The Ocean of the Soul: Man, the World, and God in the Stories of Farid Al-Din 'Attar

By Hellmut Ritter; John O'Kane | Go to book overview

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE

Hellmut Ritter, one of Germany's greatest Orientalists, is an inspiring model of scholarship for anyone professionally active in the field of Islamic Studies. He was born in 1892 in Lichtenau (Hessen) and died in 1971 in Oberursel im Taunus where he lies buried. Several of his ancestors, as well as his father and two brothers, were clergymen. After completing his gymnasium studies in Kassel, Ritter spent five semesters at the University of Halle where he studied under Carl Brockelmann and Paul Kahle, and then one semester in Strassburg studying with Nöldeke, Littmann, Landauer and Frank. In 1913 he became a tutorial assistant in the Seminar für Geschichte und Kultur des Orients in Hamburg and the following year, at the age of twentytwo, passed his oral doctoral examination in Bonn. Shortly after the out-break of World War I he was inducted into the army and sent to Iraq as an interpreter on the staff of field marshal von der Golz, and later to Palestine with general von Falkenhayn. His dissertation, with Carl Heinrich Becker as promotor, was published during the war in the journal Der Islam.1 After Germany's defeat, Ritter was appointed professor of Oriental Studies at Hamburg at the age of twenty-six, without having received a postdoctoral degree (Habilitation). From 1920 to 1925 he was co-editor of Der Islam which Becker had founded in 1908. Having lost his university post because of a scandal over his homosexuality, from 1927 Ritter became head of the Deutsche Morgenlāndische Gesellschaft's office in Istanbul where he remained until 1949. In 1936 he became a lecturer for Persian and Arabic, and in 1938 a full professor, at the University of Istanbul.

In 1949 Ritter returned to Germany where he was made associate professor, and four years later professor, of Islamic Studies at the University of Frankfurt. However, in 1956 he returned to Turkey for a second productive period of residence, this time with a commission from UNESCO to catalogue manuscripts of Persian poets in Istanbul's libraries in collaboration with Herbert Duda and Ahmed Ateą. He remained in Istanbul until 1969 when ill health obliged him to return to Germany.

1Ein Arabisches Handbuch der Handelswissenschaft, Der Islam 7/1917/1–97.

-xi-

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