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Critical Thinking within Islam#1: Lecture and text by Hela Ouardi

text video

In her online lecture titled Rendre l'Islam à l'Histoire  [Rendering Islam to History] Hela Ouardi elaborates about her historical research. In the accompanying text L’islam à l’épreuve de son Histoire  [Islam, facing its history], she analyzes the historical genesis, more specifically the founding period of Islam. A turbulent political period that is clearly less rosy than many Muslims portray it. According to Ouardi, the creation of the caliphate during this period marks the birth of political Islam, the consequences of which can be felt until this day. See downloads for the text, available in French, English and Dutch.

Hela Ouardi

Hela Ouardi teaches French literature and civilization at the university of Tunis - Faculty of Letters and Humanities. She is also an associate member of the Laboratoire d'Études sur les Monothéismes at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris. Her recent work focuses on the early period of Islam, and is based on broad historical research of the sources of the Sunni and Shiite Muslim traditions. She is the author of Les derniers jours de Muhammad [The Last Days of Muhammad] (Albin Michel, 2016). Currently, her research focuses on the reign of the first four caliphs of Islam (known among Muslims as the "caliphs who walk the straight path and follow the truth"). She is devoting a series of four historical stories to it, entitled Les Califes maudits [The Cursed Caliphs], the first two volumes of which La Déchirure [The Rift] and A l'ombre des sabres [In the Shadow of the Swords] were published in 2019 (Albin Michel).

Critical thinking within Islam

VUB Crosstalks and Moussem set up a lecture series on critical thinking within Islam. In their ideas about Islamic civilisation both Muslim extremists and Islamophobes go back to an originally 'pure' Islam, which was supposedly born 1400 years ago, but in reality did not really exist. Islam was never one block, one movement. On the contrary, it has always been a very diverse culture, strengthened by acculturation and by coming in contact with the Greek, Persian, Indian, African culture etc. A history that is also full of dissidence, heresy and rebellion. These sects and alternative theological currents are at the root of a fascinating culture of debate. Philosophers from the golden age of Islam such as Al Farabi, Averroës, Avicenna, Abu Al Alaa Al Ma'ari Abu Bakr Al Razi, Omar Khayyam, Abu Hayyan Al Tawhidi... are founders of a culture based on reason and science. In today's complex world, attention to these forgotten thinkers is more than necessary.
In this context, we present a series of online lectures and publish a new text by the speaker that relates to the theme.


Lectures and publications are protected by copyright, but may be used in an educational context, provided the name VUB Crosstalks and Moussem are mentioned and the authors are notified in advance.

Thoughts and opinions expressed in the lectures and publications belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the organizations presenting this programme.


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