SCHIMMEL, ANNEMARIE iv. Works on Iqbal and Indo-Muslim Studies



iv. Works on Iqbal and Indo-Muslim Studies

Annemarie Schimmel’s wide-ranging oeuvre in Islamics, predicated on a gifted linguistic grounding, still awaits analysis. Her scope was textual and content neither theoretical nor ideological. She published lucidly in English, German, Turkish, and Persian on technical as well as general topics, all of which remain readable works of enduring interest.

Schimmel’s Indo-Islamic scholarship stemmed from her initial interest in the philosophical poetry of Moḥammad Eqbāl (1877-1938) and subsequent remit as professor of Indo-Muslim cultures and languages at Harvard University (1967-92). Thanks to the efforts of Wilfred Cantwell Smith and Richard Frye, it was the West’s sole chair in Indo-Islamic studies, established from the Minute Rice bequest of Ataullah Ozai-Durrani (for differing accounts, cf. Schimmel, Morgenland…, 2002, pp. 172-74  and Frye, pp. 192-94). Schimmel became an honorary professor upon retiring to Bonn, where the university established on her 75th birthday the Annemarie Schimmel Chair for Indo-Muslim Culture and, following her demise, a chair for Mamluk Studies at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg, a newly-founded institute at Bonn University. The city now houses an inter-faith Annemarie Schimmel Forum.  Stuttgart’s Linden Museum was willed her personal collection of Islamic calligraphy, a collection spanning twelve centuries, including specimens personally gifted her by leading Muslim calligraphers.   Also named after her are a thoroughfare and the Goethe Institute in Lahore; a women's hostel in Delhi; a mass communications institute in Hyderabad, Sind; and a British Council scholarship for Pakistani female postgraduates. For a brief period, classes in Persian and Islamic culture were conducted through a German cultural initiative at a fledgling Markaz-e farhangi-e Ānāh Māri Šimel (Annemarie Schimmel Cultural Center) in Isfahan, but it was disbanded soon after the diplomatic standoff in the wake of the assassination of three Kurdish opposition leaders at Mykonos restaurant in Berlin in 1992.

Besides honorary doctorates from Sind (1975), Islamabad (1977), and Peshawar (1978) universities, Schimmel also had conferred upon her the Setārā-ye Qāʾed-e Aʿẓam (1965), Helāl-e Emtiāz (1983), and inaugural International Iqbal Award for Pakistan studies (1998). Schimmel’s library was divided among the university of Erfurt, her hometown; a Berlin museum; and London’s Institute of Ismaili Studies, where her Indo-Islamic holdings constitute the Annemarie Schimmel Reference Collection. She had taught summer courses there for several years, and in her memory the Institute now awards a triennial Annemarie Schimmel Scholarship for research carried out on Muslim devotional life and related fields of interest.

Alongside her Islamic “tripos” in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish under Hans Ellenberg, Richard Hartmann, Hans Heinrich Schaeder, and Annemarie von Gabain, Schimmel also studied Urdu, then called Hindustani, with Tarachand Roy at Berlin University, and Islamic art and calligraphy at the then Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum. There she became, as had Richard Ettinghausen, the assistant of the art historian Ernst Kühnel. Later on she acquired proficiency in Sindhi, initially self-taught, but studied it with the Sindhi belle-lettrist Pir Hosām-al-Din Rašdi during extended residences in Pakistan; she also studied Pashto with Richard Frye of Harvard.

A stipulation of the Durrani bequest was preparation of English translations of the poetry of Mir Moḥammad Taqi Mir (d. 1810) and Mirzā Asad-Allāh Ḡāleb (d. 1869) in the rhyming quatrain (robāʿi) style of Edward Fitzgerald. Schimmel published translations of Ḡāleb’s Persian and Urdu verses, and essays on his use of imagery during his 1969 subcontinental centenary commemoration (e.g., A Dance of Sparks; Chaghatai and Waghmar, p. 68).

On Eqbāl, she prepared the first German verse edition of Jāvid-nāma, as Buch der Ewigkeit, in 1957, followed by a Turkish prose edition and commentary Cāvidnāme (1958; rev. ed., 1989); and German translations of Payām-e mašreq, as Botschaft des Ostens (1963) and Zabur-e ʿajam, as Persisches Psalter (1968). The standard treatment of Eqbāl’s thought within the framework of general religions is in Schimmel’s Gabriel’s Wing (1963; 3rd rev. ed., 2000; Urdu ed., 1985; and critique by Šāh, 2005). Later appeared a German edition of Eqbāl’s Heidelberg thesis, “The Development of Metaphysics in Persia” (1908), which she translated with A.-R. Rahbār, as Die Entwicklung der Metaphysick in Persien, Bonn, 1982. In all of these studies Schimmel highlighted Eqbāl’s rediscovery of a dynamic Sufism vitiated otherwise by pantheism; and how he envisaged his allegorical Persian verse as a medium for reflecting on Divine Unity, the all-encompassing Ego, in daily life. In other papers, she chiefly discussed Western (neo-Hegelian) and Eastern (Rumi’s) influences on Eqbāl’s traditional Urdu aesthetics, but also his views on diverse topics, such as Bābism-Bahāʾism, the philosophy of prayer, prophetology, Indo-Muslim reform, and pan-Islamic nationalism (Chaghatai and Waghmar, pp. 40-44).

Schimmel was authoritatively commissioned by E. J. Brill’s History of Indian Literature and Handbuch der Orientalistik series, respectively, for fasciculi on the evolution of Indo-Islamic, Urdu, and Sindhi literatures (Chaghatai and Waghmar, p. 44), and a comprehensive one-volume, Islam in the Indian Subcontinent (1980).

Two detailed summations of mystical poetry in Urdu, Sindhi, Pashto, and Punjabi vernaculars are in her Mystical Dimensions of Islam (pp. 344-402) and As through A Veil (pp. 135-69). In the former, she discusses Kvāja Mir Dard (1721-85), a prominent Naqšbandi and proponent of the classical Urdu ḡazal, who is complemented alongside Sind’s foremost folk mystic, Shah ʿAbd-al-Laṭif Bhetāʾi (1689-1752), in another seminal work of hers, Pain and Grace. Other mystics whom Schimmel translated or examined were Qāżī Qāżān, ʿEnāyat Šahid, Bullhe Šāh, Solṭān Bāḥu, and ʿAbd-al-Wahhāb Sačal Sarmast, called the “ʿAṭṭār of Sind” (Chaghatai and Waghmar, pp. 44-53). As president of the Deutsch-Pakistanischen Forum, she also disseminated contributions by German orientalists, especially in groundbreaking studies of Balochi, Brahui, Sindhi, and Indo-Pakistani linguistics (Chaghatai and Waghmar, pp. 75-78). Her sojourns to historic Indo-Muslim centers are in a travelogue (Pakistan and Berge, Wüsten, Heiligtümer), among other papers (Chaghatai and Waghmar, pp. 47-48).

Schimmel’s Mughal studies were attributable to her work on Indo-Persian poetics and as a recognized authority on Islamic calligraphy (Chaghatai and Waghmar, pp. 72-74). She was a long-standing special consultant on Islamic art to New York’s Metropolitan Museum and assisted towards its exhibitions, including the Festival of India (1985-86).  An annual memorial lecture in her honor has now been established by the museum. It was in her final years that she devoted a volume synthesizing daily cultural life under the Mughals (2000), the revised English edition of which was posthumously published (Schimmel and Waghmar, 2004).  


(Burzine K. Waghmar)

Originally Published: April 16, 2018

Last Updated: April 16, 2018

Cite this entry:

Burzine K. Waghmar, “SCHIMMEL, ANNEMARIE iv. Works on Iqbal and Indo-Muslim Studies,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2018, available at (accessed on 16 April 2018).