Translation and Multilingualism in the Premodern Islamic World(s)

Call for Papers

In the premodern Islamic world(s), translation was instrumental in fostering intellectual, scientific, and cultural advancements. The process of translation contributed to the development of Islamic sciences and intellectual traditions, such as astronomy, medicine, philosophy, and mathematics. Many classical works of philosophy, science, medicine, mathematics, and literature from ancient civilizations were translated into Arabic and subsequently preserved, influencing Islamic scholarship and contributing to the advancement of knowledge production in the region, especially during the Abbasid era (8 to the 10 centuries). It is well known that translation in the premodern Islamic world has facilitated the transfer of knowledge from diverse sources such as Greek, Persian, Indian, and Chinese texts into Arabic, which became a lingua franca of the Islamic scholarly community.

Unlike modern nation-states that exert control over specific territories and languages, the premodern Islamic world(s) featured several cosmopolitan languages in practice. These languages facilitated interactions and the exchange of knowledge within local societies. For example, the translation of Arabic sacred texts played a crucial role, serving as a vital link for effective communication among speakers of different languages and facilitating the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and cultural values across diverse Islamic nations throughout various historical periods. These writers either sought to emulate or drew upon the shared meanings embedded in the collective memory of their respective communities. By revisiting the multilingual texts produced on Qurʾan and Hadith, we can gain insight into how these texts served as a wellspring of inspiration for generations of writers spanning more than twelve hundred years.

The conference explores the role of translation and multilingualism in disseminating scholarly works and educational materials across linguistic boundaries, enriching the intellectual vitality of premodern Islamic societies. The conference invites contributions from the social sciences and the humanities on the process of translation and the nature of multilingualism throughout the premodern Islamic history.

The accommodation and travel costs for invited speakers will be covered by AGYA. Funding is still subject to approval.

Possible Topics

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Studying the translation of sacred texts such as the Quran, Hadith, and theological works into various languages and its impact on religious discourse and interpretation.
  • Examining the translation of literary works, poetry, and prose from different languages into Arabic and other languages within the Islamic world, and its influence on literary traditions.
  • Analyzing the techniques and strategies used by translators in the premodern Islamic world to convey complex ideas and concepts from one language to another.
  • Exploring the impact of non-Arabic languages such as Persian, Greek, Sanskrit, and Syriac on the development of Islamic intellectual and cultural traditions through translation.
  • Investigating historical approaches to multilingual education and language learning in the premodern Islamic world, including the development of language curricula and pedagogical methods.

Each paper should present a clear case study that effectively highlights its historical and cultural contexts. The conference proceedings, to be published in 2025, will undergo a peer-review process and will be edited by the co-organizers before being published by a prestigious university press.

How to apply?

Please submit the following documents in English:

  • abstract in a Word file (500 words, including references)
  • short biography (150 words, including affiliations and publications)

Kindly sent all documents to Hany Rashwan (hrashwan(at) by 15 July 2024.

Important Dates

  • 15 July 2024
    Submission Deadline for Abstracts
  • 15 - 16 November 2024
    Conference at the Institute of Islamic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Full text of the call:

Members in Charge

Cooperation Partners

The conference will be organized in cooperation with Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.