robert Young affirms that postcolonial theory is still relevant in our era, dominated by the rhetorics and politics of far-right racism, terror, terrorism, and the return of religious fundamentalisms. Young sees that postcolonial theory vacillates between "the politics of invisibility and of unreadability" (22) which must include excluded groups and domains such as indigenous struggles, illegal migrants, and "political Islam" (22). Young argues "the postcolonial remains" are always "operating in a dialectic of invisibility and visibility" (23). In their response to Robert Young and Dipesh Chakrabarty's essays, Robert Stam and Ella Shohat have stressed the need for "a decentered, multidirectional narrative for the circulation of ideas in order to better chart the past itineraries and future possibilities of the postcolonial" (371). These issues persist because of unfolding configurations of postcolonial realities and dynamics of struggle and survival of the new wretched, deracinated, and undocumented aliens. This cognitive and epistemic shuttle in postcolonial theory between "visibility and invisibility"--unearthing the realities of subjugation--locks it in the predominant structures that ascertain that thesq floating bodies and identities (regardless of their status as victims) must not be seen but instrumentalized as objects of global economy. Iain Chambers speaks of the "legal framing" of the migrant that enables Europe to continue to define its borders: "the 'illegal' immigrant lies beyond the law and is fundamentally without rights. The nation state, far from withering away, here reasserts its authority" (4). Such "remaining" is perhaps most conspicuous in US imperialistic adventures, its obstinate military presence (with 750 bases in 130 countries), its interventionist policies in the Middle East, and its unilateral economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and several other nation states.

Young and Lampert-Weissig concede that the postcolonial must return to pre-colonial articulations of cross-cultural difference. The case of Islamic Spain in contrast to the violence of the Reconquista is a site open for unexplored inquiry. Young proposes to take dhimma (the status of non-Muslims under Islamic rule) as an organizing theological and political principle regulating cultural harmony. It allows the postcolonial critic to think again about the relevance of the cosmopolitan manners by which al-Andalus had managed its humanism and ethics of tolerance. As Young laments, "The tolerant society of al-Andalus remains Europe's most sustained and successful experiment in communal living in a pluralistic society; yet, because it occurred under Muslim rule, it merits little discussion among analysts of multiculturalism or toleration today" (31). Al-Bagdadi makes a similar remark on the concept of adab (paideia) which has received "no comprehensive history" primarily because "of its enormous flexibility and complexity, which prevents it from being captured as one single, clearly identifiable subject in some kind of stable form" (440). These borders of the disciplines are surveyed in order to secure the moral, legal, and scientific legitimacy of the modern nation state.

These examples may easily be extended to racial mixing, miscegenation, translation, 'ilm al-kalam (theology) that gave a common lexicon to Muslim, Christian, and Jewish philosophers in the medieval world. (1) These philosophers recast in particular Aristotle's systems of thought in analyzing and interpreting Abrahamic scriptures. This science allowed the Muslim Abu al-Walrd Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd (Averroes, 1126-1198) and the Jewish Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) to bring religion and philosophy into an interdisciplinary arbitration driven--as Ibn Rushd tells us--by those "decisive" connections of divine law itself prone to conceptual speculation. Interdisciplinary conversation brought the operations of metaphor/allegory, syllogism, and demonstrative reasoning into the grind of the hermeneutic exercise. In his elaboration of negative theology, Maimonides concedes that shuttling between the two fields requires in addition to reason an attention to "homonyms, metaphorical, or hybrid expressions" (93). With such interwoven bonds of both reason and metaphor, one wonders: Who speaks the Arab epistemic point of view? Can the "subaltern" Arabs and Muslims speak their manifest tongue in the post-Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, the post-Naksa (setback) of 1967, the post-Rushdie Affair of 1989 and the post-9/11 tag of terrorism? Can the Arab intellectual enunciate the narrative and structure of Arab reason in its complex totality and aporia so that the current cycles of the "Arab Springs" may begin to make other senses?

Young himself has fallen short of taking the long view of history even back to an earlier period that had fashioned the Islamic case of Enlightenment in Spain from 711 to 1492. A central premise of my argument will be that any reconsideration of the past by postcolonial theorists has to begin much earlier: at the formative periods of Islamic thought and cultural sensibility, or more precisely with the translation and archiving movement in Baghdad that may organically trace its beginnings to jahiliyya (the pre-Islamic period). The palimpsest of pre-colonial archives may relapse ad infinitum. Of greater significance, the moment of revelation and its transmissions may have something to do with forming an archeology of reason, faith, and their inscrutable intersections. We must begin with theology and philosophy emerging in a decidedly Eastern geography. We must begin by reading patiently the critical and contradictory findings of "indigenous" scholars who attempted to enmesh the trauma of postcoloniality with all trans-historical conditions and epistemologies of repression. Can we push time back at least into fifteen centuries of epistemic and political production of reason?

Those postcolonial scholars who engaged with medieval studies have questioned Europe's grounding of its cultural legacy in the epistemic and cultural modus operandi of the medieval period. They have inevitably uncovered some of the ideological constructions of colonial periodization whose aim is to freeze other cultures outside the central temporality of European modernity. The dialogical exchange between medievalists and critical theorists has revealed important flaws in postcolonial perspectives. Geraldine Heng, for example, makes a strong case that race should "be understood differently from its definition by canonical twentieth-century race theories" (21). Heng questions the reliability of the modern idea in the Scientific Revolution, or in discoveries of race or formation of Nations. She questions the fact that the Middle Ages is irrelevant in interrupting the symbolic self-definition of modernity (21). She explains:
   Religion--the paramount source of authority in the medieval
   period--could function both socioculturally and biopolitically:
   subjecting peoples of a detested faith, for instance,
   to a political theology that could biologize, define,
   and essentialize an entire community as fundamentally and
   absolutely different in an interknotted cluster of ways.
   Nature/Biology and the sociocultural should not thus be seen
   as bifurcated spheres in medieval race formation: they often
   crisscrossed in the practices, institutions, fictions, and
   laws of a political--and a Apolitical--theology operationalized
   on the bodies of individuals and groups. (3)

The case of Islam--Muslims and "their" Prophet, for example--was framed within how the Crusades were a "crucible of race-making and political theology, as a racializing system of knowledge: blood-races are theorized; as the enemy is dehumanized into an abstraction, or evil incarnate, or comestibles; as gens Christiana emerges as the name of Latin Christendom racial form in the first Crusade" (Heng 7). European modernity anchors much of its cultural vision of exceptionalism and cultural superiority in medieval and renaissance constructions of Christendom menaced by the bio-racialized "Saracen" conquest.

What Heng argues for is an elaboration of the concept of race outside foundationalist generalities such as otherness or difference locked by the postcolonial lexis in a fixated temporality. The construction of race in medieval literature and culture discloses its institutional, ideological, and legal operations that map alternative categories of more specificity and ambiguity, and whose emergence from the twelfth century defines much of what we refer to as the "West" (Heng 5). The example of race in the medieval imaginary that Heng scrutinizes more closely demonstrates that every move of recasting a new understanding across the boundaries of history, culture, and religious traditions elicits an appreciation of the value of a patient epistemic inquiry over the imperative of ideological expediency. Chambers suggests we should not be limited by "the teleology of progress," and instead be willing "to embrace an ethics of limits" (8). To confront the specters of the pre-colonial "colonial" past, the trauma of history, it is time we understood secularism and religion differently in contexts and societies inappropriately and unfairly constructed as non-secular and therefore pre-modern--irrelevant to discussions within "our" Humanities. The latter must remain global, faithful to its senses of humanitas and adab, international and inclusive, or as Stam and Shohat contend: postcolonial theory must stay attentive to "transnational interlocutions" (380).

II. Arab-Islamic Reason: Trans-Colonial and Double Critique

Interlocution occurs when interlocutors can participate in an interdisciplinary mediation. An interlocutor is not an interloper but a logical partner in commingling renewed strategies, methods, and attitudes that continue to interpellate "the state of the postcolonial union." Al-Jabiri who writes exclusively in the Arabic language does so not because he cannot write in French, but because he believes Arabic ideas can be expressed more properly through the national and native tongues of its peoples. Most significantly, it was through Arabic that much of pre-Western cultural norms and attitudes came to shape European Renaissance and later Enlightenment. Robert Phillipson's Linguistic Imperialism (1992) describes this as linguicism which benefits from a deodorized image of a dominant language, usually attributed to values of inclusion and serious scholarship as opposed to other non-dominant languages attributed to acts and expressions of exclusion (55). Linguicism gives English and European languages their "scientific" and "rational" aura. Other languages, for example Arabic in the case of al-Jabiri, are usually portrayed as "dangerous," "emotional," "poetic," "esoteric," or "irrational." Postcolonial Arabs and Muslims have ceased to ask the question "Why have Arabs and Muslims turned away from Arabic philosophical and theological inquiry to enrich other languages and traditions, and to turn the post-colonizing crises of al-Nakba, al-Naksa, and 9/11 into an autopsy about the epistemic Self?" Al-Jabiri's work eludes the limits of earlier readings on the crisis of philosophical inquiry in Arabic by investigating colonial and postcolonial Arab realities of depersonalization and trauma through the prism of a contrapuntal history of ideas. (2)

It is through a highly stratified Arabic that al-Jabiri subordinates the exercise of critique of Arab reason to the scholar's imperative to be sensitive to the specificity of Arab realities and epistemologies over the centuries. The explicit relationship between language and reason in Arab culture helps us grasp the multilayered nature of the postcolonial condition in the Arab-Islamic world. One of the merits of Said's Orientalism is to have exposed the Orientalist's tendencies to collapse subtle distinctions into abstract generalities. Al-Jabiri insists that there is always a cultural peculiarity shaped by not only geography, history, and social norms but by trans-historical imaginings, statements, opinions, belief systems, epistemological structures, and manners of reasoning and rationalism that may all themselves bear their own specificity (al-Jabiri, Takwin 13). No wonder al-Jabiri excludes the works of Orientalists in any systematic reconstruction of Arab reason.

Al-Jabiri spent most of his formative years (late 1950s-1970s) in the midst of nationalistic anti-colonialist and anti-authoritarian politics. This experience equipped him to envisage a groundbreaking project of radical critique tracing an archeology of Arab reason. In fact, there is no way of making sense of his contrapuntal postcolonial reading without understanding the interference between his autobiography and ideological maturity. (3) Al-Jabiri's critique assumes a fundamental correlation between critical revisionism and Arab Renaissance, Nahda. In other words, the Arab world may not attain its proper modernity unless it operates its own internal interrogation that traces the epistemic structures of its multiple ruptures. Such critique involves a total assessment of the old, of conceptual frameworks and cultural postulations. It recasts a new modernity that may be capable of countering European ethnocentrism. This is a political act of provincializing Europe to use Chakrabarty's term. Al-Jabiri's critique must include, among other things, "the understanding that this equating of a certain version of Europe with 'modernity' is not the work of Europeans alone; third world nationalisms, as modernizing ideologies par excellence, have been equal partners in the process" (Chakrabarty 21).

In 1958, al-Jabiri departed towards Damascus, a center of pan-Arab nationalism, to begin his studies. He arrived a few months after the unfolding Syrian Crisis of 1957, which was a period of severe diplomatic confrontations with Turkey during the Cold War. In Damascus, al-Jabiri was not only a student, but also a free-lance journalist writing for the first Moroccan newspaper al-'Alam of the Independence Party. At a very young age, al-Jabiri was involved in the national anti-imperialist movement for independence, working with 'Allal al-Fasi, and Mehdi Ben Barka. Discerning his bilingual proficiency, Ben Barka immediately recruited him as a translator from French into Arabic for the newspaper. This carved out his later role in becoming the ideological architect of the Union Nationale des Forces Populates (UNFP) opposition socialist party between 1959 and 1981. He was directly immersed in political activism, collaborating with the major players in the anti-imperialist politics of resistance, especially the secretary of the tricontinental conference Mehdi Ben Barka. He also worked closely with Abderrahman El Youssoufi who became the Prime minister of the first left-center government (1998-2002) and Fqih Basri. Al-Jabiri became known as a visionary theorist for the idea of a transnational Historic Block of Resistance. His prolific work runs like a chronological testament of his development as a public organic intellectual in the Gramscian sense. There is a clear symbiotic interface between his anti-colonialist perspective as a socialist activist and his commitment to decolonizing any totalizing reason. (4) In 1981, he resigned from political life and devoted himself to intellectual activism.

All of this political acumen grounded al-Jabiri's methodically critical revisionism of Arab-Islamic reason. The four volumes he produced for this purpose were comprehensive and encyclopedic. Their concern for a "double critique" was a nationalist and pan-Arabist preoccupation to liberate the Arab scholar from essentialist readings coming from both the European and the Arab-Islamic traditions of interpretation. As al-Jabiri explains, "We have embarked on a journey inside the galleries of Arab culture in order to study its foundations and pillars critically and to avoid paying attention to its exhibits" (Takwin 6). What determines Arab reason according to him is the thinking process--always circumscribed by the constraints of both the specificity and divergences of any culture. Arabic culture carries the history of Arab civilization and represents its reality. It expresses its future aspirations, and reveals the causes and reasons behind the current state of decline; its consistent continuities among Arabs and Muslims (Takwin 13-14).

His fourplex study Naqd al--'aql al--'arabi is organized according to the order of a focused appraisal of specific epistemic genealogies of reason/reasoning and rationalism in Arab-Islamic context since its inception in the early Abbasid period (750-1258). Takwin al-'aql al-'arabi (1984), Binyat al-'aql al-'arabi (1986), Al-'aql al-siyasi al-'arabi (1990), and Al-'aql al-akhlaqi al-'arabi (2001) constitute al-Jabiri's archeological re-mapping of rationalism being only characteristic of three major civilizations: the Greek, the Arab-Islamic, and the European. Al-Jabiri still wants to demarcate Arab reason from Greek and European reasons despite their unalterable interpenetrations. Al-Jabiri distinguishes between philosophical, rational, or juridical knowledge and allusive, figurative narratives like the story and the legend (Takwin 17). For al-Jabiri, what he calls "the constitutive reason means a set of principles and procedures that Arab culture supplies to its members as a foundation for epistemological acquisition or adaptation, al-naql" (Takwin 16). He goes on to explain that constitutive reason "relates to that specificity that distinguishes man from animal, which is the 'speaking authority' to use the vocabulary of the ancients" (Takwin 16). Al-Jabiri insists that what characterizes Arab reason is the fact that rational relationships center around three cornerstones: God, Man, and Nature that continue their reverberations in the colonial and postcolonial zones of confrontation with Western late capitalist cultures and structures of thought (Takwin 29).

Therefore, al-Jabiri uses the term "deconstructionism" (tafkik) when he describes his method in Takwin al-'aql al-'arabi (5) to imply more the process of archeological excavation which involves the unearthing of the very instruments by which epistemology is formed and deformed. In Arabic, the term has more of a sense of dismantling a unit and breaking it into its constitutive parts, then reassembling it in another procedure of reconstruction. Al-Jabiri belongs to a generation of archeologists of thought like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida interrogating and reassembling the very epistemic and discursive foundations of philosophy and history. Al-Jabiri's use of tafkik is closer to Foucault's method in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (1966). Derrida's textual concept in Of Grammatology (1967) relates more to Arkoun's application of deconstructionism as will become clear later in the article. Al-Jabiri's method of critique remains structuralist, formalist, multidimensional, shuttling from Cartesian schemes of analysis into "modern" classical philosophical Arab-Islamic criticism as he reclaims two foundational medieval philosophers: Ibn Khaldun, bom in Tunis, and Ibn Rushd, bom in Islamic Cordoba.

In addition to his highly hierarchical and methodical deployment of tafkik, al-Jabiri activates a variety of conceptual frameworks of the social sciences (i.e., the totality of the social phenomenon in non-capitalist societies, the unity of infrastructure and the superstructure, the importance of religion and kinship, the economic factor, etc.). Yet, what seems strategically postcolonial about al-Jabiri's scheme is the way he insists on the total historic independence of the Arab experience. Doubtless, this is not to deny its internal plurality or to ignore the splinters and wounds of its modern experience. Al-Jabiri rather stresses that the Islamic East has no straightforward relation either with its past Enlightenment or with its present modernity, carved out mainly through colonial violences. Al-Jabiri entertains these social and political theories because they bring the scholar closer to the Arabic structure and allow him to return to Ibn Khaldun, in the case of the sociology of ideas, and Ibn Rushd, in the case of the philosophy of history. From a historical perspective, al-Jabiri divides Islamic philosophy into two camps. The first was established during the Abbasid Dynasty in Baghdad, and was typified by a dual interest in Gnosticism, Eastern religions of Persia, and Greek metaphysics. The second was developed in al-Andalus and North Africa, and was distinguished by a dominant scientific mathematical and liberating tradition. It is liberating not only because of Ibn Rushd's meticulously critical assessment of Aristotle's philosophy, but also because of the fact that "demonstrative reasoning" for him must be transcultural and trans-historical. Ibn Rushd urged the religious thinker in particular to study logic and philosophy and to learn this craft "from the ancient masters, regardless of the fact that they were not Muslims," and to learn philosophy "from our predecessors" since the Law itself urges believers to study ontology and to always seek truth regardless of its origin (Averroes 114). Ibn Rushd grappled with the theological factor through the demands compelled by philosophical reasoning. Thus, he settled the crisis of hermeneutics in his context by claiming that "Demonstrative truth and scriptural truth cannot conflict ... if the apparent meaning of Scripture conflicts with demonstrative conclusions it must be interpreted allegorically, i.e., metaphorically (115). Al-Jabiri argues that Ibn Rushd was, thus, more innovative and insightful in his commentary on Aristotle than Avicenna--who, of course, was operating within the polemical theological climate of the Abbasid period. Ibn Rushd maneuvers what al-Jabiri calls a corrective method of analysis (tashih,) including his scientific verification of Aristotle's system of metaphysics distinguishing between Aristotle's own ideas and Aristotelianism (al-Jabiri, Ibn Rushd 153-66).

Through re-reading Ibn Khaldun, al-Jabiri aims ultimately not to discover the value and significance of the ideas of this universal classical thinker. Neither does he want to weigh them according to the Western standards of scientific procedures as many have done already (see, for example, Alatas; Khatibi 25-71). Al-Jabiri's pedagogical objective is to recuperate medieval sociology because it exposes contemporary socio-political reality. Such reality breathes and generates similar determinations that Ibn Khaldun explicated, analyzed, and then constituted as a self-sufficient sociological theory which he called "the science of human architecture" (al-Jabiri, Al-'aql al-siyasi 12). Ibn Khaldun tells us that group feeling ('asabiyya) is one of its fundamental structures, which "gives protection and makes possible mutual defense ... and every other kind of social activity" and is usually bestowed to one person who must "have superiority over the others.... Such superiority is royal authority.... Royal authority means superiority and the power to rule by force" (The Muqaddimah 106). Al-Jabiri justifies his excavation of Ibn Khaldun by his wish to find non-Western categories of disentombing the bones and traces of sectarianism, tribalism, and fundamentalism. Khatibi teases out at least three scientific models (Khaldunian, Marxist, Segmentary) that may be mobilized together (despite their inevitable limitations) to understand the status of social and political structures, dynamics, and mutations in contemporary Maghrebi societies in Ibn Khaldun's analysis (70-71).

Al-Jabiri sees these conditions and trends as "keys" mobilized by Ibn Khaldun himself as he was theorizing the past of his own time. Al-Jabiri's retrieval of Ibn Khaldun's conceptual framework demonstrates the integrity of Ibn Khaldun's theory as he scrutinizes the establishment of the state as the very manifestation of the movement of history. Ibn Khaldun maps out the evolution of the state in terms of psychology (man's natural impulse for hostility), sociology (the structure of the tribe and religion), and economics (the state's royalty system). Ibn Khaldun manages to eschew the trappings of metaphysics of his own time in constructing a philosophy of history (al-Jabiri, Filer Ibn Khaldun 243-45). Thus, he is the most relevant theorist to comprehend contemporary postcolonial realities. The architecture system he used remaps Arab political reason in terms of the pre-Islamic period of jahiliyya, which determined the supremacy of the tribe and war spoils. Second, the prophetic period shaped the centrality of doctrine and belief. Third, the Caliphate and conquest (futuhat) periods characterized the establishment of sectarianism and tribalism with the reign of the Umayyads (661-750) and Abbasids (750-1258). If the first volume of Naqd al--'aql al--'arabi examines the foundations of what al-Jabiri calls "the epistemic act" (Takwin 16), the third volume dismantles more precisely the workings of what he calls the "reason of Arab reality" (Al'aql al-siyasi 5) across the medieval and modern contexts.

Ibn Khaldun's The Muqaddimah (Prolegomenon), then, is not limited only to the notion of group feeling/kinship or religious "proselytization" (da'wa) as "keys" to Arab-Islamic historiography and postcoloniality. Al-Jabiricontends that there is "a third key" which was always present in Ibn Khaldun's thinking even though he did not name it. The economic factor was not prominent enough in a pre-capitalist society. It was less self-encompassing by comparison to kinship but still had a deterministic role to play. Through Ibn Khaldun's concept of kinship, al-Jabiri re-reads the political structure of Arab-Islamic society today as a form of economic production (integral to global capitalism) based mainly on the extraction of the surplus of production by force, the power of the prince, the tribe, and state. This is what he terms the "royalty-based economy" (Al-'aql al-siydsT 13). The archaic term "Spoils" mediates the role of the economic factor in structuring political hierarchies of control. Al-Jabiri calls it a royalty-based economy because it is usually limited to a distribution of wealth involving in the first place state representatives and their clan. Oligarchy, thenceforth, is a form of power structure limited to discursive and ideological constructions of nobility, wealth, and family ties handed down from one generation to the next. Royalty-based economy, kingship structure, and religious zealotry are regulatory frames that unlock the contemporary Arab present. These keys were exactly what Ibn Khaldun deployed to scrutinize the past of his own political culture. Therefore, al-Jabiri suggests that Arab-Islamic political reason should be better understood through the lenses of these three overlapping components: Tribe, Spoils, and Creed/ Doctrine. Adding the colonial and neo-colonial experience, it is the multifaceted inteipenetration across these systems of economic, social, and political managements that explains much of the structures of authoritarianism and Machiavellian behavior in several Arab regimes and their unruffled cohabitation with imperialism and ethnocentrism. In his analysis of the tribe, for example, Ibn KhaldQn insists that "royal authority" dismantles itself from the inside through its pursuit of luxury, dynastic wealth, and the submergence of the "tribe" in a life of prosperity (106). Interestingly, this particular obstacle applies to several oilbased plutocratic states today, for, as Ibn Khaldun concludes: "When a group feeling is destroyed, the tribe is no longer able to protect itself, let alone press any claims. It will be swallowed up by other nations" (106). Al-Jabiri further explains that in capitalist societies, these components are present but have come to reside more in the political unconscious (.Al-'aql al-siyasi 11). In less organically capitalist societies--such as agricultural, rural societies--or in those oligarchies, these tend to take center stage, at the heart of consciousness itself.

Creed, an issue that Arkoun takes up more seriously, has less to do with theology for al-Jabiri. Creed is the realm of revelation and pertains more to the structure of engineering belief and partisanship or, in Gramsci's term, consent. Belief/faith always depends on non-rational properties such as symbolism, metaphor, and analogy. Al-Jabiri concludes that both belief and ideology in the Arab-Islamic context function rhetorically and not rationally. This is why al-Jabiri arranges political Arab reason according to the following tripartite categories: rhetorical, epistemic, and evidentiary.

One major conclusion in al-Jabiri's critique is the fact that the epistemic interfaces with the political in an organic manner even though the political does not necessarily submit to the epistemic. The epistemic usually tries to structurate political life by imposing its process of decision-making. Political reason, then--unlike epistemic reason--is neither rhetorical, epistemic, nor evidentiary, but it instrumentalizes statements--mechanisms of diverse epistemic structures--to serve its interests and ends. Politics, especially since the Caliphate dispensation, has depended primarily on an oratorical and structurally emotive efficiency in order to maximize the very pragmatic and centralized exercise of arbitrary power. Political reason, as a practice and as an ideology, remains a social phenomenon grounded in the social imaginary where both colonial and "local" structures of repression may operate their rhetorical mechanisms. According to al-Jabiri, this "ontological cover" accompanies political discourse (Al-'aqlal-siyasi 9-10).

Therefore, the "remaining" that Young speaks about is contingent upon encountering other specters of what is more unmapped and unthought of in postcolonial and other medieval studies. AI-Jabiri's thesis has received so much criticism, and many have pointed out his several "scientific," "pedagogical," and "historiographical" inaccuracies and misrepresentations. Doubtless, al-Jabiri's critique proceeds with several limitations, but the approach itself has so much to offer postcolonial discussions about the so-called "political Islam" (see Eyadat et al.) (5) My aim has been not to evaluate the literature of reception of al-Jabiri's work, since this is indeed another argument all together. Instead, I want to highlight to what extent al-Jabiri's revisionist project has elevated the quality of critical and interdisciplinary discourse on Arab-Islamic tradition of critique. By sustaining a double-critique, al-Jabiri democratizes the academic practice of commentary on the Islamicate world. A conversation across the disciplinary boundaries of these two fields inevitably opens up a critique running both ways. Around an interdisciplinary "ocean," everyone "wins"--most of the time. Such similar moves in philosophy, theology, and religion would chart Arab-Islamic criticism within the borderlines of postcolonial theory's fundamental anxiety to dismantle texts of discursive ambiguity or systems of political coercion. It would give rise to multiple and polyphonic "epistemologies of liberation." As Derrida notes:

the surge <deferlement> of "Islam" will be neither understood nor answered as long as the exterior and interior of this borderline place have not been called into question; as long as one settles for an internal explanation (interior to the history of faith, of rel igion, of languages or cultures as such), as long as one does not define the passageway between this interior and all the apparently exterior dimensions (techno scientific, tele-biotechnological, which is to say also political and socioeconomic, etc.). (Acts 58)

This approach would unravel the epistemic and empirical peripheries of periodization limited by the demands to theorize the nation state and nationalism as the essential signifier of the modern globalizing project. An inquiry into the philosophy of religion, medieval and classical Islamic Humanities may incite a new breakthrough in the way the interior and exterior boundaries of the Islamic East intersect, sharpening postcolonial conjectural procedures, and creating zones-of-disciplinary contact.

III. Applied Islamology, Deconstructionism

Whilst al-Jabiri schematized an archaeology of Arab-Islamic knowledge, Arkoun focused on navigating a new approach of analysis called "Applied Islamology." This method emphasizes the amalgamation of several specialisms in the Humanities and social sciences that would aim at normalizing those zones of contact between experts. Of greater significance, this approach insists on the pertinence of other Humanities in subverting European Enlightenment thought. Arkoun's point of departure is theology, not philosophy. In essence, Arkoun is inspired by the hermeneutic gains of nineteenth-century Biblical criticism in rediscovering fresh conceptual mappings in the work of scholars such as Paul Ricoeur, Andre Neher, Jean Danielou, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann. among others. Islam--as a cultural and religious category--will only be understood properly if specialists graciously participate in critical debates taking place in other disciplines. Arkoun suggests that one major conceptual breakthrough needed in the study of Islam (le fait islamique) is to begin to think of it within the constrictions of history and the demands of theory. Arkoun's systematic project of critique begins with an anxiety of applying interdisciplinary methods. They should generate a critical examination of the totality of formative classical texts of theology written by al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Razi, al-Taban, and Ibn Taymiyyah, among others. The aim of an interdisciplinary critique is to dismantle a number of hermeneutical boundaries imposed by classical commentators, and particularly their practice of exegesis (tafsTr) that has remained an exercise in repetitive apologetics over the centuries. Arkoun's tactic goes further by excavating debates, metanarratives, heresies already raised by peripheral figures of the classical period. In this sense, like al-Jabiri, he is operating from within the epistemic and ideological confines of tradition.

Mohammad Arkoun was educated in Algeria and France, and taught at the University of Sorbonne for over seventeen years. Even though his work is more known in France and the Maghreb, the Arabic translations of almost all of his writings have attracted wide interest in the Arab world. Only a handful of his essays have been translated into English, namely, a collection of answers to specific questions related to Muslim theology and culture in Re-thinking Islam (1993), and a collection of his most significant essays in The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought (2002). No doubt, Arkoun's originality stems from his privileged and double intellectual background. He is primarily a byproduct of the French tradition of philology. However, as he rebelled against old assumptions of traditional French Orientalism, he became increasingly interested in the relevance of contemporary critical theories and social sciences to the study of Islamic reason. This dual and conscious allegiance makes Arkoun stand out as one of the most audacious thinkers on Islamic theology. In his own deconstructionist mode, he provides a contrapuntal re-reading of tradition.

"Applied Islamology" suggests that the major question which scholars should really tackle is the relationship that exists between language and truth. Arkoun conducts close readings of classical texts based on a tripartite concept he calls the thinkable, the unthinkable, and the unthought (le pensable, Timpensable et Timpense (Lectures viii). This tool of excavating structures of epistemic modes reveals, for example, that the thinkable is limited to those norms constructed by a linguistic community within a specific period. The unthinkable encompasses epistemic norms that the community decides to ignore or undermine because of self-censorship, political exigencies, or the unavailability of cognitive readiness. The unthought is related to the unthinkable in the sense that the community deploys social and cognitive devices that make particular boundaries of thought outside denunciation. By focusing on what he calls "les questions demeurees impensables et l'etendue de l'impense [the questions that have remained unthinkable and the thread of what is unthought|" (Lectures vi). Arkoun insists that one must explore the relationship of interdependency that associates literature with philosophical thinking. Arkoun and al-Jabiri may agree on the importance of unravelling epistemological structures but it seems that ai-Jabiri's rigid structuralist remapping of Arab-Islamic reason categorically disregards the interconnectedness between the philosophical and the literary in Islamic culture. In other words, the transition of what Arkoun designates as Book/book (referring to all Abrahamic scriptures) from their primordial orality into the artifice and craft of writing tells us more about the complexity of commentary and interpretation.

Unlike al-Jabiri, Arkoun recognizes the importance of those "irrational" properties and, thus, his insight unsettles the aporetic moment in al-Jabiri's critique. His "Applied Islamology" claims new grounds of critique unsighted by al-Jabiri. In fact, Arkoun's work facilitates a redirection happening inside the grand postcolonial debates of the 1960s and 1970s on Arab-Islamic reason driven by nationalist and Pan-Arabist political preoccupations. Arkoun contends that there is a need for a systematic inquiry into the collision, gaps, and fragments of the literary/imaginary and the rational/scientific. Arkoun demands: "We must abandon the dualist framework of knowledge that pits reason against imagination, history against myth, true against false, good against evil, and reason against faith" (Rethinking 36).

Binaries and constructed dualisms usually constitute the foundations of ethnocentrism and logocentrism. Arkoun's 1972 essay "Logocentrisme et verite religieuse dans la pensee islamique" has transformed the analysis of religious discourse through an uncompromising argument that Islamic theology is deeply implicated in historical problems of political agency, hermeneutic limitations in rethinking subjectivity, culture, and the state. The essay was published a few years after Derrida's publication of De la granvnatologie and L'ecriture et la difference in 1967.

What interests Arkoun is not the biographical information that we find in the Quran, or the major texts of Islamic commentary and sciences, but "the implicit information contained in any discourse" (The Unthought 170). He has chosen, for example, to analyze Kit ah al-Vlam bi-manaqib al-islam by Abu Hasan al-'Amiri (d. 992) where he finds the activation of the Islamic logos. The word that refers to reason in Arabic is nutq, which means an articulated utterance: "This link between word and reason is conformed in mantiq: logic or domain of reasoned discourse; and in natiq: speaking and rational being" (171). Therefore, Arkoun locates the crisis of hermeneutics in the concept of logos/nutq as he tries to retrace it through Aristotle's formation of the logos as dialectically discursive:
   If we want to make use of a document dealing with the
   history of ideas, we have to resurrect the relationship between
   writing/text/reading in all its complexity. Any text,
   once written, escapes from its author and takes on a life of
   its own.... It becomes the setting for an intense dialectic
   between reader and author.... All these movements,
   exchanges and interactions help determine the life of the
   logos, in other words the mind embodying itself in a language
   and giving birth to many languages. (172)

These intersections (croisements) operate inside what Arkoun calls the logocentric enclosure (la cloture logocentrique): "this expression designates the inability of reason to manifest itself to either itself or to another without the intermediary of language in an internal, external or written word." (173). In other words, there is an arbitrary relationship between the signified and the signifier--and as we read sacred scripture or classical texts and commentaries of jurisprudence or other religious sciences, we must understand how the reality "portrayed' is always transfigured rhetorically. Arkoun, like Derrida, suggests that deconstructionism here would mean to free figurative and rhetorical structures out of their enclosure. Structure recasts itself in terms of an exigency for differance as a point of departure for any inquiry into truth. Thus, the movement of restructuring is also a "rejection of the explicit and implicit repetition of the values and intellectual procedures bom, amplified and perpetuated in a given cultural tradition" (The Unthought 174). In Of Grammatology, Derrida traces the contours of European logocentrism through a close analysis of the discursive privileging of speech over writing in the Western metaphysical tradition. On this account, deconstructionism inescapably and always conducts a postcolonial critique.

Arkoun outlines six characteristics of Arab-Islamic logocentrism, which tend to center around the idea that reason remains teleological. It aims to operationalize the finality of the Supreme Being, but, most significantly, reason--operating within the confines of a constructed dogma--implicates religion, culture, and the state within its logocentric boundaries in order to reduce or eliminate movements and traditions of dissent, difference, and subversion (The Unthought 176-77). Hence, as he locates those gaps in al-'Amiri's Kitab al-Vlam, he concludes that it is not a work of art "but a text aimed at making a coherent formulation of representations and convictions broadly shared by a vast community. Al-'Amirfs text looks like 'an act of historic solidarity"' (179). It draws on "vocabulary and cultural models already constituted, assimilated and collected in manuals which provide clear evidence of its degree of expansion" (180). The work of many formative theologians and jurists shows consistency of collective and not individualized intellectual writing, since, for example, they conform to the lexicon, cultural and criterialogical assumptions, circumscribed by the same mental procedures of Arab-Islamic reason: "The status and operating conditions of the religious sciences are defined using the schematic Platonic and Aristotelian features of philosophical learning. Reason thus asserts a methodological supremacy, but only to subject it to the service of a creed" (203). Tafsir--that exercise of repetitive and apologetic commentary--fails when it turns the worldly singularities of history and human anthropology into structures of "origin" (asl). This mode of rationalism used in the religious sciences and appropriated by using Aristotle's models tend to operate exclusively within the vicious circle of imitation/repetition/reproduction (taqlid). It is therefore more mythic, circular, and cliched.

However, Arkoun's Pour line critique de la raison islamique (1984) recognizes that a systematic philosophical rationalism of the first three centuries was instrumental in mobilizing the metaphoric sense of writing, "the system of signified truth" (229). In Contribution a Vetude de I'humanisme arabe (1970), he goes further by reading closely the major writings of Abo Hayyan al-TawhTdT (923-1023) and Ibn Miskawayeh (932-1030), tracing in a deconstructionist mode what he calls a humanist streak that was repressed later and must be revived to grapple with postcolonial erosions of Arab-Islamic latent vulnerability to rationalism and auto-critique. Ibn Miskawayeh, al-TawhTdT, al-Jahiz (776-868/9), and other classical humanists are modern in the epistemological sense of the word because they asked proper critical questions about their tradition. Of greater significance, they were consistently swerving towards a redirection of Islamic Humanities of their own time exploring paronomasia, aphorisms, apophthegm, ellipsis, etc., facilitating a certain fidelity and movement between reason and metaphor, philosophy and literature (adab). By applying methods in social sciences as well as deconstructionism, Arkoun updates the findings of important contributions on humanism in classical Islam, specifically of Joel L. Kraemer, Everett K. Rowsen, George Makdisi, and Josef van Ess.

The Possibility of Multiple Critique

As established and practiced in the Anglo-American academy, postcolonial theory has largely inhabited political as well as academic comfort zones. Despite the "gains" of the postcolonial turn, the postcolonial approach of analysis seems to impose a form of provincial epistemology of an "Orient" irreducible by its themes, contents, methodology, and intellectual achievements that may not participate in unnerving the ethnocentric premises of Western Humanities. For al-Jabiri, a radically fresh postcolonial re-orientation of approach is to move from ideological inquiry and analysis into an epistemic inquiry. In his deconstructionist move, Arkoun resuscitates the significance of peripheral narrative strategies in literature since allusions, allegories, and secret codes represent an open hermeneutical paradigm in the figural life of the Book/book. Whilst postcolonial theory has taken the critique in Said's Orientalism seriously, it has overlooked Said's own hermeneutic borderlines where we may discern the relevance of an internal critique of Arab-Islamic reason (see Yacoubi). Such a comparative crisscrossing of multiple and global Humanities represents an alternative epistemology of liberation that pushes for a more global, democratic production and circulation of knowledge about the Islamicate world.

It is time postcolonial theory inserted the Islamicate world using a different manner of representation by exploring new attitudes that complexify the presence of the Islamicate phenomenon in postcolonial critique as internally worldly, trans-historically secular, and self-reflexive. To operate beyond the conceptual limits of postcolonial theory, we may need to borrow and absorb concepts of other spaces and times/ temporalities. One would be able to revive what al-Jabiri has called "the Averroist Spirit," which really means that "it must be made present in our thought, in our esteem and in our aspirations in the same way the Cartesian spirit is present in French thought or that the spirit of empiricism, inaugurated by Locke and by Hume, is present in England" (Arab-lslamic Philosophy 128). By moving away from an ideologically based inquiry into an epistemic inquest, al-Jabiri conducts a radically decolonizing and internal re-orientation of approach. This is by no means to valorize one over the other, but to investigate the blind spots in overlooking what ties and unties them.

Arkoun's "Applied Islamology" calls for a multiplicity of modernities (all of them unfinished), and not the supremacy of one over the other. Modernities are transhistoric events, ruptures, and passages-of-thought, and, therefore, equipped to resist erasure, amnesia, and dormancy. Classical Muslim litterateurs and philosophers produced original, critical, and of course aporetic perspectives on Being, structure, and difference; yet because of that, their work remains relevant to current postcolonial emergencies for corrections through returns.

Humanities--being a shifter--has constantly exhibited gaps, openings, and hidden spaces. An attention to the medieval and classical Islamicate world, from within and outside itself and from a postcolonial perspective, would create new interdisciplinary altercations. Most significantly, this would allow more pedagogical efficacity since dialogue is driven by theoretical partnership, giving more visibility to the interconnections between the work of Arab and Muslim intellectuals on contemporary Islamic philosophy and theology, and on the work of several postcolonial scholars. They all engage unevenly and unequivocally with Cartesian methodology, Sartrean phenomenology, Lacanian psychoanalysis, Marxisms, post-modernism, and deconstructionism. Postcolonial theory and Arab-Islamic theory should by now have "interrelated genealogies." In Said's understanding of beginnings, this is something a postcolonial critic ought to do and ought to think about because a "beginning is basically an activity which ultimately implies return and repetition" (Beginnings xxiii). Above all, to begin to return to Arab-Islamic Humanities is an "intention" of "making or producing difference" that combines "the already-familiar with the fertile novelty of human work in language" (xxiii).

Ai-Jabiri's and Arkoun's systematic re-evaluation of an entire humanistic tradition with an arsenal of deconstructive devices signals that certain perceptual elements of Western Humanities have radically changed, or are always pervasively changing. Such reciprocal inter-readability confirms that the alleged methodical incompatibility between the two fields (internally fragmented) is grounded in ideology. The tendency of Anglo-centric critics, for example, to exclude scholarship written in other languages outside the main languages of international scholarship (English, and, to a lesser extent, French and German) circumvents how other analytical movements of the postcolonial have fostered alternative understandings and theoretical frameworks that are imbued with heterogeneous, political, and humanistic visions.

The work of these humanists stresses the compulsion to bring these conversations and methodologies of "radical" and decolonizing critique together. Therefore, to mediate such ungraspable complexity is to undertake multiple critique. This is to say that if double critique--as Khatibi postulates--operates across two epistemologies, multiple critique would include all movements internal to the many within one. For double is not just limited to two; the doubling itself means twice as much, or many. Doubling is necessarily a double-back, which is taking a new direction opposite to the previous one even while integral to it. Furthermore, it is a matter of a certain multiple bind since the Humanities in its Western genealogy of humanitas and its Arab-Islamic genealogy of adab binds all structures of authority to "nuclear" and persistent critique. On this account, multiple critique involves genealogies of traditions of critique within the European heritage in conversation with the equally robust critical traditions of the Arab-Islamic heritage since the pre-medieval and medieval periods up to contemporary post-Enlightenment revisions and returns. Cultural critique of this kind appreciates the internal procedures of these genealogies by virtue of their historic specificity as well as their overlapping collusions through epistemic processes, historic experiences, and measures of colonizing cultural contact.

By now, postcolonial theory is a polygonal and lingering field of inquiry still on the move and in business. Charting a new direction means one more interruption of direction's "original" drive for teleology and an appeal for redirection to make its political and contrapuntal beginnings. The counterpoint would be to sustain these two lines of investigation together. The main ontological limitation of the practice of all criticism remains that not all issues may be sighted or properly excavated at once and by every scholar. The enterprise of writing criticism or theory is always circumscribed by the pressures of selectivity, authorial and institutional positioning, and, of course, by conscious or subconscious ideological postulations, or, as Simon Critchely has once put it, "betrayal is the fate of all commentary" (60). There is always "the ethical and political necessity" to continue to interrogate the pedagogical and ideological assumptions of the postcolonial because by "interrogating the modes through which the world is seen and rendered legible, sparks the beginnings of a fertile (self-)critical quarrel, not its short-circuiting" (McLeod 110). What Robert Young calls "the necessary mode of perpetual auto critique" (22) is the only safeguard against intellectual complacency, and the only prism through which multiple critique may disperse and reflect new lights of understanding.


(1) The tradition was founded by Wasil b. 'Ata' (d. 748) who established the practice of kalam. Its scholars were mainly influenced by Hellenic thought. In the ninth century, Hunayn Ibn Ishaq (d. 873) founded a school of the best translators of the literature of India and Persia.

(2) Earlier deliberations on the question of modernity and tradition (turath) and related issues include the earlier works of Mohammad 'Abdu, al-Tahtawi and al-Afram, and the later divergent readings by Taha Hussain, Qasim Amin, Ahmad Amin, Mustafa 'Abd al-Razaq,' Ali Sami al-Nashar, Ibrahim Madkur.TayyibTizim, Hussain Muruwwa, 'Abd al-Rahman Badawf, Salama MQsa, Khalid Muhammad Khalid, among others. However, these were in the style of reflections, contestations, and forethoughts. Despite--and at times because of--the criticisms leveled at al-Jabiri's studies on the Arab and Islamic world, his archeological work remains the first most systematic and methodical examination of Arab-Islamic reason using the tools of structuralism, formalism, "deconstructionism," and classical methods of rational philosophy.

(3) Al-Jabiri has published over 30 books. For the sake of clarity, I divide al-Jabiri's work into phases. The earlier phase in the 1970s saw his work on the political thought of Ibn Khadun, Fikr Ibn Khladun: Al--'asabiyya wa-l-dawla (Ibn KhaldOn's Thought: Tribalism and the State, 1971). During the same period, he also wrote on issues related to postcolonial educational strategies and the importance of promoting the teaching of philosophy in Moroccan schools and universities. His book, Nahnu wa-l-turath (Tradition and Us, 1980) paved the way for the second phase of his four-part study Naqd al--'aql al--'arabi (Critique of Arab Reason). In the 1990s and in addition to several books on culture, the role of public intellectuals, Islam and the West, human rights, and most importantly his work on Ibn Rushd, he returns to finish his sequel. Then, he finally turns to a subject matter he may have avoided earlier--the issue of Quranic exegesis--by publishing Madkhal ila-l-Qur'an (Introduction to the Quran) and Fahm al-Qur 'an al-haklm (Understanding the Quran).

(4) Al-Jabiri's detailed political autobiography is published in three volumes as Fi ghimar al-siyasa fikran wa-mumarasa. These are based on a monthly series of booklets called Mawaqif [Positions] written between 1959 and 2002. His memoir was published in 1997 as Hafriyat fi-l-dhakira min ba'ld.

(5) Al-Jabiri's Critique of Arab Reason received a wide and sustained contesta tion among several critics such as Hussain al-Idrisi, Adunis, Taha Abdarahman, Joseph Massad, among others. Yet. the harshest remains George Tarabishi's, Naqd naqd al-'aql al-'arabi. Tarabfshl dismisses al-Jabiri's fundamental distinction between Eastern and Maghrebi epistemologies, the first being carved out by mysticism/hermiticism and the second by rationalism. Tarabishi indignantly accuses al-Jabiri of performing his own "xenophobic" 'asabiyya in order to concoct an epistemic rupture between the Islamic East and the Maghreb. His response to al-Jabiri's thesis attempts to dismantle this "epistemic geographical mapping" by arguing a counter case for the epistemic and historic unity of Arab-Islamic reason.

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Author:Yacoubi, Youssef
Publication:Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2020
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