Theological Hadith Studies at the Centre for Islamic Theology

The Chair of Hadith Studies covers a fundamental field of Islamic Theology. Hadiths (textually transmitted testimonies about the statements, actions, traits, etc. of the Prophet Muhammad) represent, along with the Qur'an, the most extensive and important scriptural source of Islam, forming the textual basis for knowledge of the prophetic tradition (Sunna) that is essential for the Islamic way of faith and living. Despite the enormous theological, historical, and social significance of the Hadith tradition, as well as the complex challenges arising from Islam’s contemporary crisis of religious transmission and acute prophetological issues, this academic field is still in a developmental phase in Islamic Theology in Germany and Europe. This applies not only to the theoretical-methodological anchoring, the interdisciplinary profiling, and the institutional visibility of the field, but also in particular to the didactics and the publicity of the hadith literature and hadith research.

The Chair of Hadith Studies was filled with a junior professorship at the Centre for Islamic Theology in October 2016, making it the first professorship in Germany, and most likely even in Europe, to be focused on the theological study and teaching of the Hadith. Since January 2021, the Chair has been filled with a full professorship by Prof. Dr. Ruggero Vimercati Sanseverino.

The medium-term objective of the Chair consists of the national and international profiling of Theological Hadith Studies in research on Islam and in university teaching. First of all, it includes the theoretical, methodological, and content-related exploration of a decidedly theological approach to the Hadith, i.e., a scholarly investigation and reflection that unfolds a specific potential for knowledge, understanding, and emancipation from its confessional relatedness. This enables the Chair of Hadith Studies to act as a bridge between Western and Arab or Turkish Hadith research, as well as between non-confessional and confessional approaches to the Hadith, and therefore develop into a European center for Hadith studies. The following measures are planned to achieve this objective:


  • the provision of basic teaching material in German;
  • authoring and editing German and English publications on the topics, approaches, and issues of Theological Hadith Studies;
  • the support and promotion of young researchers;
  • the development of international cooperations, especially with French research on Hadith and Prophetology, as well as with Arab (Egypt, Morocco) and Turkish research;
  • an interdisciplinary exchange with Jewish and Christian Theologies in research and teaching, especially in the fields of the hermeneutics of scripture and tradition, exegesis, fundamental theology, and theological theory of science and methodology;
  • the cooperation with non-confessional Islamic Studies, especially in the field of historical and anthropological research, but also in the newly emerging field of digital Hadith research.

The current focus of the Chair is to scientifically explore the dialogical, perspectival, dynamic, relational, and experience-related character of the Hadith and thus to reflect theologically on the contemporary relevance of the Hadith as a resource for religious life in Germany and Europe.

A special feature of the Chair is the attention paid to the intertwining of Hadith science, prophetology, and spirituality. Thus, the Hadith can be scientifically comprehended as a medium of a personally experienced relationship to the Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, on the one hand, the historical significance of the Hadith for Muslim thought and life can be understood. Moreover, on the other hand, the Hadith’s contemporary significance for the challenges of Muslim life in secular and plural societies can be exploited.

The following thematic priorities are currently being considered:

  1. the theological methodology of Hadith sciences and tradition
  2. the thematic unity and diversity of the Hadith literature
  3. transmission of Hadith and veneration of the Prophet
  4. hermeneutics of the Hadith and the Prophetic Tradition
  5. the theology of emulation (al-ittibāʿ) of the Prophet Muhammad and piety of imitation.

In addition to the respective publication projects of the chair members, the following projects are currently in work:

  • the textbooks "Hadith - Topics, Approaches and Questions", "Texts on Hadith Science (Arabic-German, with commentary)" and "Theology of the 40 Hadiths";
  • the creation of a freely accessible annotated bibliography on the topics of theological Hadith studies 
  • the establishment of the international academic network "Prophetic Spirituality" to research the connection between prophetology (teaching of prophecy) and spirituality (experience of the divine) in Islamic thought and life;
  • the preparation of an interdisciplinary and international third-party funded project proposal with the working title "Connecting with the Prophet Muhammad. Rethinking the transmission of the prophetic tradition ";
  • the project "Theological-Scientific Hadith Commentary".


With best wishes!

The team of the Chair of Hadith Studies

(Images: Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech: Anibal Trejo©; three prints from the anthology of prayers for the Prophet, Dhakhīrat al-muḥtāj by al-Muʿṭā ash-Sharqāwī, 18th century; reproduction of a photograph of the Prophet's tomb in Medina, ca. 1910)