Ignaz Goldziher was a pre-eminent scholar of Islam during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This book encapsulates his own lifetime of work and provides something of an historical commentary on his epoch in the Western academic study of Islam. One of its strengths is that Goldziher’s investigation of historical development probes into underlying religious motivations and allied theological issues. The book quickly became a classic of its day. It remains a classic that, in our day, is well worth re-visiting as it can still inform our understanding of contemporary Islam, whose roots lie in all that Goldziher covers.
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Ignaz Goldziher was a pre-eminent scholar of Islam during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His significance lies in being a relative pioneer in respect to western academics engaging at depth with Arabic language and Muslim scholarship. This book represents the culmination of his life’s work and provides something of a commentary on the development of the Western academic study of Islam. Indeed, Goldziher provides a window onto the historical period he occupied as a scholar and a reference point in respect to that period’s study of Islam. It remains of supreme relevance even today, for his aim is topical and relevant: to articulate, in some detail yet nevertheless in a single-volume summary form, the genesis and development of the religious, legal, and philosophical system that is Islam. Goldziher’s work unpacks the multifaceted dimensions of the emergence and development of this religion, including the way the early Muslim community developed its distinctive patterns of being and doing.
One of the particular strengths of the book is that Goldziher’s investigation of historical development probes into underlying religious motivations and allied theological concepts and issues. Here we are presented with the fruit of a thorough and encompassing scholarship where critical and informed commentary flavours what might otherwise be an interesting but relatively mundane narrative of events. To understand Islam demands understanding Islamic theology and allied religious sensibilities. There is much in Goldziher’s book that can still inform our understanding of contemporary Islam, for its roots lie in all that he covers.