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Ignác Goldziher

ignac goldziher muslim, ignac goldziher books
Ignác Yitzhaq Yehuda Goldziher 22 June 1850 – 13 November 1921, often credited as Ignaz Goldziher, was a Hungarian scholar of Islam Along with the German Theodor Nöldeke and the Dutch Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, he is considered the founder of modern Islamic studies in Europe


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Career
  • 3 Works
  • 4 Legacy
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


Born in Székesfehérvár of Jewish heritage, he was educated at the universities of Budapest, Berlin, Leipzig and Leiden with the support of József Eötvös, Hungarian minister of culture He became privatdozent at Budapest in 1872 In the next year, under the auspices of the Hungarian government, he began a journey through Syria, Palestine and Egypt, and took the opportunity of attending lectures of Muslim sheiks in the mosque of al-Azhar in Cairocitation needed

Goldziher kept a personal record of his reflections, travel records and daily records This journal was later published in German as Tagebuch The following quotation from Goldziher's published journal provides insight into his feelings about Islam

Ich lebte mich denn auch während dieser Wochen so sehr in den mohammedanischen Geist ein, dass ich zuletzt innerlich überzeugt wurde, ich sei selbst Mohammedaner und klug herausfand, dass dies die einzige Religion sei, welche selbst in ihrer doktrinär-offiziellen Gestaltung und Formulirung philosophische Köpfe befriedigen könne Mein Ideal war es, das Judenthum zu ähnlicher rationeller Stufe zu erheben Der Islam, so lehrte mich meine Erfahrung, sei die einzige Religion, in welcher Aberglaube und heidnische Rudimente nicht durch den Rationalismus, sondern durch die orthodoxe Lehre verpönt werden p 59 ie, "In those weeks, I truly entered into the spirit of Islam to such an extent that ultimately I became inwardly convinced that I myself was a Muslim, and judiciously discovered that this was the only religion which, even in its doctrinal and official formulation, can satisfy philosophic minds My ideal was to elevate Judaism to a similar rational level Islam, as my experience taught me, is the only religion, in which superstitious and heathen ingredients are not frowned upon by rationalism, but by orthodox doctrine"

Sander Gilman, in commenting on this passage, writes that, 'the Islam he discovered becomes the model for a new spirit of Judaism at the close of the nineteenth century’ 1 In Cairo Goldziher even prayed as a Muslim: "In the midst of the thousands of the pious, I rubbed my forehead against the floor of the mosque Never in my life was I more devout, more truly devout, than on that exalted Friday"2

Despite his love for Islam, Goldziher remained a devout Jew all his life His affection for both religions led him to seek the cross pollination of ideas between the faiths Though denied a paid teaching position at the University owing to his faith, he refused to convert to Christianity Such an act would have guaranteed him financial independence and professional success But his deep seated affections for his ancestral faith did not allow him to abandon it

Goldziher died in Budapest


In 1890 he published Muhammedanische Studien in which he showed how Hadith reflected the legal and doctrinal controversies of the two centuries after the death of Muhammad rather than the words of Mohamed himself He was a strong believer in the view that Islamic law owes its origins to Roman Law but in the opinion of Patricia Crone his arguments here are "uncharacteristically weak"3

Goldziher was denied a teaching post at Budapest University until he was 44, then becoming the first Jewish scholar to accede to such a position He represented the Hungarian government and the Academy of Sciences at numerous international congresses He received the large gold medal at the Stockholm Oriental Congress in 1889 He became a member of several Hungarian and other learned societies, was appointed secretary of the Jewish community in Budapest He was made LittD of Cambridge 1904 and LLD of Aberdeen 1906


  • Ignác Goldziher, Abū Ḥātim Sahl ibn Muḥammad Sijistānī 1896 Kitāb al-muʻammirīn Volumes 1-2 of Abhandlungen zur arabischen Philologie Buchhandlung und Druckerei vormals EJ Brill Retrieved 2011-07-06 
  • Tagebuch, ed Alexander Scheiber Leiden: Brill, 1978 ISBN 90-04-05449-9
  • zur Literaturgeschichte der Shi'a 1874
  • Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprachgelehrsamkeit bei den Arabern Vienna, 1871–1873
  • Der Mythos bei den Hebräern und seine geschichtliche Entwickelung Leipzig, 1876; Eng trans, R Martineau, London, 1877
  • Muhammedanische Studien Halle, 1889–1890, 2 vols ISBN 0-202-30778-6
    • English translation: Muslim Studies, 2 vols Albany, 1977
  • Abhandlungen zur arabischen Philologie, 2 vols Leiden, 1896–1899
  • Buch vom Wesen der Seele Berlin 1907
  • Vorlesungen über den Islam 1910; 2nd ed revised by Franz Babinger, 1925
    • English translation: Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, trans Andras and Ruth Hamori Princeton University Press, 1981


Goldziher's eminence in the sphere of scholarship was due primarily to his careful investigation of pre-Islamic and Islamic law, tradition, religion and poetry, in connection with which he published a large number of treatises, review articles and essays contributed to the collections of the Hungarian Academy Most of his scholarly works are still considered relevant

His works have taken on a renewed importance in recent times owing to Edward Said's critical attacks in his book Orientalismcitation needed Said himself was to reprove his work's defect for failing to pay sufficient attention to scholars like Goldziher4 Of five major German orientalists, he remarked that four of them, despite their profound erudition, were hostile to Islam Goldziher's work was an exception in that he appreciated 'Islam's tolerance towards other religions', though this was undermined by his dislike of anthropomorphism in Mohammad's thought, and what Said calls 'Islam's too exterior theology and jurisprudence5 In his numerous books and articles, he sought to find the origins of Islamic doctrines and rituals in the practices of other cultures In doing so, he posited that Islam continuously developed as a civilization, importing and exporting ideas

See alsoedit

  • Islamic scholars
  • Josef Horovitz


  1. ^ Gilman, Sander 2006 "Can the Experience of Diaspora Judaism Serve as a Model for Islam in Today's Multicultural Europe" In Schenker, Hillel; Ziad, Abu Zayyad Islamophobia and anti-Semitism Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener pp 59–74 ISBN 1-55876-402-X 
  2. ^ The Jewish Discovery of Islam by Martin Kramer
  3. ^ Crone, Patricia 2002 Roman, Provincial and Islamic Law Cambridge: Cambridge University Press p 3 ISBN 0-521-52949-2 
  4. ^ Said, E 1978 Orientalism Pantheon Books p 18 ISBN 0-394-42814-5 
  5. ^ Said, ibid p209
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed 1911 "Goldziher, Ignaz" Encyclopædia Britannica 12 11th ed Cambridge University Press 

External linksedit

  • Works by or about Ignác Goldziher at Internet Archive
  • A review of the book on Goldziher of the major contemporary scholar of his oeuvre, Róbert Simon: 1

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