10th Anniversary of the Death of Annemarie Schimmel – Searching for the Inner Life of Islam

Source: Qantara.de

Author: Stefan Wild

As one of the most eminent western scholars of Islam, Annemarie Schimmel is still held in high esteem in the Islamic world. But despite being a kind of a mystic herself, the German got entangled in the fraught relations between East and West. Ten years after her death, Stefan Wild takes stock of her life and work

Annemarie Schimmel grew up against the backdrop of the rise of National Socialism, an era in which the other was despised and the own idolized. It was during this period, when being of “German nature” and belonging to the “Aryan race” were considered of the highest value, that Schimmel, while still a schoolgirl, took private lessons in Arabic and fell under the spell of this Semitic language.

While her peers were dreaming of the German flag, German blood, and the German Führer, Annemarie Schimmel turned her attention towards the very different world of a culture and religion that still seemed very distant at the time: Islam.

By turning her attention to Islam in this way, she was at the same time fleeing the catastrophe that was the Second World War. She was a young woman of great linguistic and literary talent, and her swift rise through the ranks of the academic world was unprecedented. In 1946, in the midst of the landscape of ruin and destruction that Germany had become, she completed the habilitation process for Islamic Studies at the University of Marburg. She had just turned 23.

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5 replies

  1. She was a great scholar indeed. I had the occasion to meet her once giving a lecture in Zurich. … Still, what puzzles me is how could she study the beauties of Islam and its culture so deeply, sort of ‘fall in love’ with it in a way, but fail to become Muslim? Are Muslims like beautiul oriental butterflies, good to look at but not to join?

  2. Maybe she was a muslim in her heart, only Allah knows what is in aperson’s heart. May Allah bless her for her service to Islam that she opened the way for a lot of people towards the great religion.

  3. In 1981 I gave a copy of the Holy Quran to a senior British lady Agnus Hodgeson, who read the Holy Quran with great love and sincerity, and during the reading became the friend of our family until she lost her ability to write to us for the last some years when she was unable to talk to us even on phone.
    She said, “I believe in all what has been written in the Holy Quran. The teachings of the Holy Quran is according to the nature of the human beings, and it is difficult for me to become a Muslim in this age.”
    She was an elderly woman and was Muslim from her heart. She met the fourth Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in 1982 when he came in her hometown Manchester U.K. to see the community members.

    Ibn e Omar

  4. I think her evasive answer about whether she was a muslim or not is quite interesting . It sounds like she was saying I’m not sure if I’m just a muslim or a moomin , Only Allah knows the hearts of his servants

  5. Actually, there are so many people in this world and I too, have met a few, who whole-heartedly agree that Islam is so very right

    Yet, when it comes to openly accepting it, they are hesitant for reasons best known to themselves and Allah.

    I suppose we should just leave it at that.

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