Annemarie Schimmel

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Annemarie Schimmel
Schimmel bonngasse.jpg
Glass plate in the Bonngasse; Bonn, Germany
Born (1922-04-07)April 7, 1922
Erfurt, Germany
Died January 26, 2003(2003-01-26) (aged 80)
Bonn, Germany
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.

Early life and education[edit]

Schimmel was born to Protestant and highly cultured middle-class parents in Erfurt, Germany on 7 April 1922.[1] 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.[2]

After working voluntarily for half a year in the Reich Labour Service she began studying at the University of Berlin in 1939 at the age of 17, during the period of Nazi Germany. In November 1941 she received a doctorate with the thesis "The position of the Caliph and the Qadi in Late Medieval Egypt" (Die Stellung des Kalifen und der Qadis im spätmittelalterlichen Ägypten). Following this, she was drafted by the German Foreign Office while continuing with her scholarly work in her free time.[1] From May to September 1945 she was detained by US authorities. 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.

She was deeply influenced by her teacher Hans Heinrich Schaeder when she was pursuing undergraduate studies at the University of Berlin.[1] He suggested her to study the Divan of Jalaluddin Rumi.[1]


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. In 1954, Schimmel began to work as a Professor of the History of Religions at Ankara University, Turkey. 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.[3]

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'.[4] 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.[5] Schimmel's award speech is available here in translation entitled, A Good Word is like a Good Tree.[6]

Picture of Schimmel's tombstone with a carved saying narrated from Ali: "People are asleep; only when they die will they be awakened"

Works by Annemarie Schimmel[edit]

  • As Through A Veil : Mystical Poetry in Islam, New York : Columbia University Press, (1982)
  • And Muhammad Is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety, 367 pages, (1985), The University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 0-8078-4128-5
  • Nightingales Under the Snow, (Poetry), London-New York : Khaniqahi Nimatullahi Publications, 1994, 1997, [1]
  • Anvari's Divan: A Pocket Book for Akbar, hardcover, Metropolitan Museum of Art (January 1994)
  • A Dance of Sparks: Imagery of Fire in Ghalib's Poetry
  • A Two-Colored Brocade: The Imagery of Persian Poetry, University of North Carolina Press (November, (1992); ISBN 0-8078-2050-4
  • Mystical Dimensions of Islam. German edition: . English translation: North Carolina Univ. Press, 512 pages, copyright 1975, (1986),ISBN 0-8078-1271-4 . Spanish translation: Las dimensiones místicas del Islam, trad. de A. López Tobajas y M. Tabuyo Ortega, Madrid, Trotta, (2002), ISBN 84-8164-486-2.
  • Introducción al Sufismo", Spanish translation: Kairós Editorial, 152 pages (2007).
  • Rumi's World : The Life and Works of the Greatest Sufi Poet
  • Look! This Is Love
  • The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddinn Rumi, London: East-West Pub., (1980).
  • Islamic literatures of India, Wiesbaden : O. Harrassowitz, (1973)
  • Mohammad Iqbal, poet and philosopher: a collection of translations, essays and other articles; Karachi : Pakistan-German Forum, (1960).
  • Classical Urdu literature from the beginning to Iqbal, Wiesbaden : O. Harrassowitz, (1975); (A history of Indian literature ; V. 8: modern Indo-Aryan literatures.
  • Islam: An Introduction, Albany: State University of New York Press, (1992)
  • We believe in one god: the experience of God in Christianity and Islam, edited by Annemarie Schimmel and Abdoldjavad Falaturi ; preface by Kenneth Cragg ; translated by Gerald Blaczszak and Annemarie Schimmel; London : Burns & Oates, (1979)
  • Islamic Calligraphy
  • Calligraphy and Islamic Culture, New York University Press, (1990).
  • Islamic Names: An Introduction (Islamic Surveys), [Paperback], Edinburgh University Press, England, 134 pages, 81995),ISBN 0-85224-612-9 . Hardback edition, (1990),ISBN 0-85224-563-7
  • Make A Shield From Wisdom : Selected Verses from Nasir-i Khusraw's Divan, translated and introduced by Annemarie Schimmel; London : I. B. Tauris in association with the International Institute of Ismaili Studies, (2001).
  • Ernst Trumpp;: A brief account of his life and work
  • Das Mysterium der Zahl, ed. Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Munich, (1983). English edition by Oxford University Press (1993), 314 pages, titled The Mystery of Numbers.
  • Islam and the Wonders of Creation: The Animal Kingdom (2003)

See also[edit]

  • Annemarie Schimmel Festschrift : essays presented to Annemarie Schimmel on the occasion of her retirement from Harvard University by her colleagues, students and friends / guest editor: Maria Eva Subtelny ; managing editor: Carolyn I. Cross; Cambridge, Mass. : Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, (1994); Journal of Turkish studies ; v. 018, 1994


  1. ^ a b c d Ali Asani; William Graham; Roy Mottahedeh; Wheeler Thackston; Wolfhart Heinrichs (16 November 2004). "Annemarie Schimmel". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Der Islam. Volume 80, Issue 2, Page 213
  3. ^ Kinzer, Stephen (2 February 2003). "Annemarie Schimmel, Influential Scholar of Islam, Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Obituary: Professor Annemarie Schimmel
  5. ^ Ascherson, Neal (23 July 1995). "The itch of guilt won't go away while Rushdie remains condemned". The Independent. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Peace Prize Award speech

External links[edit]

  • Burzine K. Waghmar, Professor Annemarie Schimmel (April 7, 1922 to January 26, 2003), Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 13 (2003): 377-79. [2]
  • M. Ikram Chaghatai and Burzine K. Waghmar, Bibliography of the works of the Scholar-Hermit Prof. Dr. Annemarie Schimmel, ed. M. Suheyl Umar, Iqbal Academy, Lahore, 2004.[3]
  • Burzine K. Waghmar, Annemarie Schimmel, The Guardian, Feb. 6, 2003, p. 24. [4]
  • Shusha Guppy, Professor Annemarie Schimmel, The Independent, Jan. 30, 2003.[5]
  • Leonard Lewisohn, Annemarie Schimmel, The Times, Feb. 6, 2003.[6]
  • Annemarie Schimmel, A Life of Learning, autobiographical brochure, Charles Homer Haskins Lecture, American Council of Learned Societies, Williamsburg 1993.[7]