Goethe and Islam

Goethe (d.1830 CE) was a great German writer, poet and thinker. Like other European philosophers Goethe had both strong and weak areas of understanding, but (strongly in his favour) it can be said that he had loved the poetry of the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz of Shiraz. From a young age Goethe had gained a fondness for the Holy Prophet (saws) and he recognized him as the founder of a ‘Natural Religion’, as an enemy of idolatry and as an enactor of intellectual advance.

Goethe even went so far as to declare that if Islam meant submission to the will of God that all should live and die in Islam. Aged only 23 year Goethe had first written poems that praised the Holy Prophet (saws), Ali and Lady Fatima (raa) and he later started to write a play upon the life of the Holy Prophet (saws), but never completed it. Goethe found the Napoleonic period a depressing era, during which he had felt inner discord, but in 1812 CE the new German translation of the works of Hafiz of Shiraz had opened up a new world for him.

Goethe acknowledged Hafiz as his ‘master’ poet and his subsequent works were greatly influenced by his forms and ideas. Goethe was the figurehead of those European thinkers who sought to understand the world through intuition as well as rationalism and as such he would be hated by those people under the dark cloud of Materialist ideology.

He would remind Europeans of their subconscious faculty (without terming it such) and of the value of understanding through feeling rather than through mechanical logic alone. He was a counterbalance to the dangerous lurch towards ignorance of the self and the inner world that many European thinkers had made and he would start a tradition of thought that would one day find expression in the Analytical Psychology of the 20th century thinker Carl Gustav Jung.

However, the great achievement of Goethe’s writings was the inspiration of scientists, such as the Chemist Humphrey Davy and the Physicist Hans Christian Oersted with a more holistic view of the Universe that would eventually come to supersede the inferior reductionist view that had dominated 17th and 18th century physical sciences. Some Modern European Muslims are quite certain Goethe was a Muslim, personally I would not be at all surprised if he was. Anyhow he was certainly an interesting, intelligent and likeable individual. About anything else we may find out in the next life Godwilling.

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