Did the famous Orientalist Annemarie Schimmel die as a Muslim?

Translator: Schimmel Died a Muslim

Head of the Center of Religious Studies and translator of three books by Annemarie Schimmel believes that she died Muslim.

Translator: Schimmel Died a Muslim

IBNA: Speaking with IBNA on the occasion of the anniversary of Annemarie Schimmel’s death (January 26, 2003), Abodlrahim Govahi said she hid her conversion into Islam to avoid destructive actions by extremist Christians and Jews who would make every effort to inveigh her. 

Annemarie Schimmel (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.

Govahi asserted that Schimmel had announced it in her will that she was Muslim, however she never announced it publicly.

“Mrs. Schimmel can be regarded as the greatest orientalist of the last quarter of the 20th century,” he added. “She devoted all her life to Islam to link the westerns civilization with the Islamic east.”

She penned over 100 book titles and papers about Islam and Islamic mysticism.

Schimmel could speak several languages and was one of the rare orientalists who enjoyed a powerful grasp of the languages spoken in the countries she studies. She could speak Persian, Turkish, Urdu and Arabic, added Govahi.

Schimmel’s understanding of Islamic culture and mysticism was almost perfect.

“I once asked her, ‘Given your vast understanding of mysticism, you must have already stepped in the path of mystics,’ and she told me, ‘My shoulders cannot bear such a heavy burden.’”

Govahi argued that Schimmel spent her youth and a good part of her life to introduce the real Islam to the West.

He also posited that Schimmel realized Goethe’s wish to link west and east civilizations.

Elsewhere in his interview, Govahi, a prominent cultural activist in Iran, underscored a book written by Schimmel about the Prophet, and said, “The book is both an emotional work and an invaluable field study.

She was a true believer in Islam and examples of her modesty could only be traced in the lives of mystics.

Govahi stated that Schimmel’s introduction of Islam in one of her works which was just and based on the realities of Islam.

She was also a lover of Hafez. “I realized the depth of her understanding of Hafez poetry in one of her speeches in the UNESCO. Hafez’s words rested in Schimmel’s heart,” he added.

He marked her personal features and said she had a powerful memory, was modest and very well-mannered.

She died on January 26, 2003.

Some of her works are:

-Islam and the Wonders of Creation: The Animal Kingdom (2003)
-Das Mysterium der Zahl, ed. Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Munich (1983)
-Make A Shield From Wisdom : Selected Verses from Nasir-i Khusraw’s Divan, translated and introduced by Annemarie Schimmel (2001)
-Calligraphy and Islamic Culture, (1990).


1 reply

  1. 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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