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University of Balamand > Spotlights > Asst. Prof. Mohamad Rihan - Modernity based on local values

Assistant Professor Mohamad Rihan

‘Modernity based on local values’

Assistant Professor Mohamad Rihan took the long route to a PhD in History from Cambridge University.

While he says he “always knew” he wanted to pursue a doctorate degree, when he first graduated from the American University of Beirut with a master’s degree in Middle Eastern History, he first worked in advertising at Leo Burnett and other agencies, as a copywriter and then as an associate creative director.

However, by 2005 he had obtained his PhD from Cambridge in Orientalist Studies. The experience, he says, “was great, because it provided for a rich, cultural experience, and the opportunity to meet people from different and diverse parts of the world.”

His dissertation dealt with the tribal politics of the Umayyad state and he explains that he chose to study Middle Eastern history because “this is our culture, our identity and we need to know our history.”

“As modernists and believers in democracy and multi-culturalism,” he adds, “we need to always stress that the history and culture of Islam is not about extremism.

“We are Arabs, and Arabs are Christian and Muslims and others. We need to raise the case that we belong to different civilizations including Islamic and Christian civilizations that survived here for many centuries. The concept of modernity can be adapted in many ways, and we need to find our own paths into modernity based on our own values.”

He first joined the University of Balamand in 2010, as a part timer in FHS Beirut. He joined UOB on a full time basis just this academic year. He currently teaches courses on introduction to Islam at the Center of Christian and Muslim Studies. A specialist in Islamic medieval works, he also teaches Civilization courses on ancient civilizations, religious thought, on the history and culture of the ancient world, and of Islamic and Christian civilizations.

Dr. Rihan’s philosophy as a teacher is teaching critical thinking to his students. He is a strong believer in motivating students to read, understand and criticize texts.

Author of books and scholarly articles, Dr. Rihan recently published a volume on The Politics and Culture of an Umayyad Tribe: Conflict and Factionalism in the Early Islamic Period (I.B. Tauris, 2014). He has also translated and edited a book into Arabic on Ahham al tawarikh fil Hadara al Islamiya from French : “Les grandes dates de l’Islam”.

Dr. Rihan argues that Arab society, at its height, may not have been an ideal society, however “it was definitely a rich culture that enriched the world and produced huge edifices.”

Islamic Arab culture, he says, saved the major gains of Greek civilization and gave it back to the world. “It is known that everybody participated in its venture: Arabs, Non Arabs, Jews, and Persians. In my own field of history, Arabs were able to make contributions in philosophy, medicine, biology, astronomy and many other fields within a diverse rich cultural melting pot”.

When Europe began to come out of what is known as its Middle Ages, says Dr. Rihan, it resorted to Arab texts.

Dr. Rihan argues that today the general religious discourse needs to be modernized, and, adds, “we all need to realize that much has changed in the last many centuries. We must accept that Islam is diverse and seen differently by different people. What started as a religious idea developed into hundreds of schools of thought in Islam.”

A native of Nabatieh, Mohammad Rihan lives in Beirut and is married and father to two children.​​​​​​​​
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University of Balamand,
Balamand Al Kurah,

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