Orientalis is a French absorption word whose origin is orient meaning “East”. This word can be interpreted as “Eastern world” and ethnologically means the nations of the east.
The word orient has entered various languages in Europe, including English. Oriental is a meaningful adjective; things of an eastern nature, which is very broad in scope.
Orientalis is the name of the perpetrator who indicates an expert on matters relating to the “east”. While the word orientalism (Dutch) or orietalism (English) indicates the understanding of an understanding.
So orientalism means an understanding, or tradition, that desires to investigate matters relating to the nations of the East and its environment.
In addition, Edward W. Said understood orientalism as a way to understand the Eastern world, based on its special place according to the experiences of Western Europeans.
Or in other words, Orientalism is a style of thinking based on ontological and epistemological differences made between the “East” (the Orient) and (almost always) the West (the Occident).
Therefore, although orientalists have a broad meaning, namely everything that is directly related to the Eastern nations and their environment so that it covers all areas of life.
But narrowly, orientalists can be interpreted as the activities of Western easterners about religions in the East, especially Islam.
Research activities in the field have been going on for centuries sporadically, but only showed its extraordinary intensity since the 19th century AD.
Attitudes and views towards each religion in the East, especially Islam, vary greatly according to the orientalist’s mental attitude
Western interest in Islam can be seen when the beginning of the movement to study Islam since the 12th century. At that time, some western monks had come to Andalusia in the heyday of the East.
They studied at schools there, translating the Quran and Arabic-language books into their languages in various fields of science.
Among them were Jerbert who was elected Pope of Rome in 999 AD, Pierrele Aenere (1156-1092), and Gerard de Gremone (1187-1114).
After returning to their home regions, they began to teach the knowledge that had been obtained, so that within a few years, universities in the West relied once on Arabic books
But the success of Islamic civilization became its own scourge for politicians and religious people in Europe. Given the hegemony of Islam can threaten Europe from both political and theological sides.
Finally, Alexius Comnesus asked Pope Urban II to propaganda the recapture of the land to the Christian kingdom.
Pope Urban II soon gathered Christian figures on 26 November 1095 in Clermont next to neighboring France.
In his speech the Pope ordered the taking up arms against Muslim forces.
With the aim of expanding roman churches to submit under the authority of the Pope. And the Pope’s propaganda promises forgiveness for this war. Therefore the Crusades erupted.
It was because of this religious motivation that these troops used the symbol of the cross and were called crusades.
This war was one of the factors that caused hatred towards Islam by Christians at that time until the next time.
46 years after Pope Urban II waged a crusade, the head of Cluny Monastery, one of Europe’s most influential monasteries in medieval Western Europe named Petrus Venerabilis, was eager to study Islam for the purpose of bringing down Islam.
Around 1141-1142, Peter Venerabilis visited Toledo, Spain. There he assembled, financed and commissioned a team of translators to produce serial works that would serve as a foundation for Christian missionaries when interacting with Muslims
The characteristics of criticism in the medieval era were more subjective and tendential for the apologetic purpose of Christianity with the aim of instilling a negative paradigm to the European population towards Islamic teachings in order to stem the massive hegemony of Islamic civilization.
Time continued to pass until Christianity finally split into the catholic church and Protestant Christianity. Then came the era of Bible criticism pioneered by Richard Simon (1638-1712), a French priest, who was dubbed ‘the father of Biblical criticism’.
Then followed by John Mill, followed by Edward Wells, Richard Bentley, Johann Albrecht Bengel and others
After the advent of the Bible’s criticisms as more and more researched Islam directly from its source and no longer from church propaganda writings, the nuances of criticism of Islam also changed.
Orientalists no longer see Islam as part of a Christian heretical sect. The Prophet Muhammad is no longer viewed negatively, and the Quran and Hadith become corpus (relics) of Islam that become the focal point of later studies.
Similarly, since the 19th century, orientalists have been no longer Christian theologians or apologists, but by scholars and scientific methodologies.
In researching and criticizing Islam, the basic Orientalist mindset in the principle of causality, namely the law of causation.
That is, the concept of Islamic teachings in such a way could not be created by itself, Muhammad must have been inspired and motivated from other sources to build the teachings of Islam.
Therefore the orientalists then examined the Quran and Hadith corpus Islam to find the common thread of how Islam is constructed.
It was started by Abraham Geiger in 1833 with his Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen?. Where his claim that Islam and the Koran are influenced by Jewish teachings and the Torah.
Need to know, Geiger’s purpose in writing this work was not simply because he hated Islam. Counter as did Christian apologists in the previous era, but to follow the competence in order to receive a scholarship to the University of Bonn in 1832. Geiger himself was a Reformist Jew.
Geiger’s research was later redeveloped by Theodor Noldeke. By making Bibel as a patron measuring instrument to assess the Qur’an.
Then there are Fraenkel, Hartwig, Schapiro, Wensinck, Horovitz, Torrey and others. These are they who think that Islam and the Quran are influenced by Arab Jewish teachings.
Similarly, some argue that Islam and the Qur’an are influenced by Christianity. This claim was initiated by Thomas Wright in 1855 with his work Early Christianity in Arabia.
It was followed by Louis Cheikho, Wellhausen, Friedrich. Later, Rudolph, Tor Andrae, Richard Bell, Mingana, Ahren, Tisdall, Arthur Jeffery and others.
In addition, there are also those who argue that Islam is inspired by the Zoroastrian religion. This was claimed by Ignaz Goldziher in his work Islamism et Parsism on the proceedings of the first international congress of religious history in 1900.
Goldziher himself was an Orientalist who focused on studying the prophet’s hadiths.
It’s just that, even though they both dismantle the religion of Islam. They themselves cannot agree and agree to conclude whether Islam is really influenced by other religions or not.
That is because their work also does not escape rebuttal, which shows that there is a side of weakness and disability of any work that criticizes Islam by these orientalists.
What is surprising is, their work is even debunked by western scholars as well.
Abraham Geiger denied by Norman Stillman, Tisdall disproved by François de Blois, Louis Cheikho refuted by JS Trimingham, Even Richard Bell in his research finally not sure that the Quran is really influenced by Arab Christianity given some historical realities.
After them, there are many orientalists born. Among them are those who study the Quran, Hadith, Sirah or biography of the Prophet Muhammad, history, politics, sociology and everything about Islam.
The goals are also a wide variety. Some are dropping, some are aimed only at academic scientific research, some support Islam.
Orintalis who support Islam such as Emile Dermenghem, Regis Blachere, Charles Montagu, Sirr Hamilton, Luis mansignon, W.C Smith, Marcel Kurpershoek, Toshihiko Izutsu, John Esposito, karen Amstrong and many more.
Among these orientalists there are also converts to Islam, such as Julius Germanus, Marmaduke Pickthall, Lord Headley, Frithjof Schuon, Rene Guenon, Martin Lings and many more.
From this can be concluded that criticism of Islam by orientalists in the 19th century is generally done by students / scholars as well as by scientific methods.
This is in contrast to the middle ages, where criticism of Islam was carried out by Christian religious religions with the aim of apologetics that had not been packaged in the framework of scientific methodology.
Then it can also be seen that the more they know Islam directly to its source then the paradigm towards Islam changed, which in the previous era by Christian religionists considered if Islam is part of a heretical Christian sect, The Prophet Muhamad full of depravity even looked badly at the Quran.
In the 19th century, they have seen Islam honestly, that Islam is indeed a stand-alone religion, the prophet Muhammad was an intelligent revolutionist and the Quran is no longer considered a fairy tale.
It can be seen the seriousness of western scholars in researching the Quran.
In terms of motivation itself can be divided into three. there are those whose intentions are indeed to bring down Islam, some are limited to the purposes of research campus or academic position, and some support and support Islam even to converts.