Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, a prominent Finnish scholar and professor of Arabic and Islamic culture at the University of Edinburgh, passed away unexpectedly due to a sudden illness on December 18, 2023, at the age of 60. This was confirmed by his spouse, Virpi Hämeen-Anttila, who expressed deep shock and sorrow over the loss, describing it as a personal and global tragedy.
Born in Oulu in 1963, Hämeen-Anttila was a prolific writer and translator, known for his extensive work on Islamic studies and Middle Eastern literature. His translations include significant works such as the Quran and "The Thousand and One Nights." His ability to present complex subjects to a broad audience in an engaging manner distinguished him as a rare scholar who mastered popularizing scientific information.
Before joining the University of Edinburgh, Hämeen-Anttila served as a professor of Arabian language and literature at the University of Helsinki. His departure to Edinburgh in 2016 was seen as a symbolic protest against the Finnish government's education budget cuts, although he had been invited to Edinburgh even before these cuts were announced.
Hämeen-Anttila's work included award-winning titles such as "Islamin Miekka: Idän ja lännen konfliktien historia" (The Sword of Islam: The History of Conflicts between the East and the West) and "Trippi ihmemaahan: Huumeiden kulttuurihistoria" (A Trip to Wonderland: The Cultural History of Drugs), illustrating his diverse interests and expertise. His commitment to demystifying Islamic culture and reducing prejudices and fears was widely recognized and appreciated.
Colleagues and students alike remember him as an encouraging mentor and a lively, humorous person with a remarkable breadth of knowledge. His contribution to the field of Islamic and Arabic studies was immense, as he was not only a leading expert in Finland but also gained international recognition for his scholarly work.
The academic community, both in Finland and abroad, mourns the loss of Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, a figure who made significant contributions to the understanding of Islamic culture and literature. His passing leaves a profound void in the world of academia and cultural studies.