The Institute of Islamic Studies was established in 1948 as a part of the newly founded Freie Universität. Its director until the end of the Sixties was W. Braune. He had studied under the Protestant theologian P. Tillich, who had emigrated to America to escape from the Nazis. Initially, Braune was the only full professor of Islamic Studies, which was not yet a institute in its own right, but merely a section, albeit a major unit of Religious Studies. The latter was divided into two institutes under Braune’s successor, when two respectively three chairs were established for Religious Studies and Islamic Studies. For a long time, these were occupied – almost without exception – by pupils of his: in the case of Islamic Studies by F. Steppat, (now in retirement/emeritus) and B. Johansen (who went to Paris in 1995); the Ottoman and Turkish specialty was represented by E. Eichgrün, (also now retired). The chair of Turkish has since been transferred from Islamic Studies to an institute of its own, Turkic Studies. Prof. Steppat’s position is now held by Prof. Krämer, and that of Prof. Johansen has been occupied since summer semester 2002 by Prof. Schmidtke.
From the outset, Islamic Studies has approached the debate on the political, economic and cultural emancipation of the non-European countries from the point of view of a social science. This has meant placing the emphasis on the modern age, albeit on the basis of a thorough consideration of classical Islam. For this reason, rather than affiliating to a Faculty of Antiquity or Art Sciences or suchlike, which would certainly have been possible, the institute joined the newly founded Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences. In the Seventies, this was split in two (Phil Soz I and II); in a later restructuring the Institute was assigned to the Department of History and Cultural Studies. Although the membership of a department shared with sociology, philosophy and psychology is a thing of the past, the original orientation of the subject has not been left behind, as is demonstrated by the grouping of our work into three specialist areas.