Jenny Rahel Oesterle How Were Refugees Protected in the Islamic Early Middle Ages?

Jenny Rahel Oesterle is Junior Research Group Leader of ‘Protection in Periods of Political and Religious Expansion’ at the department of Transcultural Studies at Heidelberg University. From 2008 to 2014, she was Junior Professor of ‘Mediterranean History in the Middle Ages’ at the Ruhr University Bochum and, before that, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Technische Universität Braunschweig. She is Member of the Arab German Academy of Science and Humanities and was on its Steering Committee 2015/2016. In addition, she is a member of several research groups, including ‘Premodern Rulership in a Trans-cultural Comparison’ at the University of Bonn and the ‘Centre for Religious Studies’ at Ruhr University Bochum.

Area of Research

Transcultural Studies, History

Jenny Rahel Oesterle. "Das Mittelmeer und die Mittelmeerwelt. Annäherungen an einen "Gegenstand der Geschichte" in der neueren deutschen Mediävistik." In Construire la Méditerranée, penser les transferts culturels. Approches historiographiques et perspectives de recherche, edited by R. Abdellatif, Y. Benhima, D. König and E. Ruchaud. 2012: 72-92.  
Jenny Rahel Oesterle. ""... und ergreift (er) den Ring an der Kirchentür". Berührung und Schutz im Kontext der Geschichte des Kirchenasyls." In Sinngeschichten. Kulturgeschichtliche Beiträge für Ute Daniel, edited by Christian Frey, Thomas Kubetzky and Klaus Latzel. 2013: 118-124.  
Jenny Rahel Oesterle. "Muslime im christlichen Asyl. Migrations- und Schutzgeschichten in frühislamischer Zeit." Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 3, 63 (2015): 250-263.  
Jenny Rahel Oesterle. "Darf man den Herrscher bekämpfen? Christliche und islamische Positionen im Vergleich." In Zwischen Widerstand und Umsturz. Zur Bedeutung von Gewalt für die politische Kultur des späten Mittelalters, edited by Martin Kintzinger, Frank Rexroth and Jörg Rogge. 2015: 183-210.  
Jenny Rahel Oesterle. "Arabische Darstellungen des Mittelmeers in Historiographie und Kartographie." In Maritimes Mittelalter. Meere als Kommunikationsräume, edited by Michael Borgolte and Nikolas Jaspert. 2016: 149-180.  

since 2014

Junior Research Group Leader 'Protection in Periods of Political and Religious Expansion'

Heidelberg University (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg)

Transcultural Studies


Junior Professor

Ruhr University Bochum (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)


Post-doctoral Researcher

Braunschweig University of Technology (Technische Universität Braunschweig)

Department of History


PhD in Medieval History/ Middle-Eastern Studies

University of Münster (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster)


Magister Artium

University of Münster (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster)

- Arab German Academy of Science and Humanities


- Fellow of the Research Consortium 'Social Symbolism in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period', German Research Foundation (2003-06)

- Fellow at the European Centre for Research on the Period of Enlightenment, University of Potsdam (2006)

- Fellow of the German Scholarship Foundation (1997-2002)

The migration of refugees is not a problem of the twenty-first century. Historian JENNY RAHEL OESTERLE investigates the question of how people in need of protection were treated in the Middle Ages. Her particular focus in this video is the Arabian Peninsula in the early seventh century, specifically the Islamic context during the lifetime of Muhammad. The term refugee is coined by a modern understanding in the context of national states and international human rights and asylum. The political and legal conditions are clearly different in early Islamic times. The term is applied on early medieval persons in need of protection such as the prophet Muhammad and his followers in awareness of the historical and semantical complexity of its use. As Jenny Oesterle describes, she focused on narrative texts and was inspired by the methods of New Historicism but also considered the legal context. From Islamic historiographies and Prophet biographies, she gained the insight that stories of protection are essential for the understanding of early Islamic history. Muhammad’s role as a refugee, she found, is highly relevant for the development of the first concepts of Muslim protection during the founding of the Islamic communities. This research demonstrates that countries from which many refugees arrive in Europe nowadays, such as Syria or Iraq, already had developed concepts of protection in the Middle Ages.

LT Video Publication DOI:

Zwischen Religion, Recht und Macht. Schutzgeschichte und Schutzgeschichten von Verfolgten

  • Jenny Rahel Oesterle
  • Habilitation
  • In Press
Jenny Rahel Oesterle. Zwischen Religion, Recht und Macht. Schutzgeschichte und Schutzgeschichten von Verfolgten. In Press.