Annemarie Schimmel (7 April 1922 – 26 January 2003) was an
influential German Orientalist and scholar who wrote extensively on
Islam and Sufism. Internationally renowned, she was a professor at
Harvard University from 1967 to 1992.
1 Early life and education
2 Later life and scholarly career
3 Awards and honors
4 Selected works
5 See also
7 External links
Early life and education
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," and she recalled that her mother made her feel
that she was the child of her dreams. She also remembered her
childhood home as being full of poetry and literature, though her
family was not an academic one.
Having finished high school at age 15, she worked voluntarily for half
a year in the
Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labor Service). She then
began studying at the
University of Berlin
University of Berlin in 1939, at the age of 17,
during the Third Reich (1933-1945), the period of Nazi domination in
Europe. At the university, she was deeply influenced by her teacher
Hans Heinrich Schaeder, who suggested that she study the Divan of
Shams Tabrisi, one of the major works of Jalaluddin Rumi. In
November 1941 she received a doctorate with the thesis Die Stellung
des Kalifen und der Qadis im spätmittelalterlichen Ägypten (The
Position of the Caliph and the Qadi in Late Medieval Egypt). She was
then only 19 years old. Not long after, she was drafted by the
Auswärtiges Amt (German Foreign Office), where she worked for the
next few years while continuing her scholarly studies in her free
time. After the end of World War II in Europe, in May 1945, she was
detained for several months by U.S. authorities for investigation of
her activities as a German foreign service worker, but she was cleared
of any suspicion of collaboration with the Nazis. In 1946, at the age
of 23, she became a professor of Arabic and
Islamic studies at the
University of Marburg, Germany. She was married briefly in the 1950s,
but domestic life did not suit her, and she soon returned to her
scholarly studies. She earned a second doctorate at Marburg in the
history of religions (Religionswissenschaft) in 1954.
Later life and scholarly career
A turning point in Schimmel's life came in 1954 when she was appointed
Professor of the History of Religion at Ankara University. She spent
five years in the capital city of
Turkey teaching in Turkish and
immersing herself in the culture and mystical tradition of the
country. She was the first woman and the first non-Muslim to teach
theology at the university. In 1967 she inaugurated the Indo-Muslim
studies program at
Harvard University and remained on the faculty
there for the next twenty-five years. While living in quarters on the
Harvard campus, Schimmel often visited New York City, where, as a
consultant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she was famed for her
ability to date manuscripts and objects from the style of calligraphy
in or on them. Her memory of calligraphic styles was almost
photographic. During the 1980s, she served on the editorial board of
the Encyclopedia of Religion, published in 16 volumes (Macmillan,
1988) under the aegis of Mircea Eliade. In 1992, upon her retirement
from Harvard, she was named Professor Emerita of Indo-Muslim Culture.
During this period, she was also an honorary professor at the
University of Bonn. After leaving Harvard, she returned to Germany,
where she lived in
Bonn until her death in 2003. Despite her love for
Islamic cultures, she remained a devout Lutheran all her life 
Schimmel taught generations of students in a unique style that
included lecturing with her eyes closed and reciting long passages of
mystical poetry from memory. She was multilingual—besides German,
English, and Turkish, she spoke Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and
Punjabi—and her interests ranged across the Muslim landscape. She
published more than fifty books and hundreds of articles on Islamic
literature, mysticism, and culture, and she translated Persian, Urdu,
Arabic, Sindhi, and Turkish poetry and literature into English and
German. Her particular fondness for cats led her to write a book
about their role in Islamic literature, and her interest in mysticism
resulted in a book about numerical symbolism in various cultures. Her
consuming passion, however, was Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam.
Even prominent Sufis acknowledged her as one of the foremost experts
on their history and tradition.
Awards and honors
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For her works on Islam, Sufism, and Muhammad Iqbal, a prominent
philosopher and national poet of Pakistan, the government of Pakistan
honored Schimmel with its highest civil awards,
Sitara-e-Imtiaz, or Star of Excellence, by Government of Pakistan
Hilal-e-Imtiaz, or Crescent of Excellence, by Government of
She was given other awards from many countries of the world, including
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, author of The Satanic Verses
(1988), a novel, in a television interview. Schimmel's award speech
is available online in translation, entitled "A Good Word Is Like a
Among other awards and honors are the following.
1965 Friedrich Rückert Prize of the City of Schweinfurt, Germany
1978 Foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and
1980 Johann Heinrich Voss Prize for Translation from the German
Academy for Language and Literature
1989 Grand Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
1990 Golden Owl award of the German Socratic Society, for outstanding
1992 Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize of the University of Tübingen
25 October 1996, Order of Merit of the Republic of Turkey
1996 Egyptian Order of Merit for Art and Science, First Class
1997 Honorary membership in the Central Council of Muslims in Germany
2001 Reuchlin Prize of the City of Pforzheim, Germany, for outstanding
contributions in the humanities
2002 Do'stlik Order of the Republic of Uzbekistan, for the promotion
of friendship and mutual understanding between nations
2002 Muhammad Nafi Tschelebi Peace Prize of the Central Islamic
Archive Institute of Germany, Soen, a prestigious award for
2005 Name engraved in the "Walk of Fame" street in the City of Bonn
Schimmel also received honorary degrees from three Pakistani
universities (Sind, Quaid-i-Azam, and Peshawar), from the Faculty of
Theology at Uppsala University,
Sweden (1986) , and from Selçuk
University in Turkey.
As Through a Veil : Mystical
Islam (376 pages). New
York: Columbia University Press, 1982. ISBN 9781851682744.
And Muhammad Is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in
Islamic Piety (367 pages). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1985. ISBN 0807841285.
Nightingales under the Snow: Poems. London and New York :
Khaniqahi Nimatullahi Publications, 1994. ISBN 0933546548.
Anvari's Divan: A Pocket Book for Akbar. New York: Metropolitan Museum
of Art, 1994.
A Dance of Sparks: Imagery of Fire in Ghalib's Poetry. New Delhi:
Ghalib Academy, 1979.
A Two-Colored Brocade: The Imagery of Persian Poetry. Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1992. ISBN 0807820504.
Deciphering the Signs of God: A Phenomenological Approach to Islam
(314 pages). The 1991-1992 Gifford Lectures. Albany: State University
of New York Press, 1994. ISBN 0791419827.
Gabriel's Wing: Study into the Religious Ideas of Sir Muhammad Iqbal.
Karachi: Iqbal Academy, 1989. ISBN 969416012X.
Mystical Dimensions of
Islam (512 pages). Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1975. ISBN 0807812714. Spanish translation:
Las dimensiones místicas del Islam, translated by A. López Tobajas
and M. Tabuyo Ortega. Madrid: Trotta, 2002. ISBN 8481644862.
Introducción al Sufismo (152 pages). Barcelona: Editorial Kairós,
I Am Wind, You Are Fire: The Life and Work of Rumi. Boston: Shambhala
Publications, 1997. Reissued as Rumi's World : The Life and Works
of the Great Sufi Poet. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2001.
Im Reich der Grossmoguls: Geschichte, Kunst, Kultur. Munich: Verlag
C.H. Beck, 2000. English translation: The Empire of the Great Mughals:
History, Art, and
Culture (352 pages). London: Reaktion Books, 2004.
Look! This Is Love. Boston: Shambhala Centaur Editions, 1996.
The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddinn Rumi. London:
East-West Publications, 1980.
Islamic Literatures of India. Wiesbaden : Otto Harrassowitz
Verlag, 1973. ISBN 3447015098.
Mohammad Iqbal, Poet and Philosopher: A Collection of Translations,
Essays, and Other Articles. Karachi : Pakistan-German Forum,
Urdu Literature: From the Beginning to Iqbal. A History of
Indian Literature, v. 8. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 1975.
Islam: An Introduction (166 pages). Albany: State University of New
York Press, 1992. ISBN 0791413276.
We Believe in One God: The Experience of God in Christianity and
Islam, edited by
Annemarie Schimmel and Abdoldjavad Falaturi;
translated by Gerald Blaczszak and Annemarie Schimmel. London: Burns
& Oates, 1979.
Islamic Calligraphy. Evanston, Ill.: Adler's Foreign Books, 1970.
Calligraphy and Islamic Culture. New York University Press, 1990.
Islamic Names: An Introduction (134 pages). Edinburgh University
Press, 1990. ISBN 0852246129.
Meine Seele ist eine Frau. Munich: Kosel Verlag, 1995. English
translation: My Soul Is a Woman: The Feminine in
Islam (192 pages).
New York and London: Continuum, 1997. ISBN 9780826414441.
Make a Shield from Wisdom: Selected Verses from Nasir-I Khusraw's
Divan (112 pages), translated and introduced by Annemarie Schimmel.
London: I.B. Tauris, in association with the International Institute
of Ismaili Studies, 2001. ISBN 1860647251.
Pain and Grace: A Study of Two Mystical Writers of Eighteenth-Century
Muslim India. Leiden: Brill, 1976. ISBN 9004047719.
Das Mysterium der Zahl (310 pages). Munich: Eugen Diederichs Verlag,
1983. English edition, The Mystery of Numbers (314 pages). New York:
Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN 0195089197.
Islam and the Wonders of Creation: The Animal Kingdom. London:
Al-Furqan, Islamic Heritage Foundation 2003. ISBN 9781873992814.
Introduction to Cats of Cairo: Egypt's Enduring Legacy, with
photographs by Lorraine Chittock. New York: Abbeville Press, 1995.
Reissued as Cairo Cats: Egypt's Enduring Legacy (96 pages). American
University in Cairo Press, 2005. ISBN 9771724312.
Famous Americans in Iran
Annemarie Schimmel Festschrift: Essays Presented to Annemarie Schimmel
on the Occasion of Her Retirement from
Harvard University by Her
Colleagues, Students, and Friends (334 pages), edited by Maria Eva
Subtelny. Journal of Turkish Studies 18 (1994). Published by the
Department of Near Eastern
Languages and Civilizations, Harvard
‘Allāma Iqbāl as depicted in the works of Dr. Annemarie Schimmel,
Zeenat Kaifee, Quarterly Naqd-O-Taḥqīq, ISSN 2454-2563,
Editor: S. Naqi Abbas (Kaify), Volume 1, Issue I, pp. 58–67,
Jan-Feb-Mar. 2015, New Delhi (in Persian)
^ a b c
Ali Asani; William Graham; Roy Mottahedeh; Wheeler Thackston;
Wolfhart Heinrichs (16 November 2004). "Annemarie Schimmel". Harvard
Gazette. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
^ Annemarie Schimmel, A Life of Learning. The Charles Homer Haskins
Lecture, 1993. New York: American Council of Learned Societies, 1993.
Autobiographical reflections and reminiscences of a lifetime of work
as a scholar.
^ Der Islam. Volume 80, Issue 2, Page 213[permanent dead link]
^ Stephen Kinzer, "Annemarie Schimmel, Influential Scholar of Islam,
Dies at 80," obituary, New York Times, 2 February 2003.
^ Kinzer, "Annemarie Schimmel, Influential Scholar of Islam, Dies at
80" (2003). This obituary is the source of much biographical
information given herein.
^ Obituary: Professor
Annemarie Schimmel Archived May 8, 2009, at the
^ Ascherson, Neal. "The itch of guilt won't go away while Rushdie
remains condemned". [dead link]
^ Peace Prize Award speech
Annemarie Schimmel (1922 - 2003)". Royal Netherlands Academy
of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
Burzine K. Waghmar, Professor
Annemarie Schimmel (April 7, 1922 to
January 26, 2003), Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 13 (2003):
Burzine K. Waghmar, Annemarie Schimmel, The Guardian, Feb. 6, 2003,
p. 24. 
Shusha Guppy, Professor Annemarie Schimmel, The Independent, Jan. 30,
Leonard Lewisohn, Annemarie Schimmel, The Times, Feb. 6, 2003.
Annemarie Schimmel, A Life of Learning, autobiographical brochure,
Charles Homer Haskins Lecture, American Council of Learned Societies,
Asko Parpola · · Nabi Bux Khan Baloch · ·
Hassam-ud-Din Rashidi · · Ahmad Hasan Dani ·
· Annemarie Schimmel · · Allama I. I.
Kazi · · Ghulam
Ali Allana · ·
Jean-François Jarrige · · Muhammad Usman Diplai
ISNI: 0000 0001 0909 3280
BNF: cb131626600 (data)