chapter  3
The reception of the Brill Encyclopedia of Islam
An Egyptian debate on the credibility of orientalism (1930–1950)
BySaid F. Hassan, Abdullah Omran
Pages 19

The Encyclopedia of Islam (EI) is the earliest encyclopedic work about Islam, involving international cooperation of leading 1 Orientalists. 2 The need for such a large-scale project was created by the growing inquiry about Islam, its civilization, culture and people, 3 and the increasing colonial interest in Muslim countries during the nineteenth century. 4 The production of this project should be seen as part of the historical debates and encounters between Christendom and the Islamic world, or between the Christian West and the Muslim East. Such encounters throughout history were mostly hostile: fighting over dominating territories, producing religious polemics, supporting missionary activities, and advocating colonialism. Even academic interest in the Middle/Near East came as an outcome of this tension. 5 Oriental studies appeared as an outcome of this discourse, as part of the attempts to maintain political domination and cultural imperialism. Although there were attempts to develop impartial neutral academic studies of Islam in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, since there was an increase in the number of Islamic texts that were edited and the number of analytical studies that were undertaken, these attempts were not enough to shift or to take over the discourse.