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Islam and the Arabs in the work of a Maronite scholar in the service of the Catholic church (Abraham Ecchellensis)

Keywords: Arabic language , History of Arabs , Science , Islamology , Catholic-Protestant controversy , Christian-Muslim controversy , Maronites , Christian Arabic literature , langue arabe , histoire des Arabes , science , islamologie , controverse catholiques-protestants , controverse chrétiens-musulmans , maronites , littérature arabe chrétienne

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Abstract:

As an expert in Arabic documents in the “Republic of Letters”, Abraham Ecchellensis devoted himself in his work to an attempt at synthesis that was characteristic of his time: he tried to reconcile contemporary scholars’ expectations of specialised knowledge both with his Catholic and controversialist commitments and with his status, in his role as a Maronite, as a spokesman for Arabic and even Muslim culture. Ecchellensis provided the public with translations of Arabic Muslim philosophical and scientific texts which he deemed to have drawn on universal “wisdom”. However, a disinterested curiosity concerning Islam could not be publicly advertised and had to be cloaked in the form of anti-Protestant controversy or Catholic apology. In the work of Ecchellensis this stance was accompanied by an expurgation of all Islamic terminology from the Arabic language and by a recourse to the Christian Arabic literature writen during the first centuries of the Hijra. [fr] Expert en documents arabes dans la République des Lettres , Abraham Ecchellensis se livre dans son oeuvre à un essai de synthèse caractéristique de son temps : il tente de concillier l’attente de connaissances des savants de son temps avec son engagement catholique et controversiste, et avec son identification, en tant que maronite, comme porte-parole de la culture arabe, y compris musulmane. Il fournit au public des traductions de textes philosophiques et scientifiques arabes musulmans qui lui paraissent participer d’une sagesse universelle. Mais une curiosité désintéressée pour l’islam ne peut s’afficher : elle doit prendre les formes de la controverse anti-protestante ou de l’apologie catholique. Chez Ecchellensis cette posture s’accompagne d’une expurgation de toute terminologie islamique dans la langue arabe, et d’un recours à la littérature arabe chrétienne élaboré aux premiers siècles de l’Hégire.

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