Annemarie Schimmel

Annemarie Schimmel, SI, HI, (April 7, 1922 in Erfurt, Germany – January 26, 2003 in Bonn, Germany) 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

Schimmel was born to Protestant and highly cultured middle-class parents in Erfurt, Germany on 7 April 1922. 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 on late medieval Egypt 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.

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


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. Schimmel’s award speech is available here in translation entitled, A Good Word is like a Good Tree.

Personal life

She was briefly married in 1955 in Ankara to a Turk, adopting Cemile as her Muslim name. Although she had no immediate living family, she is survived by a well-loved son of a cousin and his family.

Works by Annemarie Schimmel

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
Nightingles 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
Deciphering the Signs of God: A Phenomenological Approach to Islam (1991-1992 Gifford Lectures, online), 302 pages, ISBN 0-7914-1982-7
Gabriel’s Wing: Study into the Religious Ideas of Sir Muhammad Iqbal
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
Im Reich der Grossmoguls: Geschichte, Kunst, Kultur, (2000), Verlag C. H. Beck. English
translation: The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture, [Paperback], Ed. Reaktion books Ltd, London,, (2004), 352 pages, ISBN 1-86189-251-9 another edition (2006).
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
Meine Seele ist eine Frau”, copyright 1995, Kösel Verlaf GMBH, Munich. English edition: My Soul is a Woman, The Feminine in Islam, (1997), 192 pages, Continuum, New York and London, Continuum International Publishing Group . ISBN 978-0-8264-1444-1 .
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 Mistery of Numbers, The Mystery of Numbers.
Islam and the Wonders of Creation: The Animal Kingdom (2003)


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