Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies Archives (KCLDS)

The KCLDS Archive serves as the repository for the Khayrallah Center, established in 2010 by Dr. Moise A. Khayrallah. Initially established to research and conserve history of Lebanese in U.S, the center evolved into a larger project and extended beyond the United States, eventually becoming the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies. As a result of its growth, the center curated a museum exhibit, produced a documentary, and established an archive (KCLDS).

KCLDS Archive houses historical and cultural resources about Lebanese diaspora in the United States and across the world.

“We preserve the heritage and memories of the Lebanese diaspora community and make it accessible through our digital and physical archives.

The Archive can be explored through three main categories: Collection Guides, Browse the Collection, or Browse the Item. There are 112 collections available, containing a total of 11,634 items.

When using Browse the Collection menu, you can search either in title order or based on the time the item was added to the collection. Detailed information is provided for each collection, such as: Title, Subject, Biographical/Historical Note, Publisher, Date, Language, etc. but more importantly a full description of the collection and finally access to the collection.

Moreover, searching on the item level gives more search criteria, such as Browse by Tag, Item or Reference, also results can be sorted by Title, Creator, Item Date, etc.

Another valuable feature at the item level is the Citation section. When available it is possible to see if the resource was cited, when where and by who.

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Collection Guides, however, provide access to the collection by title or categories.

Moreover, it is possible to search in Arabic using the Arabic-Language Publication Database menu, which provides access to Arabic- language newspaper and books in the States between 1880s to 1950s.

Early Arab immigrants in North and South America have left a rich legacy and history. Much of their histories have been recorded in millions of pages of Arabic newspapers, books, magazines, and other publications. Yet, this rich record has been largely inaccessible because it was dispersed, stored in disparate archives, and stored in older technologies like microfilm. Now, The Khayrallah Center’s Arabic Newspaper Database makes these records digitally searchable.

KCLDS Archive offers variety of resources for researchers, scholars, and anyone interested in exploring Lebanese diaspora. The archive not only preserves the past but also sheds light on the present and provides access to resources for future. With its diverse collection guides, browsing options, and Arabic-Language Publication Database, the archive invites users to access its wealth of materials, facilitating research, discovery, and understanding of the Lebanese diaspora’s journey, memories, and heritage.

Islamic Manuscripts, Art collection and Rare Books at Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum’s collection encompasses art from various cultures extending over seven thousand years. Many of the items in their collection can be explored through their website at works of art site and Walters Ex Libris.

Beyond a wide range of artistic objects, their collection includes manuscripts and artwork on paper, as well as books and remarkable pieces of Islamic art. This includes valuable items like miniature paintings, beautifully illuminated Qurans and etc.

Leaf from Qur’an.
Bowl with Seated Figures Flanking a Tree
Islamic (Artist)
Jug with Sphinxes, Griffins, and Heron
Islamic (Artist)

Moreover, the Museum is house to” 900 printed manuscripts, 1300 incunabula and 2000 rare books”. Of these, 433 manuscripts and more than 8000 printed papers are digitized and accessible through Walters Ex Libris. These manuscripts cover a variety of periods, including works from the Safavid, Mughal and Ottoman empire.

Moreover, as a museum dedicated to education, storytelling, and fostering community engagement through knowledge and cultural expression, the Walters Art Museum is actively digitizing and making their collection accessible to the public. Some of their digitized exhibitions also serve this purpose. One such exhibition, ‘Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters Art,’ beautifully showcased a variety of books, manuscripts, and individual art pieces. This collection includes beautifully illuminated manuscripts featuring poetry, prayers, miniature art, the Quran, and more. Each item has been digitized, and an informative description is offered.

While exploring this specific exhibition along with some of their digitized manuscripts, we noticed some similarities or common characteristics between their displayed materials with some of the manuscripts and rare books available at Islamic Studies Library rare book collection. Thus, we decided to highlight some of them as an example.

However, there are many more similar cases to be explored. Some of McGill Islamic Studies Library’s digitized manuscripts and rare books can be found here. The Walters Art Museum manuscripts can be found here.

For example, this Mughal color-wash drawing (portrait of Lal Kunwar) at the Walters Art Museum and this miniature of a princess at McGill Rare book collection, have various elements in common, while created in different time.

Miniature of a princess, MSP 53 Rare Books/Special Collections

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Additionally, these two manuscripts seem to share many characteristics. Both are Persian poetry books, featuring similar calligraphy styles and very comparable ornate illuminations. However, one (“Yusuf and Zulaykha” by Jami) is housed at the Walters Art Museum, and the other one (poetry book by Hafiz ) is at McGill Rare Books. Are these two manuscripts made in the same manuscript workshop but, in the course of history, ended up in two different parts of the world?

Dīvān-i Ḥāfiẓ. 15th century
Yusuf and Zulaykha. 16th century

These two painting share some similarities as well while the miniature of the Mughul Emperor is housed at McGill and the portrait of emperor Jahangir is at The Walters Art Museum.

Miniature of Mughul Emperor Farrukh-siyar, Persian Manuscript. MSP leaf 57.
Single leaf of a portrait of the emperor Jahangir W.705

Dīvān-i Ḥāfiẓ. 16th century
Hafiz (Persian) 16th century

There are more items at both places that can be compared and explored to find similarities or differences. These two Hafiz poetry books (mentioned above) can be examined from a different perspective. Although they were created around the same time, unlike the previously mentioned example, these two display distinct illustration and calligraphy styles, yet they also share some similarities.

The Walters Art Museum, in line with their commitment to public education and connecting art to people’s lives, publishes the Journal of Walters Art Museum as an open-access resource, providing free access to research about their collection which can be found here and contains valuable information about their
collection. While comparing or exploring their collection, this resource can also be used to obtain more background information about their various manuscripts or rare books.

“The Walters Art Museum’s Mission has been to bring art and people together and to create a place where people of every background can be moved by art”

The Rise & Influence of Medicine in the Islamic World

An Exhibition curated jointly curated by the Islamic Studies Library and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine running from September 11th to December 22nd, 2023.

تشریح البدن منصور ابن محمد ابن احمد ابن یوسف فقیه الیاس Tashrīḥ-i badan [Anatomy] by Manṣūr ibn Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Yūsuf Faqīh Ilyās 16th century. Osler Library of the History of Medicine

The practice of medicine in the region sometimes referred to as the Islamic World[1] predates the revelation of Islam: therapeutic practices before Islam relied heavily on Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Indian, and Greek medical knowledge. During the early and medieval periods of the Islamic era, physicians in the region achieved advancements and innovations that have had a lasting and significant impact on the evolution of medical practices around the world. This exhibition aims to show how medical knowledge first came to the Islamic World (pre-Islam until the 10th cent. AD/4th cent. AH), then circulated and developed within the region (between the 11th and 16th cent. AD/5th-10th cent. AH), before being exported to Europe (during the 17th and 18th centuries. AD/11th-12th cent. AH).[2] Visitors will learn how the translations of foreign medical texts (from Greek, Sanskrit, Syriac, etc.) into Arabic and Persian eventually led to the need to codify such a large body of knowledge for the purpose of dissemination. Visitors will also gain an appreciation for the wealth and depth of knowledge produced by physicians who practiced in Islamic lands, especially in fields like ophthalmology, pharmacology and surgery. Finally, visitors will understand the lasting and significant impact that medical knowledge produced in the Islamic World has had on modern Western medicine. Through the display of original manuscripts, books, and antique artefacts from the Islamic Studies Library (ISL), and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, The rise and influence of Medicine in the Islamic World will take visitors on a fascinating journey into the world of Islamic medicine.[3]

Comprising two complementary displays -one at the Islamic Studies Library and other at the Osler Library-, the exhibition will be accessible during libraries opening hours from September 11th to December 22nd, 2023.

[1] For geographical location, contemporary denominations of countries have been used even if the national entities known today did not exist in their current frontiers at the time. The geography of the region was in constant flux during the long period covered by the exhibition and referring to today’s place-names appeared like the easiest way to situate individuals and events.

[2] For dating, both the Gregorian calendar (AD) and the Hijri calendar (AH) have been used most of the times. An exception was made for Greek and European physicians for whom only Gregorian dates are given.

[3]The rise and influence of Medicine in the Islamic World was jointly curated by Anaïs Salamon and Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian from the ISL, and Dr. Mary Hague-Yearl from the Osler Library.

Pre- & early Islamic Medicine

Medical practices before Islam came from Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Indian, and Greek physicians. After the rise of Islam (7th cent. AD/1st cent. AH), pre-Islamic medicine remained in use until the beginning of the Umayyad Caliphate (660-750 AD/40-132 AH). From the 9th cent. AD/3rd cent. AH onwards, a new type of medicine emerged by adopting Greco-Islamic medical knowledge and recorded as Ḥadīth [Reports from the Prophet Muḥammad]: This Prophetic medicine drawn from Ḥadīth co-existed with other types of medical care – like Greek humoral medicine – and kept developing until the 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH.

‫طب النبي لمحمود بن محمد الجغميني . Ṭibb al-Nabī [Prophetic medicine] li-Maḥmūd ibn Muḥammad al-Jighmīnī (13th cent.), ‪‪1881. Early Arabic Printed Books from the British Library. Gale database accessed ‪28 Aug. 2023.

The Translation of Foreign Texts

During the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 AD/132-651 AH), significant effort went toward translating medical and scientific works from other cultures and languages. Established in the 9th cent. AD/3rd cent. AH in Baghdad (Iraq), Bayt al-Ḥikmah / بيت الحكمة [The house of wisdom] supported the translation of foreign texts into Arabic. Many Arab physicians started as translators before composing their own works. Two examples are the Arab Nestorian Christian Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq,[4] the author of a fundamental ophthalmological treatise, and the Syriac Christian Ibn Māsawayh,[5] the author of many works on fevers, leprosy, melancholy, and other topics. The most commonly translated texts at the time were the Compendium on materia medica by Dioscorides[6] as well as the works of Hippocrates[7] and Galen[8] in humoral medicine.

By the end of the 9th cent. AD/3rd cent. AH, Hellenistic humoral medicine – based on the balance between four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile – had become prominent in the region. However, prophetic medicine was still very popular, and physicians often blended the two approaches together when curing patients until the 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH.

In the late 9th – early 10th cent. AD/3rd – 4th cent. AH, the first hospitals appeared in Iraq and Egypt and then started spreading throughout the Islamic World. For sovereigns, such institutions were part of charitable endeavors and cam to symbolize political power. For physicians, hospitals were a place where they not only cured patients, but also taught and trained aspiring physicians.

[4] Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq al-ʿIbādī. حنين بن إسحاق العبادي (Iraq, 808–873 AD/192-259 AH) was the most famous translator of Greek texts into Syriac and Arabic. His translations formed a foundation for the continuation of Galenic medicine amongst Muslim physicians and, through their mediation, in the mediaeval West.

[5] Ibn Māsawayh. ابن ماسويه (Iraq, died 857 AD/243 AH) began his career translating Greek scientific works for the famous Bayt al-ḥikmah, but became a court physician, attending the high society around the caliph.

[6] Dioscorides (Greece, active in the first century C.E.) is Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbos, Greek physician and herbalist, and author of De materia medica that formed the basis of the pharmacological tradition of the classical Islamic world.

[7] Hippocrates (Greece, born after 460, died circa 379 B.C.E.) is considered in both the Muslim world and the West as “the father of medicine.” The Corpus Hippocraticum -writings attributed to him- comprises about seventy titles. However, the authorship of many of them has been a matter of dispute since antiquity. Hippocrates nevertheless drew the first outlines of humoral medicine.

[8] Galen (Turkey, 129-circa 216 C.E.) was a Greek-speaking physician born in Pergamum. His vast work (more than 20,000 pages in a standard 1821 edition) deals with all fields of medical science (anatomy, physiology, therapy, pharmacology, surgery), but also extends to philosophy, logic, ethics, etc.

The Organization & Dissemination of Knowledge

In the 10th and 11th cent. AD/4th – 5th cent. AH, compiling and organizing what had become a large body of knowledge became the priority. Thus, comprehensive influential encyclopaedias were composed: examples include/ كتاب المنصوري في الطب  Kitāb al-Manṣurī fī al-ṭibb [The book on medicine dedicated to al-Mansur] and كتاب الحاوي في الطب    / Kitāb al-Ḥāwī fī al-ṭibb [The Comprehensive Book on Medicine] both by Abū Bakr al-Rāzī,[9] and/ كتاب القانون في الطب  Kitāb al-Qānun fī al-ṭibb [The canon of medicine] by Avicenna.[10] If such encyclopaedic works were not always well received by the medical community at the time of composition, they served as the foundation of later important works like those of Averroes,[11] Ibn al-Nafīs,[12] and many others.

بن سينا لا القانون في الطب. Al-Qānun fī al-ṭibb by Ibn Sīnā, 17th century. Osler Library of the History of Medicine

[9] Abū Bakr al-Rāzī -or Rhazes-.  أبو بكر محمد بن زكريا الرازي(Iran, 854-925 or 935 AD/240-313 or 323 AH), known to the Latins as Rhazes, was a physician, philosopher and alchemist. His medical handbook (Mansuri) and other writings were translated over a dozen times into Latin and other European languages.

[10]Ibn Sīnā -or Avicenna-.أبو علي حسين بن عبد الله بن سينا (Iran, 980-1037 AD/370-428 AH) was known primarily as a philosopher and physician, but he contributed to the advancement of many more sciences accessible in his day: astronomy, music, politics, religion, poetry, etc.  Divided in five books (1. Generalities, 2. Pharmacology, 3. Special pathology, 4. Treatises, 5. Pharmacopeia), his Qanun is the clear and ordered sum of all the medical knowledge available at the time, augmented from his own observations. The Qanun served as a reference for seven centuries of medical teaching and practice.

[11] Ibn Rushd -or Averroes-. محمد إبن احمد إبن رشد(Spain, 1126-1198 AD/520-594 AH) was known primarily as a philosopher and theologian, but also specialized in the natural sciences (physics, medicine, biology, astronomy). He wrote several treatises about stroke, a neurological disease similar to Parkinson, and the anatomy of the eye. The encyclopaedia co-authored with Avenzoar – or Ibn Zuhr – (Spain, died 1162) entitled Al-Kulliyat fi al-Tibb was translated into Latin in the 14th century A.D. and became a textbook in Europe for centuries (known as the Colliget).

[12] Ibn al-Nafīs. ابن النفيس (Syria, 1210-1288 AD/607-687 AH) is the author of one of the most widely read commentaries on Avicenna’s Qānūn fī l-ṭibb in the pre-modern Islamic world. He was also the first physician to propose that blood travels from the right side of the heart to the left through the lungs (pulmonary transit).

The Emergence of Specialties

Ophthalmology, pharmacology and surgery quickly emerged as medical specialties in the Islamic World as demonstrated by the number of dedicated monographs. Other topics such as anatomy, bloodletting or embryology were also sometimes the subject of monographs, but these did not become as influential as encyclopaedias chapters on the same topics.

Ophthalmology

Ophthalmological works composed as early as in the 9th cent. AD/3rd cent. AH already show very advanced knowledge: grounded in theories inherited from the Hellenic World, they included intricate surgical procedures to treat common eye diseases like cataracts. One of the most renowned works from the early period is تذكرة الكحالين  /Tadhkirat al-Kaḥḥālīn [Memorandum of the oculists] by ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsá[13] (11th cent. AD/5th cent. AH). A few centuries later, in the 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH, Ibn al-Nafīs compiled in a systematic way the ophthalmological knowledge of the time in/ كتاب المهذب في طب العين  Kitāb al-Muhadhdhab fī ṭibb al-ʿayn [Ophthalmology manual].

جلاء العيون لحكيم شليم فلمنكي / Jalā’ al-‘uyūn [Clarity of the Eyes] by Ḥakīm Shalīm Falamankī, 1863. Osler Library of the History of Medicine

Pharmacology

Physicians in the Islamic Era commonly used the 500 substances described in Dioscorides’ Compendium in addition to drugs used in Indian and Persian medicine. The 10th cent. AD/4th cent. AH writings of Qustā ibn Lūqā[14] included drugs such as camphor or ammoniac that were unknown at the time to Greek and European physicians. In the 12th cent. AD/6th cent. AH, al-Ghafīqī[15] compiled a list of medicinal substances ordered alphabetically entitled كتاب الأدوية المفردة / Kitāb al-adwiyāʾ al-mufradah [The book of simple drugs].

This work served as a basis for a later manual authored by Ibn al-Baytar[16] (13th cent. AD/7th cent. AH) that presented a total of 1,400 medicaments and became a reference for many subsequent guides in the Islamic World and beyond.

 / كتاب الأدوية المفردة للغافقي Kitāb al-adwiyah al-mufradah by al-Ghafīqī, 1256. Osler Library of the History of Medicine

Surgery

Many physicians in the medieval Islamic medical tradition were interested in surgery. One of the most famous surgeons was al-Zahrāwī[17] (11th cent. AD/5th cent. AH) whose thirty-volume encyclopaedia entitled/ كتاب التصريف لمن عجز عن التأليف  Kitāb al-Taṣrīf li-man ʿajiza ʿan al-taʾlīf [The arrangement of medical knowledge for one who is not able to compile a book himself] was quoted over 200 times by 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH French surgeon Guy de Chauliac.[18]

Another important contributor to surgical knowledge was Abū al-Faraj ibn al-Quff[19] (13th cent. AD/7th cent. AH) who composed a substantial monograph on surgery, كتاب العمدة في صناعة الجراحة / Kitāb al-ʿUmdah fī ṣināʿat al-jirāḥah [The mainstay in the art of surgery], which comprised twenty chapters covering anatomy, physiology, general surgical principles, and a pharmacopoeia (recipes for compound drugs used in surgery).

التصريف لمن عجز عن التأليف الزهراوي / Al-Taṣrīf liman ‘ajiza ‘an al-ta’līf by al-Zahrāwī, (11th cent.). Bibliothèque Nationale du Royaume du Maroc

[13] ʿAlī ibn ʿIsá al-Kaḥḥāl. علي بن عيسى الكحال (Iraq, died 1038 or 1039 AD/429 or 430 AH) was the best known oculist (kaḥḥāl) of the Arabs. His work, the Tad̲h̲kirat al-Kaḥḥālīn , is the oldest Arabic work on ophthalmology that survived in the original. This comprehensive treatise was translated into Hebrew and Latin in the 15th century A.D.

[14] Qustā ibn Lūqā. قسطا ابن لوقا (Syria, died 912 or 913 AD/299 or 300 AH) worked as a physician and translator -he was fluent in Greek, Syriac and Arabic-.  His medical works include treatises on gout, infectious diseases, insomnia, fevers, types of crises in illnesses, the pulse, paralysis-types, causes and treatment, the four “humours”, and phlebotomy. 

[15] Al-Ghāfiqi. أبو جعفر أحمد بن محمد الغافقي (Spain, 12th cent. AD/6th cent. AH) was regarded as the best expert on drugs of his time.

[16] Ibn al-Bayār. ابن البيطار (Spain, died 1248 AD/646 AH) was a botanist and pharmacologist. Some historians consider he plagiarized al-Ghafiqi’s Kitāb fī l-adwiya al-mufrada to compose his al-Jāmiʿ li-mufradāt al-adwiya wa-al-ag̲h̲d̲h̲iya.

[17] Abū al-Qāsim  al-Zahrāwī -or Abulcassis-. أبو القاسم الزهراوي (Spain, 936-1013 AD/ 324-404 AH) was an innovative physician, surgeon and chemist whose influence continued for centuries and extended far beyond the frontiers of the Muslim Worlds.

[18] Guy de Chauliac (France, 1300-1368 AD) was a physician and surgeon famous for his treatise Chirurgia Magna that was translated in numerous languages and served as a reference until the 16th century.

[19] Abū al-Faraj ibn al-Quff. أبو الفرج بن يعقوب بن إسحاق ابن القف (Jordan, 1233-1286 AD/630-685 AH) was a Christian physician and surgeon better known as a writer and educator than as a doctor.

Knowledge Exchanges

The medical community in the Islamic World remained quite productive through the 14th cent. AD/9th cent. AH, especially in Syria and Egypt. In the latter half of the 16th cent. AD/10th cent. AH, early modern European medical ideas, techniques, and drug therapies started filtering into the Islamic World. Dāʾūd al-Antakī[20] included 1,712 mineral, animal and plant substances from Egypt, Europe, India, China, the Levant, North Africa, and Asia Minor. In hisتذكرة أولي الألباب والجامع للعجب العجاب  / Tadhkirat ulī al-albāb wa al-jāmiʿ li al-ʿajab al-ʿujāb [Memorandum book for those who have understanding and collection of wondrous marvels] (1568 AD/975 AH), followed the European practice of using China Root (Chub-chini) to cure syphilis. In a treatise dedicated to syphilis written in 1569 AD/ 977 AH, ʿImād al-Dīn Masʿūd Shīrāzī[21] also prescribed China Root as a cure.

In the 17th cent. AD/11th cent. AH, Ibn Sallūm’s[22] treatise entitled غاية الاتقان في تبدير بدان الانسان / Ghāyat al-itqān fī tadbīr badān al-insān [The culmination of perfection in the treatment of the human body] originally composed in Arabic and later translated into Ottoman Turkish, included translations of several Latin writings by Paracelsus.[23] But knowledge also circulated in the other direction: Europeans became interested in learning of the medical practices then current in the Islamic World. In 1681 AD/1092 AH, Joseph Labrosse[24] published Pharmacopoea Persica ex idiomate Persica in Latinum conversa which consisted of the Latin translation of a Persian book on compound remedies with personal notes and comments.

Fasciculus medicinae by Johannes de Ketham. 1513. Osler Library of the History of Medicine

[20] Daʾūd al-Antakī. داؤود الأنطاكي (Egypt, 16th cent. AD/10th cent. AH) was a blind physician and pharmacist who authored a three-part medical encyclopedia that included descriptions of over 3,000 medicinal and aromatic plants.

[21] ʿImād al-Dīn Masʿūd Shīrāzī. عماد الدین مسعود شیرازی (Iran, mid-16th cent. AD/ mid. 10th cent. AH) was a physician who composed a number of treatises in Persian and Arabic on the therapeutic values of Opium and China root (species of smilax). European influence is visible in his works.

[22] Ṣāliḥ b. Naṣrullāh Ibn Sallūm al-Ḥalabī. صالح بن نصر الله بن سلوم الحلبي (Syria, died 1670 AD/1081 AH) was the head physician of the Ottoman Empire whose writings are often seen as instrumental in the introduction of European Renaissance medicine to the Middle East.

[23] Paracelsus (Switzerland, 1493-1541 AD) was a physician, alchemist, theologian, and philosopher. He is one of the first scientists to introduce chemistry to medicine advocating for the use of inorganic salts, minerals, and metals for medicinal purposes. Instead of the four humour of Hellenistic medicine, he believed there were three humours: salt, sulphur, and mercury respectively representing stability, combustibility, and liquidity.

[24] Joseph Labrosse (France, 1636-1697 AD), also known as Father Angelus of St. Joseph, was a French Carmelite missionary and writer. He played a role in transmitting Persian medical terminology to Europe, and was the first European to make a serious study of Iranian medicine. He also compiled a Persian dictionary with translations into Latin, French, and Italian.


The Rise of European Medicine as the Reference

 In the middle of the 18th cent. AD/12th cent. AH, traditional Islamic medicine seemed unable to combat the plague epidemic in Istanbul. The Ottoman sultan Mustafa III ordered a Turkish translation of two treatises by Hermann Boerhaave.[25] These translations, soughing to reconcile and harmonize Boerhaave’s ideas with traditional Islamic medicine, were completed in 1768 AD/1182 AH.

The 19th cent. AD/13th cent. AH witnessed profound changes in the teaching of medicine in the Islamic World as European medical expertise became the reference point. In 1825 AD/ 1240 AH, the Egyptian army hired French physician Antoine-Barthélémy Clot[26] as surgeon-in-chief. A few years later, Clot established a medical school near Cairo which French, Italian and German professors. Similarly, a military medical school, دار الفنون  / Dār al-Funūn [The house of arts] founded in Tehran (Iran) in 1850 AD/ 1266 AH offered instruction in French based on European medical texts translated into Persian.

Nevertheless, aspects of medieval Islamic traditional medicine continued to coexist alongside modern European medicine. In the late 19th cent. AD/13th cent. AH, treatises of Ibn Sīnā and Ibn al-Bayār, among others, were still printed at the بلاق / Būlaq Press ( / المطبعة الأميريةal-mabaʿah al-amīrīyah) in Cairo because they continued to represent a vital tradition.

[25] Hermann Boerhaave (Netherlands, 1668-1738 AD) was a Dutch botanist, chemist and physician considered to be the founder of clinical teaching and of the modern academic hospital, and sometimes referred to as “the father of physiology”. He is best known for demonstrating the relation of symptoms to lesions.

[26] Antoine-Barthelemy Clot (France, 1793-1868 AD) also known as Clot Bey is a French physician and medicine professor who spent most of his life working in Egypt.

Bibliography

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Arnaldez, R. (2012). “Ibn Rus̲h̲d”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0340

Bowen, H. (2012). “ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_0512

Brockelmann, C. and Vernet, J. (2012). “al-Anṭākī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_0681

Carra de Vaux, B. (2012). “Ṭibb”, in Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition (1913-1936), edited by M. Th. Houtsma, T.W. Arnold, R. Basset, et. al. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2214-871X_ei1_SIM_5758

Goichon, A.M. (2012). “Ibn Sīnā”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0342

Goodman, L.E. (2012). “al-Rāzī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_6267

Grenon, P. (2018). Compete or complete: a contextualist approach on prophetic medicine (dissertation). McGill University Libraries. https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/theses/j6731645v  

Hamarneh, S. K. (2012). “Ibn al-Ḳuff”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_8659

Hill, D.R. (2012). “Ḳuṣtā b. Lūḳā”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_4567

Meyerhof, M. and Schacht, J. (2012). “Ibn al-Nafīs”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_3319

Savage-Smith, E. (2013). “al-Ghāfiqī, Muḥammad”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, edited by K. Fleet, G. Krämer, D. Matringe, et. al. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_27421

Savage-Smith, E. (2012). “al-Zahrāwī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_8089

Savage-Smith, E., Klein-Franke, F. and Zhu, Ming. (2012) “Ṭibb”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_1216

Shahpesandy, H., Al-Kubaisy, T., Mohammed-Ali, R., Oladosu, A., Middleton, R., and Saleh, N. (2022) A Concise History of Islamic Medicine: An Introduction to the Origins of Medicine in Islamic Civilization, Its Impact on the Evolution of Global Medicine, and Its Place in the Medical World Today. International Journal of Clinical Medicine13, 180-197. https://doi.org.10.4236/ijcm.2022.134015

Shefer, M. (2011). An Ottoman Physician and His Social and Intellectual Milieu: The Case of Salih bin Nasrallah Ibn Sallum1, Studia Islamica106(1), 102-123. https://doi.org/10.1163/19585705-12341254

Strohmaier, G. “Ḥunayn b. Isḥāḳ al-ʿIbādī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0300

Vadet, J.-C. (2012). “Ibn Māsawayh”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_3289

Veit, R. (2010). “Dāʾūd al-Anṭākī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, edited by K. Fleet, G. Krämer, D. Matringe, et. al. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_23481

Vernet, J. (2012). “Ibn al-Bayṭār”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_3115

Uncovering Arabic Book covers through Collaboration. Exhibition | Archival Alliance

The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop the emergence of new ideas and projects at the McGill Islamic Studies Library (ISL). One such example is our collaboration with the Arabic Design Archive (ADA) which started in the middle of the pandemic. Originally, the ISL committed to feed the digital archives with scans of book cover from its collections. As time passed, both parties decided to create a joint exhibition titled Archival Alliance: Discovering Arabic Book Covers that was displayed in the Islamic Studies Library from September 15th to December 15th, 2022.

“The Archival Alliance: Discovering Arabic Book Covers exhibition seeks to highlight and broaden the concept of the histories of graphic design beyond Western contributions to present the wealth of design work produced in the Arab World [….], the exhibit [walked] visitors through the history of Arabic books covers design between 1970 and 2000.”

In early 2020, Moe Elhossieny, Egyptian designer, practitioner historian and researcher, started an archiving project that developed later into the digital Arabic Design Archive. ADA is a non-profit initiative aiming to facilitate knowledge production about Arabic design and its historical context by collecting, digitizing, and making available relevant materials; and to create a digital archive serving both for inspirational and scholarly purposes.

To achieve his goal, Elhossieny began to collect Arabic book covers designs from various collections crowdsourcing stored them in their repository, and posted the most interesting ones on the ADA Instagram account. This is where our former colleague, Mrs. Samah Kasha, learned about the project and contacted Moe Elhossieny to offer our contribution by sending a monthly batch of Arabic book covers’ scans from the Islamic studies Library collection. The collaboration started officially in the Winter of 2021.

Between January 2021 and January 2023, the ISL sent the digital copies of 250 book covers to the ADA archive across a wide range of subjects. Book covers were selected based on their date of publication (to comply with copyright requirements) as well as design and style including typography, graphic design, illustration, and calligraphy. The ADA included these images to their repository and posted some of them (when copyright allowed) on their Instagram account: @thearabicdesignarchive. Our materials have been tagged “Collection of @mcgillislamiclibrary.”

Examples of book covers:

While the Arabic Design Archives was growing and diversifying, the ISL relationship with them tightened, and we suggested expanding the collaboration: a jointly curated exhibition seemed like a good way to do so.

Given the restrictions imposed on everyone by the COVID pandemic, The Archival Alliance: Discovering Arabic Book Covers exhibition was developed in a hybrid format including both a physical display and a digital component. The virtual part of the exhibition consisted in a touch table exhibit that offered visitors a unique interactive digital experience. The physical display featured books from the ISL collection, and the digital display gave access to book covers from the ADA archive.

Physical display in the ISL – Photos: Lauren Goldman
Physical display in the ISL – Photos: Lauren Goldman
Physical display in the ISL – Photos: Lauren Goldman

To incorporate the digital aspect of the exhibition, we asked our colleague Gregory Houston, ROAAr (Rare & Special Collections, Osler, Art, and Archives) Digitization Administrator for help. His expertise in developing touch table experience combined with Moe Elhossieny’s expertise in design resulted in a colorful and engaging touch table exhibit, showcasing books covers, animated clips, documentary videos, illustrated pages presenting the narrative of the exhibition, historical photographs, etc.

Touch Table experience – Video capture: Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian – Featuring: Samira Meshkin (Senior Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library)
Animated book cover clip created by Moe Elhosseini

The topics covered and the materials included in the The Archival Alliance: Discovering Arabic Book Covers exhibition were identified and selected over the course of several meetings. If more than 500 ISL book covers were scanned and sent to the ADA during our two years-long collaboration, only 20 of them were chosen for the physical display. While selecting the book covers, we realized that three artists had played an important role in designing book covers in the 20th century: Hilmi El-Tuni, Mohieddine Ellabbad and Bahgat Osman. With materials gathered for his personal research and the Arabic Design Archives, Moe Elhossieny was able to create documentary-style videos highlighting the work of the three featured artists (video1, 2 and 3). These videos were available for watching on the touch table.

Bahgat Osman
Hilmi El-Tuni
Mohieddine Ellabbad
video 1. Mohieddine Ellabbad- Video credit: Moe Elhossieny

video 2. Bahgat Osman- Video credit: Moe Elhossieny

video 3. Hilmi Al Tuni Evoking Popular Arab Culture by Yasmine Taan | Copy + Paste Syndrome | Nuqat 2015, YouTube, uploaded by: Nuqat, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW72ub0HIvY

Materials on both the touch table and in the display cabinet were assigned to three main subject areas : Religion, Literature, and History. Book cover design can teach us a lot by reflecting design trends and techniques of the period when they were published. To offer a more meaningful experience to visitors, the Islamic Studies Library made additional books accessible for discovery along side those in the physical display.

The graphic design and visual elements for the promotional materials like postcards (images 1 & 2) and poster (image3) were collaboratively developed.

If the plan was to host a launch or closing event in the presence of Moe Elhossieny, travel restrictions to Canada unfortunately did not allow us to do that.

The exhibition concluded on December 15th, 2023 after attracting numerous visitors from McGill and from the larger Montreal community. We received a lot of positive feedback: some visitors were impressed by the wide range of designs, others found the concept original and unique, others enjoyed the touch table experience and its audio-visual materials.

The exhibition was, curated by Anaïs Salamon, Head of the Islamic Studies Library, Moe Elhosseiny, The Arabic Design Archive, Samah Kasha, former Senior Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library, and Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian, Senior Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library.

We extend special thanks to Gregory Houston, McGill ROAAr (Rare & Special Collections, Osler, Art, and Archives) Digitization Administrator, without whom the creation of the touch table experience would have not been possible.

We also thank Dr. Charles Fletcher, Head Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library, and Lauren Goldman, Communications and Events Administrator in the Office of the Dean of Libraries, for their invaluable support, and many contributions to this project.

Image 2: Post card-Back side
Image 1: Post card-front side
Image 3: Exhibition poster

Physical display, touch table and additional book covers in ISL- Photo: Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian

This blog post is written by Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian and proofread by Anaïs Salamon.

Interview with Dhruv Mehndiratta

Before concluding this semester, we had the occasion to do an email interview with one of our Library student worker, Dhruv Mehndiratta, with whom we had the opportunity to work for few semesters.

We would like to thank Dhruv and all our student workers for their hard work and dedication!

1.Please tell us a little about yourself.

  • I’m an international student from India, majoring in Mathematics and Economics (minoring in Political Science). Having grown up around Delhi, I know Hindi, Urdu, and English. I also took German throughout school but unfortunately am nowhere near adept at it. I joined McGill in Fall 2020 as a U0 student, but, courtesy of COVID-19, was only able to come physically to Montreal the next year in August 2021 for the upcoming Fall semester.

2.What made you want to apply to work for the library?

  • Other than the obvious perks of it being a campus job perfectly suited for a part time employee/full-time student, the thing that really drew me to work at the library was the opportunity to undertake organizational tasks in a calm and orderly manner – and get paid for it! I’ve always taken comfort in order and organization and knowing I would get to do it in a positive working environment with union protection & rules was all I needed to know before applying. 

3.What kind of work have you been doing?

  • The work has varied over time, but so far I have done barcoding, vacuumed books in HSSL1, updated records on WMS2, re-shelved books, assisted patrons in a number of ways, installed and shifted books onto new shelves.

4.Has working in the library helped you in any way or form?

  • Other than the regular stream of income, working in the library has given me the opportunity to get to know some great people, feel a part of the city, as well as providing me with something solid but still flexible to fix my schedule and keep myself busy.

5.Have the other languages you know helped you in you work in the library?

  • While my knowledge of Hindi and Urdu hasn’t been necessary, it is fun to sometimes be able to pick up a book and understand what it says while most other in the university would not. Plus it’s always fun to hear some people confidently mis-pronounce words in a language you know very well.

6.What aspect of the work did you like the most?

  • My favourite task so far has easily been updating records on WMS. I find it easy to get in a continuous rhythm and on occasion I don’t even notice how much time has passed. In general, however, the organizational nature of most, if not all tasks, is what I enjoy most.

7.What is –so far– your most vivid memory of your times as a student time at McGill?

  • On March 20 of 2022, I was in a café around Rue Rachel and saw a bunch of McGill students in giraffe costumes jaywalking. I’ve seen funnier things happen, for sure, but as far as vividity goes, that’s number one.

8.Do you have any suggestion or recommendations for other students like yourself? Is there anything you would like to share about your experience of working and studying?

  • I would definitely recommend getting a Work/Study Authorization and submitting an application to a bunch of on-campus jobs, all McGill libraries included. It allows you to meet a bunch of people, get some professional experience (which is especially important if you’re an international student wanting to stay in Canada), provides you with a constant source of income which can either finance your lifestyle or give you with the opportunity to start saving, and the hours are extremely flexible. As far as studying goes, if you have the opportunity to take only 4 courses a semester instead of 5, do it, because you will definitely understand the material better. I’ve always had to take five course semesters, and there’s always been at least one course where I feel like I could’ve learned better and more efficiently, even if I ended up with an A. A way to get some four course semesters if you’re on a tight schedule with regards to your degree is to take some summer courses.

9.Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

  • I feel like I’ve shared all I can. Working at the library has been a great experience and everyone who has the ability to try and work there if they can!

Thank you very much for your time, Dhruv, and we would like to wish you best of luck in all your endeavor!

1.HSSL: Humanities and Social Sciences Library

2.WMS: Worldshare Management Services is Library cloud-based management platform.

Disclaimer: The views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the Islamic Studies Library.

RIWAQ رواق

RIWAQ is a non-profit organization funded in 1991, and its goal is the protection and development of Palestine’s architectural heritage by documenting and restoring architectural heritage sites and buildings.

Documentation of Palestine history and cultural heritage have been challenging throughout its history. Primarily because of the destruction of many of architectural and cultural heritage, especially during Nakba (1948) where many of Palestine’s cultural heritage sites were destroyed along with villages, buildings, etc. Secondly due to lack of accurate and scientific registry of architectural heritage, in other words, due to various reasons such as the impact of the system of power, or colonialism, it seems that even the existing documentations of Palestine’s heritage have been conducted to serve a mission or an agenda and not necessarily to serve scientific purposes.

Therefore, in response to the great need in documentation, preservation, and discovery of Palestine’s cultural heritage, public space enthusiasts and heritage activists established RIWAQ. At first it was formed as a project called RIWAQ Registry of Historic Buildings in Palestine, which resulted in creation of a database of historic buildings in Gaza Strip, West Bank, especially to register the most endangered components of cultural heritage.

Later, between 1994 to 2004, 50320 historic building were documented by RIWAQ registry from various villages and cities, which later was also published in three volumes. Moreover, the field work conducted by RIWAQ team resulted in creation of 400 GIS map and a collection of photographs.

RIWAQ’s archives contains a rich collection of over 50000 analog photographs and more than 100,000 digital photographs. This collection presents Palestine’s documentary heritage from 1980’s and show cases its transformations.

“Archives are perceived as the memory of a nation archival documents, transcripts, photos, and maps narrate the everyday life of a given society. They bear witness to the main crucial turning points in the history of society.”1 Thus RIWAQ’s archive is an important and valuable source of information/knowledge to Palestine’s cultural heritage.

However, RIWAQ’s work is not limited to documentation of historic and architectural sites, but their work changed the paradigm in the field of heritage from economic, social, and environmental liability into an important tool for economic and social change. Their focus has been mainly on the rural areas and by taking on restoration of villages in Palestine they also helped job creation along with preservation of the cultural heritage sites. Moreover, their project helped raising awareness about the role of cultural heritage in Palestinians identity.

“Through its work, RIWAQ has succeeded in responding to the vital question of what it takes to rehabilitate an entire town, not only physically, but socially, culturally, and economically.”2

To this end, an interesting and interactive map of Jerusalem’s rural areas has been created. This map is a collection of sketches documenting oral history in that area.

By clicking on different parts of the map user will have access to a more data that narrates an object’s history, a popular vocation at the time or an artifact, etc. It also provides information about where the data is collected with the name of the narrator as well as pictures of those places and more detailed drawings.

Besides their active role in documentation and restoration of cultural and architectural heritage, RIWAQ also offers workshop and training in specialized topics and techniques such as the structural analysis of stone structures, traditional iron works, mural paintings, and photometry to those interested in working in restoration field.

Riwaq won the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

RIWAQ’s website provides access to a wide range of different types of information, such as maps, photos, articles, etc.

  1. https://thisweekinpalestine.com/riwaq-archive/
  2. https://www.archnet.org/authorities/484

Interview with Dr. Shuaib Ally, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University

  1. Tell us a little about yourself. (Background, field of research, etc)

I work on pre-modern traditions of commentary in two fields: commentaries written on the Qur’an, a genre called tafsīr, and commentaries on works of balāgha, a field that encompasses aspects of Arabic linguistics, stylistics, and literary theory. The bulk of my research is in the period widely referred to in Islamic studies, for better or for worse, as the post-classical period, covering from around the twelfth century to modernity. I work on the content of commentaries from this period, as well as broader questions related to the history and development of that genre of writing, and the scholarly cultures and environments in which such practices of writing emerged. Much of the scholarly output from that period remains extant in manuscript form, and even when the works are published, their manuscripts contain a wealth of other types of information that is invaluable for reconstructing intellectual history. That is a roundabout way of saying that I also work quite a bit with manuscripts.

a. Follow up question: what drew you to this area of research?

I find commentary writing fascinating, especially in the fields of tafsīr and balāgha. The nature of commentary writing is that it is integrative, meaning that it brings in a number of other disciplines to bear on whatever it is discussing. In many ways, commentaries reflect the latest in the field from a variety of disciplines in the pre-modern period. As you get into more expansive commentary literature, you start to see what pre-modern scholars thought was the horizon of interpretive possibilities when it came to language use. Oftentimes – not always – you find that what they have to say about the Qur’an and language interpretation is directly relevant to theories that are being offered on these topics today.

I have long been interested in the language and style of the Qur’an, as well as issues related to how language is interpreted. How the Qur’an is and/or ought to be interpreted is of course a continuing matter of debate outside of academic circles. When I was an undergraduate, I began to write papers on some aspects of Qur’anic style, and I drew on the Qur’an commentary tradition, the natural place to look for insight on those matters. I wrote a paper on Qur’anic rhyme, and another paper on Qur’anic humour. Neither of those papers were very good, but both of them inform a larger project I am now working on related to the intertwined development of balāgha and tafsīr. It is nice to see these undeveloped ideas turn into something substantial much later. Sometimes you don’t know how what you are researching will come together or show its importance later.

I would go on to receive substantial training in reading commentaries. After my MA, I moved to the Middle East, where I was trained for many years in the close reading of a range of texts, including some texts in tafsīr and balāgha, and related fields like grammar, and made use of commentary and supercommentary writing, the latter being commentaries written upon commentaries. This was invaluable training for me because this type of close attention is a feature of traditional Islamic pedagogy and requires a large time investment from the end of both student and teacher. I am very grateful for those who invested substantial amounts of their time in me. I was able to study some medieval handbooks word for word, like al-Taftāzānī’s Mukhtaṣar al-maʿānī, a fourteenth century primer in balāgha that was central to balāgha and tafsīr. It engendered its own commentary tradition, and it is still studied to this day. That book is also an important piece of the research I do today. That kind of training had – and continues to have – a significant impact on my ability to read and engage with the texts in my field, and it also shaped how I think about the traditions from which those works derive.

I am also drawn to these areas of research precisely because they are under-researched. This is in part because scholars have long been interested in origins in Islamic studies. As a corollary, works from later times have often been depicted as originating from a period of decline, and stamped by their period. For these reasons, most of the works in what we can call the post-classical period have received little to no attention. Just as an example, even though the Mukhtaṣar I just mentioned was central for hundreds of years, and even though there is probably no major manuscripts library without a copy of this work, if not dozens of copies, there is nothing substantial written on it in the western academy. This, at least to me, creates this strange dissonance in how we present and engage with the past, where works like this that were clearly important are understudied, while other works which were relatively less important enjoy the continued attention of scholars today. Even worse, the ideas and theories that developed in this long period of scholarship remain relatively unknown, which creates its own host of problems. For example, sometimes the same theories are assumed to have no precedent and are simply replicated today. The long and the short of it is that because of my training in these areas, I want to make substantial contributions to our knowledge of two fields which are critical and have relevance today but remain understudied.

I should say something about manuscripts. Using manuscripts is unavoidable in the field because so much of the heritage of Islamic scholarship is available only in manuscript form and restricting yourself to printed works severely limits the scope of your scholarship. Even before any type of formal training in manuscripts, I was using manuscripts for research or just for interest. A lot of the time when I would look for a book, its manuscripts would come up in internet searches; someone had helpfully uploaded a copy to some internet forum or site. Some of those forums have unfortunately gone defunct and have been replaced to varying degrees with other sites or types of social media. In my undergrad and MA, I started to work on some of Walid Saleh’s manuscripts projects related to tafsīr, and that was my first formal training in that area. For example, I read with him the entirety of a treatise he was editing by a Mamluk scholar named al-Biqāʾī, and did some work for Professor Saleh on the introduction another scholar, al-Aṣfahānī, wrote for his tafsīr. During my PhD, I worked on another manuscripts project with him; we edited a lacuna that was missed in a recent printed edition of an eleventh century tafsīr work by al-Wāḥidī. I also worked on a manuscripts project for Jeannie Miller on using marginalia in manuscripts of al-Jāḥiẓ’s Kitāb al-Ḥayawān, or Book of Animals, to trace the transmission of that work. That project informed some of the focus on paratexts in my dissertation. Those were some of the influences in my work on manuscripts.

2. What can you tell us about your dissertation?

I wrote my dissertation at the University of Toronto, although from home would probably be more accurate, because I actually researched and wrote it almost in its entirety during the worst of the pandemic. I had received a grant from U of T to do some manuscripts research at the Süleymaniye library in Istanbul, which I did for a couple of months in the fall of 2019. When I was there, I looked at manuscripts of the two main works of an eleventh century grammarian, ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī, his Dalāʾil al-iʿjāz (Markers of Inimitability) and his Asrār al-balāgha (Secrets of Eloquence), because I was working on ʿAbd al-Qāhir for a larger project. During the pandemic, in the Spring of 2020, I began to work on these manuscripts in earnest, thinking that the research on their paratexts would result in an article. But that one article became two, then morphed into three, and then I realized I had a whole new project. I think that’s probably a common experience for scholars doing continued research in the humanities. And that became my dissertation. It recently won the Malcolm H. Kerr dissertation award, honorable mention for the humanities.

The dissertation itself was meant to show how we can trace an intellectual history, in this case primarily related to balāgha and tafsīr, through the use of paratextual material. In this case, I made use of paratexts, here meaning any written material other than the main text itself, taken from over thirty manuscript copies of ʿAbd al-Qāhir’s works. ʿAbd al-Qāhir’s works, especially the Dalāʾil, were foundational for the emerging discipline of balāgha. They would serve as the basis for later textbooks and commentaries in that field.

I used paratextual evidence – ownership notes, colophons, and substantive marginal notes written by scholars who owned copies of his works – to show how these classic works were not lost, as is sometimes claimed, but were rather used, engaged with, and reintroduced throughout the postclassical period up to the modern era. In a specific sense, my dissertation was about these two works, and balāgha and tafsīr, and commentary writing in the post-classical period. However, because I was primarily using paratextual evidence, the project was in a larger sense about broader concerns in book history, scribal and scholarly communities, and intellectual history.

3. What are you working on right now, any specific project?

I have a few projects occupying me. I am currently working here at McGill on the tradition of supercommentary writing on the Qur’an and what it meant to practice Qur’an commentary by the seventeenth century in the pre-modern period. Supercommentaries, by this time, had become a massive endeavour and had become their own genre of writing: they had their own set of concerns and references. I am working on a type of pre-modern footnoting, which is one strategy to manage the information in these large projects. I discovered this strategy in manuscripts of a supercommentary in tafsīr by a seventeenth century scholar, Shihāb al-Dīn al-Khafājī, who wrote his commentary on the tafsīr of al-Bayḍāwī, a fourteenth century scholar. This dovetails nicely with my dissertation, because supercommentary writing is part of that engagement with ʿAbd al-Qāhir, and also because Shihāb al-Dīn al-Khafājī, coincidentally, is one of the most famous owners of ʿAbd al-Qāhir’s works. I am also working on a monograph that traces the interrelated history of balāgha and tafsīr, with a focus on some broader issues, including verbal irony and rhyme in the Qur’an. That is a project that focuses on the content of the commentary and supercommentary traditions in those disciplines, and so it complements the focus on paratexts in my other project. Finally, I am working on revising my dissertation into a monograph for publication.


4. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I received a grant from the Max Weber Foundation to do some manuscripts research this year in Italy, Istanbul, and India, so I am very excited about that. I am presently in Rome now. I saw a massive flock of starlings swarming by the Vatican, which was my first time seeing that. It’s spectacular! I am examining copies of commentary works in my two primary fields for their paratextual evidence. I am optimistic that they will contain a wealth of evidence useful for reconstructing how these works were transmitted and used. In general, I hope that even more scholars will study the content of commentary writing and manuscripts from this period. It is mostly untouched material, and there really is no shortage of amazing discoveries awaiting the unsuspecting researcher.

At the end, we would like to thank you for participating in this interview for the library blog, this is greatly appreciated. And we wish you the best of luck in all of your endeavors!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Islamic Studies Library nor McGill University

Interview with Sabeena Shaikh

PhD Candidate at Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University

1.Tell us a little about yourself.

  • My name is Sabeena Shaikh and I’m a PhD candidate in the Institute of Islamic Studies. Originally, I’m from Texas where I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin. After, I completed my M.A. at Columbia University and then made my way to McGill in the Fall of 2016. My field of study is the intersection of literature, history, and gender/sexuality in the Indian Subcontinent from approximately the 17th– 20th centuries. In particular, I am interested in courtesans who authored poetry in Urdu and Dakkani and have embarked on a project to recover their voices devoid of an exoticizing, fetishizing, and orientalising gaze. Outside of McGill I enjoy teaching Bollywood fitness classes and spending time with Cilantro (Cilly pronounced silly), my rambunctious and adorable dog.
Cilly

2.What made you want to come study at McGill?

  • I was welcomed at McGill by a very enthusiastic and friendly supervisor named Pasha Khan. Aside from the allure of living in a Francophone city in North America, I was immediately drawn to the kind of pluralistic and diverse society I found in Montreal. It is a truly unique place that I am fortunate to call home.

3.How do you enjoy the student life, work life, and social life at McGill?

  • The PhD is sometimes a lonely process, but I have found a good group of colleagues with whom I can celebrate and commiserate. My absolute favorite aspect of the PhD is teaching, and I have been fortunate to instruct and serve as a T.A. [Teaching Assistant] or grader for various courses over the years. While it often makes managing time difficult, I find the most fulfillment from my teaching responsibilities. I think my social life is a bit more active than most PhD students, but perhaps that is because I am naturally an extrovert. McGill has plenty of opportunities to meet, engage, socialize, and interact with other graduate and undergraduate students and its centrality in the city makes it a perfect place to meet young professionals as well.

4.What is your research area?

  • My research area is pre-modern history and literature in South Asia.

5.what drew you to this area of research?

  • I began my language journey as an undergraduate in the Hindi-Urdu Flagship at the University of Texas at Austin. I think I fell in love with Urdu poetry while participating in a study abroad program as a Junior and the rest is history!

6.What are you working on right now, any specific project?

  • Right now, I am reading an 18th century manuscript written by a Deccan courtesan in which there is a very interesting masnavi that seems to be autobiographical. I hope to read this masnavi against the ghazals that this person has authored to say something substantial about their personality.

7.What courses are you currently teaching?

  • Currently I am teaching Introductory Urdu-Hindi and I have a great group of students that make our early 8:30 am class time tolerable.

8.Are/were you involved in any extra curricular activities (i.e. committee service, volunteering, organizing a conference/workshop, etc.)? If yes, tell us about them.

  • I have participated in various extracurricular activities (perhaps why I’m still writing my dissertation!) but the most substantial were perhaps my role as the ISLAC [Islamic Studies Library Advisory Committee] representative for MIISSC [McGill Institute of Islamic Studies Student Council] for which I received funding to provide some renovations in the Islamic Studies library, my role in organizing an Islamic paleography and codicology workshop in 20181, and my role as the president of MIISSC  many times over. Currently I am serving as the BIPOC [Black Indigenous and People of Color] Graduate Network Coordinator for PGSS [Post Graduate Students Society] and learning about equity and inclusion in various departments at McGill. I like to think that I am an engaged member of McGill and particularly the Institute of Islamic Studies because it is a home away from home for me and many others. I’m simply trying to do my part to make our time here more enjoyable, memorable, and impactful.

9.What is –so far– your most vivid memory of your times as a student time at McGill?

  • Every year I look forward to the MIISSC Graduate Student Symposium and some of my favorite memories are from the friendships and conversations I shared with other graduate students from around the world. I also really enjoyed the Islamic Studies Poetry Night I held in 2019 where people recited in Persian, Kurdish, Urdu, French, Arabic, German, Albanian, and so many more languages to give the vibe of a true mushaira (poetry gathering). It was a truly magical evening of polyglots and poetry lovers.

10.Do you have any suggestion or recommendations for other students like yourself? Is there anything you would like to share about your experience of working and studying?

  • I am perhaps not the perfect example of this, but I think it’s important to have a life outside of the PhD, to have interests and hobbies where you can unwind and relax and to find a support system on which to rely. Graduate school is difficult, and I am a big believer in celebrating the small wins to stay motivated and excited about your project.

At the end, we would like to thank you for participating in this interview for the library blog, this is greatly appreciated. And we wish you the best of luck in all of your endeavors!

1. see picture 1- 3.

3. Islamic Paleography and Codicology workshop in 2018 poster.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Islamic Studies Library nor McGill University

Palestinian Oral History Archive (POHA)

The POHA project was launched in 2011 and is based at the American University of Beirut (AUB). This project is a “collaboration between the AUB Libraries, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), the Nakba Archive and the Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts (AL-JANA).”

The Palestinian Oral History Archive digitizes, indexes, catalogues and provides access to over one thousand audio and video testimonies by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Through producing a multi-media database of audio-visual interviews, testimonies and life stories, this project aims to document and preserves the collective experience of Palestinians about Nakba (1948-49) where 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and forced to their neighboring Arab countries.  

The beginning of this project goes back to mid- 1990s when Nakba Archive and the Arab Resource Centre for Arts (AL-JANA) started to collect and document these testimonies, by interviewing the members of the first-generation Palestinians refugees in Lebanon. Creation of more than eight hundred video and audio testimonies was the result of their work, which later was incorporated into one collection by POHA.

The value of Oral history collections resides in the fact that it allows for learning about the perspectives and individuals’ narratives that otherwise might not have a voice or not being recorded in the history. (WALBERT, 2011)1. Moreover, at times in history, interview is the only source for collecting information about a place, event or individuals. (Baylor University, 2012)2.

As such this collection is an important resource and Sleiman and Chebaro (2018)3 also mentioned:

This collection is important because it provides a unique primary source on perspectives that are almost not recorded or acknowledge officially. Moreover the oral history gives voice to more people and includes marginalized populations as well as the ordinary people. Palestinian oral history collections have immense potential to contribute to a new historiography of the Nakba since they provide a unique primary source that captures perspectives rarely recorded or acknowledged in official narratives.

POHA organized the collection into four categories:

“1.Uprooting,” constituting the majority of the collection, comprises the entirety of the Nakba Archive series (558 hours of video recordings) and a part of AL-JANA’s (136 hours of audio recording). Here, the focus is on the refugees’ experience of mass displacement during the Nakba, their “uprooting”; this section also comprises accounts of life under the British Mandate and during the 1948–49 war, including the experiences of exile and displacement in Lebanon.

“2.Folktales” (172 hours of audio interviews) encompasses pre-1948 elements of intangible culture in the form of Palestinian folktales, storytelling, traditional songs, proverbs, and poems.

“3.Ayn al-Hilwat” comprises 36 hours of video recordings of women from the ‘Ayn al-Hilwah refugee camp in South Lebanon talking about their occupations, their family lives, and their roles in the establishment of the camp.

“4.Biographies” includes 160 hours of audio, recording the life stories of men and women who played important roles in their communities, or served as models and inspiration there.”

Access the collection from here : https://libraries.aub.edu.lb/poha/Search/Advanced

The interviews are thoroughly indexed and are searchable. Each entry is fully catalogued and has the proper subject(s). Furthermore, each entry has all the details such as the name of the interviewer, interviewee, the duration of the interview and etc.

  1. Walbert, Katheryn, 2011. The value of oral history http://baltimoreuprising2015.org/oralhistorytraining/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Reading-Sheet-1-Lesson-4.pdf Accessed 26 October 2022.
  2. Baylor University Institute for Oral History (2012). Understanding oral history: Why do it? Baylor University Institute for Oral History: http://www.baylor.edu/oralhistory. https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/66420.pdf Accessed 26 October 2022.
  3. Hana Sleiman & Kaoukab Chebaro (2018) Narrating Palestine: The Palestinian Oral History Archive Project, Journal of Palestine Studies, 47:2, 63-76, DOI: 10.1525/jps.2018.47.2.63

Islamic Manuscripts at Morgan library and museum

Morgan Library & Museum, located in New Your City, is a museum and an independent research library and is famous for its manuscripts’ collections which mainly consists of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, yet Morgan Library and Museum houses various important Islamic manuscripts as well.

An online exhibition, “Treasures of Islamic Manuscript Painting from the Morgan” show cases some of these manuscripts containing exceptional paintings as well as religious and secular documents. These manuscripts range from the one that highlight works of “science, biography, history, and poetry” to Qur’an manuscripts. This exhibition provides access to a rich and diverse collection of Islamic manuscripts dating from the late Middle Ages to the nineteenth century.

“Included are such important manuscripts as the Manāfi˓-i hayavān (The Benefits of Animals)—one of the finest surviving Persian examples—and the richest illustrated life of the beloved poet Rūmī (1207–1273). Also featured are pages from the Mughal and Persian albums that Pierpont Morgan acquired in 1911 from Sir Charles Hercules Read, Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum, and miniatures illustrating the work of great Persian poets.”

Manuscripts are digitized with high resolution which makes it easy to look at various details and vivid colors in paintings. Each page or painting comes with a more detailed information about its time of creation as well of a description about its content.

Youth Flexing a Bow
Al-Su˓ūdī, The Valley of Diamonds and Jewels

To read more about how the Morgan’s Islamic collection came to existence click here .