Joseph Schacht

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joseph Schacht (born March 15, 1902 in Ratibor , † August 1, 1969 in Englewood , New Jersey ) was an orientalist and in the western world a leading expert on Islamic law .

A significant contribution made by Schacht to the history of early Islam is the realization that hadiths probably originate from the person in whom the various lines of tradition converge in the past, and whom he describes as a common link . This method was later used fruitfully by many other Islamic scholars.


Joseph Schacht was born into a Catholic family. At the Humanistic Gymnasium in Racibórz he learned Latin, Greek, English and French and, on his own initiative, also learned Hebrew. He studied oriental and classical philology in Breslau and Leipzig , including with Gotthelf Bergsträßer . In 1925 he got his first academic position at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg im Breisgau. Two years later he became an associate professor there and, in 1929, a full professor of oriental languages . In 1932 he received a call to the Albertus University in Königsberg , but left Germany in 1934 without being directly persecuted or endangered and went to the University of Cairo , where he taught as a professor until 1939. Then he went to England, where he worked for the BBC . In 1947 he became a British citizen.

He taught from 1946 at the University of Oxford . In 1950 he traveled to West Africa to prepare a report on the position of Islamic law in northern Nigeria on behalf of the British Colonial Office . In his report he endeavored to provide the British colonial administration with Islamic legitimation for its supervision and administration of the legal system there. In his report, he argued that as early as the third Islamic century, rigid religious law ( Sharia ) had been supplemented by a legal administrative competence ( siyāsa ) of the ruler, which the Qādīs also had to obey if they did not violate Sharia. For this reason, the British colonial authorities in northern Nigeria could expect the Qādīs to enforce their orders. Protests on the part of the Muslims against the British administration of the Islamic legal system can only be traced back to the ignorance of "extremist" local scholars who are not sufficiently informed about the Islamic law. Schacht's argument was based on a historical assumption that is now considered obsolete. As Baber Johansen has shown in an essay, the concept of siyāsa as the ruler's legal administrative competence was only developed in the 15th century.

Since Schacht had no prospect of his own chair in Great Britain, he accepted the offer to succeed JH Kramers (1891-1951) at the University of Leiden in 1954 . In 1957/1958 he went to the United States and taught at Columbia University , where he became full professor of Arabic and Islamic studies in 1959. In 1969 he was retired there.



  • Islam in Northern Nigeria. In: Studia Islamica 8 (1957) 123-146.
  • An Introduction to Islamic Law . Oxford 1964; Digitized version (1982) ; Reprinted by Clarendon Press, Oxford 1986, ISBN 0-19-825473-3
  • The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1967 (revised and expanded); Reprinted from the first edition proof sheets by Digital Library Production Service at the Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich. 2001, ISBN 1-59740-118-8 .


  • Gotthelf Bergstrasse: Fundamentals of Islamic Law . Edited and edited by Joseph Schacht. Berlin-Leipzig 1935.
  • Robert Brunschvig: Joseph Schacht (1902-1969) . In: Studia Islamica No. 31 (1970), pp. IV-IX, JSTOR 1595057 .
  • Jeanette Wakin: Remembering Joseph Schacht (1902–1969). (PDF (234 kB)) In: Islamic Legal Studies Program. Harvard Law School. Occasional Publications, January 4, 2003; archived from the original on February 13, 2014 ; accessed on December 6, 2014 .
  • Rainer Brunner:  Schacht, Josef Franz. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 22, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-428-11203-2 , p. 491 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Bernard Lewis: Joseph Schacht. In: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol. 33, part 2. 1970, pp. 378-381 , archived from the original on October 20, 2009 ; Retrieved December 1, 2012 .

Web links

supporting documents

  1. See Muhammad S. Umar: Islam and Colonialism. Intellectual responses of Muslims of Northern Nigeria to British colonial rule. Brill, Leiden, Boston 2006. pp. 198-203.
  2. See Haim Gerber: Islamic Law and Culture 1600-1840. Brill, Leiden 1999. p. 39.
  3. a b c after Wakin, p. 8
  4. after Wakin, p. 7