On 18 July The Institute of Ismaili Studies hosted an event to celebrate the life and work of Professor Wilferd Madelung. The event took place 70 days after his death, and saw academics from around the world pay tribute to his major contributions to Islamic studies.

The event opened and closed with recorded excerpts from a lecture given by Prof Madelung at the University of California Los Angeles in 2007 when he received the Giorgio Levi Della Vida Award. The award is given to outstanding scholars whose work has significantly and lastingly advanced the study of Islamic civilization.

In the discussion of his work and influence on other academics, scholars paid homage to Prof. Madelung’s dedication to, and long-lasting impact on, the study of Muslim thought and societies. He was remembered for his attention to detail, his quiet demeanour, and his regular Tuesday attendance at the IIS, continuing up to the 2020 lockdowns of COVID-19.

Professor Madelung was a preeminent scholar of medieval Islamic communities and movements. His studies paid particular reference to religious schools and movements in early Islam and enriched the discipline’s understanding of almost every major Muslim movement and community, from the early Imami Shi‘ism and the later developments of Twelver, Ismaili and Zaydi Islam as well as the lesser known aspects of the Sunni, Ibadi and Mu‘tazili schools of theology and beyond.

He was educated at the Universities of Cairo and Hamburg and became Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Chicago. From 1978 he was Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford and from 1999 was a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Ismaili Studies

Professor Madelung was a consulting editor for the Encyclopaedia of Islam and the Encyclopaedia Iranica for which he as well as making contributions to both. In 2003 he was honored by a Festschrift, Culture and Memory in Medieval Islam, edited by Farhad Daftary and Josef W. Meri.

Speakers included:

Omar Alí-de-Unzaga and Daryoush Mohammad Poor

Zayn Kassam, Director of the IIS

Roberto Tottoli, Rector, “L'Orientale” University of Naples

Farhad Daftary, Director Emeritus, IIS

Farouk Topan, Professor Emeritus, Aga Khan University

Paul E. Walker, University of Chicago

Etan Kohlberg, Professor Emeritus, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Carmela Baffioni, Professor Emerita, University of Naples; IIS

Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, École Pratique des Hautes Études and IIS

James E. Montgomery, Sir Thomas Adams's Professor, University of Cambridge

Abdulrahman al-Salimi, Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, Oman

Walid Saleh, University of Toronto

Toby Mayer, IIS

Farouk Mitha, University of Victoria and IIS

Kumail Rajani, University of Exeter