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Lebanese historian, former ACRPS publications director


Dr. Wajih Kawtharani, Lebanese historian and Academic Director of the ACRPS Beirut Office, presented at the weekly ACRPS Seminar Series in Doha on Wednesday, 14 December. Kawtharani's paper addressed the subject of "Ideology and Knowledge in Arab Historical Writing: Ibn Khaldun, Constantin Zureiq, and Mohammed Abed Al Jabri."

Kawtharani's lecture expounded on the relationship between theory and ideology as well as on the evolution of the humanities and social sciences. He focused especially on the nature of the relationship between history as a discipline and ideology as a historical discourse, or between history and the philosophy of history. The researcher saw Karl Popper's hypothesis of ideological and scientific overlap as more understandable and perhaps more "credible" if applied to the human and social sciences. This is yet more applicable to historical thought, achievements and manifestations in the various historical discourses that claim to be scientific, having relied on experiments and attempts to produce knowledge, historical research rules and methodology (historical approach).

As an introduction to his presentation, the historian began by discussing the four "Domes of Knowledge" (or "founts of knowledge") in classical Arabic writing. The first is "the Dome of Literature", which reflects the history, society and daily life of society, of peoples, and lifestyles (this includes the writings of Al-Jahiz, Al-Asfahani and Al-Tawhidi for example). The second is "the Dome of Knowledge" which covered historical knowledge of sects, creeds, and division and the "learnings" of famous wise men and philosophers. Then there is the "Dome of the Episteme" of philosophy and wisdom, and the "Dome of Islamic Scholastic Theology" in its Islamic era. Finally, there is the "Dome of Politics", a large area, which in turn continued the history of wars, battles, policies and methods of governance and patterns in the relationship between the ruler and the subject. 

Wajih Kawtharani


Dr. Kawtharani then presented three models in which he discussed the separation between science and ideology, and between ideology and knowledge.  Starting with Ibn Khaldun, he asked whether Ibn Khaldun is free from the weight of the "prevailing ideology" through the so-called epistemology of "knowledge of the transcendent". Despite that "knowledge of the transcendent" achieved by Ibn Khaldun in terms of integrated knowledge of Islamic civilization, as many see today, he remains a product of his age. He is the product of the culture of that era, which inherited modern culture and jurisprudence with Islamic references and philosophy of Greek teachings, and the diverse literature of its worldly sources (Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit).

The historian then cited two examples that chose this method from the typical description of the trends of historical research and research in the history of ideas: the first Constantin Zureiq, who distinguishes between historical and scientific and non-scientific (i.e. ideological). The second is Mohammed Abed Al Jabri, who distinguishes between knowledge and ideology (epistemology).

Following the lecture, Dr. Abdelhamid Hénia addressed the lecture with a number of discussants, followed by a public discussion in which the audience participated.