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Penser l'Orient

 | 
Youssef Courbage
, 
Manfred Kropp

Islamic studies. The intellectual and political conditions of a discipline

Baber Johansen

Entrées d'index

Mots clés :

orientalisme, Islam

Texte intégral

  • 1 Johansen, B., « Politics, Paradigms and the Progress of Oriental Studies The German Oriental Societ (...)

1The Orient Institute of the German Oriental Society, founded in 1961, has long since acquired the reputation of an important meeting ground between scholars and intellectuals from different countries that allows them to lead controversial and also less controversial discussions in a hospitable environment. It took the German Oriental Society, founded in October 1845,1 roughly 120 years to establish such an institutional presence in the Arab World. The foundation of this institute symbolizes an important change in outlook and perspective of German Orientalist research. The Orient Institute has done amazingly well in opening new horizons and in bringing about changes in outlook and interest of the scholars who worked in this institution.

  • 2 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship: the development of Islamic Studies in the Federal Republi (...)

2I am invited to talk about the history of German Orientalism. The colloquium is organized at the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the publication of Edward Said’s “Orientalism” and I will discuss Said’s thesis that Orientalism is the creation of an object of knowledge in order to transform it into an object of power and domination and that Oriental Studies are the most responsible agent for this transformation.2 It will come as no surprise that I contest the validity of this statement. I will briefly mention my principal theoretical objections against it and then try and sketch out the most important research traditions of Oriental Studies in nineteenth century Germany and the way in which their development corresponds or not to Said’s verdict.

  • 3 Foucault, M., Histoire de la sexualité, vol. 1: La volonté de savoir, Paris, Gallimard, 1976, under (...)
  • 4 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., p. 73.

3Said bases his analysis on a theory developed by Michel Foucault, according to whom the public discourse is closely related to power, power and knowledge develop in mutual dependence and, therefore, the discourse has to be analyzed as a place in which power and knowledge are articulated.3 Said transforms this general thesis into a particular one, that applies specifically to Oriental Studies and the Middle East. He replaces the critique of Imperialism with the critique of Orientalism, thereby creating a scapegoat effect that exculpates occidental politics and depicts it as a victim of Oriental Studies. He totally neglects the transfer of military and other industrial technology as factors of dependence and domination and instead attributes these effects to Oriental Studies. Last but not least, he consciously uses Orientalism in a way that does not allow the reader to understand wether the term “Orientalism” denotes an inherent and essential quality of European (but not American) culture from Homer to Bernard Lewis, a European and American political practice, a group of disciplines represented in the departments of Oriental Studies, all studies concerning the Near and the Middle East or in general the Western production of images concerning the Orient. He uses the term in all these meanings. But, as he usually speaks about Orientalism as an academic discipline in the tradition of Oriental Studies, this ambiguity helps him to establish a reputation of this discipline as the root of all evil.4 In spite of all these ambiguities and deficiencies, his criticism is often full of insights and has certainly stirred a necessary debate.

  • 5 It is a gross misinterpretation of this sentence to say that German Orientalists never participated (...)

4One of my major contestations of Said’s thesis concerns his suggestion that Oriental Studies are responsible for Orientalism as defined above. In sketching out the relationship between German politics and scholarship concerning the Muslim World, I try to point out that at no time in Germany, Oriental Studies were actively engaged in developing government policies, though they were at times engaged in executing them.5 At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Germany consisted of a system of small principalities and larger kingdoms. After the French Revolution, Napoléon’s invasion of Germany and the final defeat of his armies, these small states are trying to reform their political and legal systems as well as their systems of public education. The new chairs of Oriental Studies have been created by these principalities and kingdoms most of whom had no direct political or economic interest in the Near or the Middle East. Archival research in the reasons that motivated them to create chairs for Oriental Studies is lacking. It remains an important desideratum for the writing of a more precise history of Oriental Studies in Germany during the ninteenth century.

5On the one hand, the small German states try to bring innovative scholars of high academic renown to their universities in order to attract good students. On the other hand, political and religious censorship is built into the system of government and public education as an important instrument of control in the hands of churches and governments. The transition to a constitutional system of government and to independent research and teaching is a slow and hesitant one. The fragmentation of the state system into an important number of small units creates a counter-mechanism: as we shall see, prominent professors who lose their academic position in one state can find a new one in other states. The development of Oriental Studies forms part of this hesitant transition of the political and cultural practices in Germany.

  • 6 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa vom 12. bis in den Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts », in H (...)
  • 7 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... »,op. cit., pp. 219‑220, 225-226.
  • 8 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... »,op. cit., p. 243.

6The founding of the German Oriental Society in 1845 translates a professionalization of the field of Oriental Studies as a new discipline. The emergence of this discipline profits, as Fück has shown, from the enlightenment criticism of the. Under the influence of Christian theology, the philologia sacra, until the end of the eighteenth century, considered the study of Arabic to be a tool for the linguistic analysis of the Old Testament. The research in and the teaching of Arabic, for that reason, formed part of Biblical studies.6 Enlightenment, in combination with the eighteenth-century political and economic interests of England, France, the Netherlands and the Habsburg empire brought about an important change in this situation. The philologia sacra lost its priority. The study of Arabic was increasingly conceived as an instrument for the cognition of the Islamic world, its history and religions as well as of Arabic culture. In the eighteenth century, the combination, in research and teaching, of Arabic with Persian, Turkish and other Oriental languages seemed to be an obvious necessity for all those powers who had political and economic interests in India, the Ottoman empire or other parts of the Muslim world. This combination of languages is taught in England and France from the eighteenth century on.7 It is recommended in Austria in the beginning of the nineteenth century.8 In Germany it takes much longer to find its way into the curriculum of Oriental Studies: it is linked to the emergence of Islamic Studies in the beginning of the twentieth century.

  • 9 For Herder see Meinecke, F. « Die Entstehung des Historismus, Munich, Beck, 1965, pp. 371-74, 383-8 (...)
  • 10 Hazard, P., La crise de la conscience européenne 1680-1715, Paris, 1935. See also Israel, Jonathan (...)
  • 11 On Schlegel and Schelling, see Habermas, J., Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne. Zwölf Vorlesun (...)

7The role of the public intellectual that the Enlightenment period and Romanticism had granted to scholars and writers engaged in the study of non-Christian religions, non-European languages, forms of science and scholarship no longer existed at the time when the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft was founded. During the Enlightenment, German scholars such as Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) and Johann Jakob Reiske (1716-1774) had, much as their counterparts in other European countries,9 looked to foreign cultures, languages, religions and societies as sources of information on how to rule a society, live a religion, write poetry in ways that differed from the models recognized under the Ancien Régime prevalent in Europe. The information obtained was often turned into a critique of the historical legitimation of European institutions and it became a matter of public concern and public debate. Paul Hazard who, in 1935, was one of the first to describe this process for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, calls his book La crise de la conscience européenne. He thus captured an important dimension of the function attributed to the information on the non-European world during the period of Enlightenment: this information served as the foundation of the critique of the Bible, of absolutist government and of scholarship that was regarded as no longer compatible with the new outlook on a world that turned out to be bigger and richer than the Middle Ages and the doctrines of the churches had envisaged.10 The Romantic period had, on a reduced scale, used Iranian and Arab poetry as providing the proof that all peoples and nations shared a common quest for the values and the beauty of life. In its quest for poetry and aesthetics as the foundation of universal values it had still played an important part in the public debates on the relation between truth, ethics and aesthetics in modern societies and on the relations between cultures and nations. It thus exerted a strong influence on aesthetics and philosophy in the first half of the nineteenth century.11

  • 12 On Silvestre de Sacy (1758-1838), see Fück, J., « Die arabischen Stu-dien... », op. cit., pp. 224‑4 (...)

8The founding of the German Oriental Society in 1845, falls already in a different age. Neither the critical spirit of enlightenment nor the Romantic quest for the poetry as the common expression of mankind, determine the professionalization of Oriental Studies. This process is firmly integrated into the cultural role that the burgeoning German bourgeoisie plays within the numerous German principalities and monarchies. Since the 1830s, a growing number of these states, under the influence of the French model of the Ecole des langues orientales vivantes, founded in 1795, shortly after the French Revolution, created chairs for Oriental Studies and sent students to Paris in order to acquire the necessary qualifications. Many of the German professors who held these chairs, were students of Silvestre de Sacy, the French master of a whole European generation of orientalists.12 Students, professors, and the growing learned public interested in the field, constituted a professional group in need of its own representation, its own learned journals and its congresses in which problems of common interest could be discussed. But, except for the Biblical criticims that had developed in Germany since 1780, these professional exchanges are no longer matters of public debate. Oriental Studies increasingly become an academic exercise.

  • 13 On Wolf’s concept of philology, see Curtius, G. (1820-1885), « Philologie und Sprachwissenschaft », (...)
  • 14 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... »,op. cit., defines Arabic philology as the « scien (...)
  • 15 Johansen, B., « Politics, Paradigms and the Progress of Oriental Studies... »,op. cit., pp. 81-83.
  • 16 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », 1955, op. cit., p. 171.

9During the nineteenth century, three main axes of development are discernible within Oriental Studies. The first one is that of Arabic philology, known as Arabistik. Its leading representative is Heinrich Leberecht Fleischer who from 1835 to 1888 held the chair for Arabic Studies in Leipzig. Fleischer who was trained in theology and Oriental Studies in Leipzig, spent more than four years in France (1824-1828), studying Arabic and Persian with Silvestre de Sacy and other French scholars. He is undoubtedly the founder of Arabic philology in Germany. During the more than fifty years that he held the chair in Leipzig he established the paradigm of what the new discipline of Arabistik ought to be. A philology based on the model of Altertumswissenschaft, the study of Greek and Latin antiquity, developed by Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824).13 That is to say a painstaking study of the language, of the texts written in it, of the different forms of speaking it - and Fleischer has always defended the necessity to study the spoken Arabic of the different regions - and last but not least an inventory and stocktaking of all the elements that should allow an understanding of the formal qualities of the languages and literatures concerned and of the cultures and societies of which they are an expression.14 Throughout the nineteenth centuries and until well into the twentieth century, classical philology remains the model that other philologies, and the humanities in general, have to follow. For the scholars who founded the German Oriental Society in 1845 and its journal, the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Geselschaft in 1847, there is no doubt that they want the German Oriental Society to be a society of philologists.15 For a long time, the philological program has served as a protection that shielded Oriental Studies from the intrusion of other theories of language and literature. Fleischer is a good case in point. He never became interested in any of the theories of language that became prominent in the nineteenth century.16 Ever since Fleischer, Arabic philology has remained the cornerstone of the German Orientalist tradition in the field of Arabic and Islamic Studies.

  • 17 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago and London, 1962, vol. XXIII, sub verbo « Wellhausen, Julius », p (...)
  • 18 On Wellhausen, see also Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism in the Nineteenth Century England and (...)
  • 19 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 79-83.

10The second axis of the development of Oriental Studies is that of historiography based on the critical-historical method of source-examination. It reaches the field of Oriental Studies in the 1880s, much later than the philological model. It is brought into Oriental Studies by Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918), “the Darwin of biblical history” as the Encyclopedia Britannica puts it.17 His main books are published between 1878 and 1902. Wellhausen 18 stood squarely in the tradition of the German historicism that was developed by Barthold Georg Niebuhr (1776-1831) and Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886). From 1825 when Ranke first held a professorship at the new Berlin University to the early 80s when he published his Weltgeschichte (1881), Ranke was the most influential German historian. For more than half a century he was a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and, beginning in 1841, he became the official historiographer of the Prussian court. Throughout the nineteenth century, Ranke was the leading authority in Orientalism (in Said’s sense) in Germany. The Prussian court considers him to be the leading authority on Ottoman history and charges him in 1854 to write a memorandum on the solution to the Turkish crisis. It is well known - and often lamented - that Ranke, except for Koranic studies, did not bother to read the books and articles produced in the field of Oriental Studies.19

  • 20 Meinecke, F., Die Entstehung des Historismus, op. cit., pp. 371-74, 386, 400-402, 409, 421-22, 437‑ (...)
  • 21 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 79-82.

11The German historicist tradition followed Herder in defining historical development as the development of individuals, be they persons, peoples or cultures. World history is the relationship between these individuals and individual development is conceived of as the unfolding of the individual’s potential in time and space. It is a historiography of the emanation of the individual’s original qualities;20 it leaves little space for the complex interaction between these individuals that together form the common ground for new and common developments. Breaking with Herder and Goethe, the nineteenth-century German historicism considers political life and in particular the relationship between state and religion as the loftiest expressions of a people’s individuality. This program is developed after the defeat of Napoléon and the triumph of the Holy Alliance. Ranke’s enthusiasm for the political history of the German and Romance peoples reflects in many ways the growing power of the Holy Alliance and its policy of political and cultural restoration. The Occident, according to him, consists of the Germanic and the Romance peoples and together they controll the field of World History since the Crusades. All other peoples are objects of their actions.21

  • 22 Ibid., pp. 79-80.

12Wellhausen’s historiography is centered on the relation between a people and its religion. As a theologian he tries to reconstruct the sequence of Biblical texts that give a key to the understanding of the relation of the Jewish people to its religion, when he is transformed into an Orientalist he applies the same methods to the Arabs and their religion. He is one of the most ingenious representatives of the historical-critical method of text analysis. According to this method, the historian’s sources have to be critically examined according to a set of criteria that allows the historian to measure the reliability of his texts. To produce this set of critical criteria is one of the main tasks of the historian who has to isolate the reliable historical data from the mass of spurious traditions. He has to free himself and his contemporaries from accepted traditions and mythologies and to assess the past in the light of its own values, aspirations and possibilities. Only in this way can he establish a reliable picture of the historical development. Such an analysis of the historical transmissions allows the historian to establish their relations to each other and to establish their sequence in time and space.22 Wellhausen focuses on the relation between religion and the political ambitions of the people who practice it, an attitude equally observable in his understanding of Jewish and of Arab history. Religion is mainly seen as an expression of a people and its national culture. The critical approach to historical texts that is at the center of this tradition has remained an essential part of historiography in the Oriental field until this very day, even though other historical methods and theories are nowadays increasingly used in Oriental Studies.

  • 23 Mittwoch, E., « Das Seminar für Orientalische Sprachen an der Universität zu Berlin », inWeltpoliti (...)
  • 24 Sachau, E., Muhammedanisches Recht nach schafiitischer Lehre, Lehrbücher des Seminars für Orientali (...)

13The third axis is that of Islamic Studies. Though Orientalists, such as Nöldeke and others worked on the Koran throughout the nineteenth century, Islam as a dimension of the Lebenswelten of Muslims in different parts of the world had rather been neglected as an object of study. Islamic law, theology, ritual, mysticism, popular movements, the modern press, the Islamic reform movement were practically unknown. When, therefore, the German government engaged in an active policy of alliances with and investment in the Ottoman Empire, in commercial and political contacts with North African rulers, and in the colonization of Muslim Africa, the classical philology of Arabic Studies, the critical-historical method of Orientalist historiography were of little direct use. The government, therefore, created the Seminar für Orientalische Sprachen in 1887, an institution in which young diplomats and administration officials for the colonies received a practical training for their careers.23 The first German manual of Muslim law ever was written as a textbook for the students of the Seminar für Orientalische Sprachen, by Eduard Sachau.24 But such a practical training of its officials was hardly sufficient for a power that wanted to play a major role in the Muslim World. A higher degree of sophistication in the approach to the Muslim world was urgently needed.

  • 25 On C.H. Becker, see van Ess, J., « From Wellhausen to Becker The Emergence of Kulturgeschichte. », (...)
  • 26 On Becker’s implication in the war policy of the German government during the First World War, see (...)

14Carl Heinrich Becker (1876-1933) is the first scholar who holds a chair for Islamic Studies. This chair is founded, in 1908, at the Kolonialinstitut in Hamburg.25 The colonialist background of the new discipline can hardly be expressed more clearly. But, contrary to the suggestion of Edward Said, it is the government and the colonialist policy that creates a new institution and sponsors a new discipline. It is not Islamic Studies that creates a colonialist discourse. Becker, a brilliant papyrologist, a specialist of the social history of the Middle East, known for his research in the history of the Muslim cult is a close friend of Max Weber. He shares with him not only his liberal outlook on politics but also a keen insight into the social and cultural dimensions of religion. He is a liberal politician and at the same time a patriot. He feels obliged to support the German government in its colonialist engagements as well as in its foreign policy. His efforts to justify and to encourage, during World War I, the jihad against the British and the French in order to support the Muslim power, the Ottoman Empire, the ally of the German Reich, are well known. Snouck Hurgronje, the famous Dutch Orientalist, whom Becker held in high esteem, has criticized Becker’s activities in this field as “The Holy War made in Germany”. The end of the First World War, therefore, was a defeat not only of the German Reich but also of this dimension of Islamic Studies.26

  • 27 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 89-90.

15Islamic Studies survived this defeat as a discipline due to the fact that they had already integrated into the canon of the new discipline a large spectrum of new objects of knowledge belonging to the study of Islam: the social history of the Muslim world, the history of Science and philosophy and last but not least the study of Islam as a dimension of societies and cultures.27 Becker saw Islam as the religious dimension of a model of culture and civilization that was not created by this religion but whose symbol of integration and representation it had become. Becker understood this relationship as a “problem” and he analyzed its changes in terms of the transformation of cultural systems. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first attempt to think of Islam as a dimension of cultural and social systems and the first essay to analyze its symbolical meaning with reference to these systems.

  • 28 Ibid., pp. 90-92 on the Nazi period. On the renaissance of Islamic Studies in Germany from the seve (...)

16Islamwissenschaft flourished during the last decades of the Kaiserreich and during the Weimar Republic. It suffered severely under the Nazis: many of the scholars who taught it had to leave the country, some were killed because they were Jews. In general, it seemed illegitimate to the Nazis that the study of a non-European and non-German religion, culture and history should prosper at German universities. After 1945 it turned out to be difficult to restore the tradition due to the interruption that took place under the Nazis. It was only in the seventies that we witnessed the renaissance of a flourishing discipline of Islamic Studies in Germany.28

  • 29 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 92-102.

17In the period between 1945 and 1965 Oriental Studies concerning the Muslim World are dominated by lexicography, Arab philology and pre-modern Muslim history. The methodology applied is philological and historical. There is no debate on any of the conflictual theories concerning culture, society, colonialism, literature developed in the twentieth century. There is practically no effort to study the history of the discipline during the Nazi period. When the Algerian war of independence, in 1962, ends with the breakdown of the colonial system in the Arab world, the German government, industry and commerce seek information on the Muslim world in the twentieth century. Oriental Studies were not able to provide the information needed. It took a concerted effort of the government and of the major private foundations during the sixties and the seventies to found new chairs for the study of the modern Orient and to fund projects concerning the development of contemporary politics, culture and societies. This new policy led to an opening of Oriental Studies towards the social sciences, expressed in new curricula and in new research projets. Again, it was not the field of Oriental Studies that developed these new policies and suggested them to the government. It was rather the other way round.29

  • 30 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », op. cit., p. 244.
  • 31 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., pp. 40-44. See also Zeitschrift der Deutschen M (...)
  • 32 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., pp. 91-103; see also Fück 2, op. cit., p. 167.
  • 33 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », 1955, op. cit., pp. 217-220.
  • 34 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », 1955, op. cit., p. 174‑175.
  • 35 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », 1955, op. cit., p. 242.

18Many observers have commented on the important number of theologians in Germany’s nineteenth-century Oriental Studies. The list is, indeed, long. Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752-1827),30 Martin Leberecht de Wette (1780-1849),31 Heinrich Ewald (1803-1875),32 Heinrich Leberecht Fleischer (1801-1888), Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) and Theodor Nöldeke (1836-1930) 33 are among the most famous Orientalists who received a Christian theological education. Jewish scholars who had received a talmudic formation, such as Abraham Geiger (1810-1874), Gustav Weil (1809-1889) 34 and Jakob Barth 35 made important contributions to the research on Islam and Muslim history. The presence of so many theologians among the leading scholars of a philological discipline is, in fact, a striking phenomenon that needs further discussion. There are at least four reasons that could be adduced as partial explanations of the phenomenon.

  • 36 According to strict rules of scholarship, I should not quote Fleischer’s correspondence from the te (...)

19To start with the most evident aspect: theology was a well established discipline with a relatively short duration of the course of studies if compared to Oriental Studies. In addition it offered a much greater chance to obtain a post as pastor or church official. In a touching letter to his father Fleischer, still pursuing his studies with de Sacy in Paris, admits that all the friends with whom he studied in Leipzig already hold positions, but, he tells his father, it is much easier to become a pastor, lawyer or doctor than to become an Orientalist and that even if he succeeds in his studies, an Orientalist is much less sure to ever hold an office. For this reason, he underlines, he has to stay in Paris and study with de Sacy in order to qualify for a good position.36

  • 37 Stentzler, F., Die Verfassung der Vernunft, Berlin, Publica, 1984, p. 110 describes the result of t (...)
  • 38 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., pp. 139-40. To substitute the political termino (...)

20Second, since the 1780s, in Germany protestant theology - under the influence of Kant’s criticism - engaged in critical studies of the Bible. In the framework of the a priori categories of time and space neither God, nor the human soul exist. But the human incapacity of human cognition to go beyond these a priori categories forbids to deny the existence of God and the immortal soul.37 The tension between natural objects, existing in time and space, and supranatural objects that are not accessible in a priori categories preoccupies German theology since the end of the eighteenth century. The debate over miracles figures prominently in this context. In fact, nineteenth-century Germany’s faculties of protestant theology, according to Rogerson, were split into two camps: confessionalist traditionalists versus the representatives of historical criticism. The critical theology, itself divided by other issues, investigates into the authenticity of biblical texts.38 And this approach is of course easily transferable to an Oriental philology that tries to determine the historical sequence and the authenticity of sacred texts that are the fundamental objects of the discipline. The history of the Koran, by Theodor Nöldeke, is a good example.

  • 39 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., p. 260, note 10.

21Wellhausen’s critique of the Old Testament is an important example of the introduction of this method from theology into Oriental Studies. His own career shows that the transition from theology to Oriental Studies is a possible career pattern. He belongs to the critical, as opposed to the confessionalist wing of German theology. His conflict with the confessionalist theologians arises from his interpretation of Judaism as a national religion in which the role of the priests had been exaggerated by later texts that were wrongly attributed to earlier periods of Jewish history. The authenticity of these late texts as testimony of earlier periods had be accepted too easily, according to Wellhausen, by the learned tradition of Christian theology. His conflict with the dominant theological doctrine in this matter led to his dismissal from the university of Greifswald where he had held, from 1872-1882, a professorship in theology. He went to Halle where, from 1882-1885, he served as Privatdozent and extra-ordinarius, a clear case of academic decline. From 1885-1892 he holds the professorship of Semitic Languages at Marburg and finally is appointed professor of Oriental Languages at Göttingen during the last 26 years of his life.39 His professional career clearly shows a practical secularization: in order to remain a university professor and not to betray his research, Wellhausen has to become an orientalist. He can do so, because the methodology that he applies is the same in the two disciplines.

  • 40 Habermas, J., Der Philosophische Diskurs..., op. cit., pp. 110-112.
  • 41 Hegel, G. W. F., Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im G (...)

22Last but not least, the critical Biblical studies of protestant theology form part of the multiple efforts, characteristic of all German scholarship of that period, to justify the modern state, society, scholarship and art, through their relation to a historical unfolding of reason and esthetics as historical individualities that guarantee the harmony of the state, the civil society, religion, art and scholarship. The philosophical systems of Friedrich Wilhelm Josef Schelling (1775-1854) and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) define the factors that guarantee the integration of the various spheres of society and the state into a politically, religiously and philosophically acceptable order. Schelling hopes for a new public role of the arts that ought unite with philosophy and ethics in a new trinity to be dominated by the esthetic factor. Modern art only, according to Schelling, is able to create a new myth that will unite the different spheres of the society and the mind that otherwise threaten to fall apart.40 Hegel, on the other hand, sees the integrative factor in the modern protestant German state. He understands this state as the realization of the divine in history, the reality of reason (“die Wirklichkeit der Vernunft”) that alone is able to bring about a harmonious co-existence with religion, philosophy and science.41

  • 42 Weber, M., Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, in idem, Gesammelte Aufsätze z (...)

23The effort to find a religious justification for a modern sphere of society is barely hidden in Max Weber’s attempt to define capitalism as the heir of protestant ethics (1904-1905). Capitalism as the fruit of protestant ethics is a legitimation of modern forms of rationalization through their religious origins. This fact may help to explain the positive reaction of German protestant theology to this thesis of Max Weber.42

  • 43 Camphausen, A. von, Staatskirchenrecht, München, C.H.Beck, second edition, 1983, see in particular (...)
  • 44 Coing, H., « Die Auseinandersetzung um kirchliches und staatliches Eherecht im Deutschland des 19. (...)

24The same attitude of a hesitant secularization is to be met with in German law. According to the constitutions of the Weimarian Republic and of the Federal Republic of Germany (art. 140), the churches and recognized religious communities are “corporations under the public law”. This gives them a privileged status as far as the relation between the church institutions and their employees, the control of the theological teaching at German universities, tax collection and the participation in public institutions, such as the program committees of public radio and television are concerned. The state, therefore, is not fully separated from religion and the churches are not wholly subject to the rules of the law.43 As far as the civil code is concerned, it is important to remember that the civil marriage became the law of the German Reich in 1900 only. Even when it was finally accepted, the authors of the code took great pains to stress that it was the form of marriage only that had become civil, whereas the moral content of the institution “marriage” would always remain Christian.44

25In other words, in law, philosophy and theology, throughout the nineteenth and, at least partly also in the twentieth century, the secularization of state and society remained a major problem for German scholarship. The modern society and its state, its philosophy and science, its art and the distance between the state and civil society had to be justified in terms of the historical unfolding of the world’s mind into new forms, in terms of a new public role of esthetics, the rationalizing capacity of capitalism as a heritage of protestant ethics and the civil marriage as a purely formal secularization. The same hesitation to accept form and content of secularization is typical for the scholarly practice of Oriental Studies and its relation towards protestant theology. For Oriental Studies, the critical protestant theology plays an important role. It legitimizes the critical philological analysis of sacred texts and thus encourages the rewriting of religious history. In other words, it provides a religious legitimation of secularized scholarship concerning sacred texts.

  • 45 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., p. 91.
  • 46 Ibid., p. 91 (and note 2) to be compared to pp. 97-98, 103.

26Heinrich Ewald (1803-1875), one of the seven founders of the German Oriental Society and, according to Rogerson, “one of the greatest critical Old Testament scholars of all time” 45 is a perfect example of this attitude. Let me mention in passing that Ewald was the professor of Wellhausen who left us a rather disparaging and unfair character description of his teacher.46

  • 47 Ibid., p. 92.
  • 48 Ibid., p. 93; see also Ewald, H., « Plan dieser Zeitschrift », Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgen (...)
  • 49 van Ess, J., Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra. Eine Geschichte des reli (...)

27Ewald was twice dismissed from office: the first time in 1837 when he protested against the abolition of the constitution of Hannover by the king of that state. At that occasion he was sent into exile in Tübingen, where he served as professor first at the philological and later at the theological faculty. He stayed in Tübingen for 11 years, returning to his professorship in Göttingen in 1848. The second time he was removed from his university in 1867-8 when he refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Prussian king who had just annexed Hannover.47 Together with other colleagues, Ewald had founded, in 1837, the Zeitschrift für die kunde des Morgenlandes, the precursor of the Journal of the German Oriental Society that was published from 1847 on. In the introductory article to his journal, Ewald outlines, in 1837, what he sees as the main task for Oriental Studies. He starts with the proposition that the French Revolution has freed society and state from the yoke of institutionalized religion. Thus, Oriental Studies are finally free to study the Orient in the same way that classical philology studies the Greek and the Latin world. Its aim should be to help the European reader to acquire a richer and more complex understanding of the relation between different cultures and societies. One ought, he says, reduce the place of biblical studies in Oriental Studies because the predominance of these studies indicates the scholarly backwardness of Orientalist Studies. This is not to say that Ewald is an enemy of religion. On the contrary, he is persuaded that an objective analysis of history could not but show its determination by God’s will and by the progress of history to the perfect religion. But in order to make such an objective analysis possible it is necessary to free the historical and philological research from all ecclesiastical and theological control. The emancipation from this control through the protection of independant university research and teaching is a formal condition that will help to bring about the realization of the perfect religion.48 The secularization concerns the form and much less the content. Theology serves as a mediator. It transfers to Oriental Studies the instruments through which to establish the historical texts. It legitimizes theses methods through applying them to sacred texts. Theology is seen as a practical paradigm and not as a field of theoretical debates. It legitimizes the scholarly practices and methods of Oriental Studies and, at the same time, neutralizes them against the theological debates in Christianity and Islam. In the introduction to his masterful 6-volume Theologie und Gesellschaft, van Ess aptly remarks that neither Arabic philology nor Islamwissenschaft ever developed enough interest in the available texts of Muslim theology to collect and edit them nor enough knowledge about them to develop a concept how to study them.49 The dependence of nineteenth-century Oriental Studies on theology does not create a dominant interest in theological questions and problems. Rather, the Oriental Studies practice a philological reading of theological methods.

  • 50 Troeltsch, E., « Der Aufbau der europäischen Kulturgeschichte », Schmoller’s Jahrbuch für Gesetzgeb (...)

28When, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Islamic Studies become an independent discipline, their links to protestant theology are much less developed than that of Arabic philology. During the first two decades or so, none of the leading representatives of the new discipline is a protestant theologian. The new discipline looks for orientation in the history of science, in a Weberian sociology that focuses on the social role of religion and in social history. Its representatives look for an exchange with the specialists in these fields. To return for a moment to Said: they are not interested in creating the Islamic Middle East as the alien culture that one has to study in order to dominate it. I will briefly present their participation in a well known debate with one of the major figures in protestant theology, at the same time a leading theoretician in the field of history and historicism. I am talking about Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923), theologian and philosopher, who refines the notion of cultural circles and tries to base the writing of world history on the relations between the different cultural circles. He cites as the most important cultural circles those of India, China, Pharaonic Egypt, Islamic Western Asia and the Mediterranean-European-American circle. Each of these circles having its own history of meaning and the sense of acts and words being culturally mediated, those who do not belong to a cultural circle do not understand the sense of acts and enunciations produced in that culture. Among the cultural circles, the Mediterranean-European-American one is the only cultural circle equipped with a capacity to engage in a historical reflection of culture. But its members have no access to the meaning of other cultural circles. Therefore, they are only capable to write the history of their own culture, because an object of historical research (historischer Gegenstand) exists only insofar as it is held together by a unity of culture and meaning, and development exists only insofar as a common meaning and cultural mind (Kulturgeist) lie at its base.50

  • 51 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 83-86.

29Consequently, the European Orientalist scholar cannot understand the object of his research. Maximally, he can establish a sequence of events, a sort of chronicle, but he cannot pretend to understand the sense of the events, acts and enunciations. Becker accepts, lock, stock and barrel, the whole theory of the cultural circles as the basis of world history. But he protests against its consequence in one point: the Islamic civilization of Western Asia and the civilization of Europe belong, he insists, to the same cultural circle because both share a common religious and cultural heritage: the Jewish prophetic tradition and the Greek heritage in science and philosophy. Therefore, the Mediterranean-European cultural circle cannot be separated from the Islamic Western Asian. The two civilizations share a common cultural heritage and, therefore, cannot constitute two different cultural circles. The ranking that Becker establishes between them stems from the way in which the cultural heritage has been appropriated and put to use in each civilization, but not from any fundamental inaccessibility of the cultural elements common to both civilizations. Against the theological and historicist construction of the history and the circles of culture, Becker defends a strictly cultural construction that leaves no place for the adherence to one religion or another as a defining criterium for the integration into or the exclusion from a cultural circle.51

30Troeltsch, the theoretician of historicism defines Islam as the alien and incomprehensible entity that belongs to a different cultural circle; Becker, the representative of Islamic Studies defines Islam as sharing a common cultural heritage with Europe and, therefore, a comprehensible culture and religion that can become an object of knowledge and study. Such an opposition is not, in principle, incompatible with Foucault’s or even Said’s discourse analysis, but it clearly points out that Said’s essentialist reconstruction of the “Orientalist” discourse as resting on and reproducing the fundamental alienness between the subject and the object of knowledge and power does not necessarily have its main addressee in the research activity of the Orientalist scholar. One may, on the contrary argue that Orientalist scholarship is by its own interest bound to develop a discourse that insists on the fundamental commonalities between the scholars and their objects.

Notes

1 Johansen, B., « Politics, Paradigms and the Progress of Oriental Studies The German Oriental Society (Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft) 1845-1989 », MARS (Le monde arabe dans la recherche scientifique) Institut du monde arabe, n°4, Hiver 1995, pp. 79-94.

2 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship: the development of Islamic Studies in the Federal Republic of Germany », in Ismael, T. Y. (ed.), Middle East Studies International Perspectives on the State of the Art, New York, Praeger, 1990, pp. 71-130 .

3 Foucault, M., Histoire de la sexualité, vol. 1: La volonté de savoir, Paris, Gallimard, 1976, underlines the relation between discourse and power on the one hand (pp. 21-22, 42, 44, 60-62, 82-83, 94-98), between power and knowledge on the other (pp. 121, 130, 137, 139, 163, 186-187, 189, 210). Foucault concludes « C’est bien dans le discours que pouvoir et savoir viennent s’articuler » (p. 133). For him, the most important event in the 18th century Europe was « l’entrée des phénomènes propres à la vie de l’espèce humaine dans l’ordre du savoir et du pouvoir dans le champ des techniques politiques » (p. 186).

4 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., p. 73.

5 It is a gross misinterpretation of this sentence to say that German Orientalists never participated in the politics developed by their government, see below notes 23-27.

6 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa vom 12. bis in den Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts », in Hartmann, R. and Scheel, H. (eds.), Beiträge zur Arabistik, Semitistik und Islamwissenschaft, Leipzig, 1944, pp. 189, 191, 203, 206.

7 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... »,op. cit., pp. 219‑220, 225-226.

8 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... »,op. cit., p. 243.

9 For Herder see Meinecke, F. « Die Entstehung des Historismus, Munich, Beck, 1965, pp. 371-74, 383-84, 400-402, 409, 421-422, 437-40. For Johann Jakob Reiske (1716-1774), see Fück, J., Die arabischen Studien in Europa... »,op. cit., pp. 192-208. Lessing’s Nathan der Weise (written in 1779) is the best known appeal for tolerance and mutual recognition of different religions and cultures to be staged in German theatres in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

10 Hazard, P., La crise de la conscience européenne 1680-1715, Paris, 1935. See also Israel, Jonathan I., Radical Enlightenment Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750, Oxford, OUP, 2001, p. 20.

11 On Schlegel and Schelling, see Habermas, J., Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne. Zwölf Vorlesungen, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1988, pp. 43-48. On the relationship between Romanticism and Orientalism, see Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... »,op. cit., pp. 76‑77.

12 On Silvestre de Sacy (1758-1838), see Fück, J., « Die arabischen Stu-dien... », op. cit., pp. 224‑41; on his German students, ibid., pp. 240-41.

13 On Wolf’s concept of philology, see Curtius, G. (1820-1885), « Philologie und Sprachwissenschaft », in Christmann, H. (ed.), Sprachwissenschaft des 19. Jahrhunderts, Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1977, pp. 67-70.

14 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... »,op. cit., defines Arabic philology as the « science of the religion, the culture and the history of the Arabic speaking peoples of the Islamic world » (p. 186) and he sees its roots in the French, Dutch and English enlightenment, pp. 181-188, 213, 224-25, 228-29, 236, 242. He sees Johann Jakob Reiske (1716-1774) as its precursor in Germany (pp. 206-208). On Fleischer, see Fück, J., Die arabischen Studien in Europa bis in den Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, Harrassowitz, 1955, pp. 170‑173.

15 Johansen, B., « Politics, Paradigms and the Progress of Oriental Studies... »,op. cit., pp. 81-83.

16 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », 1955, op. cit., p. 171.

17 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago and London, 1962, vol. XXIII, sub verbo « Wellhausen, Julius », pp. 497-498.

18 On Wellhausen, see also Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism in the Nineteenth Century England and Germany, London, SPCK, 1984, pp. 257‑289 and Fück, J. « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », 1955, op. cit., pp. 223-226.

19 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 79-83.

20 Meinecke, F., Die Entstehung des Historismus, op. cit., pp. 371-74, 386, 400-402, 409, 421-22, 437‑440.

21 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 79-82.

22 Ibid., pp. 79-80.

23 Mittwoch, E., « Das Seminar für Orientalische Sprachen an der Universität zu Berlin », inWeltpolitische Bildungsarbeit an Preussischen Hochschulen, Festschrift für C.H. Becker, Berlin, Hobbing, 1926, pp. 12‑22.

24 Sachau, E., Muhammedanisches Recht nach schafiitischer Lehre, Lehrbücher des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen in Berlin, Band 17, Stuttgart and Berlin, Spemann, 1897.

25 On C.H. Becker, see van Ess, J., « From Wellhausen to Becker The Emergence of Kulturgeschichte. », in Kerr, Malcolm H. (ed.), Islamic Studies: A Tradition and its Problems, Malibu, California, Tandena Publications, 1980. Rich in detail and lucid in its interpretation of the social dimension of Becker’s personality and the institutional effects of his activities, this article hardly does justice to Becker’s scholarly achievements nor to the ignominious character of the attacks directed against Becker by Carl Brockelmann, a leading German Orientalist.

26 On Becker’s implication in the war policy of the German government during the First World War, see Waardenburg, J.-J., L’Islam dans le miroir de l’Occident, Paris-La Haye, Mouton, 1963, p. 29; Becker, C.H., Deutschland und der Islam, Stuttgart and Berlin, Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1914, pp. 25-31; Heine, P., « S. Snouck Hurgronje versus C.H. Becker », Die Welt des Islams, n° 23-24 (1984), pp. 378-387.

27 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 89-90.

28 Ibid., pp. 90-92 on the Nazi period. On the renaissance of Islamic Studies in Germany from the seventies on, see ibid. pp. 103-118; see also my « Politics, Paradigms and the Progress... », op. cit., pp. 90-94.

29 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 92-102.

30 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », op. cit., p. 244.

31 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., pp. 40-44. See also Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, vol. II (1848), pp. 1‑4 on de Wette’s theological understanding of history.

32 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., pp. 91-103; see also Fück 2, op. cit., p. 167.

33 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », 1955, op. cit., pp. 217-220.

34 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », 1955, op. cit., p. 174‑175.

35 Fück, J., « Die arabischen Studien in Europa... », 1955, op. cit., p. 242.

36 According to strict rules of scholarship, I should not quote Fleischer’s correspondence from the texts I have at my disposition. These are copies of a type-written original edited by Fleischer’s granddaughter, Mathilde Müller-Heß that comprises letters to his father and his friends during his years in France. The editor gave it the title Die Hofmeister des Herrn von Coulaincourt 1824-28. Ein Zeitbild in Briefen des jungen Orientalisten Heinrich Leberecht Fleischer. Nach Originalen in der Leipziger Universitäts-bibliothek und in den Familien Fleischer und Jacob herausgegeben und erläutert von Mathilde Müller-Heß. I did not compare this manuscript to the originals nor do I know whether the family collections of this correspondence still exist. I decided to quote them because they do honor to Fleischer’s capacity of keen and sober observation in every respect. But the character of the texts that I use obliges me to announce this caveat. The letter is dated 22 February 1827 (pages 140-141 of the type-written copies edited by Mathilde Müller-Heß).

37 Stentzler, F., Die Verfassung der Vernunft, Berlin, Publica, 1984, p. 110 describes the result of the application of Kant’s a priori categories as follows: « Und Gott ist jetzt extraterritorial, ebenso wie die unsterbliche Seele und jene Freiheit, die contra legem als blinder Zufall sich gegen die Wissenschaft zu behaupten sucht ».

38 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., pp. 139-40. To substitute the political terminology of « conservative versus liberal » for Rogerson’s scholarly criterion of distinction between confessionalist traditionalists and historical criticism misses the essential point of this debate.

39 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., p. 260, note 10.

40 Habermas, J., Der Philosophische Diskurs..., op. cit., pp. 110-112.

41 Hegel, G. W. F., Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1970, vol. 7 of Werke in zwanzig Bänden, paragraphs 331-360; idem, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1969, vol.16 of Werke in zwanzig Bänden, pp. 236‑247.

42 Weber, M., Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, in idem, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie, Tübingen, Mohr (Siebeck), 1978, vol. I; see in particular II. Die Berufsethik des asketischen Protestantismus, pp. 84-206 and Die protestantischen Sekten und der Geist des Kapitalismus, ibid., pp. 207-36. For the friendly reception of this work by protestant theologians, see ibid., I. Das Problem, pp. 17-18, note 1.

43 Camphausen, A. von, Staatskirchenrecht, München, C.H.Beck, second edition, 1983, see in particular pp. 81-142.

44 Coing, H., « Die Auseinandersetzung um kirchliches und staatliches Eherecht im Deutschland des 19. Jahrhunderts », in Dilcher, G., and Staff, I. (eds.), Christentum und modernes Recht. Beiträge zum Problem der Säkularisierung, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp (stw 421), 1984, pp. 364‑365.

45 Rogerson, J., Old Testament Criticism..., op. cit., p. 91.

46 Ibid., p. 91 (and note 2) to be compared to pp. 97-98, 103.

47 Ibid., p. 92.

48 Ibid., p. 93; see also Ewald, H., « Plan dieser Zeitschrift », Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Göttingen, 1837, vol. 1, pp. 3-13.

49 van Ess, J., Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra. Eine Geschichte des religiösen Denkens im frühen Islam, Berlin, New York, 1991, vol. 1, pp. IX-XI.

50 Troeltsch, E., « Der Aufbau der europäischen Kulturgeschichte », Schmoller’s Jahrbuch für Gesetzgebung, Verwaltung und Volkswirtschaft im Deutschen Reich 44 (Jahrgang 1920), p. 637.

51 Johansen, B., « Politics and Scholarship... », op. cit., pp. 83-86.

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