Sunday, February 04, 2007




On February 8, 2007 it is exactly 150 years ago that the Dutch islamologist and scholar of Arabic, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje was born. Snouck Hurgronje has become famous by his journey to Mecca in 1884-1885. In his study (which he wrote in German)
Mekka he has recorded the results of his research in Mecca.

To commemmorate his legacy a
n academic workshop will be organised at Leiden University on February 16, 2007, which will be devoted to Snouck Hurgronje’s life and work under the title ‘Scholarship in action’. This workshop is organized and funded by the Faculty of Arts and the Research School of Leiden University.On the same day the Saudi-Arabian architect Dr. Sami Angawi will deliver the third Snouck Hurgronje lecture under the title ‘How can Mecca be saved?’ This lecture is organized by the Foundation ‘Oosters Instituut’. Please visit the website for a survey of other activities in 2007 relevant to Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje can be found as well.

At the start of this year the renown Leiden publisher, Messrs. Brill, has republished the English translation of this work. A Dutch version of the book will appear later in 2007. It contains an extensive introduction on Snouck Hurgronje’s life and work in Jeddah and Mecca, which is based on many as yet unknown documents.

In the period 1889-1906 Snouck Hurgronje lived and worked in the Dutch East-Indies (Indonesia), as an adviser on Islamic and Arabian affairs to the colonial government. In 1893-1895 he published his two-volume study on Aceh (De Atjehers). An English translation of this work appeared in 1906.In 1903 he published Het Gajoland en zijn bewoners (‘The Gajoland and its inhabitants’). His ‘Official Advices’ were posthumously published (1957-1965). These are an important primary source for our knowledge of the development of Islam in the Dutch East-Indies/Indonesia in the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

From 1906-1927 Snouck Hurgronje held the chair of Arabic at Leiden University. In 1922 he was ‘rector-magnificus’ (chancellor) of Leiden University. Snouck Hurgronje is considered as the founder of the academic study of Islamic law. On this subject, as on many other subjects, he has published pioneering studies. Many of these have recently been translated into Indonesian. A great number of his ideas about attitudes towards and contacts with Islam and Muslims have still relevance today.

Snouck Hurgronje’s ethnographical objects (mostly from Mecca) are now kept in the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. His complete library (many thousands of books, manuscripts and documents) are kept in Leiden University Library. His magnificent house on Leiden’s most prestigious canal, the Rapenburg, is now the seat of the Leiden University Fund.

Leiden, 31 January 2007
Prof. Dr. Jan Just Witkam (