Goethe’s Encounter with the Qur’an
Qurʼan, the holy book of Islam, was an object of polemics and prejudice during the Christian Middle Ages. Only with the Enlightenment and the decline of clerical hegemony, an impartial reading of the Qur’an and an open-minded engagement with it began. The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was one of the forerunners of this trend. He started to read the Qurʼan in a young age, and analyzed multiple translations and consulted various sources of knowledge in order to develop a deep understanding of the Qurʼan. A quick scan through his works suffices to be amazed about Goethe’s multifaceted analyses and reflections of the Qurʼan and Islamic culture in general. In this article, I contrast the Christian-Western reception of the Qur’an before Enlightenment with Goethe’s Qur’an research and reception. In addition, I present a selection of qur’anic reflections in the poems of his West-Eastern Divan.
Keywords: Goethe, West-eastern Divan, Qurʼan, German Qurʼan Translation, Poetry.