Ignaz Goldziher

From Academic Kids

Ignaz Goldziher (June 22, 1850 - 1921), was a Jewish Hungarian orientalist.

Born in Stuhlweissenburg, he was educated at the universities of Budapest, Berlin, Leipzig and Leiden, and 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 el-Azhar in Cairo.

He was the first Jewish scholar to become professor in Budapest University (1894), and 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 Litt. D. of Cambridge (1904) and LL.D. of Aberdeen (1906). His eminence in the sphere of scholarship is 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.

Among his chief works are:

  • Beiträge zur Literaturgeschichte der Shi'a (1874)
  • Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprachgelehrsamkeit bei den Arabern (Vienna, 1871-1873)
  • Der Mythos bei den Hebyhern und seine geschichtliche Entwickelung (Leipzig, 1876; Eng. trans., R Martineau, London, 1877)
  • Muhammedanische Studien (Halle, 1889-1890, 2 vols.)
  • Abhandlungen zur arabischen Philologie (Leiden, 1896-1899, 2 vols.)
  • Buch v. Wesen d. Seele (ed. 1907).

The Hungarian Islamic Studies scholar of Jewish descent Ignaz Goldziher (1850—1921) is widely recognized as the founder (along with only two or three other scholars) of the scientific study of Islam in Europe. Goldziher undoubtedly has an enormous influence in the field of Islamic studies and practically everything he wrote between roughly 1870 and 1920 is still studied assiduously in universities throughout the world. Along with a tremendously busy schedule comprising of lecturing and composing scholarly works, Goldziher also kept a relatively personal record of his reflections, travel records and daily records. This journal was later published in German as «Tagebuch» ed. Alexander Scheiber (Leiden: Brill, 1978).

The following extremely interesting and authentic statements are taken from the mentioned pages of this journal, and provide us with a remarkable insight into his feelings about Islam,


Ich lebte mich denn auch wuhrend 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 doktrinur-offiziellen Gestaltung und Formulirung philosophische Kpfe befriedigen knne. Mein Ideal war es, das Judenthum zu uhnlicher 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 verpnt werden. (p. 59)

i.e., «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, so taught me my experience, is the only religion, in which superstitious and heathen ingredients are not frowned upon by the rationalism, but by the orthodox teachings.»

Reference

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