South Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Seeking Unity in the Persianate World. Friedrich Rosen, 1856-1935

Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Jacaranda I, First Floor

The German diplomat and orientalist Friedrich Rosen spent a lifetime grappling with the Persianate world. Studying Persian poetry with his consul father in Jerusalem and alone in rural Westphalia, reading Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat with the British viceroy at Shimla and witnessing Amanat’s Indar Sabha as a proto-nationalist play in the 1880s, Rosen went on to join a modern Sufi order while a lowly diplomat in 1890s Tehran. Rattled by the upheavals of industrialization and perceiving an “all-leveling” force of European culture, the German diplomat Friedrich Rosen sought distraction and fulfillment in studying the Persianate cultures he engaged with politically. Initiated into the modernist Safi Ali Shahiyya order close to the Persian royal court, Rosen came to believe that Sufi introspection and disengagement from the physical world was the central force hindering development in Islam. In this context, his reading of Rumi’s Mesnevi led him to counsel against Germany’s incitement strategy in the Islamic world in WWI. His German writings on Rumi stood in line with publications on the medieval Persian poets Sa’di, Nassir Khusrow and Hafez. In the Germanophone world, the later German foreign minister was most well-known for his translations of the religiously controversial Rubaiyat, attributed to the astronomer-philosopher Omar Khayyam. Amid the crises of post-war Germany Rosen sought refuge in his “halat dervish” and coinciding with the writings of his Iranian acquaintances in 1920s Berlin his later writings became more spiritual, reading into the Safavid past an ideal combination of belief and scholarship.

Amir Theilhaber

Technical University Berlin, Germany


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4 - Seeking Unity in the Persianate World. Friedrich Rosen, 1856-1935

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