The Life of Professor Mohammed Arkoun

There is no doubt that Professor Mohammed Arkoun lived a colorful and fascinating life, experiencing more than most people would. However, he will always be remembered and respected for the contributions he made to contemporary Islamic reform, and as one of the most iconic Islamic scholars of our time. During the thirty years he spent studying the Islamic faith, he also promoted humanism and the modernization of the Islamic movement. He was undoubtedly one of the most influential figures of his time and left behind a wonderful legacy.

Mohammed Arkoun was born in 1928, and passed away on 14 September 2010. His academic career began in Taourirt Mimoum, which is a small Berber village in Algeria. He moved onto attend the Faculty of Literature of the University of Algiers and later studied at Sorbonne, which is in Paris. While in Paris he studied literature and the Arab language, obtaining his Ph.D in the year 1968. He began studying both the history of Ibn Miskawayh, as well as his philosophy, encouraging Arkoun to explore how the Islamic religion could develop to move forward with the ever changing and modern world.

Arkoun started teaching at the Lyon 2 University from the year 1969 to 1972, and was a professor at the New Sorbonne University of Paris and the Paris 8 University between the years 1972 and 1992. He moved to Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg) and the United States (Institute for Advanced Study), as well as stepping in as a visiting professor at various institutions such as the Temple University, University of California, Princeton University, the University of Louvain-la-Neuve (Belguim), University of Amsterdam and at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic Studies (Rome). At the Institute of Ismaili Studies, where he was teaching at the time of his passing, he taught his students how to rethink contemporary Islamic ideas and traditions, allowing them to broaden their vision and outlook on Islamic teachings.

In 1996 he became a decorated Officer of the French Legion d’honneur and in 2001 the announcement was made that he would receive the Seventeenth Georgio Levi Della Vida Award for the contributions he made to the study of Islam. Arkoun also published numerous works during his lifetime, in English, Arabic, French, Indonesian and Dutch, including Arab Thought, The Concept of Revelation: From the People of the Book to the Societies of the Book, Islam: To Reform or to Subvert, Aspects de la Pensee Islamique Classique, and many more. Mohammed Arkoun‘s teachings were innovative and thought-provoking, and his contributions to Islamic studies will continue to influence future generations.