The Hungarian Islamic Studies scholar of Jewish descent Ignaz Goldziher (1850–1921) is widely recognized as the founder (along with only two or three other scholars) of the scientific study of Islam in Europe. Goldziher undoubtedly has an enormous influence in the field of Islamic studies and practically everything he wrote between roughly 1870 and 1920 is still studied assiduously in universities throughout the world. Along with a tremendously busy schedule comprising of lecturing and composing scholarly works, Goldziher also kept a relatively personal record of his reflections, travel records and daily records. This journal was later published in German as “Tagebuch” ed. Alexander Scheiber (Leiden: Brill, 1978).
The following extremely interesting and authentic statements are taken from the mentioned pages of this journal, and provide us with a remarkable insight into his real feelings about Islam, which he could not give vent to in the bigoted Christian Europe of those days and thus chose to keep among his private writings.
- Ich lebte mich denn auch wuhrend dieser Wochen so sehr in den mohammedanischen Geist ein, dass ich zuletzt innerlich ?berzeugt wurde, ich sei selbst Mohammedaner und klug herausfand, dass dies die einzige Religion sei, welche selbst in ihrer doktrinur-offiziellen Gestaltung und Formulirung philosophische Kpfe befriedigen knne. Mein Ideal war es, das Judenthum zu uhnlicher rationeller Stufe zu erheben. Der Islam, so lehrte mich meine Erfahrung, sei die einzige Religion, in welcher Aberglaube und heidnische Rudimente nicht durch den Rationalismus, sondern durch die orthodoxe Lehre verpnt werden. (p. 59)
i.e., “I truly entered into the spirit of Islam to such an extent that ultimately I became inwardly convinced that I myself was a Muslim, and judiciously discovered that this was the only religion which, even in its doctrinal and official formulation, can satisfy philosophic minds. My ideal was to elevate Judaism to a similar rational level. Islam, so taught me my experience, is the only religion, in which superstitious and heathen ingredients are not frowned upon by the rationalism, but by the orthodox teachings.”
A little later in the same essay, speaking about the American missionary activities in Syria, Goldziher says:
- In dieser abscheulichen Religion, welche die elende Christenblutaffaire ersonnen, welche ihre besten auf die Folterbank spannen liess, will man die Bekenner des einig einzigen Jehova anlocken — in muhammedanischen Lundern. Es ist dies eine Frechheit, deren nur die abscheulichte aller Religionen, das Christenthum, fuhig ist. (p. 61).
i.e., “In this horrible religion [i.e., Christianity], which the miserable Christian blood affair invented, which let its best strain on the torture rack, one wants to allure the confessor of the united only Jehova — in Muhammedan countries. It is such an insolence of which only Christianity, the most abominable of all religions, is capable.”