Short DescriptionRosenthal was born in Berlin, Germany, to a Jewish family on 31-08-1914 and was admitted to the University of Berlin in 1932 where he studied classical and oriental languages and civilizations
Rosenthal was born in Berlin, Germany, to a Jewish family on 31-08-1914 and was admitted to the University of Berlin in 1932 where he studied classical and oriental languages and civilizations. He received his Ph.D. in 1935 with a dissertation supervised by Schaeder on Palmyrenian inscriptions (Die Sprache der Palmyränischen Inschriften).
After teaching for a year in Florence, Italy, he became an instructor at the Lehranstalt (formerly Hochschule) für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, a rabbinical seminary in Berlin. In 1938, he completed his history of Aramaic studies which was awarded the Lidzbarski Medal and Prize from the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft. The prize money was withheld from him because he was Jewish, yet on Schaeder's initiative, he was given a prize medal in gold to compensate him for the loss.
Shortly after the infamous Kristallnacht, Rosenthal left Germany in December 1938 and went to Sweden, where he was invited through the offices of the Swedish historian of religions, H.S. Nyberg (1889–1974). From there he went to England, where he arrived in April 1939, and eventually came to the United States in 1940 having received an invitation to join the faculty of the Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1943 and, during the war, worked on translations from Arabic for the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, D.C. Following the war, he returned to academia, first at HUC and then moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 1948. In 1956, he was appointed the Louis M. Rabinowitz Professor of Semitic Languages at Yale. He became a Sterling Professor in 1967 and emeritus in 1985.
Professor Rosenthal was a prolific and highly accomplished scholar who contributed much to the development of source-critical studies in Arabic in the USA. His publications range from a monograph on Humor in Early Islam to a three-volume annotated translation of the Muqaddimah of ibn Khaldûn to a Grammar of Biblical Aramaic.
His 1952 History of Muslim Historiography was the first study of this enormous subject. He wrote extensively on Islamic civilization including The Muslim Concept of Freedom, The Classical Heritage in Islam; The Herb: Hashish versus Medieval Muslim Society; Gambling in Islam; On Suicide in Islam; and Sweeter Than Hope: Complaint and Hope in Medieval Islam.
He also wrote about Abu Hayyân at-Tawhîdi (1947); and about Wahhabism in Egypt (1948). In addition, he authored three volumes of collected essays and two volumes of translations from the history of the medieval Persian historian, at-Tabari. Rosenthal continued to publish in German and English. His books have been translated into Arabic, Russian and Turkish.
From History of Muslim Historiography:
The effect of Islam in the flourishing of historiography
Talking about the activity of Muslims in historiography he says: “The stimulus which Muhammad's historical deas could give and, later on, actually did give to the occupation with history could not have been any stronger. The actions of individuals, the events of the past, the circumstances of all peoples of the earth had now become matters of religious importance. A definite dividing line in the whole course of history, which later Muslim historiography never crossed, existed in the person of Muhammad. … The Qur'an interpretters were forced by this circumstance to look for illustrative information.
In the course of time, the occupation with the historical material of the' Qur'an came to be considered one of hi branches of learning that were developed in connection with the Qur'an. … Nevertheless, these Qur'anic passages were not without importance for the history of Muslim historiography, because very soon, the events to which they referred became historical happenings of supreme significance to Muslims and stimulated historical research.”
 That is his viewpoint. But we believe them to be a Divine revelation the Messenger [peace be upon him] received from Allâh.
 Franz Rosenthal, the History of Muslim Histriography, 26-28.