Ignác (Yitzhaq Yehuda) Goldziher (June 22, 1850 – November 13, 1921), often credited as Ignaz Goldziher, was a Hungarian orientalist and is widely considered among the founders of modern Islamic studies in Europe.
Born in Székesfehérvár
of Jewish heritage, he was educated at the universities of Budapest
with the support of Baron Eötvös
, Hungarian minister of culture. He became privatdozent
in 1872. In the next year, under the auspices of the Hungarian government, he began a journey through Syria
, and took the opportunity of attending lectures of Muslim sheiks in the mosque of al-Azhar
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 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".
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 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.
In addition to his scholarly works, Goldziher kept a relatively 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)
- i.e., "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."
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.
- Tagebuch, edited by 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 (Muslim Studies) (Halle, 1889-1890, 2 vols.) ISBN 0-202-30778-6
- Abhandlungen zur arabischen Philologie (Leiden, 1896-1899, 2 vols.)
- Buch v. Wesen d. Seele (ed. 1907)
- A review of the book on Goldziher of the major contemporary scholar of his oeuvre, Róbert Simon: