Günter Lüling – Islam as a non-trinitarian faith of Semitic forefathers
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Stepping out of the mainstream approach to the genesis of Islam, G. Lüling is sketching a mystical image of the spiritual depth of the inhabitants of the Middle East in Late Antiquity and their complex dilemmas of faith. His unorthodox meth-odology involves elements of dogmatism and philosophy (with the focus on the evolution and continuity of dogmas), hermeneutics, cultural anthropology and an-throposophy. By these means Lüling is attempting to draw a spiritual picture of the Late Antique man – his mentality and hierarchy of values, what may be one of the keys to reading out the actual meanings of the oldest, preserved historical testimo-nies of Islamic culture (including the Quran) in accordance with the intention of their authors. The modern man reasons and values differently than the Late Antique man, and hence - despite having nowadays a wide range of scholarly tools at hand and a thorough substantive preparation – the modern scholar is frequently not able to get behind the spirit of the studied texts and often interprets them in his own, modern sense. Lüling is a phenomenon on its own in the ranks of contemporary Western skeptical Islamicists, as he advocates a return to classical scholarly methodologies (in particular to historical-critical methods focusing on the continuity of evolution of dogmatics) and pleads in favour for their enrichment with elements of more modern methods (such as form criticism, redaction criticism, source criticism, liter-ary and philological text criticism, etc.). For Lüling, the tools of philology, literary studies and other academic disciplines that are contemporarily used with high in-tensity for research on historical monuments in the exclusive scope of these areas alone, cannot give reliable scholarly results in separation from theology. Interdisci-plinarity in the case of historical-religious research should be hierarchized by granting an overarching role back to disciplines that follow the development of philosophical thought and religious ideas. The dogmatic theology (philosophy), and more specifically - tracing the historical evolution of faith doctrines - is for Lüling an indispensable starting point to philological, historical and cultural studies. Other areas may play a supporting role. A thought does not appear out of nowhere, but has its beginning and evolution, and its course can be traced by scholarly methods. A thought does neither die, but takes on new forms and is constantly developing. What counts for Lüling are scientifically verifiable facts that must be necessarily integrated into a rational framework of the development of theological thought (such schemes are for example provided by the culturally cognate field of biblical studies). In his method, Lüling does not therefore bother too much about the my-thologized corpus of the religious tradition of Islam, although he does not reject it as a research material and draws upon it when needed. The reading of Lüling's publication requires at least a general theological preparation, but even for the "uninitiated ones" it can be an intriguing, out-of-the-ordinary adventure leading to the outskirts of the Near Eastern world of the esoteri-cism of the turn of antiquity and middle ages. Lüling is commonly and quite sche-matically classified as a generally pro-Christian-oriented researcher, a one trying to ascribe Christian roots to Islam, but it is certainly not true for Lüling. The German theologian himself denies being a Christian in the modern sense, and his theory drifts uncompromisingly towards gnosis, dualism and hypothetical forms of reli-gious syncretism, all in the wider aspect of cultural evolutionism. Regardless of the academic evaluation of Lüling’s unconventional theory on the origins of the Quran, his research brought new value into the field. It is overall a pity that Lüling – whose ideas were not fitting into the fixed schemes of the mainstream Islamic studies – did become almost completely marginalized in the world of German Oriental studies which has always been esteemed for its originality and pioneering role in Western Islamic scholarship.
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