Methodologies for a New Millennium

In the above pages, we have surveyed briefly just three ways in which the raw subject matter of our discussions, Islam, was tackled in the twentieth century. We stressed earlier that our choice of these three ways was merely illustrative rather than prescriptive or indicative; randomly selective rather than exclusive. There are, and were, many other ways and methodologies by which this subject might be approached.

In what follows, it is intended to try to operate a threefold sieve or methodology deploying the concepts of object, sign and the sacred. These may at times be perceived to create, or alternatively disclose, an intertext.375 Whether that occurs or not, the aim in any case is to make connections. Each of these three concepts is historically embedded in a particular author or set of authors. Our concept of object derives from the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger; the concept of sign flows in this volume from the semiotics of Umberto Eco; and we have drawn on Eliade's treatment of theology and the sacral for our concept of the sacred. Together these three elements of object, sign and the sacred combine to create a methodological sieve or paradigm which I will here term the paradigm of sacred multipraxis. The great doyen of the French Annates School of History, Fernand Braudel (1902— ®5), deployed a threefold 'method, in which history is viewed and studied on three levels of (i) enduring geographic and economic structures, (ii) social structures and "conjunctures" and (iii) events'.376 It is not proposed to replicate Braudel's precise structure here but, under his inspiration, to parallel it with another, perhaps more suitable for the study of one of the world's great faith traditions.

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