Joseph Schacht

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Joseph Franz Schacht (15 March 1902 – 1 August 1969) was a British-German professor of Arabic and Islam at Columbia University in New York. He was the leading Western scholar on Islamic law, whose Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (1950) is still considered a centrally important work on the subject. The author of many articles in the first and second editions of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Schacht also co-edited, with C. E. Bosworth, the second edition of The Legacy of Islam for the Legacy series of Oxford University Press and authored a textbook under the title An Introduction to Islamic Law (1964).


  • [t]he idea of religious law—the concept that law, as well as the other human relationships, must be ruled by religion—has become an essential part of the Islamic outlook. The same, incidentally, is true of politics, and even economics; it explains the recent attempt to hold an Islamic economic congress in Pakistan. Because they cannot face the problem, because they lack historical understanding of the formation of Mohammedan religious law, because they cannot make up their minds, any more than their predecessors could in the early Abbasid period [which began 750 CE], on what is legislation, the modernists cannot get away from a timid, halfhearted, and essentially self-contradictory position... The real problem poses itself at the religious and not at the technically legal level.
    • Joseph Schacht, “The Law,” in Gustave von Grunebaum. (editor) Unity and Variety in Muslim Civilization, Chicago, 1955, p. 84.
  • Even the classical corpus... contains a great many traditions which cannot possibly be authentic. All efforts to extract from this often self-contradictory mass an authentic core by ‘historic intuition,’ as it has been called, have failed. ... the great majority of traditions from the Prophet are documents not of the time to which they claim to belong, but of the successive stages of development of doctrines during the first centuries of Islam.
    • About Hadith. quoted from Robert Spencer - Did Muhammad Exist An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins―Revised and Expanded Edition-Bombardier Books (2021)

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