Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

In memoriam: Professor Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila

Colleagues in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies reflect on the passing of Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, renowned scholar of classical Arabic and Persian literature, culture and historiography.

With great sadness in our hearts, we are reporting the death on 18 December 2023 after a short and sudden illness of Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies.

Photo of Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila with text saying in memoriam

Professor Hämeen-Anttila was a renowned scholar of classical Arabic and Persian literature, culture and historiography, and was widely admired for his immense scholarly range and output in his homeland of Finland, in the UK, wider Europe and the world.

In addition to numerous works in Finnish, including a translation of the Qur’an, among his book publications in English are: The Last Pagans of Iraq: Ibn Waḥshiyya and His Nabatean Agriculture (2006), Al-Maqrīzī’s al-Ḫabar ʿan al-Bašar, Vol. V, Section 4: Persia and Its Kings (2017 and 2022), Khwadāynāmag: The Middle Persian Book of Kings (2018), and Portrait of an Eighth-Century Gentleman: Khālid Ibn Ṣafwān in History and Literature (2020).

Jaakko's passing is an immense loss for us, not only as colleagues but also for the university and the broader academic community. He was not just an erudite and highly accomplished scholar; he was also a kind and generous individual, always ready to lend a helping hand. He had a deep appreciation for books, his family, and took quiet pride in their accomplishments. He frequently shared anecdotes about his travels with his son, both within Scotland and beyond, his love for Italian wine and food, and his re-readings of the entire Shahnameh for the nth time. He will be deeply and sorely missed.

Professor Nacim Pak-Shiraz

Professor Hämeen-Anttila leaves an indelible mark as a scholar and his absence is deeply felt among his colleagues and his many students, all of whom have found him consistently supportive, generous with his knowledge and time, and inspiring both in his work and personal demeanour.

Dr Azin Haghighi remembers:

“Jaakko was a wonderful person and a dear colleague. His deep knowledge and passionate interest in classical Persian literature always sparked engaging conversations about literary works from the Shahnameh to lesser-known literature such as Banu Gashab Nameh, and beyond. Chatting with him was both enriching and pleasant and there are many fond memories of him to hold and cherish. As the 13th-century Persian poet Saadi wrote:

‘The legacy of a person who has a sterling reputation transcends mortality; their essence lives on through their name and virtues. It is not death that defines them, but rather, those who are not recalled for their virtue truly pass away.’

Dear Jaakko, it was such an honour to have known you, you will be sorely missed.”