Dr. Hartwig Hirschfeld (1854-1934)

Renowned orientalist and lecturer for Judaeo-Arabic studies at the Jews’ College in London

“We must not be surprised to find the Qoran regarded as the fountain-head of all the sciences. Every subject connected with heaven or earth, human life, commerce and various trades are occasionally touched upon, and this gave rise to the production of numerous monographs forming commentaries on parts of the holy book. In this way the Qoran was responsible for great discussions, and to it was also indirectly due the marvellous development of all branches of science in the Moslim world. — This again not only affected the Arabs but also induced Jewish philosophers to treat metaphysical and religious questions after Arab methods. Finally, the way in which Christian scholasticism was fertilised by Arabian theosophy need not be further discussed.

Spiritual activity once aroused within the Islamic bounds, was not confined to theological speculations alone. Acquaintance with the philosophical, mathematical, astronomical and medical writings of the Greeks, led to the pursuance of these studies. In the descriptive revelations Muhammed repeatedly calls attention to the movements of the heavenly bodies, as parts of the miracles of Allah forced into the service of man and therefore not to be worshipped. How successfully Moslem peoples of all races pursued the study of astronomy is shown by the fact that for centuries they were its principal supporters. Even now many Arabic names of stars and technical terms are in use. Mediaeval astronomers in Europe were pupils of the Arabs, and the last Muhammedan astronomer, who was at the same time one of the greatest, only died about twenty years before the birth of Copernicus.

In the same manner the Qoran gave an impetus to medical studies and recommended the contemplation and study of Nature in general. The very necessity for a better understanding of the Qoran itself impelled Moslems and particularly those who were not natives of Arabia to study its language. Renan has shown that the beginning of linguistic research among the Arabs was due neither to Greek influence nor to that of Syrian Christians. These studies resulted in the production of an unrivalled grammatical and lexicographical literature as immense as it is minutely worked out, and upon which our knowledge of the Arabic language is based. Linguistic pursuits were followed by literary pursuits. — Moslim scholars had the good sense not to allow the treasure of songs which had come down from pre-Islamic times to fall into oblivion, but collected them reverently and accompanied compilations with annotations, most welcome to readers of old poems. Not less important were these endeavours to settle questions connected with the forms from which the poems were composed, and they thus produced a most extensive literature on prosody. For many centuries after, Arabic prosody furnished the forms in which the best productions of medieval Jewish poetry both in Hebrew and Arabic were written. Even in the development of Arabic poetry itself the Qoran marks a very important phase. In pre-Islamic Arabic short ditties were the recognised medium for conveying public opinion from mouth to mouth. The forms of poetry had become so firmly established in the minds of the people, that even Islam could not alter them, though it succeeded in revolutionizing all else. As regards the theme of the poems, however, the effect was different.”

“It need hardly be demonstrated that the spread of the art of writing throughout the Moslim world is also greatly due to the Qoran.”

“Our sciences, our languages, certain terms used in daily life show more Arabic, and also Qoranic words than the world at large is aware of. The person of Muhammed himself forms the focus of several universal proverbs.”

New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the QorÁn, Hartwig Hirschfeld, pg. 9, 12, 13; Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1902