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al-Jabiri, ʿAbd (1935–)


Muammad ʿAbd al-Jabiri studied philosophy at Muhammad V University in Rabat, Morocco, where he got his PhD in 1970. He had been a school teacher since 1957 and after successive promotions he became professor of philosophy at that university in 1971. Al-Jabiri has been involved in politics and journalism, and he is the main editor of the journal Fikr wa-Naqd (Thought and criticism) published in Rabat. His philosophy has to be understood in the context of the effort to modernize his country while at the same time preserving its cultural identity.

Al-Jabiri is a prolific writer; his large project, The Critique of the Arab Mind, is in three volumes: Formation of the Arab Mind (1984), Structure of the Arab Mind (1986), and The Arab Political Mind (1990). Al-Jabiri emphasizes the concept of cultural legacy (turāth ) and analyses different readings of it. The fundamentalists (al-salafīya ) search for the pristine Islam and they commit a grave mistake because they ignore the historical factor. The original "authentic" form of Islam was valid in its time, but the fundamentalists do not see it as subject to the course of history, they consider its initial form perpetually valid. The liberals and the Orientalists read cultural legacy from the Western standpoint. Arab liberals suffer under such cultural alienation that they cannot perceive their own identity. As for the Marxists they expect tradition to develop into revolution and the revolution to develop into tradition, and they cannot escape this vicious circle.

Al-Jabiri's reading is based on his criticism of Arab rationality, or mind (ʿaql ). To this purpose he follows a methodology to liberate the reader-subject from being a hostage as the read-object, that is, Arabic language and Arabic tradition. After gaining objectivity, the reader rejoins the object, apprehends it by means of intuition (h?ads ), and recognizes the historicity of reason. According to him Arab reason started as a political instrument. Two trends existed within the Umayyad regime: the one rationalist and reformistMuʿtaziliteand the other traditional and conservativeSunnite; the Sunnites were in power, and the Muʿtazilites in opposition. When the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads, the Muʿtazilites moved to the governing side, and the Sunnites to the opposition. Nevertheless, since the Muʿtazilites were not strong enough to face the challenge of esoteric movements, the caliph [Abū] al-Ma'mūn (786833) turned to the philosophy of Aristotle for help.

For al-Jabiri philosophy in the Islamic East is radically different from that in the West. Avicenna in the East wanted to create the "Oriental" philosophy by combining Platonic philosophy with the Aristotelian and integrating esoteric Gnostic doctrines and Muʿtazilite theology; it survived only in Iranian Gnosticism. By contrast, Averroes in the West succeeded in standing by Aristotle and abandoning the other doctrines and solved the long-lasting issue of the relationship between revealed religion and philosophy by proving their coherence and continuity. Thus, al-Jabiri asserts that the future of Arab philosophy lies in Averroes's philosophical method and his rationalism (ʿaqlānīya ).

See also Aristotle; Averroes; Averroism in Modern Islamic Philosophy; Gnosticism; Islamic Philosophy; Marxist Philosophy; Rationalism; Rationality.


works by al-jabiri

Arabic-Islamic Philosophy: A Contemporary Critique. Translated by Aziz Abbassi. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999.

works about al-jabiri

Ábed Yabri, Mohamed. El legado filosófico árabe: Alfarabi, Avicena, Avempace, Averroes, Abenjaldún: Lecturas contemporáneas. Madrid, Spain: Editorial Trotta, 2001.

Josep Puig Montada (2005)

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