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Tellings of an Encounter: A Meeting between Muḥammad ʿAbduh, Herbert Spencer and Wilfrid Blunt (1903)

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In 1903, the Islamic reformist Muḥammad ʿAbduh (1849-1905), the English philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) and the English writer Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922) met in Spencer’s home in Brighton. This article focuses on the history of the various tellings of this encounter that brought together three intellectuals from a globalizing and colonial world. It shows that the various renditions were creative negotiations of the encounter’s meaning across times, places and languages in the twentieth century. Specifically, this article’s comparison of the content, form and role of the accounts in Rashīd Riḍā’s Al-Manār (1915 and 1922), Blunt’s My Diaries (1920), Riḍā’s biography of ʿAbduh (the Tārīkh, 1931) and ʿImārah’s collection of ʿAbduh’s works (Al-Aʿmāl al-Kāmilah, 1972), and the way these accounts relate to each other through creative borrowing and translation, demonstrate the way European dominance in the global political and intellectual realm was confronted, negotiated and reiterated in the various tellings of the encounter.

Affiliations: 1: University of Amsterdam


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