‘Islamic Civilization’ as a (Medieval) Problem: the Idea of Islamic Modernity in Islamwissenschaft

Preprint David Moshfegh


In 1910, Carl Heinrich Becker, a young pioneering scholar of the emergent field of Islamwissenschaft, founded the journal, Der Islam, the first organ committed to the discipline in Germany. Becker was himself the first Islamicist to achieve an academic chair within the Kaiserreich (at the newly founded Hamburg Kolonialinstitut in 1908). But, the gathering academic institutionalization of the Islamicist field Becker represented was hardly a mere German phenomenon. Der Islam, still active today, was one of a flurry of such lasting ‘Islam journals’ that were founded in the decade before the Great War.[1] The contemporary academic reader, conversant with the debates about Orientalism in the last decades, might quickly suspect that this moment of the consolidation of a distinctly Islamicist focus in Orientalist scholarship constitutes one of the pivotal junctures for the birth of the theologocentric reduction of the history and culture of Muslims to an essentialized Islam that would end in our own day in the idea of civilizational clash between the West and Islam. One could then read this moment as part of the rise of The Idea of the Muslim World, the title of Cemil Aydin’s recent work, in which he argues that this essentialized idea was first created by Europeans and then fatefully (and tragically) appropriated by Muslims themselves in fighting European imperialism.[2] Such a reader though would do well to think through Becker’s seminal essay, Islam as a Problem, that programmatically introduced his journal and the Islamicist discipline to the broader public.[3] For, Becker’s essay speaks directly to the problem of essentializing diverse Muslim histories and cultures through Islam; it speaks directly to contemporary sensitivities that drive people to speak of ‘Muslim majority societies’ as against the ‘Muslim world’.


Becker’s essay began by making clear that his subject would be not the problems of the young Islamicist discipline, but rather “Islam as a Problem.”[4] The problem of Islam for the disciplinary study of it was namely the problem of essentialization. Becker asked what could possibly justify referring to the massive diversity in the religious, intellectual, cultural and political life of Muslims across the world and history simply under the rubric of Islam? No one would speak of Abyssinian Christians and Protestant Christianity in one breath under the rubric of ‘Christianity’ without making themselves laughable. But, somehow this was deemed legitimate in the case of Islam.[5] Here, the religious life of Turks and Negros (and Becker meant directly to juxtapose cultivated versus primitive religion in the juxtaposition), the intellectual height of al-Gazali and the Sudanese Mahdi, not to mention the historical fate of such distinct races as the Aryans, Semites and Negroes were all to be captured by the cluster concept, “Islam” and “Islamic civilization.”[6] Becker’s aim in the essay was in fact to produce an anti-essentialist historical analysis of Islamic history that would unmask how Islam had come to encompass an essentialized concept. The sources of the essentialization of Islam that Becker addressed were threefold. First, there was the European philological essentialization of Islam, which viewed it as simply the product of Arab culture and the Semitic monotheistic spirit. Becker made it repeatedly clear that a proper historical understanding of the advent of an Islamic civilization would make clear that with all of the Arabic impact and shadings, it had become a reality precisely through the demise of Arab dominance over it.[7] Islamic civilization, he said, was more the consolidation of Near Eastern Hellenistic civilization than any Arab outgrowth. As he famously put it, “without Alexander the Great, no Islamic civilization.”[8] But, the other two sources of the essentialization of Islam, were a good deal more paradigmatic. They focused rather on the fact that Islam encompassed not only a religion that united all Muslims across the world, but also a state ideal according to which legitimate sovereignty emanated from Islamic leadership as well as a unified civilization, a ‘cultural whole’ in which Muslims, despite their differences, saw themselves primarily as Muslims.[9] Now, it was a simple step to move, via this trio of an Islamic religion, state ideal and unitary civilization to the theologocentric conclusion that Islam as a religion stood behind the idea of the Islamic state and Islamic civilization. This essentialized and essentially medieval theologocentric view had been that of Christendom and the self-identified Christian standpoint that viewed Islam as the monolith enemy and Other. In this reading, Arab Muslims had created the Islamic state and civilization by spreading Islam through the sword. But, Becker argued that the theologocentric essentialization of Islam had not been merely a Christian invention. Rather, traditional Islamic Orthodoxy itself viewed Islam as determinative of all aspects of the life, history and culture of Muslims. In other words, it was ‘medieval Islam’ that had created and maintained, above all, the notion of a Muslim world and polity driven in all that occurred in through Islam. [10]


In seeking to proffer a critical historical, post-essentialist perspective on Islamic history and Islamic civilization, Becker argued that much of the Islamic sources had to be read against the grain. Namely, the Islamic ideal and theory propagated within them had not in fact conformed to the actual social and cultural praxis, so that the two had to be understood not in their identity but in how one had served to shape the other.[11] Becker’s essay provided an outline of Islamic history that did not take the Orthodox definition of Islam to be definitive of the idea of Islamic polities and of Islamic civilization. Instead, he tried to show how the Islamic religion, the Islamic state ideal and Islamic civilization represented distinct historical constructions that had ultimately coalesced into an ideal unity through the consolidation of Islamic law and Orthodoxy, despite the cultural and political contradictions between them, as well as the cultural and political contradictions that this idealized Islamic unity continued to mask. For example, religious propagation, Becker argued, had played no significant role in the Arab conquests and the outgrowth of what was in fact at first an ‘Arab empire’. Rather, in the growth of the Medinese state, under the prophet Muhammad and his successors, Islam, that had been a matter of religious enthusiasm in Mecca, came to serve as the byword allowing for the unity, if fractured unity it still was, of the Arab nation. This unity then allowed for the last and most stupendous Semitic migration out of the Arabian peninsula, due to the adverse climactic and economic circumstances prevailing within it.[12] The national Arab glossing of Islam at this point, Becker argued, was made clear by the fact that the fiscal health of the Umayyad state was predicated on the existence of tribute paying non-Muslim masses. The religious Islamicization of the ‘Islamic empire’ took in fact two to three centuries to consolidate itself.[13] Islamic civilization was then neither an Arab phenomenon nor the creation of Islamic religious enthusiasm. Rather, it was in the de facto creation of a massive Islamic empire, that encompassed the territories of the Near Eastern civilizations formed under the aegis of Aramaic Hellenism and the Persian imperial heritage, that a new Islamic civilization and synthesis emerged. As more and more of the culturally and intellectually more advanced non-Muslim subjects of the Caliphate converted to Islam and remade it in their own image; as the Abbasids adopted the practices of the religious bureaucratic empires of the Byzantines and Persians and so cultivated Islamicization; and, as the economic unity and massive cultural mixing allowed by the united empire allowed the consolidation of a new Islamic heritage that synthesized and put on a thoroughly new footing the Near Eastern heritage available to it, something called Islamic civilization came into being.[14]


But, it was the charge of Becker’s essay to argue that the unity of this Islamic civilization was in fact an ideal, theoretical unity that did not enjoin or capture socio-cultural practice. Rather, it was a medieval unity, that under the cover a sacred, Islamic law, theologized and reified all reality, making Islam into a means either of rationalizing pressing realities or of reading the latter backwards into Islam. Hence, Becker argued that the Islamic state ideal of unified Muslim sovereignty had also been consolidated precisely when its actual reality had dissipated, though it had remained the language of legitimate Islamic governance into the present of his own time. Hence, the upshot of Becker’s analysis of the problem of Islam, namely of the essentialization of Islam was the problematic survival of Islamic civilization as a medieval reality. One could speak coherently of an Islam and Islamic civilization as such, because Muslims themselves still harbored an essentialized view of its ideal unity. The problem of Islam, accordingly, captured the problematic ‘medieval’ self-understanding of Muslims, which, Becker argued was now in the process of being shaken through modern liberal and national cultural consciousness.[15] If one followed Becker’s logic, the conclusion could only be that the problem of Islam was the problem of Islamic modernity. The logic of Islamwissenschaft, in this reading, could only be that of an auto-destruction. It would survive until an Islamic modernity would dispel the medieval ideal unity of Islamic civilization and allow Muslims to see themselves in their full cultural and national differences.


The task of this essay is to follow through on the complex ways in which the new discipline of Islamwissenschaft came, at the turn of the twentieth century, to apply the European historicist logic of ‘medieval and modern’ to the Islamic heritage. My argument will be that the globalization of these categories, as I hope the above description might provide some intimations, was a good deal more interesting than has thus far been envisioned. I begin my analysis by way of the post-colonial critique of Orientalism and the debates on the character of European modernity and historicism to which they have led. In a second section, I argue that the terms of the Orientalism debates have served more to obfuscate than to illuminate the logic of early Islamwissenschaft, whose roots must rather be sought in the nineteenth century European ‘science of religion’. It was in this nineteenth century European study of ‘religion’ that I argue the categories of the ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ achieved a distinctly religious historicist rather than merely secular historicist meaning. In a third section, focusing on the work of Hungarian Jewish Orientalist, Ignaz Goldziher, who was already in his own time widely regarded as the founder of Islamwissenschaft, I demonstrate that his reformist application of the categories of the ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ inaugurated the anti-essentialist, anti-philological and anti-theologocentric Islamicist discipline outlined in Becker’s essay. In this guise, I argue that Goldziher’s religious application of the European historicist categories of ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ to Islam was meant to show that it was a reformed Islamic monotheism that would be the telos of European cultural modernization and the religious progress it made possible. Goldziher, thus, made of European historicism an Islamic historicism with Islam as the rightful telos of the universal history of humanity. In a final section, I argue that the ubiquitous problem of Islam, namely, the question in Islamwissenschaft of Islamic modernity and how Modernity was to be globalized, led our own C. H. Becker, in the course of the Jihad debate in the field, during WWI, to the idea of an Ottoman Sonderweg. The idea of a distinct Ottoman Islamic modern path and of plural modern trajectories thus ultimately undermined the historicist idea of European progress as normative and put all the plural modern paths on the same temporal path. Hence, the essay shows that while Modernity began as a European project, its globalization served instead to make it a contested site, both in terms of who could genuinely and fully represent it as well as in what it could ultimately be said to mean.

1. European Modernity, Orientalism, Islam

The notion of Modernity, of a ‘New Age’, is a European historical schematization derived from European experience. But in line with the universalist, globalizing imperative of this schema, it has become a global condition that confronts all cultural trajectories across the world. From this contemporary cross-cultural perspective in turn, the idea of Modernity has itself become a highly contested site. Some say that we have never been modern; that Modernity has always been only a rhetoric, not a practice.[16] Others add that the rhetoric of Modernity has been the Western and European imperial ideology, imposed on non-Western peoples and civilizations in order to delegitimize and disinherit them of their distinct trajectories and cultural vocabularies.[17] A wholly other reaction has been to say that those non-Western civilizations always already had the ‘modern’ trajectory within themselves, realized or not.[18] And, in this light, another move is to say that Modernity was not globalized by Europeans, that it was from the start a global reality in which the Europeans were themselves participants.[19] As an intellectual historian of modern Europe, I would argue that the idea of ‘Modernity’ must be analyzed in terms of the emergence of a specific historicist consciousness in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe and its consolidation within the European Enlightenment. It would be better to think through the contours and repercussions of this historicist consciousness than to deny its existence. On the other hand, it is equally useless to dispute that in particularly nineteenth century Europe, this modern historicist consciousness was not merely a periodizing schema that placed all human cultural experience on the same universal historical plane. Here Modernity was European; it identified and demarcated Europe from the backward non-European peoples that were judged in terms of their incapacity to embody modern historical consciousness and who were thus consigned to the past.


These are no doubt some of the considerations that drove Edward Said, in his critique of European Orientalism, to argue that Orientalist discourse was no mere exoticizing pastime or recondite scholarly undertaking. The prevalent perspective remains Said’s critique of Orientalist scholarship and of Islamwissenschaft in particular as an essentializing, imperialist discourse that served to objectify and dehumanize Muslims.[20] This Saidian critique has been broadened to argue that Islamwissenschaft has essentialized Muslims by way of anti-Semitic racism and/or Islamophobic theologocentrism, namely, the tendency, as I noted in discussing Becker, to make Islam the totalizing, essentializing determinant of every aspect of the historical experience of Muslims and the social, cultural and political practices in so-called ‘Muslim societies.’[21]


Said himself positioned Orientalist discourse as a lynchpin of the modern historicist consciousness of the West, arguing that, from the nineteenth century onwards, this consciousness was founded on an invidious ethno-philological opposition between the Aryan subjects and Semitic objects of History.[22] Focusing particularly on the thinking of Ernest Renan, which he took to encompass all European Orientalism,[23] Said argued Orientalist scholarship was fundamentally driven by this philological/racial divide between the Semitic and the Aryan: this secularized, racialized historicism, which conflated language, race, religion and destiny, characterized the Semites as culturally and historically inert products of their desert environment and amorphous language, while touting the Aryan capacity to conceptualize and act upon nature to overcome themselves and develop as historical actors. Because the Semites philologically and culturally represented their desert environment, they could not appreciate difference; hence, they were incapable of mythology and so were instinctively monotheists. Their indubitably great insight of monotheism was thus less an achievement than a reflection of their cultural emptiness and incapacity for further development.[24] The Aryans, by contrast, first recognized nature and its diversity in myth and eventually developed the sophistication that led to scientific understanding and the formulation of this fundamental insight in modern scientific terms.


In the Saidian approach, the Orientalist tradition represented primarily a political phenomenon, a main branch of the nineteenth century European racism grounding imperial ambitions and rule.[25] It was a racializing and racist historicism in which the modern Aryan West spoke in the name of universal progressive humanity while painting the Semites as caught in an immobile past from which they could not escape except through European imperial intervention. The Orientalist study of Islam—what Said always referred to as Islamic Orientalism—he saw as no more than the most regressive rehashing of this racist, imperialist Orientalist discourse. In Islamic Orientalism, the Semites were allegedly the instinctively religious people and Islam was simply the Semitic religion, the other of modern secular sensibility. More recently, Gil Andijar has sought to complete the Saidian picture by arguing that Orientalist anti-Semitism and Islamophobic theologocentrism, namely, the essentialization and demonization of Semites/Muslims by way of reduction to race and religion, went hand in hand: first, he contends, the Semites were defined as ‘the religious people’ (as in Renan); then the Jews were reduced to a racial type, the Arabs and Muslims to Islam.[26]


Said’s critique of Orientalism led in fact led to a trenchant debate, in which the divergent treatments of the Orientalist tradition sketched out fundamentally opposed standpoints on the nature of European Modernity itself. Namely, while Said clearly won the day within the ‘Middle-East’ field, the Area Studies reformulation of ‘Islamic Studies’ in the post-WWII American academy, he was vociferously opposed by stalwarts of the Orientalist tradition.[27] Foremost amongst them, the Islamicist Bernard Lewis, in his early heated exchange with Said, painted the trajectory of Orientalist scholarship by contrast in terms of disciplinary formation and the growing professionalization of the European academy. Rather than representing imperialist interests, Lewis argued that the Islamicist discipline was characterized by the ever clearer epistemic imperative to push beyond all such interested attitudes and biased motivations towards genuine humanistic understanding.[28] For defenders of the Orientalist tradition like Lewis, it could only be judged by the yardstick of specialized knowledge, raising itself beyond the merely cultural and political; no other yardstick made sense. Few in the academic context today subscribe to such positivist presumptions of epistemic innocence and their ‘politics of truth’. But, what has since made Lewis’s position risible is the fallout meanwhile of his own incessant political interventionism, not to mention he was the founder of the ‘clash of civilizations’ model.[29]


In the context of the war on terror, such heated debates about Orientalism seemed in themselves to play into the clash of civilizations mentality. To counter the accumulating polarizations and cross-demonization, many scholars, most impressively represented by Suzanne Marchand’s work on German Orientalism, have sought to replace the one-dimensional characterizations of the Orientalist legacy in the Orientalism debates.[30] The proponents of a ‘third way’ have, to this end, mostly focused on the Orientalist heritage as primarily a pregnant cultural phenomenon:[31] they’ve shown that one is bound to find in the academic Orientalism of the nineteenth century not simply the creation and ordering of ‘Others’, but also a European search for cultural roots and origins.[32] This search for cultural identity came, of course, to involve all manner of self-projections, and some with quite ambivalent and invidious consequences for ‘internal outsiders’, like the Jews, who were accordingly pushed to the margins of this new story of Western civilization.[33] But, by expanding the range of cultural identity and identification beyond the Christian and Classical canons, Orientalist scholarship also introduced the promise—if left to us to fulfill—of a more cosmopolitan, less ‘Eurocentric’ sense of self.[34] Nonetheless, in this new scholarship too, ‘Islamic Orientalism’ has tended, no doubt with an eye to teleologies ending in contemporary conflicts, to remain on the margins as something like the imperialist, ‘politicized’ bad apple of the Orientalist canon.[35]


The Orientalism debates, accordingly, were predicated on divergent verdicts on a Modernity that was distinctly European and historicist. In one reading, this European historicism, pitched in a universal human vocabulary, had been the means in fact of divesting the ‘Orientals’ of their humanity, of portraying them as racially incapable of such universal human consciousness and progress. It had been a political tool for caging them in an eternal past and thereby robbing them of their future. European imperialism was thus not an accidental feature but rather the very meaning and telos of a European Modernity, that was fashioned as an Aryan prerogative against the ‘Medieval’ Semites. Those who defended European modernist historicism, against Said, continued to insist on the thematic of a universal human advance enabled by epistemic progress. In this version of the European modernist narrative, the ‘developed, democratic West’ served again as the model for the globalization of its presumed universal values, its study and accumulating knowledge of non-Europeans as preparing the ground for their eventual realization of what it had already achieved. Meanwhile, the proponents of a ‘third way’ beyond the knowledge/power polemics waged between ‘Europe’ and its Others, marked also a distinct trajectory for European Modernity. By interpreting the European study of the Orient in terms of a search for cultural identity and so of cultural self-fashioning, this stance constructed European Modernity as itself an unfinished project, one that beckoned a multi-civilizational, multi-cultural future but which Europeans themselves, in their self-absorbed use of it for the purposes of cultural self-assertion, had been unable to achieve. Hence, the Orientalism debates dissolved themselves in directly opposed visions of the meaning and telos of European Modernity: the political deployment of a universal humanist vocabulary to ideologically engineer its opposite, the imperialist dehumanization of non-European Others; the European achievement of universal values and knowledge that would act as a catalyst for their ultimate de facto globalization and realization; the promise of a universal, multi-cultural future, which, however had not been achieved as yet by Europe itself.

2. The Science of Religion, Islamwissenschaft, Modern Religion

In the rest of this paper, I would like to demonstrate the way in which Said’s account of the globalization of European historical categories—in fact all of the Orientalism debates about the character of (European) Modernity—is complicated once we understand the context within which the European historicist schema of ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ was applied to the Islamic heritage. It was this globalizing application of ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ to Islam that first led to the founding of Islamwissenschaft, or the discipinary study of Islam, in the work of the Hungarian Jewish Orientalist, Iganz Goldziher, in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. But not only did Goldziher not pit the modern secular West against the Medieval Semitic Islam; not only did his universalized historicism seek to displace Renan’s racialization of history. Goldziher’s globalizing application of ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’, rather than imperialist imposition, represents one of the ways in which the idea of Modernity became the contested site it is today. Goldziher’s conceptualization of Islamic history derived from his reformist Jewish background. And, as against Renan’s racialization of Islam, it sought to position Modernity as the very internal destiny and telos of Islamic history. To understand how Goldziher could come to associate not simply Europe but Islam and Judaism with Modernity, my work proposes that we study the trajectory of Islamwissenschaft not simply in the context of the Orientalism debates, debates about whether Orientalism represents essentially racist, imperialist politics or primarily an epistemic process of professionalization and disciplinary formation or an episode in European cultural self-fashioning. Namely, it means moving beyond attempts to reduce Islamwissenschaft to ‘politics’, ‘knowledge’ or ‘culture’ to see how it was all these things.


As against such reductionist treatments of Orientalist scholarship, I propose studying Islamwissenschaft in the context of the nineteenth century European study of religion from which it emerged. Namely, I propose studying Islamwissenschaft through what was called the ‘science of religion’. Now, it may seem that turning to the modern European study of religion and its critical historical methodology could only serve to repeat the invidious deployment of the idea of a European modernity pitted against non-Europeans in a different key. In fact, this seems to be at the heart of the modern/medieval distinction with the medieval intimating the dark, dogmatic authority of religion over all areas of life. So, the very idea of religion as encompassing a transcultural, transhistorical aspect of human experience across all religious traditions and phenomena has, as in the work of Talal Asad, been analyzed as itself a creation of secular Western Modernity. Asad has argued that the very notion of ‘religion’ as something that supposedly all putatively ‘religious’ traditions across human societies and history share is no more than a product of the modern anthropologization of religion itself: ‘religion’ is a mirror figure of the secular and secularization process that analyze religious traditions through anthropological categories not their own and thus suggest that ‘religion’, when unmasked as all too human, can act (legitimately) only as bulwark for the irrational areas of life not amenable to secular processes. In this reading, ‘religion’, as a category circumscribed within a specific area of life, particularly belief about its irrational aspects, represents a secular policing of the medieval pretensions of religious traditions to account and prescribe for all human experience and beyond. For Asad, European Modernity is secular, and ‘religion’ is a secular critique of the ‘medieval’. Again, a modern Europe stands against a medieval Islam.[36]


In my work on the ‘science of religion’ tradition, I argue that neither the category of ‘religion’ it cultivated nor its critical historical methodology can be understood in terms of such a secularization narrative. To understand the ‘science of religion’ tradition in nineteenth century European scholarship is to see the way in which Asad is right in arguing that the notion of ‘religion’ is a modern product of the anthropologization of religious traditions but wrong in thinking that it is an inherently secularist or reductionist product. Namely, the ‘science of religion’ tradition in nineteenth century scholarship emerged as an anthropological championing of religion that served to create the notion of ‘religion’ as an irreducible aspect of human experience. The proud products of nineteenth-century scholarship, the critical historicist and comparative study of religion (as well as mythology) long developed within its framework.[37]


What the nineteenth-century scientists of religion proffered were comparative and historicist accounts of the religious experience in its progress through the religions and the religious history of humanity and the promise that their own critical historical study would fulfill this progress by the proper understanding and realization of pure ‘religion’, allowing it to become what it was destined to be. Our category of ‘religion’ thus arose in this nineteenth-century liberal Protestant conception of ‘religion’ as a distinct sphere of human experience, more and less progressively represented in humanity’s religions and religious history, whose Historical telos was its fulfillment in its purity. The ‘science of religion’ then, far from any secularist debunking of ‘religion’, involved the historicist idealization and production of it, that parsed religious traditions and canons against the history of their formation to argue their promise lay not in any presumed immaculate origin, but in their end, as divulged critically. My argument, in laying out the trajectory of the ‘science of religion’ in nineteenth-century European scholarship, is that Islamwissenschaft arose in the work of Ignaz Goldziher in the closing decades of the century as a science of religion aimed at the teleological purification and idealization of the Islamic heritage, namely, on that viewed Islamic monotheism, when critically reformed, as the telos of the religious progress in human history.


The idea that there is an irreducible and autochthonous realm of human experience that is distinctly religious in character developed in Protestant thought, particularly in the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher, at the turn of the nineteenth century.[38] The notion of religious experience thus posited ‘religion’ as a transcultural, transhistorical aspect of all human experience and development over time. All positive, actual religious phenomena that could be called such across cultures and history, from sacrificial rites to the most personal, mystical devotion, were to be referred to and judged by the standard of genuine religious experience and its peculiar essence.[39] ‘Religion’ as a transhistorical, transcultural aspect of human reality should remind us of those other such concepts posited in the nineteenth century as essentially natural human categories—namely, those of ‘culture’ and ‘nation’,[40] against and through which the distinctly religious came to be defined.[41] Like ‘culture’ and ‘nation’, what was called religious experience did not simply capture all that was religion and its development over time. Rather, it was the idea of religious experience that for the first time created something called ‘religion’, encompassing all humanity and history and thus the concept of religion still prevalent into our own time. After all, the so-called religious traditions in the pre-modern past did not generally conceive of themselves and their rivals in comparative, modular fashion, but rather hierarchically and polemically, through the proper understanding of and relationship to God or the cosmos.


The idea of religious experience as a distinct, irreducible aspect of what it means to be human first emerged in the work of Schleiermacher precisely as the means of warding off ongoing attempts in Enlightenment thought to reduce religious beliefs and practices to putatively more fundamental aspects of human life. Religious beliefs were thus reconfigured as encompassing more or less—and it was generally less—rational belief about the world, creation, the soul, the afterlife. Religious prescriptions were judged as encompassing a more or less—and it was generally less—pure branch of moral action and ethics. Hence, many Enlightenment thinkers made a distinction between natural (or rational) religion as constituting proper belief or morality, as against the positive religions of human history. Schleiermacher went in the opposite direction: validating all the actual human experience of religion in history, he preached the idea of religious experience against just this reduction of it into the dichotomy between belief and action, knowledge and morality. And, he did so by pitching ‘religious experience’ against this fact/value dichotomy itself. Schleiermacher defined religious experience in terms of humanity’s sense of dependence, of the holistic feeling of infinity and the infinite connectedness of all being.[42] Think of the ‘oceanic feeling’ that Freud discarded as the foundation of religious attitudes in Civilization and Its Discontents.[43] The ‘oceanic feeling’ functioned as just this foundation for the scholars of what came to be known as the ‘science of religion’ in the nineteenth century. The immediate feeling of being part of an infinite, meaningful whole, Schleiermacher argued, was the means by which to redeem a world in which fact had become divided from value, knowledge from morality. Religious experience would save a world in which human experience had become increasingly depersonalized into empirical data, serving to secure the accumulation of objective, public knowledge, but no longer able to provide direction and meaning. The immediate, intuitive sense of being part of a meaningful whole was meant to congeal into just such a concrete sense of personal and cultural direction, animating equally belief and action.[44] History, Schleiermacher thus read, as a scene of religious progress towards the realization of the truly universal experience religion was meant to be, and the subject of this progress was to be Protestant Christianity, which he argued alone had the capacity for the full idealization to become pure ‘religion’.[45]


The attraction of the idea of ‘religious experience’ for scholars of religion was that it began with actual human experiences of the sacred in order to understand the meaning and role of ‘religion’. The problem for later critics was that beginning with human experiences to understand and define the sacred made it all too easy to move in the other direction. Religion, defined experientially, could thus be used to sacralize the most quotidian, all too human endeavors.[46] The celebrated theologian Albert Ritschl, for example, seemed to reduce being a good Christian to doing one’s social and national duty. Many religious thinkers in this mold did not shrink from sacralizing participation in WWI as a divine mission.[47] It was on this basis that Karl Barth condemned the idea of ‘religious experience’, arguing that, as the key to understanding the divine, it was part and parcel of the Enlightenment creation of a ‘religion of man’.[48] When Barth was finished with Ritschl, he looked little better than a televangelist.[49] God, he thundered, was the Absolute Other who judged humanity, not the other way around.


The critique of Barth and others in this vein is understandable. The ‘science of religion’, grounded through the idea of ‘religious experience’, involved, as I have argued, an anthropologization and historicization of religious life. And, in fact, the Left Hegelians, who began with Schleiermacher and Hegel, ended by making God into the alienated, reified self-consciousness of humanity, a self-consciousness that would become philosophically adequate with the realization of human divinity.[50] Left Hegelian humanism therefore contended that the uncovering of ‘religion’ meant that it was not ideal religion that was ‘covered’ by all-too human realities but that ‘religion’ was in fact the cover for divine humanity, which would claim its scared History in arriving at self-consciousness at its end.[51] Moreover, the critical historical method, the ‘higher criticism’ of sacred texts that was the pride of the nineteenth century scholarship seemed to be playing a like destructive, secularizing role. By examining sacred texts as historically conditioned human artifacts, by focusing on the life of Jesus instead of the salvation proffered by Christ, scholars of religion were allegedly turning religious traditions into little more than a cultural heritage, historical tales serving at best a pedagogy of moral uplift.[52]


However, again, I argue that the science of religion tradition serves to displace this notion that it entailed merely a secularizing narrative and telos. Yes, the Left Hegelian ‘religion of man’ represented one of the possibilities of this burgeoning tradition, but it was in fact not the one focused on critical historical examination of canonical texts and tradition. By contrast, F. C. Baur and the Tübingen Schule continued to follow Schleiermacher in conceiving of ‘religion’ in terms of the most universal consciousness possible, making it and its full realization the subject and telos of History.[53] The teleological development and purification of religious consciousness towards its universal essence entailed as such the progress and end of History. This progress the Tübingen scholars characterized in terms of the dialectical struggle between a ritualistic, particularistic, aristocratic Jewish principle vying against a Pauline universalist, egalitarian, spiritual principle in the development of Christianity.[54] The consolidated Christian canon, which, critically and historically examined, reflected and was riven by this dialectical conflict, in becoming canonical, represented a historical equilibrium between Jewish and Pauline Christianity, one which reified and traditionalized the Christian message in eternalized, simultaneous format. Accordingly, Tübingen scholars argued that the canonical corpus and tradition of Christianity, a homogenized whole assumed to be one in its transcendental unity and origin, had in fact evolved according to a dialectical process of historical formation and ongoing reception, and that the very internal telos of this process aimed at its critical historicization and reconstruction. Hence, their own critical unraveling of the canon, the Tübingen scholars read as both demonstrating and operationalizing its developmental teleology towards the perfection and purification of religion.[55] In other words, historical criticism of the canon was the highest religious act possible. It was with such religious rather than secularizing tasks that the ‘science of religion’ and the historicizing methodologies of the ‘higher criticism’ overtook the nineteenth-century academy. Religion was in this science not the other but the telos of Modernity.


The historicist Christian supersessionism of Tübingen and other branches of the Christian science of religion invariably couched the historical progress and purification of religion in terms of Christianity’s overcoming of its Jewish foundations. The differences in the way in which this historicist supersessionism was figured, constituted the fundamental dividing line between the different schools of the Protestant science of religion. For example, Christianity’s overcoming of Judaism could be figured in Renan’s racialized schema terms of the Aryan overcoming of the Semites. I will have more to say about this racist version of the Christian science of religion. But, Christianity’s supersession of Judaism could also be understood, a la Tübingen, in terms or that of Christian universalism overcoming Jewish particularism. Regardless, the Christian Protestant science of religion did not go unchallenged. By the middle of the nineteenth century, all its branches were confronted by scholars of the Wissenschaft des Judentums, which sought to project the Jewish tradition as the one meant to fulfill the teleological task of ‘religion’, namely, to become critically purified as the universal faith of humankind. That is to say that Jewish scholars turned the tables on the Christian ‘science of religion’ to reconfigure the history of religion to mean Judaism’s overcoming of Christianity, meaning monotheism’s ultimate triumph over paganism (i. e. Christianity). Rather than particularistic or national, Jewish history was now accordingly read in terms of a universal mission to spread monotheism.[56] And, the Jews, in the process, were lauded for their universal capacity to engage with all cultures, to the extent the latter proved themselves open to universal scientific and critical pursuits.[57] In this fashion, the great reformist Jewish thinker, Abraham Geiger, arrived at a Jewish supersessionism, making it the ultimate mission of the Jewish tradition, in critically reforming itself, to overcome the Christian descent into paganism and deliver humanity to a purified monotheism.[58]


My argument is that Islamwissenschaft emerged in Goldziher’s work as yet another rival bid at the critical historicization and idealization of a religious tradition, this time, that of the Islamic tradition, as the one capable of the purification necessary to encompass the religion of all humanity. Viewing Islam as a sister monotheistic tradition to Judaism, and unable to secure an autonomous position in the Hungarian Jewish and academic context to fulfill his critical reformist mission with regards to Judaism, Goldziher shifted this mission to Islam and thereby founded Islamwissenschaft.[59] As I have noted, Islamwissenschaft, or what is called Islamic Orientalism, still tends to be viewed through the prism of Edward Said’s work as the most retrograde product of a racist, imperialist discourse bent on objectifying and dehumanizing the Semites as the ur-monotheistic people incapable of scientific thought and historical development. Meanwhile, those who reject this characterization seek to save the scientific status of the Islamicist discipline by denying that cultural or political motivations were instrumental in its formation and development. By tracing the actual development of Islamwissenschaft out of the ‘science of religion’, my aim is not to downplay its political ramifications and agendas nor its highly complex relationship with European imperialism. Quite the opposite. Rather, I argue that, by contrast to the convenient mythological equation of Islamwissenschaft and racist imperialism, the new Islamicist discipline and the science of religion tradition from which it emerged tabled still ongoing problematics as to the proper meaning and role of religion in the personal, political and cultural realms. As such, the discipline became embroiled in questions not only as to whether there could be something that could be called modern religion or religiosity. More, it was the offshoot of debates as to whether true religion, more than any other experience, captured the modern spirit and, if so, then which religious tradition could lay claim to it. It was, in other words, the consequence of a competition between Christianity, Judaism and Islam for the mantle of ‘religion’ and Modernity. Just as the proletariat, in Marx’s thought, were the true inheritors of bourgeois modernity, in Goldziher’s work, Islamic modernity figured as the rightful legatee of the progress Europeans had made. In this light, he positioned ‘Islamic modernity’ as ultimately proving more advanced than its European model. And, if such complication of the idea of a secular European modernity was not enough, the ubiquitous problem of ‘Islamic modernity’ in Islamwissenschaft came, in the ‘Jihad debate’ that broke out in the field during WWI, to undermine the modernist historicist logic of its discourse altogether. Hence, Carl Heinrich Becker, the pioneering Islamicist with which we began the paper, sought to explain his German colleagues’ backing of the Ottoman Jihad call by arguing that being modern did not entail a normative process of progress, in line with which, non-Europeans would simply have to imitate what Europeans had already achieved. Rather, Modernity involved plural trajectories in which different countries and cultures would have to rethink and revive their own traditions, in order to create a coherent identity that would allow them to withstand the challenges of the present. In other words, the ‘Islamic states’ of the East—namely, the ‘developing’ non-European countries—reformulating their own heritage in light of the European challenge came to be no longer the still confused students of Europe but instead paradigms of the modern condition.

3. Islamwissenschaft and Islamic Modernity


Let us return now to the question of what is lost in reading the history of Islamwissenschaft through the dynamics of the Orientalism debate, namely, the imperative to brand it as either politics, knowledge or culture. My task now will be to demonstrate that this is because when viewed within the trajectory of the ‘science of religion’, the Islamicist discipline aimed precisely at the critical historicization of the relationship of ‘religion’ with knowledge, culture and politics, in order to project thereby what these relationships were meant and bound to become. To understand the dynamics of this critical historicization in Goldziher’s scholarship, let me begin by arguing that he founded Islamwissenschaft precisely by replacing the philological distinction between the Semitic (medieval) and the Aryan (modern), which was at the center of the Orientalist scholarship of his time, with a universalist normative schema of human development, grounded on the presumed religious progress made possible in the movement from the medieval to the modern. It is now widely understood that the starting point of Goldziher’s scholarship was his opposition to Renan’s anti-Semitic Philological Orientalism.[60] Pace Said, Renan’s was not in fact a secular historicist racism, but a racially cum philologically oriented branch of the ‘science of religion’ that defined the teleological trajectory of ‘religion’ in terms of the very different roles played by the Semites and Aryans within its progress. Semites were said to be more prone to monotheism because of the very nature of their language, allowing them to get ‘religion’ more right at the beginning. But, the proper understanding and universalization of ‘religion’ that was to be the culmination of Christianity had been and was to be the work of the Aryans.[61] Goldziher worked throughout his scholarship to displace this philological by a universalist historicism moving towards a critically purified monotheism. In his initially reformist focus on the Jewish tradition, his primary aim was to show that the Jews were in no sense ‘instinctive’ monotheists. They had had mythology, like all other peoples, as this was the universal beginning of all human culture.[62] Monotheism was an achievement over time and its first full ideal potential had been announced in Prophetic Judaism, which Goldziher saw as the locus for the coming critical idealization and fulfillment of Judaism as ‘religion’.[63]


However, the way in which Goldziher’s rejection by both his Hungarian Jewish and national communities drove him to transfer his reformist project from the Jewish to the Islamic heritage serves to demonstrate that his subject, in challenging the Aryan/Semitic distinction and Renan’s philological historicism, was the universal history and telos of monotheism: a universal history in which the critical reform of the Jewish and Muslims traditions equally allowed for the religious idealization by which pure monotheism could establish itself beyond Christian paganism.[64] It was again in his reformist reading of the Islamic heritage that Goldziher definitively displaced the Semitic/Aryan distinction as the organizing principle of the Orientalist scholarship of his time with a universalist historicist division between the medieval and modern. Along the lines of Tübingen and Geiger, Goldziher envisioned the religious growth of Islam and Islamic history in terms of the canonical formation of an Islamic Orthodoxy that had proven capable of assimilating the ideal aspects of ‘religion’ within itself, but had done so in a traditionalizing, uncritical manner founded on a reading of all historical development back into the eternal, transcendental origin.[65] Geiger had already made clear that the ultimate universalization of Jewish monotheism was to be carried through a critique of the medieval character of Jewish law. According to this critique, the notion of a sacred, eternal law did not in fact prevent the development of the Jewish tradition; however, it had rendered such development unconscious, by reading changes back into an alleged immaculate origin, represented by Orthodoxy and the Orthodox canon. Such unconscious, medieval development meant the ideological rationalization by way of theological sacralization of extant cultural practices had hampered the ideal development of monotheism. Goldziher argued that this traditionalizing attitude and unconscious mode of development had then led to the ‘medieval’ abuses he likewise associated with the function of Islamic law in ‘traditionalist’ Muslim societies. The critical historical spirit of Modernity was to unlock the true religious spirit of the Islamic and Jewish monotheistic traditions.


The new distinction between the medieval and modern, on which Goldziher based the new Islamicist discipline, came accordingly to be formulated through a ubiquitous critique of Islamic law, focused on a projected gap between its theory and practice. In their critique, Goldziher and his Islamicist colleagues argued that Islamic law envisioned itself as a transcendental, all-encompassing ideal that did not and could not function as positive law.[66] Two prime historical vectors of this Islamicist critique were saint veneration: a practice so inimical to the monotheistic ideal that was, however, highly characteristic of popular worship in the Islamic world and as such accommodated by Islamic law;[67] and, ‘Jihad’, which was portrayed as opportunistic rhetoric feeding an unsustainable ‘fetish’ of Muslim expansion and supremacy.[68] In this account, Islamic law, pace theologocentrism, did not rule Islamic societies but was rather an abstract ideal that masked social and cultural developments; that is, honored in the breach, it functioned as an ideological language for rationalizing them and, if they proved long lasting, for legitimating them by reading them retrospectively into the origin and ideal.[69] Modernist reform meant the critical, historicist rescue of the social and cultural as encompassing the positive realm of the nation;[70] it meant the equally critical, historicist demarcation of ‘religion’ as belonging to the universal personal and devotional realm. Only a critical reconstruction of the Islamic heritage and of the history of Muslim societies could serve to change Islam from ‘ideology’ to Islam as ‘religion’.[71]


The links Goldziher made between religious experience and critical historical knowledge; his demarcation of the universal devotional sphere from the cultural, national and political; as well as the ideology critique of the traditionalist consciousness, ergo theory/practice gap in Islamic law that underlay his schema and, to say it once more, had a direct counterpart in his understanding of Jewish law;[72] all of these make clear that his reformist scholarship of monotheism embodied a reformist practice. Unlike the usual quip about Orientalists as philologists for whom ancient texts represented the only living Orient, Goldziher was deeply engaged with the religious, cultural and political movements of the Islamic world of his time and was friends with some of the great protagonists of early Islamic modernism and reform.[73] His attitude to the Islamic modernism he experienced was dialectical: he welcomed its embrace of modern cultural and political forms but argued that the Islamic heritage had always been capable of historical development, if by unconscious reading of fundamental changes into the supposedly immaculate origin. Rather than claim Islamic origins as the original modern, Goldziher argued that true reform entailed a fully critical historicist reconstruction of the Islamic tradition and the ideal elements within it that could move it towards its purified destiny.[74] On the other hand, he was adamantly in agreement with the anti-imperialist ethos of the Islamic reformists he most respected, because he believed that critical reform represented the internal telos of the Islamic heritage itself and thus required absolute national and cultural autonomy.[75] It was because he believed the critique of the medieval character of Islamic law to be the internal destiny of the Islamic heritage that he positioned Islamic monotheism, when properly reformed to realize the ideal elements within it, as meant to become the universal religion of humanity. In other words, Goldziher position reformed Islamic monotheism, like reformed Jewish monotheism, as the highest modernity available. True religion, true Modernity was not simply European, it was Jewish, it was Muslim. Goldziher’s application of the medieval/modern schema to Islam was meant to show that Islam, like Judaism, was capable of the normative progress of religion in a way Christianity simply was not. Hence, to put the matter programmatically, in terms of our discussion of modern European historicist consciousness, if Modernity began as European, then its globalization rendered it a contested site. In Goldziher’s scholarship, it turned out that, in the scheme of universal history, it was Jews and Muslims that were to be the true inheritors of the cultural progress Europeans had made. The highest Modernity was to be not secular European but Jewish and Muslim.

4. (Islamic) Modernity Beyond ‘Europe’


An anti-imperialist Orientalist who engaged with Islamic reform to idealize the Islamic heritage as the universal faith of humanity and, ipso facto, the highest Modernity: it is no wonder that while Goldziher has not been adequately understood in these terms, that the very intimations of this picture have driven scholars to view him as a thoroughly exceptional figure.[76] This is, on the one hand, to save Goldziher from his connections with imperialist colleagues, on the other, to save oneself from having to rethink the trajectory of Islamwissenschaft as a discipline. I close the paper by arguing that such Goldziher exceptionalism is untenable and that his scholarship and difference can only be understood within the context of the broader Islamicist scholarship his colleagues acknowledged he had founded. So, yes, it is certainly true that no other Islamicist thought that Muslims had as much to teach Europeans (monotheism) as Europeans had to teach Muslims (critical consciousness). But, Goldziher’s fashioning of a Judeo-Islamic modernist historicism that would culminate the European one points the way to even more pregnant disruptions, in Islamwissenschaft, of triumphal accounts of secular European modernity as the end of universal history. The question in the field that always led to these disruptions was, once again, the problem of Islam, namely, the problem of Islamic modernity. How was it to be achieved? Who would achieve it? What was the role of European Islamicists in bringing it about? The answers to these questions marked the political divisions in the field.


Goldziher’s anti-imperialist insistence on Muslim autonomy as key to the autonomous development of an Islamic modernist historicism of universal religious significance for all humanity led him to adopt what the Germans at the time called Kulturpolitik (cultural engagement with non-Europeans precisely so as to strengthen their sovereignty against European imperial encroachment) as the only proper mode of cross-cultural engagement between Europeans and Muslims. However, his colleague and in fact scholarly partner, the Dutch Orientalist and colonial administrator, Snouck Hurgronje (1857–1936) deployed the very same ideology critique of the gap between the theory and practice of Islamic law, that Goldziher engaged in to invite religious reform, for the purposes of Dutch Kolonialpolitik. Snouck, who turned Islamwissenschaft into the ‘policy science’ it has remained since, focused on the gap between social practice and the all-encompassing claims of Islamic law to argue that the colonial state, by making the right social alliances, could have its sovereignty acknowledged by its Muslim subjects, despite its illegitimacy from an Islamic point of view.[77] In this way, however, it would merely conform to the pattern of the administration of most ‘Islamic’ polities in Islamic history that did not in fact abide by Islamic law, though they legitimated themselves through it.[78] But, Dutch colonialism, Snouck argued, could only secure its power if it went beyond such ideological subterfuge and made a commitment to overcoming itself through the modernizing reform of Muslim natives: by imposing an embargo from the outside on the politically opportunistic use of the Islamic ideal (i. e. the ideological use of Jihad), it could aid in developing a positive cultural and national consciousness within its Muslim subjects[79] (as Snouck saw it, ultimately through union and miscegenation between the Dutch and Indonesian elite).[80] Snouck’s colonialist version of Islamwissenschaft was, as the invocation of Dutch Indonesian national consciousness and the racial miscegenation required to achieve it should make clear, also committed to an achievement of ‘Islamic modernity’ beyond European racism and the medieval theologocentrism of Islamic Orthodoxy. But, Snouck’s was clearly a European modernist historicism, one in which the Dutch nation-state served as both the necessary model and agent for the Islamic modernity that was to be realized.


The complexity of the political divides in Islamwissenschaft, namely, the radical divergence in political applications of much the same Islamicist disciplinary discourse they could lead, to is well exemplified by the fact that the division between Kulturpolitik and Kolonialpolitik I have cited to gloss Goldziher’s and Snouck’s attitudes to engagement with the Muslim subjects of their study comes from the German geopolitical context of the Kaiserreich. It reflects the standpoint amongst the pioneering German Islamicists of the time that Kulturpolitik was the appropriate stance of the German Empire towards the modernizing, ‘developing’ states of the Islamic East (like the Ottoman Empire) while Kolonialpolitik was to be applied to black Africa.[81] The greatest confrontation between Islamwissenschaft’s divergent imperatives of Kulturpolitik and Kolonialpolitik came in the context of the Jihad debate that broke out within the field upon the German Islamicists’ backing of the Ottoman declaration of Jihad against the Allies in WWI. In Snouck’s view, the fact that the Ottomans, while allied with European Christian powers, could brand their war against the Allies a holy war against all infidels was a stark contradiction that perfectly demonstrated the ideological opportunism and accommodationism of Islamic law.[82] That his German friends and colleagues had allegedly instigated such reactionary, culturally stultifying medieval fetish for short-terms gains—Snouck dubbed the Jihad “made in Germany,” eliminating all Ottoman agency—was the epitome of German Islamicists’ betrayal of their own scholarship as well as of the moral madness that had led to and sustained the war.[83] Snouck notoriously counseled the Germans to help ensure the progress of their future ‘protectorate’, rather than standing in its way.[84]


But, C. H. Becker, who in fact viewed both Goldziher and Snouck as his great mentors, replied that what Snouck read as contradiction in the Ottoman Jihad, was in fact the long-sought conscious Islamic reform, an Islamic modernism that critically appropriated and rethought traditional vocabularies to craft a coherent cultural identity that would enable survival in the face of present crisis.[85] Being modern, Becker argued, meant not copying others according to supposed normative historicist verities, but the conscious dynamism that could craft a coherent cultural identity by innovating out of one’s own heritage. Becker cited the German Sonderweg as the model for the kind of cultural modernization being embarked on by what we would now call ‘developing’ states like the Ottoman Empire and therewith toppled the whole normative conception of modernity and religion’s role within it with a pluralist one.[86] If Germany’s special path to Modernity was now an example, however, it was meant to demonstrate the opposite of a future the Ottomans and other Muslims could at best reach but never choose. Germany’s example was meant rather to show that the non-European countries, cultures and civilizations would have to go and find their own way. It put them, in their search for a coherent cultural identity on the basis of the dynamic appropriation of their own heritage and traditions, within the same temporal field as Europeans themselves. They were now embodying, to use Chakrabarty’s chosen phrase about what European historicism denied its Others, the same coeval space.[87] Arguably, the notion of an Ottoman Sonderweg an encompassing a new and distinct Islamic modernity went even further. For, it serves to demonstrate the ways in which the contours of Modernity were themselves redefined in the context of Islamicist scholars’ intellectual and political engagement with Muslims and Muslim societies. Islamicists began with confident critiques of Islamic discourse and Muslim societies and took it upon themselves to advise Muslim modernists on how to achieve autonomy for their cultures and traditions in the contemporary world. But, as the Jihad debate and the world war showed, instead of Muslims being brought into the modern world, ‘Modernity’ itself seemed to be shifting in meaning, to encompass much more the problems faced by the modernizing, ‘developing’ countries. Hence, ‘Jihad’ went from being read as the paradigmatic antipode of Modernity—the illegitimate intervention of ‘religion’ into politics, the private into the public—to being read as a cultural tradition dynamically appropriated by the Ottomans in order to form an effective identity to overcome crisis, i. e. as the very definition (or redefinition) of Modernity. Islamic Modernity could thus be figured as the very paradigm of what it now meant to be modern.


I close with this programmatic glance at the Jihad debate, by reiterating that Goldziher founded Islamwissenschaft as a ‘science of religion’; that he displaced the Semitic/Aryan distinction by focusing on the critical reform of traditionalist, ‘medieval’ Islam in order to project it as the modern purified monotheism that would fulfill ‘religion’; that, rather than engage in theologocentrism, his scholarship was based on a reformist ideology critique that challenged what it read as the medieval theologocentrism of Islamic Orthodoxy. Goldziher’s post-racial, post-theologocentric approach thus positioned a reformed Islam as the very telos of Modernity; it signaled that Jewish and Islamic monotheism, rather than secular Europe, were the universal subjects of modernist historicism. It displaced European modernist historicist with a Judeo-Islamic one. In this way, it already made clear that the historical categories of ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’, while European in origin, would, in the very process of their globalization, become contested sites in which different actors and cultural traditions could come to compete and fight for the future of what it means to be modern. But, Goldziher’s founding of Islamwissenschaft on a post-racial, post-theologocentric basis went even further in the debates it inaugurated on the question of Islamic modernity and the political deployment of all manner of Kolonialpolitik and Kulturpolitik to achieve it. In the Jihad debate, the very normative modernist demarcation of religion from public life that supposedly defined modernity was challenged by a pluralist conception of cultural modernities. Hence, in our preoccupation with ‘religion’, we find ourselves also still within the same temporal horizon of the early history of Islamwissenschaft, of a Europe that began by teaching Muslims how to be modern and that, in the process, found itself, like the ‘Muslim societies’ it studied, struggling to define what it means to be modern. Today, the conflation of Europe, Islam and Modernity is still envisioned by many as a desperate, perhaps utopian political pose. The reality is that this conflation has a deep history and encompasses our contemporary temporal and political horizon in a fundamental way, as societies across the globe continue to grapple with the problem as to the proper role of religion in public life, of the proper character of cross-cultural engagement, of the proper understanding of whether modern development should be understood in a normative or plural sense.

[1] These were, first, Revue du Monde Musulman (1906), then Becker’s Der Islam (1910), then The Moslem World (1911), then the Russian Mir Islama (1912) and then Die Welt des Islams (1913), the organ of the newly founded Deutsche Gesellschaft für Islamkunde. The phenomenon was well-noted at the time, and Georg Kampffmeyer (1864–1936) opened the pages of Die Welt des Islams by reviewing the development and pointing to what he took to be its larger meaning of a new discipline committed to engagement in the affairs of society. See G. Kampffmeyer, “Plane Perspicere,“ Die Welt Des Islams 1 (1913): 1–6.

[2] See Cemil Aydin, The Idea of the Muslim World; a Global Intellectual History (Cambridge: 2017).

[3] C. H. Becker, “Der Islam als Problem,” (1910) in Islamstudien; Vom Werden und Wesen der Islamischen Welt, vol. 1 (Leipzig: 1924): 1–23.

[4] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 1.

[5] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 1.

[6] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 1–2.

[7] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 9–15, 22–3.

[8] Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 16.

[9] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 2–3.

[10] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 3–4.

[11] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 4–6, 21–3.

[12] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 5–9.

[13] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 6–7, 10.

[14] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 12–21.

[15] See Becker, “Islam,” (see note 3), 21–2.

[16] See, for instance, Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern [1991] (Cambridge: 1993).

[17] The most important representative of this line of argument, going so far as to posit the ‘Orient’ and ‘Orientals’ as the very creation of the invidious, racist historicism of modern Europe, is Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: 1978); Afterword, in: Edward Said, Orientalism, 2nd ed. (New York: 1994). A more eloquent and subtle assessment of modernist historicism as a European imperialist rhetoric of dispossession is Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe; Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: 2000). Chakrabarty argues that the historicist schema, which made European developments into the markers of universal human progress served not only the colonial project by relegating the natives to the past and entrusting their future to European wards who knew the only path forward. The imperialist ethos of such modernist rhetoric impacted equally those on the left and amongst the natives who viewed in the allegedly normative progress made by Europeans a trajectory inexorably ending in universal equality and justice. For the European historicist frame only allowed the natives to view themselves in the guise of lack and inadequacy: they could only move forward and gain autonomy over themselves by becoming Europe, namely, by forsaking themselves, a perfect paradigm of dispossession. See Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe (see note 17), 6–8, 30–42.

[18] This tendency is extremely widespread and varied. One can find it in the best scholarship of those seeking to bolster the prospects of peoples building a non-European future. Goitein, for example, in his famous book on the Arab/Jewish historical symbiosis, optimistically eyed a new, better beginning for both peoples by charaterizing their development as “primitive democracies.” See S. D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs; Their Contacts Through the Ages (New York: 1955), 27–34. One can see it in the great non-European thinkers and politicians that ushered in the post-colonial era, as in the case of the philosopher, later stateman and first vice-president of India, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who assured his countrymen that republican self-rule was not for them a foreign import, but part of their founding patrimony and genius. See Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe (see note 17), 10. But, the impulse has throughout also yielded easily to the risible and pathetic; the examples are legion; simply to stay with one of the more recent cases in India, the government spokesmen of the ruling right-wing BJP, responsible for representing Indian science, have claimed that Indians had already created stem cell research, organ transplants and plastic surgery in Vedic times; and, if that wasn’t enough of a coup, they had also engineered the first airplane, 7000 years ago. See Ananya Vajpeyi, “The Return of Sanskrit: How an Old Language Got Caught Up in India’s New Culture Wars,” World Policy Journal 33, no. 3 (2016): 50. It may seem incongruous, on the one hand, to delegitimize the idea of Modernity and then to claim its characteristic features as having been always one’s own. But the structural connection between the two is in the subaltern consciousness that persists in the shadow of the fight for equality—not merely in material and technical terms but, more importantly, culturally and intellectually—with ‘Europe’ and the ‘West’. One can hope for the day when enough confidence is amassed to happily leave Modernity to Europe so as to fight for a better future.

[19] See, for example, Sanjay Subramanyan, “Connected Histories: Notes towards a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia,” Modern Asian Studies 31, no. 3 (1997): 735–62, especially 747–62.

[20] See Said, Orientalism (see note 17), 96–8, 208, 240–3; Afterword, in: Said, Orientalism, 2nd ed. (see note 17); also, Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: 1993). More measured, scholarly sourced statements of the position can be found in Bernard S. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge; The British in India (Princeton: 1996). Vasudha Dalmia, Orienting India; European Knowledge Production in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (New Delhi: 2003). Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle-East; The History and Politics of Orientalism (New York: 2004).

[21] On this “theologocentrism” of Islamwissenchaft, Maxime Rodinson claimed: “Those schools of thought that believe that almost all observable phenomena can be explained by reference to Islam, in societies where Muslims are the majority or where Islam is the official religion, suffer from what I will call theologocentrism. In the past, such a vision was held implicitly by all researchers in the [Islamicist] field.” Maxime Rodinson, Europe and the Mystique of Islam [1980] (New York: 2006), 104. Said made the same claims about “Islamic Orientliasm”; see Said, Orientalism (see note 17), 305; also, Edward Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (New York: 1997), xvi, xxxi–xxxiii, 10–1. That Rodinson, himself an offshoot of the Islamicist tradition that began with the anti-theologocentric ethos of Goldziher’s work, made such claims about its past, merely proves the evisceration the latter has suffered in the meantime.

[22] See Said, Orientalism (see note 17), 130–48.

[23] See Said, Orientalism (see note 17), 6.

[24] See Ernest Renan, Histoire général et système comparé des langues sémitiques [1855] (Paris: 1863), 1–17. Renan’s subject headings said it all: “The role of the Semitic race in history: this role is more religious than political…Monotheism summarizes and explains all the characteristics of the Semitic race…The Semites don’t have mythology…The religious intolerance of Semitic peoples…The Semites have neither science nor philosophy; they lack curiosity: Arab philosophy is not a Semitic product…Semitic poetry, essentially subject, without variety…The Semitic spirit lacks sentiment for nuances…The lack of the plastic arts amongst the Semites…They don’t have an epic…The Semitic languages only have one type…” Renan, Histoire (see note 24), 507. See more generally, Maurice Olender, The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion and Philology in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: 1992), 51–79.

[25] “My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient’s difference with its weakness.” This meant that “every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.” Olender, Languages (see note 24), 204.

[26] On this “Semitic hypothesis”, see Gil Andijar, Semites: Race, Religion, Literature (Stanford: 2008), 13–38. As Said himself put it: “For Orientalism, Islam had a meaning which, if one were to look for its most succinct formulation, could be found in Renan’s first treatise: in order best to be understood Islam had to be reduced to ‘tent and tribe’.” Said, Orientalism (see note 17), 105.

[27] Bernard Lewis championed Orientalist scholarship contra Said in terms of its growing academic professionalization: Bernard Lewis, “The Question of Orientalism,” in Islam and the West (New York: 1993), 99–118. Lewis, “Other People’s History” in Lewis, Questions (see note 27), 119–130. The extended treatment of Orientalists in this guise, as lonely, ignored scholarly enthusiasts, is Robert Irwin, Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents (Woodstock: 2006). Before Said, the thematic of growing academicization and professionalization had long driven the ‘internal histories’ of the field: Johann Fück, Die arabischen Studien in Europa bis in den Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig: 1955). Rudi Paret, The Study of Arabic and Islam at German Universities; German Orientalists since Theodor Nöldeke (Wiesbaden: 1968). Such professionalization discourse has also dominated attempts to reassess Orientalist figures, like Goldziher, that clearly did not conform to Said’s presumptions: Lewis I. Conrad, “Ignaz Goldziher on Ernest Renan: From Orientalist Philology to the Study of Islam,” in The Jewish Discovery of Islam; Studies in Honor of Bernard Lewis, ed. Martin Kramer (Tel Aviv: 1999), 137–80. The in fact highly political usage to which such professionalization discourse was put by Lewis and those close to him is evident in Martin Kramer, Ivory Towers on Sand; The Failure of Middle-Eastern Studies in America (Washington: 2001). For Kramer, ‘the failure of Middle-East Studies in America’ was that Middle-East scholars had become critical of rather than serving US foreign policy prerogatives; Kramer’s book was, in part, a primer on how to change the scholarly landscape so as to be able to recruit them once again.

[28] This was the fundamental claim at the heart of Lewis’s two essays, “The Question of Orientalism” (see note 27), 99–118, and “Other People’s History” (see note 27), 119–130, that directly waded into the debates.

[29] See, Bernard Lewis, The Roots of Muslim Rage, 56–8. See the telling article in this regard by Michael Hirsh, “Bernard Lewis Revisited,” The Washington Monthly (Nov. 2004), 13–9.

[30] See Suzanne L. Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race, and Scholarship (New York: 2009). Marchand’s cultural reading of Orientalism as a Western bid at civilizational origins and prospects beyond the Judaic and Hellenic goes back in spirit to the work of Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance: Europe’s Rediscovery of India and the East, 1680–1880 [1950] (New York:1984).

[31] For Marchand’s characterization of a “third way”, see Suzanne L. Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire, xx–xxv. As she put it: “As I became more and more interested in finding out what German orientalism, as a cultural phenomenon was, I became less and less convinced that it was about European culture “setting itself off against the Orient” or that its leading ideas were informed by the imperial experience.” Ibid., xxiii.

[32] This meant a focus on what it meant fundamentally to be ‘Christian’ and ‘German’ and so preoccupation with the Biblical Orient: see, for example, Marchand, German Orientalism (see note 31), xvii–xxiv, 35–52, 105–113, 16–186, 21–227, 23–249.

[33] See particularly Marchand, German Orientalism (see note 31), 239–40, 244–5, 300–11, 267–70, 279–291.

[34] Marchand, German Orientalism (see note 31), 498. Marchand’s ambivalence about German Orientalism—that its cultural self-projections on the basis of newfound roots beyond the Judaic and Hellenic were self-absorbed and invidious but also opened the path to a multi-cultural future, mirrored the ambivalence of what I take to be its spiritual model, namely, Raymond Schwab’s ambivalence about what he called the ‘Oriental Renaissance’. Schwab, however, associated the dangers of Orientalism—the self-obsessed search for cultural roots for the purposes of invidious cultural self-assertion—squarely with the Germans, calling it the “furor teutonicus.” Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (see note 30), 446. But, he took the broader ‘Oriental Renaissance’ to have involved “the discovery that there had been other Europes” (XIII), opening the path to a multi-civilizational “integral” humanism (49), because the “ultimate meaning” of Orientalism was “the absolute equality of all races and ages.” (403). See also Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (see note 30), 473–8.

[35] As Marchand put it, “I will argue that in some fields, such as Islamic Studies and Sinology, involvement in the imperialist projects of the Reich blunted or redirected passions that might otherwise have been turned inward.” Namely, the passions of the ‘core’ disciplines of German Orientalism had been focused on establishing German cultural identity. Marchand, German Orientalism (see note 31), 216; see also 220, 356–367.

[36] For such evaluation of the ‘anthropological construction of religion’, See Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore: 1993), 27–54; Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular; Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford: 2003), 21–66.

[37] Maurice Olender had already made clear that the “new religious sciences” of nineteenth century Europe with their critical philological methodology had not represented a secularist departure but, while pretending to “treat all religions in the same way,” had set about “to impose a Christian providential meaning on the new comparative order.” See Olender, Languages (see note 24), 136–8. Hence, Olender rightly corrected Edward Said’s argument that such Orientalist philology represented a secularist, historicist racialization of what had previously been a religious animus. See Said, Orientalism (see note 17), 120–1, 82–6. Where Olender went wrong though was to discern only one racialized and predominantly racist stream within these new religious sciences: one that, like Said, viewed the new scholarship as riven by the Semitic/Aryan distinction, whereby Christianity came to be formulated as an Aryan historical achievement. Not surprisingly, like Said, Olender’s focus, in this vein, was on Renan. See Olender, Languages (see note 24), 68–74. My argument is that the philological racial branch of the new ‘science of religion’ was merely one such branch and that within the broader Christian historicism within which it emerged. Soon such Christian historicism had to vie a Jewish historicism and ultimately Islamwissenschaft emerged in the work of Ignaz Goldziher as an Islamic historicism. On the general question of secularism and the ‘new religious sciences’, also Marchand, German Orientalism (see note 31), xxvi–vii.

[38] The seminal text was Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers [1799] (Cambridge: 1988).

[39] For a historical critique of this modalization of religious life as “religious experience,” see, Martin Jay, Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme (Berkeley: 2005), 78–130.

[40] On the advent of ‘nationality’ as a modular, naturalized transhistorical category, see Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: 1991), 7, 80–1, 113, 163–5. On the modalized and modular construction of ‘culture’ as a transhistorical category, see Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (New York: 1983), 90; Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (New York: 1994), 41. See also on ‘aesthetic experience’, Jay, Songs of Experience (see note 39), 131–69.

[41] Jonathan Sheehan, for example, argues that the Enlightenment Bible was in the nineteenth century to become the “cultural Bible” and the “national Bible”. See Jonathan Sheehan, The Enlightenment Bible: Translation, Scholarship, Culture (Princeton: 2005), 219–40. As he put it, “The German Bible simultaneously created a German religion, a German culture, and a German nation.” Sheehan, Enlightenment (see note 41), 227. That said, it is crucial to understand that the category of “religion” came to be defined through and also against that of “culture” and “nationality”. Hence, “religion” came to be defined in terms of its universality and individuality as against the cultural capacity to create, through such a universal perspective, an integral, public national synthesis. This dynamic, for example, was crystal clear in Abraham Kuenen, National Religions and Universal Religions (London: 1882). Kuenen did not only invidiously compare universal versus national religions; he argued that there was essentially only one true universal religion, Christianity, but that because it was the only religion bound historically ever to have its message developed anew in diverse national contexts and at different stages of civilization, providing impetus to the forward progress of both: Christianity is “the most universal of religions…because it is best qualified for its moral task—to inspire and consecrate the personal and the national life.” Kuenen, National Religions (see note 41), 292. Of the two other religions he treated, Islam was said to be just national, Buddhism not national at all and Christianity the most universal religion because subject to ever renewed nationalization; it was the religion of the future. See Kuenen, National Religions (see note 41), 297–8.

[42] See Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers [1821] (New York: 1958), 39. Schleiermacher called it the feeling of the “One in All,” to ward off reduction by stressing both the plurality and unity of consciousness. See Schleiermacher, On Religion (see note 42), 101, 137. I cite from this third edition of the text.

[43] See Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 722–35.

[44] See Schleiermacher, On Religion (see note 42), 27–33, 38–40, 46–50, 57–62.

[45] See Schleiermacher, On Religion (see note 42), 108 n. 8, 214, 238–253.

[46] Jay, Songs of Experience (see note 39), 101–2, 127–9.

[47] See for the case of Martin Buber, Jay, Songs of Experience (see note 39), 125–6.

[48] “We can ask,” he said, “whether the entire theological movement of the [nineteenth] century resulted not at all in an overcoming of the Enlightenment, of its decisive interest of man in himself, but in its fulfillment.” Karl Barth, Protestant Though from Rousseau to Ritschl [1952] (New York: 1959), 391–2.

[49] See Barth, Protestant (see note 48), 390–7.

[50] The seminal work in this regard was, D. F. Strauss, Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet, 2 vols. (Tübingen: 1835–36); see esp. vol. 2: 734–5.

[51] It is this trajectory of Left Hegelianism towards humanist apotheosis that is the subject of John Edward Toews, Hegelianism: The Path Toward Dialectical Humanism, 1805–1841 (Cambridge: 1980), esp. 175–99, 327–55. He concludes this this course with Ludwig Feuerbach, Das Wesen des Christentums [1841] (Berlin: 1956).

[52] For this common reading of the significance of the “higher criticism,” see the résumé in Gordon A. Craig, Germany, 1866–1945 (Oxford: 1978), 182–3. On the transformation of the Bible into a cultural heritage, see again Sheehan, Enlightenment (see note 41), xiv, 219–21.

[53] See Ferdinand Christian Baur, Die Tübinger Schule (Tübingen: 1858), 15–6. Hence, treatments of Baur and the Tübinger Schule that focus on proving them to be closet versions of Strauss’s atheism essentially miss the point; see for example, Horton Harris, The Tübingen School (Oxford: 1975), 3, 161. Baur himself, however, always contrasted the “positive” results of his own work and that of his Tübingen colleagues to Strauss’s “negative” results that sought to define the canon as mythology rather than history. See Baur, Die Tübinger Schule (see note 53), 56–7.; Ferdinand Christian Baur, Kirchengeschichte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts [1862] (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: 1970), 394–9.

[54] See Baur, Die Tübinger Schule (see note 53), 72–5. This is of course a simplification. There were also stark differences in the ways in which various Tübingen scholars interpreted the dialectical history of the Christian canon. For Baur’s own position in this regard, see Baur, Die Tübinger Schule (see note 53), 21–7.

[55] See Baur, Die Tübinger Schule (see note 53), 17–21, 45.

[56] For Wissenschaft scholars shifting the focus of the Jewish tradition from difference to universality, see Amos Funkenstein, Perceptions of Jewish History (Berkeley: 1993), 20. Ismar Schorsch characterized this shift in terms of a westernization of the Jewish tradition, namely, of Wissenschaft des Judentums reconfiguring it within the context of universal history. See Ismar Schorsch, From Text to Context: The Turn to History in Modern Judaism (Hanover, NH: 1994), 154, 158. The most strident exponent of the prevalent motif of the Jewish monotheistic mission in Wissenschaft scholarship was the founder of Reform Judaism, Abraham Geiger, depiction of Christianity as a paganized Jewish offshoot and of Islam as Judaism’s world-historical answer to Christian regression, see Abraham Geiger, Judaism and Its History [1864–71] (New York: 1911), vol. 1: 139–151, 167–172.

[57] For Moritz Steinschneider’s universalized retelling of Jewish cum human history in terms of the three Jewish cultural encounters with the Hellenistic, Islamic and modern European civilizations, see Schorsch, From Text to Context (see note 56), 87–8.; Franz Rosenthal, “Steinschneider’s Contribution to the Study of Muslim Civilization,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 27 (1958): 67–81, esp. 78–80.

[58] See Abraham Geiger, “Die Aufgabe der Gegenwart,” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift für jüdische Theologie 5 (1844):1–35, 24, 28–9, 34; Geiger, Judaism and Its History (see note 56), 2: 211–2. Susannah Heschel, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (Chicago: 1998), 83–105, 167, 177.

[59] See Ignaz Goldziher, Tagebuch, ed. Alexander Scheiber (Leiden: 1978), which encompassed a retrospective account of his life at age forty and a diary thereafter. This retrospective account, written in the immediate aftermath of his receipt of the Gold Medal of the VIII International Congress of Orientalists in Stockholm, was meant to mark his life as unremitting resistance against his “martyrdom,” namely, the fact that his life had been radically reshaped by both by anti-Semitism, despite his Hungarian nationalism, and by his rejection by fellow Hungarian Jews, despite his attempt to idealize the Jewish tradition. In these pages, Goldziher essentially sacralized his ongoing resistance, which had only been made possible by shifting his reformist scholarship on Judaism to a focus on the Islamic heritage. I argue that that this shift consisted of nothing less than a conversion of his reformist project from Judaism to Islam and thereby the founding of Islamwissenschaft. I thus see this retrospective account of the Tagebuch as the founding document of Islamwissenschaft. See esp. Goldziher, Tagebuch (see note 59), 80–124. On Goldziher’s conception of his life as a “martyrdom”, see 33, 104, 136, 205, 206, 237.

[60] We owe the renewed and growing interest in recent years in Goldziher’s life and work largely to the scholarship of Lawrence Conrad. See Lawrence I. Conrad, “The Near East Study Tour of Ignaz Goldziher,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 122, no. 1 (1990): 105–126. Lawrence I. Conrad, “The Dervish’s Disciple: On the Personality and Intellectual Milieu of the Young Ignaz Goldziher,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 122, no. 2 (1990): 225–266. Lawrence I. Conrad, “The Pilgrim from Pest: Goldziher’s Study Tour to the Near East (1873–1874),” in Golden Roads; Migration, Pilgrimage and Travel in Medieval and Modern Islam, ed. Ian Richard Netton (London: 1993), 110–159. It was also Conrad, who made manifest the anti-Renan foundations of Goldziher’s early reformist Jewish scholarship in his widely read article: Conrad, “Ignaz Goldziher on Ernest Renan” (see note 27), 137–180. Unfortunately, however, the full force of Conrad’s analysis of the anti-Renan motivations of Goldziher’s early scholarship stopped short of discerning its implications for his founding of the Islamicist discipline. Here, Conrad’s conclusion as to ‘professionalization’ (as against an anti-Renan universalist historicism focused on religious reform and progress) as the great upshot of Goldziher’s contribution to the Islamicist field, further show the deleterious impact of the Orientalism debates on understanding the latter’s history.

[61] See again Olender, Languages (see note 24), 68–74; also, Ernest Renan, The Future of Science [1890] (Boston: 1893), 263.

[62] See Ignaz Goldziher, Der Mythos bei den Hebräern und seine geschichtliche Entwicklung: Untersuchungen zur Mythologie und Religionswissenschaft (Leipzig: 1876), 1–19. As Goldziher put it, in describing mythology as starting point of development for all peoples: “Mythology is something universal so that one cannot, as a starting point, deny the capacity to form it as such to any race.” Goldziher, Mythos (see note 62), x. Hence, he argued that “it is precisely the historical moment that is left out” in the “Renanian ethno-psychological schema.” Namely, Renan’s identification of ‘polytheism’ and ‘monotheism’ as racial markers missed that “polytheism and monotheism are two developmental stages in the history of religious thought and that the latter does not appear spontaneously without the first developmental stage having preceded it.” Goldziher, Mythos (see note 62), 6. Golziher set out a universal history of religious progress moving from mythology to paganism to traditional(izing) monotheism to critical monotheism.

[63] On the initially national and theocratic roots of monotheism, focused on the centralization of state power, see Goldziher, Mythos (see note 62), 314–333. On Goldziher’s highly reverential discussion of ‘Prophetic Judaism’ as the ideal high point of the Jewish tradition that projected the promise of a purified monotheism, see Goldziher, Mythos (see note 62), 348–369. Like Baur and Geiger, Goldziher made it crystal clear from the start that his critical scholarship on the sources of the Jewish tradition was to be the very progressive pivot through which it would become purified towards its prophetic destiny: “It is our sacred (heilige) conviction, that not only the scientific interest demands that these studies gain their due place in the scholarly literature, but that this has in an extraordinary manner also meaning for the religious life of the present. For, anyone, who has come to grasp the true concept of religion, is bound to welcome in such studies a degree of progress towards the highest religious ideal, towards the pure, clouded by nothing gross and pagan Monotheism, that makes itself not dependent on tales and ethnic traditions (Stammestraditionnen), but rather finds, in the climax towards the one living original source of all truth and morality, its center and exclusive living element and the inspiration for restless research and self-perfection. And we are imbued by the sense that each stride we make in the correct understanding of the mythical brings us closer to that center.  The confusion of the Mythical with the Religious makes religious life centrifugal; it is the task of progress in this realm to empower a centripetal tendency. The insight into this relation of pure Monotheism to the pre-historical parts of the biblical literature is not of today or yesterday; the most ideal[istic] representative of Hebrew Monotheism [Deutero-Isaiah is meant], in whom Yahwism as a harmonious worldview achieved its most exalted florescence, already expressed this relationship clearly enough.” Goldziher, Mythos (see note 62), xxiiif.

[64] For this conversion, as I call it, of his reformist project from the Jewish to the Islamic heritage, see Goldziher, Tagebuch (see note 59), 107–8. Rather than this shift to Islamicist scholarship suggesting an abandonment of his critical reformist project, Goldziher claimed that it entailed a sharpening of his understanding of “the religious system and the historical conception of development” and of his commitment to the “Messianic Judaism” he taught his children. He claimed his house was “now Jewish in a higher sense.” Goldziher, Tagebuch (see note 59), 110–1. Moreover, Goldziher admitted that, the methodology of the Islamicist discipline he founded followed the great Jewish reformer “Geiger’s guidelines” in judging “the documents of Islam,” namely, setting them “in relation to the spiritual tendencies, to the forces struggling with one another, [‘from whose oppositions the documents themselves arose’], whose result ultimately was the unified Church. Goldziher, Tagebuch (see note 59), 122–3.

[65] See Ignaz Goldziher, “Die Fortschritte der Islam-Wissenschaft in den letzten drei Jahrzehnten,” in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Joseph Desomogyi, vol. 4 (Hildesheim: 1970), 449–453; Ignaz Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien (Halle a. S.: 1888), vol. 2:131–52; Ignaz Goldziher, Vorlesungen über den Islam (Heidelberg: 1910), 41–2. For Goldziher, the high point of this traditionalist development in Islam was the Orthodox integration and consolidation of Islamic law, theology and mysticism in the ethical mystical devotion of al-Ghazali in the eleventh century, which would allow for its critical historical idealization, just as the Jewish prophets constituted this high point in the Jewish heritage. Al-Ghazali was thus the hero of Goldziher’s historical teleologies of Islam. See 176–185; Ignaz Goldziher, “Die Religion des Islams,” in Die Kultur der Gegenwart. Ihre Entwicklung und ihre Ziele, ed. Paul Hinneberg, part 1, division 3:1 (Berlin/Leipzig: 1906), 114–5.

[66] He thus glossed Islamic law as in fact a “doctrine of duties,” (Pflichtenlehre) in contrast to any kind of Napoleonic code. See Goldziher, Fortschritte (see note 65), 456; Ignaz Goldziher, “Muhammedanisches Recht in Theorie und Wirklichkeit,” Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft 8 (1889): 406–423, esp. 407, 409–12, 414–6, 418–20; Ignaz Goldziher, “Katholische Tendenz und Partikularismus im Islam (1913),” in Gesammelte Schriften (see note 65), vol. 5 (Hildesheim: 1970), 292–5, 303; Ignaz Goldziher, “Fikh,” in First Encyclopedia of Islam 1913–1936, vol. 3 (Leiden: 1993), 105.

[67] See Ignaz Goldziher, “Die Heiligenverehrung im Islam,” in Muhammedanische Studien, vol. 2, 277–378. Goldziher, Fortschritte (see note 65), 461–7. Goldziher, Vorlesungen (see note 65), 286–9.

[68] See C. Snouck Hurgronje, The Holy War “Made in Germany” (New York: 1915), 6–29. This notorious pamphlet, which set off a very public, emotionally raw debate in Islamwissenschaft on Jihad in World War I, began with a history to show the rhetorical, opportunistic use and development of “holy war” and Pan-Islamism in Muslim societies. Snouck, whose official remit it was to deal with the questions of Jihad and Political Islam in the context of Dutch Kolonialpolitik, developed the early prevailing positions on such thematics in the field.

[69] See Goldziher, Vorlesungen (see note 65), 63–70; Ignaz Goldziher, Die Richtungen der islamischen Koranauslegung (Leiden: 1920), 370. Hence, in most areas of life, Islamic law did not regulate practices so much as accommodate them ex post facto. See Goldziher, “Muhammedanisches Recht” (see note 66), 418–20. He noted that “If a practice found general tolerance and acceptance over a long period of time, then it became through just this fact finally Sunna. For some generations the pious theologians rant and rave about the bid‘a; but over the course of time it becomes, as an element of ijmāʿ, tolerated and ultimately even required. It is then viewed as bid‘a to set oneself against it; whoever demands the old way is now abused as ‘innovator’ (mubtadi‘).”Goldziher, Vorlesungen (see note 65), 282.

[70] Goldziher viewed the cult of saints as “national survivals” of the pagan past, which, properly understood, were not to be banished or destroyed but recovered in their national/historical role. In this connection, see in particular his very enthusiastic review of a work of his friend, the great contemporary Egyptian intellectual Ali Mubarak: Ignaz Goldziher, “Alī Mubārak’s al-Khitat al-Jadīda,” [1890] in Goldziher, Gesammelte Schriften (see note 65), vol. 2 (Hildesheim: 1968), 383–4.

[71] Goldziher’s prescriptions for religious reform in Islam focused on the prospective critical transformation of the developmental capacities the Islamic heritage itself contained in the fundamental role he took ijmāʿ (the consensus of Muslim jurists) to play in Islamic jurisprudence. Considered one of the sources of the latter, Goldziher took it to be its heart, arguing that “in this principle [ijmāʿ] are contained for Islam the facultative seeds of free movement and developmental capacity.” Goldziher, Vorlesungen (see note 65), 55. The consensus of jurists, deemed infallible, thus allowed each generation to reinterpret the Islamic heritage by reading engrained, ongoing social practices into it: saint veneration, already noted as a practice deviating far from Islamic monotheism, had been thus traditionalized, namely, retrospectively accommodated and idealized. Goldziher and other Islamicists referred to this great accommodationist capacity of Islam as its “Catholic” tendency. See Goldziher, “Katholische Tendenz” (see note 66), 285–312. Goldziher never tired of reiterating that ijmāʿ was “the key for the understanding of the developmental parameters [Entwicklungserscheinungen] of historical Islam.” Goldziher, Fortschritte (see note 65), 457–8. And, even when implicitly, he made clear what the critical progress and idealization of Islam towards its destiny as the universal “religion” entailed: a “consistent” application of the principle of ijmāʿ, namely, the development of a consensus that would no longer traditionalize and develop unconsciously but become conscious and progress critically, historically. See Goldziher, “Katholische Tendenz” (see note 66), 312; Goldziher, Vorlesungen (see note 65), 56. And, as Goldziher generally reminded his hoped-for Muslim audience at the close of his texts, this meant a “scientific-historical examination of [Islam’s] sources.” Goldziher, Vorlesungen (see note 65), 313; also Goldziher, “Religion des Islams” (see note 65), 131–2.

[72] In fact, he excoriated the Rabbinic Judaism of his own Neolog Conservative community in Budapest in virtually the same terms he applied to traditional Islamic jurisprudence: these ‘jurists’ were hypocrites who made a business out of a religion they themselves as such could not believe in. See Goldziher, Tagebuch (see note 59), 84.

[73] For Goldziher’s description of his lasting friendship with Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh, starting from their meeting in Cairo, see Goldziher, Tagebuch (see note 59), 68, 71, 108. After Afghani’s death, Goldziher, who never forgot their common anti-Renan front, wrote the entry on him in: First Encyclopedia of Islam, 1913–1936 (see note 66), vol. 2: 1008–111. Here, Goldziher portrayed Afghani as a heroic, anti-imperialist agitator for liberty who had fought against exploitation by European foreigners and native autocrats alike. Acknowledging his Pan-Islamic call, he saw Afghani’s influence as having actually encouraged a “nationalist revival and liberal constitutional institutions.”

[74] This dialectical engagement with Islamic modernism was quite clear in his treatment of Abduh: Goldziher concluded his last great work, which was on Tafsir, by citing his friend’s denunciation of the corrupting and debilitating impact of the casuistic, rationalizing application of Islamic law. See Goldziher, Richtungen der islamischen Koranauslegung (see note 69), 370. In an extensive treatment of the Qur’anic exegesis of Islamic modernism, Goldziher compared Abduh’s Egyptian school, focused on the revival and renewal of ijmāʿ, with the Indian school’s tendency to treat the entire tradition outside the Qur’an as fabrications and fairy tales. He called the Indian movement a mere “Kulturbewegung,” focused on justifying Islam in European guise and thus lacking religious seriousness. He called Abduh’s Tafsir a “Kultur-Wahhabismus,” which understood that the Islamic tradition and consensus were the genuine means of Islamic development and so rightly focused on reviving and renewing them but did so by still seeking to read the ideal (present) back into the origin, whereas the true renewal of tradition and consensus was one that was historically conscious and critical. See Goldziher, Richtungen der islamischen Koranauslegung (see note 69), 321, 311–70.

[75] Arriving in Cairo during his 1873–74 Oriental study trip at the age of twenty-four, Goldziher complained bitterly about how much he despised this “European Orient” compared to his idyllic stay in Damascus; he particularly hated the Europeans in Egypt and blamed them for having deracinated a great people. See Raphael Patai, ed., Ignaz Goldziher and His Oriental Diary (Detroit: 1987), 140–9. Writing in 1890 about the same experience, he noted again how he hated this Cairo of Isma‘il Pasha, “where European civilization was to be pasted on the Muhammadan state.” Goldziher, Tagebuch (see note 59), 65–6. Despairing at first of learning anything about Islam in this environment, soon all changed, as he came into contact not only with the group around Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh, but also a nationalist group of Egyptian intellectuals who had been pushed out of government by “European reform swindlers, who took it upon themselves, without any understanding for the traditions of the people, to import at high ransom the foreign culture.” Despising “Europeanization” as much as them, he counted himself a member of this “national party” and advocated on its behalf in the bazaar. Goldziher, Tagebuch (see note 59), 67. He added eventually: “During the celebrations put on by the Viceroy [Khedive] on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter, I agitated in the Bazaars against the privileges of the Europeans; in Sālih al-Magdī’s circle [the national party], I tabled Kulturhistorische theories on the neo-Mohammedan indigenous culture and its development in opposition to the ruling European contagion. What ‘Urābī and his colonels a decade later rattled with their sabers, with that I harangued the circles in which I moved. I refused to take part in festivities with Europeans. If they wanted to invite me with the Shaykhs [of Al-Azhar], that way I’d show up, and so on and so forth.” Goldziher, Tagebuch (see note 59), 71.

[76] From every side of the Orientalism debates, Goldziher has come to be characterized as an exceptional figure: for one group, he should be viewed primarily as a Jewish Orientalism and even a philosemite, because he fought against the prevalent anti-Semitic commitments of his Christian Orientalist colleagues: see Olender, Languages (see note 24), 115–135; Marchand, German Orientalism (see note 31), 294–5, 321–332; and Susannah Heschel, Die Wissenschaft des Judentums und der Islam: Ein Vorbild für Deutschland im 21. Jahrhundert?, lecture delivered on July 6, 2009, for the opening of the Kollegium Jüdische Studien at the Humboldt University, Berlin. For others, Goldziher is exceptional because, a la Lewis, the relinquishing of his Jewish reformist project allowed him at least to found Islamwissenschaft as a professional academic pursuit. See Conrad, “Ignaz Goldziher on Ernest Renan” (see note 27), 161–3. And, naturally Hamid Dabashi then felt the need to reply from the Saidian side that if Goldziher’s professionalism was exceptional, the fact that he did not have a personal stake in what he studied made him objectify it, which ultimately vindicated Said. See Hamid Dabashi’s long introduction, “Ignaz Goldziher and the Question Concerning Orientalism,” in Ignaz Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 1 (New Brunswick, NJ: 2006), ix–xciii, esp. xix, lxi–lxv. It would be more fruitful, I argue, to let go of the “exceptional Goldziher” in order to think through how extant pictures of the history of Islamwissenschaft must be rethought in light of the fact that Goldziher was viewed, very much in his own time, as the founder of the field. As Carl Heinrich Becker put it in his memorial essay on him: “What we today call the Science of Islam (Islamwissenschaft) is the work of Goldziher and Snouck Hurgronje.” C. H. Becker, “Ignaz Goldziher” in Islamstudien (see note 3), vol. 2: 499–500.

[77] See C. Snouck Hurgronje, Politique musulmane de la Hollande (Paris: 1911), 86–92, but especially, Harry J. Benda, “Christian Snouck Hurgronje and the Foundations of Dutch Islamic Policy in Indonesia,” in: Journal of Modern History 30, no. 4 (Dec. 1958): 338–347, esp. 341–4.

[78] See C. Snouck Hurgronje, Mohammedanism: Lectures on Its Origin, Its Religious and Political Growth and Its Present State (New York: 1916), 98–103, 109–11, 113–4; Snouck, Politique musulmane (see note 77), 48–54

[79] See Snouck Horgronje, Mohammedanism (see note 78), 104; Snouck, Politique musulmane (see note 77), 75–6, 93–102, 106–7. Hence, Snouck was vehemently opposed to ongoing colonial attempts to codify Islamic law. He argued this would not only mar the character of its practice and be suspect as a project undertaken by non-Muslim colonial governments; but, above all, because either Islamic law did not represent actual customary practice, or, where it did, in areas such as personal status law, the point was to tolerate such practices while allowing them to change with modernizing transformation. Codification of Islamic law meant reification of Muslims by implementing reified ideas that were not even practiced or legitimating reified practices, thus retarding the modernist development that was both necessary and inevitable. See Snouck Hurgronje, Politique musulmane (see note 77), 57–70, 85–6.

[80] Snouck himself was married successively to two indigenous women, the first the daughter of a Javanese nobleman. For Snouck’s “educational” policy leading to an equalized “association” between the Dutch and Indonesians, see Benda, “Snouck and the Foundations of Dutch Islamic Policy” (see note 77), 344–6. Benda criticized him for both not believing in the “growth of Islam” and for not realizing that “the separation of religion and politics […] [he advocated] was at best a temporary phenomenon of Islam in decline.” For Snouck, of course, it was the other way around; the confusion of religion and politics was responsible for the decline of Muslim societies, and although Islam could not change this from the inside, it would “catch up” and become mere religion in the context of a modernized national politics. See C. Snouck Hurgronje, Nederland en de Islam (Leiden: 1915), 79. On his deep collaboration with and reliance on native Muslim Indoneisan elites in constructing his “association” policy and on the way he shifted Dutch policy away from combatting to containing Islam, see Jajat Barhanudin, “The Dutch Colonial Policy on Islam. Reading the Intellectual Journey of Snouck Hurgronje,” Al-Jāmi‘ah: Journal of Islamic Studies 52, no. 1 (2014): 25–58. On his dreams for Indonesia, see also Arnoud Vrolijk and Richard van Leeuwen, Arabic Studies in the Netherlands: A Short History in Portraits, 1580–1950 (Leiden: 2014), 142–3.

[81] Martin Hartmann, for example, relied on a prevalent distinction between the “kulturlosen” Africans versus the “Völker alter Kultur” in the Muslim East; see Martin Hartmann, Islam, Mission, Politik (Leipzig: 1912), 66. He justified German Kolonialpolitik in Africa with the reasoning that there the natives first had to be protected from threatening Islamicization, which is why he begrudgingly accepted a pivotal role for the Christian missions in this context; see Hartmann, Islam (see note 81), 67–8, 1–51. By contrast, he argued that despite the damage done by Islam, the cultural basis of Western and Near Eastern societies were the same: a conception of the state, defense of the person, commitment to work. Hence, such societies were ready for national autonomy, meaning, the “peoples of ancient culture” in the East were the proper subjects of Kulturpolitik, a kind of Kulturarbeit Hartmann entrusted to German civil society in general and to groups representing it, like the Deutsche Vorderasienkommitee, of which he was a leading member. See Martin Hartmann, “Deutschland und Islam,” in Der Islam 1 (1910), 72–92, esp. 75, 90–1. Meanwhile, Carl Heinrich Becker, the other great Islamicist of the Kaiserreich, made a comparable distinction, focusing on how German Kolonialpolitik should deal with Islam to solidify its colonial power in Africa. He argued that Islam, still struggling to emerge from the medieval era, was closer to black Africans and so would be more effective in their civilization. It would then depend on their historical development whether they proved themselves capable of advancing Islam further. Pace Hartmann, he said missionary activity had to be curtailed to tie Muslims more closely to the state; eventually, he acknowledged a limited role for missions in more pagan areas as a divide-and-conquer strategy in the interests of the motherland. See C. H. Becker, “Ist der Islam eine Gefahr für unsere Kolonien?,” (1910) in Becker, Islamstudien (see note3), vol. 2: 178–185; C. H. Becker, “Der Islam und die Kolonisierung Afrikas,” (1910) in Becker, Islamstudien (see note3), 202–210. But, in the case of the Middle-East and the Ottoman Empire, he proffered rather Kulturpolitik and the German model of an autonomous cultural reconstitution (the Protestant Reformation) to argue for the prospect of an Islamic Renaissance: just as the Germans had remade Christianity through their “un-Christian” ideas, “the rebirth of the Orient can realize itself not only through the importation and imitation of European notions, but mainly through its own spiritual activity, also on the ground of religion.” See C. H. Becker, Christentum und Islam (Tübingen: 1907), 49–50. Becker’s conceptions of Kulturpolitik first became explicit in the course of World War I. See C. H. Becker, Deutschland und der Islam, vol. 3 of Der deutsche Krieg, ed. Ernst Jäckh (Berlin: 1914), 11–2, 18–24. This is the pamphlet, whose support of the Ottoman Jihad led to the public debate with Snouck. See C. H. Becker, “Die Türkei im Weltkriege,” (1915) in Becker, Islamstudien (see note 3), vol. 2: 253–4, 262–5, 271–6, 280; also C. H. Becker, “Die Kriegsdiskussion über den heiligen Krieg,” in: Becker, Islamstudien (see note 3), vol. 2: 297, 302. For the broader German notion of Kulturpolitik as the paradigmatic approach to “developing states” in the German Kaiserreich before World War I, see the pivotal work, Jürgen Kloosterhuis, “Friedliche Imperialisten. Deutsche Auslandsvereine und auswärtige Kulturpolitik, 1906–18, 2 vols. (Frankfurt am Main: 1994).

[82] See Snouck Hurgronje, The Holy War (see note 68), 51, 57.

[83] See Snouck Hurgronje, The Holy War (see note 68), 58–80.

[84] See Snouck Hurgronje, The Holy War (see note 68), 58–9, 73–80 and Snouck‘s reply to Becker’s reply: C. Snouck Hugronje, “Deutschland und der Heilige Kriege,” Internationale Monatsschrift für Wissenschaft, Kunst und Technik IX (1915): 1025–34, esp. 1028–9.

[85] See Becker, Deutschland und der Islam (see note 81), 14–17; Becker, “Die Kriegsdiskussion” (see note 81), 288–293, 298–9, 303; Becker, “Die Türkei im Weltkriege” (see note 81), 258–261.

[86] See C. H. Becker, “Der türkische Staatsgedanke” (1916), in Becker, Islamstudien (see note 3), vol. 2: 361. See also in this vein, C. H. Becker, “Das türkische Bildungsproblem” (1916), in Becker, Islamstudien (see note 3), vol. 2: 363–384, where he argued that Turkish cultural modernization was bound to be an internal, holistic dynamic rather than an external imposition.

[87] See Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe (see note 17), 8.

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7 Responses

  1. Barbara Mittler says:

    David Moshfeg: “First, I am appending my revised essay below with the emendations and clarifications you had both sought. I try to make clear the way I use the term ‘essentialization’ and I have done a bit more to articulate how the Medieval/Mdoern distinction was being used by Islamicists. As the whole essay is actually focused on this question but maybe was not sufficiently clear, I have not removed some of the redundancy Thomas complained off…I have also, following Barbara’s suggestion, capitalized Medieval and Modern when they are used as epochal periods.

    Now, the shifts I have made in the essay themselves are minor, but I spent a good deal of time thinking about how I would grapple with Barbara’s instruction, that I address Professor Rüsen’s typological categories in terms of my own approach to periodization. I read his short essay very carefully and deliberately and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I approach ‘periodization’ and what it can bring to historical understanding in a radically different light than the typological approach he outlines. I realized that trying to argue systematically within my essay with his approach, which as I indicated in our earlier correspondence I simply take to be ahistorical, would have thrown my paper off-topic. So I decided to write a prologue outlining where exactly the approach to periodization in my paper differs from his. This prologue took on a life of its own and became a kind of mini essay. “

  2. moshfegh says:

    Dear All,

    Thanks so much for your comments; I apologize for not writing back earlier but, after receiving Barbara’s e-mail in November, I thought there would be one last set of comments forthcoming from another external reviewer, after which we would then have until January 6th for our revisions…but as of the moment no further comments have appeared.

    My question is: should I go ahead and make revisions in line with the comments you have already made or wait for a further set of comments? Given potential discrepancies between comments (like that between Eva Maria and Thomas), I thought it would be best to compile all the comments before proceeding. If there won’t be any further comments, I can go ahead and address the points you have already made.

    If I understand it correctly–and this may be the way of reconciling the difference in perspective between Eva Maria and Thomas on the conclusion–I should be a bit more direct and clear about the chronotypes ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’, both in the sense that I use them and in the sense in which I claim they are used by the authors I discuss. In doing so, Barbara has suggested that I engage also with the chronotypology set out by Jörn Rüsen in order to help introduce touch points between all the papers.

    I would be happy to do this. Overall, my approach to the chronotypes ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ is historiographic rather than normative. I am trying to demonstrate how these chronological concepts were deployed in and determined the development of Islamwissenschaft as a discipline. I am claiming that the systematic divergences/developments in the usage of ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ in the field, not least in light of the divergent Kulturpolitik and Kolonialpolitik imperatives in the practice of the disciple in the context of the era of WWI, help to illuminate how these chronological concepts have more generally changed over time. The story of what happens to these chronological concepts in Islamwissenschaft serves, I argue, to highlight where we still today ourselves stand with regards to disagreements as to what ‘modernity’ mean. This is why I argue that the debates in Islamwissenschaft on these concepts can be taken to be contemporary in nature and characteristic of our own historical horizon.

    Now, since my approach is historiographic in this sense and focused on conceptual history, it is generally opposed to the typological approach suggested by Rüsen, which seems, in ideal type Weberian fashion, committed to capturing different forms of historical consciousness and the different chronotypes belonging to them…I have to engage with his work more carefully of course; but, with respect to my historiographic approach, I cannot help but see his approach as somewhat ahistorical. In any case, once I have read his work more carefully, I can suggest a conclusion on this thematic that would serve also to clarify my overall interpretation of the chrono-conceptual implications of the debates on the ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ in Islamwissenschaft and so hopefully also remove the worries of Barbara and Eva Maria on this account.

    My only question again is, should I go ahead and do this now or should I wait for the comments of the final external reviewer? Please do let me know…if you would like me to go ahead and do the revisions now, I would be able to give you a new draft by next Sunday. But, again, if there are going to be further comments forthcoming, I think it would make sense to wait until I have heard from everyone before proceeding.

    Thanks for all of your hard work and patience in compiling this volume. And thanks again more specifically for your comments on my work. I await further direction…

  3. Barbara Mittler says:

    Dear David:
    Needless to say, I think that this is a great paper as it stands! My suggestions below only point you to something we would like to achieve in this volume: coherence. It would be great, therefore, and this is why we are doing this through OPR, if you could have a look at some of the other papers in your section, but especially at Rüsen’s typology! THANKS Barbara

  4. Barbara Mittler says:

    Dear David:

    (2) This essentialized and essentially medieval theologocentric view had been that of Christendom and the self-identified Christian standpoint that viewed Islam as the monolith enemy and Other.
    ARE YOU ESSENTIALIZING “medieval” here and in your title? You are, somehow, and ironically so, of course, I think you should qualify what you are doing here, very deliberately and very well…
    (4)The problem of Islam, accordingly, captured the problematic ‘medieval’ self-understanding of Muslims, which, Becker argued was now in the process of being shaken through modern liberal and national cultural consciousness.[15] If one followed Becker’s logic, the conclusion could only be that the problem of Islam was the problem of Islamic modernity.
    CAN YOU define what they mean by “medieval” and “modern”? What “chronotype” are they using?
    (5)argue that the terms of the Orientalism debates have served more to obfuscate than to illuminate the logic of early Islamwissenschaft, whose roots must rather be sought in the nineteenth century European ‘science of religion’. It was in this nineteenth century European study of ‘religion’ that I argue the categories of the ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ achieved a distinctly religious historicist rather than merely secular historicist meaning.
    SINCE your essay is clearly dealing with chronotypes (THE Medieval, THE Modern), perhaps you could use this terminology so that it is a constant throughout the volume
    (6) you say “it has become a global condition” is this equivalent to it being a chronotype?
    (13) THIS SENTENCE READS A BIT REPETITIVE: in fact all of the Orientalism debates about the character of (European) Modernity—is complicated once we understand the context within which the European historicist schema of ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ was applied to the Islamic heritage. It was this globalizing application of ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ to Islam that first led to the founding of Islamwissenschaft, or the discipinary study of Islam, in the work of the Hungarian Jewish Orientalist, Iganz Goldziher, in the closing decades of the nineteenth century.
    Moreover, the critical historical method, the ‘higher criticism’ of sacred texts that was the pride of the nineteenth century scholarship seemed to be playing a ( like) destructive, secularizing role.
    IS THE “like” necessary or should it be scratched?
    (22) But, Christianity’s supersession of Judaism could also be understood, a la Tübingen, in terms or that of Christian universalism overcoming Jewish particularism. NOT SURE WHAT THE “OR THAT ” DOES IN THIS SENTENCE? SHOULD IT BE “of that”?
    IT MAY BE useful for you to rethink some of the statements you make in terms of the typology offered in the piece by Jörn Rüsen, is the kind of treatment of “Medieval” or “Modern” one that could be called “traditional”, “exemplary” , is there a “genetic” type? (how do ideas about the “medieval”/”modern” evolve?) Certainly, you can make use of the “critical” type, and how do these approaches change your interpretation of “the medieval/the modern”, perhaps? It would be great if you could use his terminology (critically) and engage with his argument.

  5. Thomas Maissen says:

    Very well informed and richly documented, stimulating and clear article, congratulations.
    2 I wonder whether “essentialization” is the right concept, in Becker or in Moshfegh (also elsewhere, e.g. 7). Isn’t it rather about a “container concept” that does not distinguish sufficiently what it brings together in one category.
    3: as the economic unity and massive cultural mixing allowed by the united empire allowed the consolidation of a new Islamic heritage
    4 sound a little bit redundant, most things have been said already
    10 Said’s critique of Orientalism led in fact led
    13: Iganz Ignaz Goldziher
    27: There is something missing/wrong here: In other words, Goldziher position reformed Islamic monotheism, like reformed Jewish monotheism, as the highest modernity available.
    28: too colloquial: “I close the paper by arguing”
    As to the conclusion, I personally thought it to be quite clear and convincing. Great paper.

  6. emstolberg says:

    This essay provides a detailed analysis, but I miss a concise conclusion with the main, substantive arguments. Concerning the summary, I am also suggesting to draw a concise line of the discourse among the mentioned scholars Becker, Goldziher and Said along the pinpoints of controversies and which significance this has for periodization.

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