The Beginnings of Shīʿī Studies in Germany: Rudolf Strothmann and His Correspondence with Carl Heinrich Becker, Ignaz Goldziher, Eugenio Griffini, and Cornelis van Arendonk, 1910 through 1926

Sabine Schmidtke
The Beginnings of Shīʿī Studies in Germany Cover
Transactions of the American Philosophical Society
Volume 112, Part 1

Rudolf Strothmann (b. 1877, d. 1960) played a pioneering role in the scholarly exploration of Shīʿī Islam in Western, especially German, scholarship. Between 1910 and 1923, he published many pathbreaking studies on the Zaydiyya, consulting primarily the recently purchased collections of Yemeni Zaydī manuscripts in Berlin. At the same time, and to the extent that this was possible in view of the lack of relevant sources in Germany and the rest of Europe, Strothmann began to delve into Twelver Shīʿī literature, an endeavor that culminated in his 1926 monograph, Die Zwölfer-Schī ʿa: Zwei religionsgeschichtliche Charakterbilder aus der Mongolenzeit, a portrait of the two prominent seventh- and thirteenth-century Imāmī scholars Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 672/1274) and Raḍī al-Dīn ʿAlī b. Mūsā Ibn Ṭāwūs (d. 664/1266). Later in his life, Strothmann primarily focused on various strands of Ismāʿīlism. His rich published work testifies to his erudition and versatility and continues to form an important point of departure for scholars working on different aspects of Shīʿism in the early twenty-first century. In addition, Strothmann’s use of the manuscript treasures in the Berlin State Library between 1908 and 1926 reflects his evolution as a scholar over those years. This study examines the earlier decades of Strothmann’s life and his development as a theologian and a scholar of Semitic languages and Islamic culture. Moreover, it sheds light on his scholarly work during the 1910s through his correspondence with Carl Heinrich Becker, Ignaz Goldziher, Eugenio Griffini, and Cornelis van Arendonk, of which an annotated edition is provided.

Sabine Schmidtke is professor of Islamic intellectual history in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey. She was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2017.