Islam, Judaism, and Orientalism, March 23-24, 2017

Islam, Judaism, and Orientalism

Dr. Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth, Jewish Studies

Dr. Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth, Jewish Studies“It was Islam that saved the Jewish people!” So declared the distinguished medievalist S.D. Goitein in a 1958 lecture to British Jews. His declaration culminated a long century of Jewish scholarship on Islam that not only proclaimed theological affinities between the two religions, but viewed Islam as Judaism’s protector as well. Starting with the highly acclaimed book of Abraham Geiger, Was hat Muhammad aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen?, published in 1833, which launched modern scholarship on Islamic origins, Jewish scholars in Europe became fascinated with the uncanny appearance of rabbinic texts in the Qur’an. From the 1830s to the 1930s, Jews published significant scholarship on Islam, demonstrating the parallels between Judaism and Islam. My paper will delineate the stages of Jewish scholarship and examine the role of that scholarship within the larger context of nineteenth century constructions of “religion,” its reflection of a wider culture of European imperialism, and its adoption and transformation of philological methods drawn from New Testament scholarship.

Public Lecture: “History of Jewish Scholarship on Islam: The Story of a Fascination”      Link to Audio Recording
Thursday Mar. 23, 4:30 pm, MacLaurin D110

Seminar: “Judaism, Orientalism, and Empire”
Friday Mar. 24, 10:30 am, Sedgwick C168


Susannah Heschel. 2014. “Constructions of Jewish Identity through Reflections on Islam,” in Caputo, N. and Sterk, A. eds. Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religions, and the Challenge of Objectivity. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 169-184.

Heschel, Susannah. 2012. “German-Jewish Scholarship on Islam as a Tool of De-Orientalization,” New German Critique 117: Fall: 91-117.