The Center for Contemporary Islam (CCI) is part of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town. CCI was founded in 1995 in response to the Department of Religious Studies’ mission to understand and study various aspects of religion in contemporary African society. Many projects have been completed at CCI, whether independently or in collaboration with other scholars and institutes from all over the world. Projects cover a wide range of topics related to Islam and Muslim society such as: Islamic Law in Africa; Religion, Culture and Identity in post-apartheid South Africa; Muslim Publics in Africa; Islam, Gender and Sexuality; Islam and Manuscript Cultures in sub-Saharan Africa; and Muslim Intellectuals in the Lake Chad Transnational Space.
One of the CCI’s objectives is to provide a platform from which researchers can share and reflect their ideas and thoughts about Islam and Muslims. This has led to the creation of two publications both with a focus on Islam in Africa:
The Journal for Islamic Studies (JIS) – a peer-reviewed publication accredited by the Department of Education (South Africa)
The Annual Review of Islam in Africa (ARIA) – a forum for young and established researchers to publish their findings in a shorter and accessible format.
JIS can be accessed through McGIll Library from here.
ARIA is also accessible online from 1998 to 2016 click here.
Muslim Heritage is a web portal launched by the “Foundation for Science and Technology and civilisation” (FSTC) in 2002. This is one of its major projects in the study of Muslim heritage with the purpose of advancing human civilization. It is an online education community of Muslims and non-Muslims, which aims to raise awareness on the relevance and importance of Muslim heritage. The portal contains thousands of peer reviewed articles, numerous reports and essays, as well as news on Muslim heritage related topics and events.
The portal is well organized and materials are classified based on main subjects (i.e. Science, environment, culture and people, etc.) and then sub-classified (i.e. Astronomy, chemistry, Medicine, Architecture, Art, Agriculture, Geography, etc.). Moreover the searching features helps to retrieve information in different formats faster and easier.
The idea for the founding of the FSTC was initiated by a professor of Mechanical engineering at the University of Manchester, with the hope to establish an organization to research inventions and the cultural roots of early discoveries that originated in non-western world and which still affect our world. This organization is a non-political, non-sectarian and non-religious in approach and its mission is stated as:
To foster an accurate understanding of the thousand years of exceptional advances in science, technology, medicine and the arts made by men and women within the Muslim World from the 7th century onwards.
To generate social cohesion, cultural awareness and respect through the exploration of Muslim and World heritage and how it is woven into our global society and civilization so that we all share and benefit from this heritage.
To promote science and learning as an alternative to negative or extremist behavior.
This academic channel aims to discover and shed light on Muslim civilizations and heritage and therefore is designed to study most Muslim countries and cultures. The diversity in their approach is reflected by the various gathered resources all made accessible through this portal. For example, the Architecture and Art section covers geographical locations from China to Syria, Turkey and Iran.
ICHTO provides information (mostly in Persian) on different heritage sites within Iran and they have recently added a virtual guided tour (in English and Persian) of different sites. UNESCO’s website also provides full descriptions of these protected sites.
Each country’s heritage showcases part of its identity, history, culture and values as well reflecting a source of inspiration and life. The world of today was received from previous generations and cultural heritage and artifacts are gifts of their knowledge and life. These not only carry a fascination to observe, but are also valuable sources from which to learn about how civilization, culture and humanity has changed and developed throughout history. However much of this heritage is irreplaceable, unique and fragile.
For example, the Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran
“The Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran, in the north-west of the country, consists of three monastic ensembles of the Armenian Christian faith: St Thaddeus and St Stepanos and the Chapel of Dzordzor. These edifices – the oldest of
which, St Thaddeus, dates back to the 7th century – are examples of outstanding universal value of the Armenian architectural and decorative traditions. They bear testimony to very important interchanges with the other regional cultures, in particular the Byzantine, Orthodox and Persian.”
UNESCO with the collaboration of state parties all around the world aims to protect the cultural heritage that bears such Values, which are important to be protected for future generations. For that reason the state parties are responsible to identify, promote and take necessary measures to safeguard their heritage as well as to present them to UNESCO along with a complete nomination file containing their Outstanding Universal Values, history and complete introduction to the respected cultural heritage. If all the required criteria are met than that site may be inscribed on the World Heritage list of UNESCO.
Twenty-two cultural sites of Iran are inscribed on the UNESCO’s list. These sites can be browsed on ICHTO’s website based on their geographical location. By clicking on the name of the site the virtual tour and map of the site will be accessible.
The modern historiography practices in Western Europe is different from historiographical traditions in ancient world. These practices does not necessarily reflect nor acknowledge the existence of rich historiographical traditions. On the other hand Sources that formed the cultural frameworks of Ottoman Europe were mostly religious writings, however the polyglot historiography of that region sheds light to the secular part of writings, which are considered as important primary sources for social and cultural researches. Therefore the Bibliographical Database Historiography in Ottoman Europe (15th until 18th centuries) HOE was launched by the Department of the History of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey and the University Library of the Ruhr-University in Bochum to fill the gap and to provide a comprehensive bibliography on the historiographic texts written in all languages of Ottoman Europe for the period of 1500 to 1800.
HOE database provides meta-data on various published and unpublished primary and secondary historiographical sources of Ottoman Europe (ex. chronicles, histories, hagiographies, inscriptions, maps…) which can be found under the “Main section” of the database. Information about particular collections and references, can be found under the “Tool section”. This database also offers information about content, manuscripts as well as author, title and edition of the materials. When available this information is linked to online resources too.
SHARIAsource is a flagship research venture of the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School.
The mission of this programme is organizing information available from all over the world about Islamic law in an accessible and useful manner. SHARIAsource is not a religious organization nor does it advocate any particular group or institution. It concentrates on academic principles and involvement by including diversity of various perspectives, peer-reviewed analysis and free and open exchange of ideas.
SHARIAsource creates a platform of storing Islamic law’s primary sources and it cooperates with various team of editors from all over the globe; moreover it provides the opportunity for people to analyze critically the mentioned sources and it also promotes research in order to shed light on academic as well as public discourse about Islamic law.
Their well-organized and classified portal provides access to cutting-edge content and context regarding Islamic law. Through this portal numerous resources can be browsed by Topics & Themes; Geographic Regions, Empires & Eras; Editors and Contributors and Document Types (ex.: Historical/Contemporary primary sources, Expert Analysis, legal documents, etc.). In addition to providing access to full text documents, the number of available resources associated to each category is presented as well which can be very useful to academics, journalist and policy makers.
Additionally readers who are interested to know about special events and news, their blog provides them with useful information in that regards.
Syrian Prints Archive is an independent documentary initiative “without any political, partisan or religious affiliations”, that provides archiving and storing services for Syrian print media issued since the outbreak of the March 2011 Revolution, regardless of content or orientations. Between March 2011 and the end of 2014, Syrian media witnessed a significance rise in the number of print publications.
These publications showcase the development of Syrian media and represent the new attempts at pluralism in Syria. Furthermore, the intellectual, social, political, economic and literary content of Syrian print publications is an important part of Syria’s recent memory, which documents a significant stage of the country’s history.
However, approximately 70% of these publications are no longer published due to various factors such as printing, technical or marketing problems, as well as a lack of reliable and stable host platforms. The value of these publications and their preservation were among the initial incentives to preserve and provide access to this huge collection. In November 2014, the website Syrian Prints Archive was officially launched during the first conference of Syrian Journalist Association in Gaziantep, sponsored by NPA.
This archive provides various interesting and helpful browsing and searching features. Aside from being fully text searchable, the site offers other useful search criteria. Searches can be conducted using titles and personal names along with complete references to associated articles and a number of related publications. Moreover this archives presents a variety of informatics info-graphs containing useful statistics on Syrian print publications.
This archive aims to preserve Arabic literature and cultural heritage as well as serving research and educational purposes. For that reason, a great number of journals (201), books (20,996) and articles (268,065) have been digitized. The collection covers a long period of time, ranging from journals dated in 1876 up to the present from different countries such as, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and Algeria.
أرشيف المجلات الادبية والثقافية العربية is a searchable archive. Journals can be browsed by title and books are listed based on the author’s name.
Some of the important titles available on this database are as follows (some are available at McGill, Islamic Studies Library):
Al-Tafhim li Awa’il Sana’at al-Tanjim (التفهيم لاوائل صناعة التنجيم) is a Persian book of instruction in the elements of the Art of Astrology written by a celebrated Iranian scientist Abu- Rayhan al-Biruni, in 440-362HD/ 973-1048 AD. It is one of the oldest texts in Mathematics and Astrology and has had a deep scientific influence on the world since most Iranian and non-Iranian scientists have made use of this text in their scientific works and papers.
The global significance and values of this book made it to be recognized as an outstanding World Documented Heritage by UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme and in 2011 its oldest existing manuscript in Persian was inscribed on UNESCO’s list of documented heritage. (More information and Nomination file about this manuscripts is accessible here)
The main purpose of Al-Tafhim li Awa’il Sana’at al- Tanjim is to introduce the principles of astrology. The book begins with geometry and arithmetic and continues with astronomy and chronology, moreover Biruni explains the use of the astrolabe for astronomical and astrological purposes. This book consists of 530 questions and answers in an understandable manner for new learners of science. Each new topic starts with a question posed by an imaginary student and ends in an answer by an invented professor. Biruni wrote this book responding to Reyhanah’s request – the daughter of Hussein/Hassan Khwarizmi in 420 HD/ 1029 AD.
What makes this book particularly precious and adds to its rarity is its scientific and linguistic significance, its physical specification and the time of its transcription – less than hundred years after author’s death.
From the linguistic point of view this self-study on Astrology is considered an important work in Persian language since Biruni used the most original and oldest terms and expressions of the Persian language regarding history, traditions and chronology of the Iranians in this book. Moreover Abu- Rayhan al- Biruni used some figures and drawings in order to explain difficult mathematical and astrological concepts in a simplified manner; both the figures and the script were written in bright red and black color.
This manuscript has been digitized by National Library and Archives of Iran and is available on DVD and can be accessed at Islamic Studies Library at McGill.
Sanduq el- Dunia [literally “the box of the world”, meaning “the box of life”] ** is an interactive website that acts as a gateway to Cairo where its historical and future developments are debated, discussed and dreamed about, and where the art technology revives different layers of the city’s history and memory. Sanduq el-Dunia offers an exceptional experience of Cairo’s history by digitally navigating its past also this digital platform allows public to build a dynamic connection to their heritage.
Sanduq el-Dunia enables users to preview and explore the existing database of images, as well as the opportunity to contribute to the database by uploading their own images. It contains images reflecting both ancient and modern Cairo.
The idea of creating Sanduq El-Dunia dates back to Egypt’s 25 January revolution in 2011. The images and stories from Tahrir Square formed the inspiration for this project with the idea that “culture is for all” and the objective to “democratize the production of a collective memory, history and knowledge”.
This project is presented on two platforms:
The first is the website that acts as an interactive platform with a mini cityscape
The second platform –mini Sanduq el-Dunia– presents an interactive preview wall on a 75” touchscreen.
Two main collaborative partners in this project with Sanduq el-Dunia are the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI) and the Commercial International Bank (CIB). DEDI is located in Cairo and is an intergovernmental body with the goal of promoting political and cultural understanding between Denmark and Egypt and between Europe and the Arab World; The Commercial International Bank (CIB) one of the leading private banks in Egypt.
Sanduq el-Dunia’s mission is to:
“Create an interactive, innovative and multidimensional public platform that reflects the cultural and natural diversity of Cairo, its inhabitants, and their living memory
Celebrate and highlight the immense and diverse riches in archaeology, architecture, arts, culture and social-political movements, amongst others present in Cairo.
Build strong networks among all stakeholders (governmental, cultural institutions, civil society organizations, businesses, educational institutions, artists, Galleries) and democratize the production of and access to collective memory, history, and knowledge.”
The way that Sanduq el Dunia chose to approach the history and culture of the city is influenced by an award-winning project called the “Wall/ Næggen” produced by the Museum of Copenhagen with Gibson Group.
Below one can watch the Sanduq el- Dunia project in Copenhagen:
**Sanduq el-Dunia refers to a well-known form of play (story telling) in the Arab world-which was presented in days past yet continues until today- this form of play works with “schematized, visually abstracted figures, and partly improvised dialogues.” It is linked to an older theatrical performance called shadow play, which is usually being played during occasions, such as private celebrations or religious holidays in cafes. More information in this regard can be found in the following resources:
Shafik, Viola 1998. Arab Cinema History and Cultural I. American University of Cairo, Egypt. link
Haghani, Fakhri, “The “New Woman” on the Stage: The Making of a Gendered Public Sphere in Interwar Iran and Egypt.” Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2008. Link
DLME is a response to the current threats in the form of destruction, looting and illegal trade to the cultural heritage of the Middle East.
The digital Library of the Middle East aims to federate different types of cultural heritage material consisting of archives, manuscripts, museum objects, media and archeological and intangible heritage collections. The DLME implements international cultural preservation goals by providing accessibility and urging documentation and digitization; contributing to security and sustainability by encouraging inventory creation, cataloguing, documentation and digitization of collections as well as forming a community of interest that seeks collaboration among people, organization and countries who value this heritage; which in returns can help mitigate looting and the illegal resale of heritage materials.
The digital platform of the DLME brings together digital records of accessible artifacts ranging across twelve millennia. It provides metadata for each objects that describes various aspects of the artifact or document, it might include its contested meaning or significance, its history and its provenance when available. This platform is searchable, also the collection is classified based on different criteria such as Language, type, date, creator, medium and etc.The Digital Library of the Middle East is continuously developing and progressing through scholarly inputs, crowd-sourcing and new knowledge discovered through its use.