Annemarie Schimmel, German ‘Orientalist’

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Annemarie Schimmel

Education Doctorate of civilization and languages, doctorate of religious history.
Occupation Iranologist, Sindhologist, Orientalist, Islamic studies, Sufism studies, Iqbal studies
Annemarie Schimmel, SI, HI, (April 7, 1922 – January 26, 2003) was a well known and very influential German Orientalist and scholar, who wrote extensively on Islam and Sufism. She was a professor at Harvard University from 1967 to 1992.

Schimmel was born to Protestant and highly cultured middle-class parents in Erfurt, Germany. Her father, Paul, was a postal worker and her mother, Anna belonged to a family with connections to seafaring and international trade. Schimmel remembered her father as “a wonderful playmate full of fun”, her mother made her feel she was the child of her dreams and her home as full of poetry and literature, though her family was not an academic one.

She began studying at the University of Berlin in 1939 at the age of 17, during the period of Nazi Germany. She received a doctorate in Islamic languages and civilization at the age of 19. Following this, she was drafted by the German Foreign Office while continuing with her scholarly work in her free time. At the age of 23, she became a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Marburg, Germany in 1946, where she earned a second doctorate in the history of religions in 1954.

A turning point in her life came in 1954 when she was appointed Professor of the History of Religion at the University of Ankara (Turkey). There she spent five years teaching in Turkish and immersing herself in the culture and mystical tradition of the country.

She was a faculty member at Harvard University from 1967 to 1992 and became Professor Emerita of Indo-Muslim Culture upon her retirement. She was also an honorary professor at the University of Bonn. She published more than 50 books on Islamic literature, mysticism and culture, and translated Persian, Urdu, Arabic, Sindhi and Turkish poetry and literature into English and German.

For her work on Islam, Sufism or mysticism and Muhammad Iqbal, the government of Pakistan honored her with its highest civil awards known as Sitara-e-Imtiaz or ‘Star of Excellence’, and Hilal-e-Imtiaz or ‘Crescent of Excellence’.She was conferred with many other awards from many countries of the world, including the Leopold Lucas Prize of the Evangelisch-Theologische Faculty of the University of Tübingen and the 1995 prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. This award caused a controversy in Germany, as she had defended the outrage of the Islamic world against Salman Rushdie in a television interview.

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3 replies

  1. What I find so difficult to understand is that how someone like Professor Annemarie Schimmel could study Islam and everything connected with it so deeply and not make the final step and convert to Islam.

  2. This question used to bother me also and perhaps there are several details to the answer and as a convert you may be able to tell what distinguished you from some of these others who do not convert.

    The answer that has some appeal to me, perhaps more emotional than intellectual, is the description of Christianity by a Christian theologian, Prof. Phillip Cary that it is an obsession with the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Now, obsessions are hard to shed and sometimes they border onto delusions, making them impossible to shake off, by the force of reason.

  3. It seems Orientalists look at as like exotic butterflies. We are beautiful, worth studying.

    What comes to mind is more the description in the Holy Quran which reads that Allah opens the hearts of some and if he does not there is no chance of guidance…

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