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Professor Mohammed Arkoun was one of the most prominent and influential figures in Islamic Studies. He passed away in Paris on 14 September 2010. In a career of more than 30 years, he was an outstanding research scholar, a searching critic of the theoretical tensions embedded in the field of Islamic Studies, and a courageous public intellectual, carrying the banner of an often embattled Islamic modernism and humanism.
A native of Great Kabylia, Algeria, he studied at the Faculty of Literature of the University of Algiers and at the Sorbonne in Paris. He established his scholarly reputation with his early studies (1969, 1970) of the historian and philosopher Miskawayh. As he began to consider how one might rethink Islam in the contemporary world, his sophisticated questioning provided a welcome counterpoint to the highly ideological interpretations that dominated debate in both the Muslim world and the non-Muslim West. As the editor of Arabica, he maintained the journal's very high standard of scholarship, considerably broadened its scope, and played a significant role in shaping Western-language scholarship on Islam. He is the author of numerous books in French, English and Arabic, including most recently: Rethinking Islam (Boulder, Col., 1994), L'immigration: défis et richesses (Paris, 1998) and The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought (London, 2002). His shorter studies have appeared in many academic journals and his works have been translated into several languages.
In 2001, Professor Arkoun was asked to deliver the Gifford Lectures, which enable a notable scholar to contribute to the advancement of theological and philosophical thought and was announced as the recipient of the Seventeenth Georgio Levi Della Vida Award for his lifelong contribution to the field of Islamic Studies.
Professor Arkoun taught as a visiting professor at UCLA, Princeton University, Temple University, the University of Louvain-la-Neuve, the Pontifical Institute of Arabic Studies in Rome and the University of Amsterdam and served as a jury member for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture . He was Emeritus Professor, La Sorbonne as well as Senior Research Fellow and member of the Board of Governors of The Institute of Ismaili Studies .