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Born in Ghent, Belgium of Catholic Flemish stock, Henri Lammens joined the Society of Jesus in Beirut at the age of fifteen, and settled permanently in Lebanon. During his first eight years there Lammens mastered the Arabic language, as well as Latin, and Greek. His first work of scholarship was a dictionary of Arabic usage (1889). He edited al-Bashir, the Jesuit newspaper of Beirut, and after much travelling, he began his career as an Orientalist at the School of Oriental Studies at the Jesuit College in 1907.
He published a series of studies on the Umayyads, and several on pre-Islamic Arabia: Etudes sur le regne du calife Omaiyade Mo'awia ler (1908), Le berceau de l'Islam; L'Arabie occidentale à la veille de l'Hegire (1914). He contributed many articles to the first edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, as well as to various learned journals.
His contributions are considered highly influential among Western historians of Islam; and yet he has often been criticized for his skewed portrayal of many issues. It is universally acknowledged "that Lammens provided the study of the sira with a new basis; and none would underestimate his contributions on the history of the Umayyads." He is known to be extremely biased in his views of Islam, often sounding racist. Etienne Dinet criticizes his islamophobic approaches and remarks in his "L'Orient vu de l'Occident".
Other Scholars' views of Henri Lammens
Franz Buhl remarks:
- «dessen Belesenheit und Scharfsinn man bewundern muss, der aber doch oft die Objektivität des unparteiischen Historikers vermissen lässt.»
- i.e. "[Lammens] whose erudition and acumen one must admire, but who often lacks the objectivity of an impartial historian."
- He... possessed a remarkable ability to lay hold of those living qualities communicated by the ancient texts along with a literary talent which enabled him to convey these to his readers... In addition, he was filled with a holy contempt for Islam, for its 'delusive glory', and 'lascivious' prophet." [full citation needed]
A Library Journal reviewer wrote:
- "...one who had 'a holy contempt for Islam.' Lammens himself refers to the Qur'an as an 'infinitely shabby journal.'[full citation needed]
Louis Massignon criticized Lammens for 'misinforming' his readers with his 'far too cynical and disparaging study' of Hazrat Fatima.
- Islam: Beliefs and Institutions. An online review of this book is available ().
- The Age of Muhammad and the Chronology of the Sira
- Fatima and the Daughters of Muhammad (1912)
- Some of Lammens's studies are included in Quest for the Historical Muhammad (2000), edited by Ibn Warraq[unreliable source?][clarification needed]
- Buhl, Franz ([year missing]). Das Leben Muhammeds, p.367.
- Rodinson, Maxime ([year missing]). "A Critical Survey of Modern Studies of Muhammad", p.26.
- Michael W. Ellis, Ellenville P.L., NY.
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