A highlight of the Islamic Studies Library research guides

Seizing the opportunity of the start of this new academic year, I decided to highlight the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) research guides that library staff conscientiously developed over the past ten years, and keep updating regularly. But before diving into the details, let me start by defining what a research guide is: a research guide -also called ‘subject guide’- is a curated list of resources focusing on a specific topic, discipline, or field of study. The research guides include both resources owned by the McGill library available only to the McGill community, and Open Access resources that are freely accessible to anyone on the internet. Our guides were developed by library staff with the help of graduate students, course lecturers and faculty of the Institute of Islamic Studies.

  1. How to access the ISL research guides?
    There are two ways you can access our research guides. Either you go to the Islamic Studies Library main page and look for the ‘Key resources’ menu:

Or you go to the main library webpage and look for the ‘Humanities’ tab in the ‘Subject guides’ column:

2. Which disciplines or fields are covered?
Originally, we had only two guides, but over the years we added ten more in the aim to cover the broad range of topics and disciplines taught at the Institute of Islamic Studies. Currently, you will find the following guides:

3. How can research guides help me?
Research guides list and link to selected resources such as reference materials (encyclopedias, dictionaries), periodicals, monographs, primary sources (archives, government documents, photographs, maps, etc.), websites, databases, etc. In addition, our guides include a number of tools that will be useful to Islamic and Middle East studies scholars like date converters, virtual keyboards for Arabic Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Urdu, as well as romanization and transliteration tables for these languages in non-roman scripts. As such, these guides are excellent starting points to dive into a topic, and familiarize yourself with the McGill library collections.

4. Where to go beyond research guides?
Within each research guide, you can access the library online catalogue (Sofia) to search for more resources on your topic(s) of interest at McGill, in Québec, and worldwide. If you need help doing so, you are invited to contact your liaison librarian (me) either by email or phone (+1-514-449-1952), or to make an appointment for a consult using the scheduling tool accessible from the guides:

Islamic Studies as Sacrificial Listening

Islamic Studies as Sacrificial Listening is the research blog of Dr. David Vishanoff, Associate Professor in Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma. His research interests lie in how individuals “understand religious others, and how they understand sacred texts—both their own and those of other religions.” Launched in 1997, when Dr Vishanoff was still a student, the blog is still active in 2021.

The blog is used as a platform for publishing some of his presentations , and publications. For presentations, Dr. Vishanoff generally gives access to his notes, PowerPoint Slides, and YouTube video link (when available). For publications, he provides -when copyright allows- access to PDF files. When copyright does not allow, he just links to the publisher’s website.

The blog also gives access to a number of courses syllabi that may be of interest to scholars looking for readings on particular topics:

If the Islamic Studies as Sacrificial Listening blog is very focused in terms of resources, it is a nice example of a dynamic, and user-friendly research blog, that could serve as a template for scholars interested in using blogging to promote their work.

bina : collections patrimoniales numérisées de la BULAC

bina is the digital collection of the Bibliothèque Universitaire des Langues et Civilisations (BULAC), an academic library established in 2001 to centralize the “Oriental” collections of nine parisian academic and research libraries. The wide-range of geographical areas covered by BULAC go from the Balkans, to Oceania passing by the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Asia. BULAC’s mission revolves around three axis: gathering these “Oriental” collections in a single location, promoting and supporting open access, and facilitating worldwide scholars’ access to the materials.

The Middle Eastern, North African and Central Asian collections of BULAC include 235,000 monographs and over 800 periodicals. In addition, the library owns approximately 4,000 “Oriental” manucripts and rare books dating from the 16th to the 19th century. The online cataloguing of these rare collections started in 2013 and the digitization in 2016. At the time of our visit (June 2021), 248 Ottoman Turkish, 150 Persian and 61 Arabic manuscripts and archival documents had been scanned and were available in bina.

The XML-EAD standard initally used to describe these rare materials was not fit to reflect the linguistic and paleographical variety of the collection and the multiple transliteration systems used to transcribe non-roman scripts. Therefore, BULAC worked in collaboration with the Agence bibliographique de l’enseignement supérieur (ABES) to develop bibliographic descriptions and authority records matching the codicological and onomastical specificities of these collections. Those interested in learning more about this cataloguing project can read the following articles (in French):

Navigating bina digital collections can be done in three different ways. The simple search available from the top-right corner of the page will search simultaneaously the title, author, date, description, format and subject fields. The advanced search available either by clicking on the “Rechercher” tab or opening the drop-down menu in the simple search will allow to target specific fields and cross-search them. The Index search allows to browse materials by author, language, type of document and call number.

The metadata is divided in four categories: Notice (bibliographic data), Matérialité (physical description), Contenu (content) and Conservation (location).

The online viewer allows to browse volumes, jump to a specific page, display a single page, double pages or a gallery. It is also possible to save pages either as image of PDF (one page at a time), share (with a permalink) or embed the image elsewhere. Unless otherwise stated, all materials are out of copyright and free of use. For more technical and legal information, you may visit this page.

bina interface is in French.

Islams Ibadites: l’Ibadisme dans les sociétés de l’Islam médiéval et contemporain

Islams Ibadites is a research blog dedicated to French research on Ibadism in medieval and contemporary Muslim societies. Over the past ten years, the uncovering and discovery of important sets of primary sources in Arabic resulted in a growing interest from researchers and students in this school of Islam. Cyrille Aillet, a French researcher, is the creator and moderator of this blog. He started working on Ibadism in medieval North Africa around 2010, in particular in an oasis (named Ourgla) located in contemporary Algeria.

Islams Ibadites aims at centralizing the scholarship on Ibadi communities in both Middle Eastern and Western societies, from the Middle Ages to the contemporary period, produced by numerous researchers and students. Its contents are categorized as follow:

Within each category, visitors will find interesting information like a list of researchers specializing on the topic, international conferences, summer schools, lectures, and publications announcements, book reviews, etc:

Despite focusing on the same topic, Islams Ibadites offers a very different perspective than that proposed on the Ibadi Studies research blog we had reviewed in January 2020.

Both the blog content and the interface are in French.

Maydan

Maydan is an online publication of Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University, offering  expert analysis on a wide variety of issues in the field of Islamic Studies for academic and public audiences alike, and serving as a resource hub and a platform for informed conversation, featuring original articles and visual media from diverse perspectives.

Maydan complements and benefits from the flourishing academic blogosphere and the rise in digital scholarship, amplified by social media and the diversification of academic production venues. It aims to contribute to the developments in digital scholarship by bringing peer-reviewed academic research to the attention of the broader public and providing original resources and databases for scholars, students and the public to facilitate research, discussion, and pedagogy in Islamic Studies across all disciplines. In response to a growing need for a broadly-focused online resource for academic scholarship and critique, Maydan offers its readers multidisciplinary perspectives on the historical, intellectual, and global patterns and developments influencing the Muslim world.

While drawing on the expertise of the scholars and faculty associated with the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, Maydan aims to widen academic and public discourse, stimulate intra and inter-disciplinary debate and inspire researchers from all levels to undertake new projects and engage with new issues. It features original pieces and compiles academic resources for the advancement of a sound and nuanced understanding of Muslim societies and the Islamic faith, its role in world history, and its current patterns of globalization.

Categories:

In addition, Maydan includes a Resources page centralizing news from the Islamic Studies scholarly community, a Journal Roundup page making available quarterly lists of the latest articles in Islamic Studies, a Book display page offers monthly lists of new publications in the field, and a Podcast page (Soundcloud) giving access to recorded lectures by, and interviews with, renowned Islamic Studies scholars.

Last, the weekly Media Roundups propose an overview of Islam in the media.

To receive updates, you may subscribe to the Newsletter.

Sinai Manuscripts Digital Library

Sinai Manuscripts Digital Library is a project of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, in collaboration with the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library (EMEL) and the UCLA Library.

Located in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, St. Catherine’s Monastery is “one of the world’s oldest monasteries and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” The site has been occupied by monks since the 4th century, but the monastery was formally established in 6th century the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Thanks to its remote location, the Monastery has been able to preserve one of the world’s most important libraries holding 4,559 manuscripts dating from the 4th to the 19th century in 13 languages, covering a wide range of topics (Bible, liturgy, hagiography, patristics, spirituality, and history, classical poetic, scientific and philosophical texts). Widely recognized as “the world’s oldest continually operating library, the manuscript holdings of St. Catherine’s Monastery represent an unparalleled resource to study the history and literature of the Eastern Mediterranean from late antiquity until early modernity.”

Started in February 2018, the digitization of 1,172 Arabic and Syriac (400,000 pages) should be completed in March 2022. The second phase of the project will focus on digitizing Greek, Georgian, Slavonic and other languages 3,387 codices (1.1 million pages).

At the time of our visit, a total of 660 manuscripts in Arabic, Syriac, Greek, Aramaic, Turkish, Coptic and Latin were accessible via the following categories:

Within each category, holdings can be filtered by genre (the majority of the manuscripts fall into the liturgical and biblical texts genres), date (ranging from 501 to 1900), writing system (the large majority of manuscripts are written in Arabic and Syriac), script (Naskh being the most used calligraphy in this collection), codicological features (colophon, decorations, marginal notes, etc.), support (paper or parchment), form (all of them are codices), and names. Results are displayed either in list or gallery view:

Please note that access to digital versions of manuscripts is conditioned to the creation of a free account. Once logged in, you may open records and view the manuscripts in the custom-made viewer:

Records include bibliographical and codicological information on the codex as well as references. A good variety of reading options are available as shown below:

The Sinai Manuscripts Digital Library benefits from the contributions of worldwide digital imaging scientists and technicians, conservators, consulting scholars, librarians, program managers, and software designers. The first phase received funding from the Ahmanson Foundation, Arcadia, the Museum of the Bible Scholar’s Initiative, and the Steinmetz Family Foundation.

For more information about conservation, digitization standards and methods and rights to use images, please see the About page.

7iber / خبر

Launched in 2007 as a “citizen media platform”, 7iber became in 2009 a registered LLC (Limited Liability Company) in Jordan and grew into both a media organization and an online magazine. Over the years, 7iber received grants and funding from the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), The Netherlands Embassy in Amman, International Media Support (IMS), the Swiss Embassy in Amman, Hivos, the Open Society Foundation, Heinrich Boell Foundation, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), InterNews, and the Arab Partnership Participation Fund.

7iber advocates for “an open society that upholds values of accountability, rule of law, human rights, and pluralism, through in-depth multimedia journalism, critical analysis and public conversation.” To do so, they produce and publish original articles, provide a platform for public debate, organize talks, conduct “research on Internet governance and digital rights”, and offer training opportunities “on various aspects of online media.”

Excerpt from the “About” page, December 13, 2012.

Navigate 7iber

Content on 7iber can be discovered via the categories listed below:

7iber on Social Media

In addition to the main media platform, 7iber maintains a blog, where some of the content is archived, and publishes a Newsletter to which anyone can subscribe (by entering their email address at from the bottom of the main page). 7iber is also available on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Google+.

In sum

7iber produces and publishes original news content that will be interesting to anyone looking for un-official information, especially related to Human Rights or political pluralism in the Arab World. As would be the case on any online media platform, it is recommended to cross-check 7iber information and data with those published elsewhere.

The interface is available in Arabic only but some articles are accessible in English.

The Digital Orientalist

The Digital Orientalist is an online magazine focusing on digital humanities applied to the large field of “Oriental” studies. It was founded in 2013 by a McGill Institute of Islamic Studies alumn, L.W. Cornelis van Lit, who has been using “computer-supported-solutions” in his own research on post-classical Islamic philosophy for years.

Our name The Digital Orientalist, may raise an eyebrow. We are all fully aware of the contentious meaning of ‘Orientalism’ and its relation to colonialism. We are of the opinion that enough years have gone by to pick this name up again, to convey in one word the relation between our fields of studies. In this sense we mirror similar initiatives like The Digital Classicist, The Digital Medievalist, The Digital Humanist, etc.” Excerpt from the “About” page of The Digital Orientalist.

Today, The Digital Orientalist is run by an editorial team of twenty scholars, librarians, and students sharing their thoughts on digital tools, and practical experiences using them in the Humanities. The blog format allows visitors to access publications either by geographical areas or by topic. Areas covered are:

As for topics, they range from digitization to textual analysis, passing by archiving, data visualization, digital cartography, coding, etc.:

In sum, The Digital Orientalist provides not only informed insight on digital tools, but also practical guidance as to how using them to best support the study, teaching and research in “Oriental” studies. As such, it is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in Digital Humanities and Area Studies, in particular those cited above.

For news and updates, please see Twitter and Facebook:

Khamseen Islamic Art History Online

Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online is a brand new open-access platform making available Islamic art, architecture, and visual culture resources primarily to support the interactive learning and teaching of Islamic art history, and in particular educators “who face limited access to institutional and archival resources”, but also to “educate and inspire interested audiences outside of academia”.

This very promising platform was launched in October 2020 under the supervision of Christiane Gruber, Professor of Islamic art at the University of Michigan. The project received financial support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is sponsored by the  Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC) at the University of Michigan.

At the time of our visit, Khamseen included a series of ten to fifteen minutes-long video presentations focusing on a variety of topics: Persian miniatures, Mosques architecture, textile in traditional Tentmaking, etc. To date, no less than twenty-five international Islamic art history specialists contributed to the the platform.

Additional resources included the following:

A selection of Teaching Resources for Islamic Art

An Audio and Video Recording Tools Guide

The recording of a 90-minutes Discussion of Online Resources for Teaching Islamic Art between Khamseen founder Christiane Gruber, Ruba Kan’an (Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, University of Toronto), Michael Toler (Archnet Content Manager, Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT), and Matt Saba (Visual Resources Librarian for Islamic Architecture at the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT)

Further developments of Khamseen will focus on: “(…) expand[ing] the range of subjects and materials to provide a rich repository of resources in the realm of digital Islamic humanities, [and] (…) expand[ing] the project’s accessibility and foster a global audience through closed captioning and providing content in multiple languages [seeking] to take the study of Islamic art out to the world, reaching a truly international level of engagement and learning thanks to the possibilities of integrated digital technologies.”

Interested people can find more information about the platform or follow future developments on social media: @khamseenislamicart (Instagram), @TeamKhamseen (Twitter), @KhamseenIslamicArt (Facebook).

KITAB : Knowledge, Information Technology, and the Arabic Book

Based at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations at the Agha Khan University, in London U.K., KITAB is a project including both a searching tool for the textual exploration of the medieval Arabic written heritage, and an online discussion forum on Arabic texts. Since its creation in 2017, KITAB received funding from the Aga Khan University, the British Academy and the European Research Council.

Under the guidance of the principal investigator, Sarah Bowen Savant -cultural historian of the Middle East and Iran between 600-1500 A.D. and professor at AKU-ISMC- and the Advisory Board composed of eight international leading scholars in the fields of Islamic, Persian and Arabic studies, KITAB team of twenty-one scholars and computing specialists and five partners work relentlessly to develop new capabilities (i.e visualization tools, Optical Recognition Character, etc.)

The searching tool developed by KITAB team is able to detect proper names occurrences within a large corpus uncovering the complex relationships between medieval Arab authors and how ideas and knowledge circulated throughout the Arab World across time. The most recent developments have focused on the gathering of statistics on the reuse of ideas across the tradition including “the extent and precision of reuse.”

The KITAB corpus of Arabic texts produced between the eighth century and the fifteenth century A.D. largely comes from the Open Islamicate Texts Initiative, another collaborative project of Sarah Bowen Savant, Maxim Romanov and Matthew Thomas Miller. KITAB corpus is continually growing  in order “to increase both the number and the diversity of texts.”

Anyone can use KITAB corpus and searching tool. The Our Pilot page provides a brief overview of the data and tools created by KITAB. One of the goals of the project is to “bring all of [their] data and sources into the public domain and with the field to take best advantage of what digital technology now allows […] to see and to discover.”

For regular updates on the project you can check the Blog, the What’s New page, and Professor Savant’s Twitter account.