The Ẓāhirīs

Their Doctrine and their History. A Contribution to the History of Islamic Theology


Author: Ignaz Goldziher
Ignaz Goldziher wrote his book ‘Die Zahiriten’ in 1883. The English translation of this standard work on Islamic jurisprudence appeared in 1971. The book has been in print ever since. This new edition in the Brill Classics in Islam series shows that The Ẓāhirīs has not lost any of its actuality.
The individual that adheres to the principles of madhhab al-Ẓāhir, the Islamic legal school, is called Ẓāhirī. Goldziher gives an extensive presentation of the Ẓāhirīte school, its doctrine and the position of its representatives within orthodox Islam. Ẓāhirism accepts only the facts clearly revealed by sensible, rational and linguistic intuitions, controlled and corroborated by Qurʾānic revelation. This history of Islamic theology sheds light on the Ẓāhirīte legal interpretation vis-à-vis other legal schools and gives an interesting insight in questions like ‘are all prescriptions and prohibitions in Islamic law commanded or forbidden?’

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Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921) was born in Hungary, into an Orthodox family. He studied Arabic, Turkish and Persian. Goldziher studied in Berlin, Leiden and Budapest and got his doctorate in Leipzig. From 1873 he traveled in the Middle East. Returning to Budapest he was appointed an assistant professor in 1894. He earned his living as secretary of the Jewish community of Pest. He was honored by universities and academies in many countries for his contribution to oriental studies. His primary interest was in pre-Islamic and Islamic law, tradition, religion and poetry. Goldziher regarded Judaism and Islam as kindred faiths and was a proponent of Islam at his time.
"Wat is surprising is how intricately [Goldziher] managed to weave a rather compelling [...] narrative despite his limited resources. Overall, as with all things Goldziher, the works remains a necessary reference for all modern Islamicists interested in the early development of Islamic law and, in particular, the Zahiri school."
Yasir Qadhi in American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 27.2 (2010)