Andrae, Tor

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ANDRAE, TOR (18851946), historian of religions and bishop of the Swedish church. Tor J. E. Andrae was born on July 9, 1885 into a Protestant minister's family in Hevna. After finishing school in Linköping, he began to study humanities at Uppsala in 1903 and eventually became proficient in Hebrew as well as Arabic. His degree in humanities completed, he turned to theology, obtained his candidacy in 1909, and was, like each of his three older brothers, consecrated a minister of the church. During his theological studies, Andrae was deeply influenced by Nathan Söderblom, who suggested that he study the Prophet of Islam and who was instrumental in shaping his scholarly career. Andrae, interested in religious psychology, turned to the problem of Muammad's response to the divine call that made him a prophet; in his first steps into Arabic literature, he was guided by Ignácz Goldziher. The young theologian, who served the church first in Delsbo and then in Gamla Uppsala, was enabled to spend some time in 1915 in Berlin reading Arabic manuscripts. The result of his intense studies was his book Die person Muhammeds in lehre und glauben seiner gemeinde (Stockholm, 1918). For the first time, the development of the veneration of Muammad in Muslim piety and mystical theory was shown with convincing clarity. Andrae's mastery of the sources is evident, and the book remains to this day the best, and virtually unique, contribution to the important problem of how and why Muammad grew from "a servant to whom revelation came" into the Perfect Man and axis of the universe.

Andrae was awarded the Th.D. in 1921, and his writings and sermons of the early twenties show his deep concern for the Swedish church, which seemed to him to embody the Christian ideal of a religious community. He always emphasized that Christianity is the most perfect religion, a conclusion that, he admitted, cannot be proved by scientific methods but is to be experienced as a result of one's personal search for truth.

In the fall of 1923, Andrae was invited to lecture on the history of religions at the University of Stockholm. His lectures about the psychology of mystical experience, which presented a broad survey of unusual experiences on all levels of religion, were published as Mystikens psykologi in 1926. In the same year appeared Der Ursprung des Islams und das Christentum, a study that takes up one of Andrae's favorite themes, the strong influence of Syrian Christianity on the formation of early Islam. This influence, he pointed out, is also palpable in early Islamic pietistic trends ("Zuhd und Mönchtum," Le monde oriental, 1931). In his inaugural lecture as professor in Stockholm in 1927, Andrae dealt with the history of religions and the crisis of religions, discussing the extent to which the difference between the believer and the nonbeliever exists throughout history, an issue that led him later to write on the "problem of religious propensity" (Die Frage der religiösen Anlage, Uppsala, 1932). In his lectures Andrae rejected the purely evolutionist trend in the history of religions and stressed the fact that primitive religions as we know them now are not to be confused with the original religions.

In 1929 Andrae became professor of religious studies in Uppsala, and during the following years some of his best-known books were published. Chief among these was Muhammed: Hans liv och hans tro (Muammad: The man and his faith; Stockholm, 1930). This book, which has been translated into several languages, was highly admired for its sensitive psychological approach to the Prophet of Islam, and it is still a standard work. In 1931 the death of Archbishop Söderblom, Andrae's master and friend, caused him to write a fine, deeply felt biography of Söderblom (Uppsala, 1931).

The following year Andrae was elected into the Swedish Academy and, as inspector of the Olaus-Petri-Stiftelse, had the opportunity of inviting leading historians of religion to Uppsala in the following years. His monograph on the Swedish theologian and polyhistor Georg Wallin (d. 1760) shows him as a historian of high rank. For a brief period in 1936 Andrae served as minister of ecclesiastic affairs in the Swedish government and was elected bishop in his home province, Linköping, where he spent the last nine years of his life. He died in January 1946 after expressing his firm faith in God and in eternal life in his last broadcast sermon on New Year's Eve 1946.

For all his deep-rooted love for the Swedish church and his Christian faith, Andrae was able to appreciate foreign religions as well. He was particularly interested in showing that Islam, so often maligned as a purely legalist religion of military uniformity, knows the secret of divine grace very well, because God has revealed himself in Islam as in all other religions (a Söderblomian idea). Andrae's booklet I myrten-trädgården (In the garden of myrtles) was published posthumously in 1947; it sketches the early development of the ūfi movement with insight and love. Fascinating are Andrae's studies Det osynligas värld (Uppsala, 1934), in which he deals with the problem of immortality and eternal life and holds that, if eternal life is real life, it cannot be static but must imply a continuing development of the spiritideas known from Lotze and Eucken and expressed in 1928 by Muhammad Iqbal, the Indo-Muslim philosopher. Andrae's conviction of an unending life after death was a result of the dynamism of his own religion, a dynamism that led him also to dislike all forms of gnostic religions, which, he felt, were too intellectualistic.

Andrae's books are fruits of a deep study of the sources, combined with a fine understanding of the psychological roots of religious experience, coupled with respect for the religious personality. Besides, they are stylistically perfect. His contributions to the study of Islam, particularly to a better understanding of the spiritual role of the Prophet in the Muslim community, and his intense work for the Swedish church are the two most outstanding facets of his life and work.


Muhammed: The Man and His Faith, translated by Theophil Menzel (1936; reprint, New York, 1956), is the only one of Andrae's books currently available in English. A translation of his studies on early Sufism, I myrtenträdgården, is a desideratum. Among German translations are Mohammed: Sein Leben und sein Glaube (Göttingen, 1932); Die letzten Dinge (Leipzig, 1940), a translation of Det osynligas värld by Hans Heinrich Schaeder, with a good biographical sketch; Islamische Mystiker (Stuttgart, 1960), a translation of I myrtenträdgården by Helmhart Kanus-Credé; and Andrae's biography of Söderblom, translated by E. Groening and A. Volkein (Berlin, 1938). A full account of Andrae's life and work has been given by Geo Widengren in Tor Andrae (Uppsala, 1947).

Annemarie Schimmel (1987)

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Andrae, Tor

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