Wilferd Ferdinand Madelung

  September 22, 2021   Read time 2 min
Wilferd Ferdinand Madelung
Wilferd Madelung (b. 1930) is the German scholar of Islam and Shi'a studies who has written about 200 books and essays about Shi'a. The Succession to Muhammad (s) is among his most important works in which Shi'a's idea about succession after the Holy Prophet (s) has been supported. He has had an important role in introducing Shi'a to the West.

Professor Wilferd Madelung was born on December 26th, 1930 in Stuttgart, Germany. After finishing primary and secondary educations, he went to the University of Cairo and received B.A. in Islamic History and Literature in 1953.

He then continued his higher education in his country and in 1957, received his PhD in Islamic Studies from University of Hamburg. Madelung finished his thesis under German Islamic scholars R. Strothmann and B. Spuler. He was the cultural agent of Western Germany in Baghdad for three years (1958 – 1960) and then continued his scientific life in Islamic Studies.

  • 1963: Assistant professor in Islamic Studies in University of Texas in Austin.
  • 1964 – 1969: Assistant professor and associate professor in Islamic Studies in University of Chicago.
  • 1969 – 1978: Professor of Islamic Studies in University of Chicago.
  • 1978 – 1998: Professor of Laudian chair in Arabic and Islamic Studies in University of Oxford. Laudian chair is the highest chair of Islamic studies in the UK and one of the most important chairs of its kind in the world. Teaching Arabic in highest levels is among the conditions of this chair.
  • Madelung taught in University of Colombia and many other universities in the United States and Europe as a guest lecturer. He is a member of many international communities of Islamic studies.
He had a very accurate method in research and writing, including usage of authentic and first hand references, distinguishing between Shi'a and Sunni sources, distinguishing between Twelver Shia sources and sources of other Shi'a branches, thematic classification of sources (theological, exegetic, hadith) and also using many references. Accurate knowledge of distinguished Shi'a scholars and theologians, comprehensive and organized look to Shi'a and using orientalists' references has added to the importance of his researches.
By writing and correcting about 200 books and articles in research journals and encyclopedias and reviewing and introduction of 160 books, he has had a great role in achievement of the knowledge about thought and history of Islam and especially Shi'a in medieval period. His works are a collection of researches in theology, history, fiqh, schools and sects, biographies and bibliographies. Some of his works have been translated into Persian. Here is a list of his works:
  • The Succession to Muhammad (s) is his famous work.
  • Religious schools and sects in medieval Islam
  • Religious and ethnic movements in medieval Islam (variorum collected studies series)
  • Studies in medieval shi'ism (variorum collected studies series)
  • Studies in medieval Muslim thought and history (variorum collected studies series)
  • Religious trends in early Islamic Iran (Columbia lectures on Iranian studies)