Bust in Nassereith. Sprenger studied medicine, natural sciences as well as oriental languages at the University of Vienna. In this capacity he had many textbooks translated into Hindustani from European languages. In he was sent to Lucknow , to prepare a catalogue of the royal library there, the first volume of which appeared in Calcutta in
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Alois or Aloys Sprenger is one of the most prominent orientalists of the 19th century. Instead, he emerges as an authority on Arabic and Islamic history and an expert on some of the Islamic services.
He rediscovered some Islamic source books, which seemed to have disappeared, and reintroduced them to the world. Western scholars, especially those occupied with the study of Islam, will always be grateful to him.
Muslim scholars, however, strongly differ with some of his views. Another thing that as downgraded his scholarship among Muslims is that he challenges the authenticity of the Traditions Hadith  By highlighting the inner contradictions of some Traditions he has tried to prove that all the Traditions cannot be relied upon blindly.
The criticism of the Traditions initiated by Sprenger was further advanced by Ignaz Goldziher  d. Because of his criticism of the primary sources of Islamic religion and history, Sprenger is not remembered in good words by the scholars of the Islamic world although his overall contribution to the oriental literature is not denied.
The authors who have written short or detailed accounts of the life and academic achievements of Sprenger include orientalists, biographers, Arab and Iranian compilers of biographical works, Western writers on oriental and Arabic studies and some research scholars of the Subcontinent. If at all there is any reference to them it is very brief. In the following pages an attempt has been made to bring out his life with the help of reliable and original sources and discussed, in detail, the services he rendered for the promotion of Urdu.
Sprenger was born on 3 September in Nassereith, a small village near Innsbruck in the province of Tirol. Even now the population of this village  is less than two thousand souls. Situated in a beautiful valley, it is surrounded by the high peaks of Alps. The Taufbuch, the book that registers the birth of new babies, is still available in the Abbey of the villages and contains the name of Sprenger in the year According to this entry, Sprenger was horn on 3rd September at 4.
This change occurred, possibly, when he was sent to a gymnasium in Innsbruck. The name of his father given here is Christoph Sprenger, an ex-Collector of Customs, which shows that he had left this service before The property register, Verfachbuecher, in the archives of Tirol and the old record of Vienna University also mention the same service of his father.
The birth certificate of Sprenger, mentioned above, gives the name of his mother as Theresia Dietrich. It is also mentioned that she was the daughter of a butcher of a nearby village Lermoos.
It appears that he was more attached to his mother because, as a student at Vienna University, he used to write his articles under the name of Dietrich. When Sprenger was born, majority of the population of the region was Roman Catholic and even now most of the inhabitants of his ancestral village belong to the same denomination.
His ancestors also belonged to a staunch Roman Catholic family. The Taufbuch, referred above, also confirms that he was a Roman Catholic. He stuck to his creed all his life in a long letter dated May 8th, , addressed to Mawlavi Chiragh Ali, a reformer and companion of Sir Syed Ahrnad Khan, he mentions his religious affiliation with this branch of Christianity. In addition to this, his death certificate Sterbebuch , still available in the Town Hall Library of Heidelberg,  clearly shows him a Roman Catholic.
All these proofs lead to the conclusion that all his life he strictly adhered to his hereditary faith. The details of his family property is available in the archives of Tirol, which show that he was a member of a prosperous family. This record also reveals that his parents died when he was living in India and in spite of being far away from his home he was able to control his family property.
As there was no regular school in the village he received his education either at home or at the church. He joined Innsbruck college at the age of fourteen. In the educational record of the period, lying in the archives of Innsbruck, the name of Sprenger as student first occurs in the year , where he was admitted in the beginning of the year.
The duration of gymnasium course, at the time, was six years and every student had to pass through two of its phases. The first phase comprised the grammar class, which had four stages, each lasting for a year.
Every student had to spend all four years in this phase. After that came the stage of Humanity class, which had two stages, each of one year duration.
This is how the gymnasium course was completed in six years. He was awarded a scholarship in the third grade for securing good marks in the first two stages, which continued until In those days various subjects and languages were taught at the college level. Religion, Latin, Geography, Arithmetic etc. Except for the addition of history to geography, the same subjects were taught in the second grade. In grade three and four Latin was added to these subjects. In the second phase of gymnasium, in both the classes of Humanities, Latin was replaced with Auctor.
In his six years, course, Sprenger studied all these subjects as an intelligent student and secured a distinguished position in every class. As soon as Sprenger completed his gymnasium course he got admission in Vienna University.
The record of the University for the year bears his name and states that it was his first year in the University. Of these, he was most interested in oriental languages.
In fact he had, from his childhood, a zeal for learning various languages and their comparative study. It was this zeal that enabled him to acquire command not only over various Western languages, such as Latin, Greek, English, French, Italian, Spanish but on Hebrew as well.
So much so that he had prepared a comparative dictionary of these languages for his own use. His aptitude for learning these new languages was further sharpened by the intellectual environment of Vienna University. Especially, his association with Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall , the leading Austrian orientalist and pioneer of oriental studies in German-speaking regions, gave a fillip to his intellectual and linguistic capabilities.
It was he whose masterly translation from Arabic and Persian literature nourished the oriental tradition in German literature and led a great poet like Goethe to produce West-oestlicher Divan. Scholarly works on Arabic, Persian and Turkish languages and literature impressed all the orientalists of his age.
Sprenger being very close to Hammer was impressed more than any one else by his scholarship. This influence can be easily seen in the form and method of some of his books, especially in the catalogue of manuscripts in the Imperial Libraries of the Kings of Awadh, in which he has closely followed the style of Hammer. In the ancestral home of Hammer at Hainfeld one can still see five letters, in German, that Sprenger wrote to Hammer from India.
The other letters, written from Calcutta, describe the publication programme of the Calcutta Madrasah and The Asiatic Society of Bengal. Occasionally Hammer would get such information published in some journal. It was under the influence of Hammer that he embarked on a deep study of the Arabic and Persian languages and literature and began to write articles on various topics pertaining to them.
This was the period when Sprenger decided to make history of these languages and their speakers the project of his life. He resolved to dedicate his whole life to the cause of introducing Eastern knowledge to the West  It was Hammer again who made him aware of the rich contribution that Indian Muslims had made to the realm of knowledge.
One source of this knowledge was the literary work of Hammer in which he mentioned the poetical achievements of some of the leading Persian poets of India.
It was also the first chance for Sprenger to know the cultural heritage of India. Another teacher who greatly impressed Sprenger during this period of his student life in Vienna University was Vincenz von Rosenzweig-Schowannau He had produced into German a versified translation of Diwan-e-Hafiz in three volumes and also elaborated some of its abstruse passages. Sprenger was deeply influenced by them and kept them before him while preparing the critical texts of books like Khiradnama Sikandari and Gulistan.
After completing his education at Vienna University Sprenger wanted to get an employment either in the faculty of Oriental studies of the University or in the old Oriental Academy of Vienna. His teachers also wanted the same but owing to the peculiar political and social outlook of the time, which was heavily inclined towards nobility, he could not get a job in any of these institutions. He was so disgusted with these setbacks that after sojourning in Zuerich and Paris he migrated to England.
Once he arrived in England his problem of unemployment was over. He was engaged by the Earl of Munster It so happened that the Earl who was at that time the elected president of the Royal Asiatic Society and had been, for many years, its Vice-President as well,  was looking for a man of his calibre. The Earl was a professional soldier and had taken part in the war against the Mahrattas in India in On his return home he thought of compiling a history of the invasions of Mongols on India but very soon he changed his mind and made a plan for writing a comprehensive history of the Muslim art of warfare.
Majority of the sources of this new project were in Persian and Arabic and he was not fully conversant with them. He needed someone who knew these languages and had a strong bibliographical grasp and could collect relevant material for the project. He selected Sprenger for this task on the basis of his high capabilities and vast knowledge. Sprenger worked as his assistant and also collected extracts from Arabic and Persian books for the project.
On his return to England Sprenger prepared, in the light of the collected material, a comprehensive plan for the project. He drew a list of important sources and reproduced illustrations of battlefields, arms etc, from some of the manuscripts. He wrote all the details in Arabic. This unpublished Arabic catalogue is still available in the library of the British Museum. It does not carry his name but a copy of this manuscript, which he sent to one of his friends in Innsbruck, hears in his own hand his name as its compiler.
The project was still in its formative phase when the Earl of Munster died. For want of resources Sprenger could not continue the project and was soon obliged to abandon it. In Sprenger got the citizenship of Britain which solved many of his problems.
His courses at the Vienna University also included medicine and he continued its study at various universities of Europe, like Paris and Oxford and researched on the services of the Muslims in the field of medicine. Henry Horace Wilson, a famous scholar of Sanskrit, helped him a great deal in getting this job. In the meantime he had married a lady by the name of Catherine Mueler. Both of them sailed for India in Sprenger arrived in Calcutta in early Calcutta was then the centre of the British power and was surrounded by many cantonments.
Sprenger worked here for about a year and a half in various military hospitals. During this period he met some men of authority who were quick to recognise the great scholar in him. They were astonished to see a physician who knew so many languages and had such a deep insight into the Islamic sciences. They recommended the educational authorities to make proper use of his scholarship.
Just then Felix Boutros d.
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