Some of the nineteenth century’s foremost scholars of the Qur’an and hadiths were German and Hungarian Jews. For many of them, their scholarly interest in Islam was entangled with their contemporary concerns about movements of reform and emancipation in European Jewry and about the history of Jews’ relations with Christians and Muslims. Abraham Geiger, one of the founders of the reform movement, which sought to modernize Judaism by simplifying its ritual and making it more amenable to European society, was also a scholar of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Geiger presented Muhammad as a brilliant reformer who had learned his monotheism from Talmudic scholars and subsequently adapted it to his Arab audience. Geiger’s Muhammad was in essence a Jewish reformer: not strictly a Jew, to be sure, but nonetheless a better Jew than Geiger’s Orthodox Jewish critics. Other Jewish scholars (in particular, Gustav Weil and Ignác Goldziher) embraced and refined this image of the Muslim prophet as a model for Jewish reform.
John Tolan; The Prophet Muhammad: A Model of Monotheistic Reform for Nineteenth-Century Ashkenaz. Common Knowledge 1 April 2018; 24 (2): 256–279. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-4362457
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