Annemarie Schimmel, Distinguished Scholar of Islam, Dies at 80

Annemarie Schimmel, Professor Emerita of Indo-Muslim Culture in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, died on Sunday, January 26, in a hospital in Bonn, Germany, at the age of 80. Professor Schimmel, a world-renowned scholar of Islam, dedicated her life to fostering a better understanding of Islam and the Muslim world in the West. She served as an important bridge for inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, a role that brought her much public recognition. 

The impact of her scholarship was felt all over the Muslim world, particularly in South Asia, Turkey, and the Arab world. In recent years, her work received acclaim in Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the countries of Central Asia. In recognition of her extraordinary scholarship, she received many honorary doctorates as well as prestigious awards from governments and institutions around the world. A major street in Lahore, Pakistan, is named for her, as are institutions dedicated to promoting the study of Islamic languages and literatures.

The author of nearly 100 books and monographs, her scholarship was exceptionally broad and wide-ranging. She ranked among the world's foremost scholars of Islamic mysticism and was a specially gifted interpreter of poetry in many languages, including Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, and Sindhi. In addition, she was an expert on Islamic civilization in South Asia, inaugurating a unique program in Indo-Muslim studies at Harvard. She had a great love for Islamic music and art, especially calligraphy, and published profusely on this subject. 

A scholar of great mystical and literary sensitivity, she also composed her own poetry in several languages, including German and English. She taught at the universities of Marburg, Ankara, and Bonn, before coming to Harvard in 1967. After her retirement from Harvard in 1992, she continued to serve as an Honorary Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Bonn. An autobiography in German appeared in 2002. 

A gifted teacher and mentor, she is survived by her students, many of them leading scholars of Islamic studies. A Harvard memorial service for her is being planned for the near future.