The IIS Library inaugurated the Annemarie Schimmel Memorial Reference Collection, a donation which significantly enlarged its holdings on Indo-Muslim communities and cultures. Comprised of approximately 1100 volumes, with many rare and out of print titles, the collection, now housed at the Institute, was donated by Professor Ali Asani in the memory of the late Annemarie Schimmel. As a token of its gratitude for this generous gift, the Institute has established a triennial Annemarie Schimmel Fellowship, awarding £10,000 to a scholar working in the fields of interest to the late Professor Schimmel.

Throughout her career as one of the foremost scholars of Persian poetry and Sufism, Professor Schimmel, who passed away in January 2003, had published numerous articles and books on Islamic art, theology, poetry, calligraphy and mysticism, as well as translations of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu and Sindhi poetry into German and English.

In accordance with her wishes, Annemarie Schimmel’s voluminous library was divided amongst scholars and institutions with which she had professional and personal relationships. The University of Erfurt in Germany, the city of her birth, received a large donation of books, as did a museum in Berlin, the city in which she completed her first doctorate. Her books on Indo-Muslim culture and civilisation were left to her successor at Harvard University, Professor Ali Asani, who has donated the bulk of this collection, in her memory, to The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Professor Asani selected the Institute primarily because of Professor Schimmel’s close relationship with the Ismaili community and its institutions, but also because of its location in London, where there are significant communities of Muslims from the Subcontinent. This substantial collection of 1100 volumes contains just over 600 items in western languages, and 500 items in non-western languages including Urdu and Sindhi.

The special relationship Professor Schimmel had cultivated with the Ismaili community was more than a result of her many scholastic contributions and research in the area of Ismaili studies, for example publications on the poetry and life of the Fatimid da‘i, Nasir Khusraw (d. ca. 1077). She had a long history of involvement with the Ismaili community by being a regular visiting lecturer at the IIS and the Aga Khan University in Karachi; travelling and giving lectures to Ismaili communities all over the world; and in mentoring and nurturing many students in their academic pursuits, including many who are now themselves prominent scholars in Ismaili Studies.

“She was also a much sought-after lecturer, and her style of delivery was famous” commented Professor Ali Asani at the recent celebration ceremony held at the Institute. “She would clasp her purse with both hands, shut her eyes, and speak for exactly the amount of time allotted to her. She maintained that she could lecture without a manuscript in German, English and Turkish, or with a manuscript in French, Arabic, Persian and Urdu.”

More details about the Annemarie Schimmel Memorial Reference Collection will become available in due course.