Open access Islamic-Iranian manuscripts database: گنجینه باز نسخ خطی اسلامی – ایرانی

Open access Islamic-Iranian manuscripts database has been established with the aim of providing access to resources for researchers and scholars with the focus on the manuscripts of the Islamic world and Iran. This site, in order to promote the values of Iranian culture, with the help of group of dedicated partners tried to make available manuscripts and develop techniques of accessing the manuscripts of the Islamic world and Iran. And recently they have run their pilot version of their website.

قرآن، ایران کتابخانه حائري – قم

It is possible to read manuscripts electronically and, on the web, as well as access other resources provided in this database such as books and articles related to the field of manuscripts.

This initiative consists of various departments such as cataloging, graphic editing, image development, public and international relations, and IT.

رسالة، ایران کتابخانه حضرت ولیعصر – خوانسار

Development of their archive relies on collaboration of private collection owners, personal collections, national libraries, or other entities who are willing to share their manuscripts, books, or their resources with them to be digitized and to be made available for public use.  

قرآن، عراق منشا نامشخص

The image of manuscripts is accessible for everyone; however, the website interface is only available in Persian language. Each manuscript can be browsed, and bibliographic information is presented consisting of language of the item, subject and author. Also, when available more details about the manuscript is shared such as title, author or manuscript’s transcriber as well as where the item is kept, and it also indicates if the manuscript is not complete.

For Palestine

“We can not fight for our rights and our history as well as future until we are armed with weapons of criticism and dedicated consciousness.”
― Edward W. Said

In this blog post, we will highlight resources on Palestine, and Palestinians to support students and researchers focusing on this area and seeking to understand the Palestinian Question in its national, Arab, and international contexts. Our list of resources includes digital initiatives, projects, archives, NGOs, academic centers, etc. all which have in common to document Palestine’s history and Palestinians’ lives and preserve the Palestinian heritage. Gratefully, these various collaborative efforts between institutions make materials available in Open Access to scholars, students, and the wider public.

Palestine Flag. Wikimedia Commons. Author: Makbula Nassar

The project is a collaborative project of the Palestinian Museum and the Institute for Palestine Studies. To promote a dynamic vision of Palestinian culture engaged with new perspectives on history, society and culture.

Presents a series of anonymous but intimate portraits of Palestinian families living under the Israeli Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. This Law, passed in 2003, prevents Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) married to Israeli citizens from obtaining a legal status in Israel, violating their right to a family life in Israel.

The archive is an oral history collective established in Lebanon in 2002. Since it’s inception, the Archive has recorded over 650 video interviews with first generation Palestinian refugees in Lebanon about their recollections of life in Palestine and the events that led to their displacement. These eyewitness narratives, with refugees from more than 150 Palestinian villages and towns, recall social and cultural life in Palestine before 1948, relations with neighboring Jewish communities and the British Mandate, the 1948 expulsion, and the early years of exile. The aim has been to document this critical period through the voices and experiences of those who lived through it, and to bear witness in a way shaped not by political symbolism but rather by the rhythms of personal memory.*

The Birzeit University Palestinian Archive Project (BZUPAP) is dedicated to documenting the life of Palestinians (persons, families and organizations) over the past century. Documents collected include the most diverse types of written and audiovisual materials (texts, photographs, videos, recordings). This growing, largely open archive is being preserved at the university. Incoming documents are organized, categorized, and uploaded on the electronic website http://awraq.birzeit.edu with a clear indication of the donor. The website constitutes an excellent resource for all interested persons and a primary source for researchers around the world, with its easy access and its Arabic and English language materials.*

The Palestine poster tradition offers an exceptional perspective on the history of modern Palestine and is, simultaneously, a much under-valued component of its cultural heritage. The posters themselves are important repositories of primary data. They provide a unique lens through which audiences can gain insight into the attitudes and aspirations of people directly involved in the contemporary history of Palestine, as they have experienced it and recorded it in graphic art.

Al-Quds open archive is the result of a collaboration between the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University (CPS) and the Institute for Palestine Studies in Ramallah. Al-Quds open archive includes 392 issues published between 1908 and 1914. The significance of al-Quds, aside from it being the first newspaper in Palestine, was its timing. It both celebrated and tested the new freedom of publication proclaimed by the Ottoman Constitutional Revolution of 1908.

The Jerusalem Quarterly is the only journal focused on the city of Jerusalem’s history, political status, and future. It addresses debates about the city and its predicament, as well as future scenarios for solving the problems of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Quarterly has a prestigious board of advisors selected from leading Palestinian universities and research institutes and an editorial staff. It has been published continuously since 1998 by the Institute of Jerusalem Studies, an IPS affiliate, in Jerusalem and since 2003, in Ramallah. This journal is made available to readers and researchers by special arrangement with the Institute for Palestine Studies.*

The main goal of this project is to digitize the historical periodical collection located at the Al-Aqsa Mosque Library in order to create archival quality digital copies of the deteriorating newspapers and magazines. In addition, the project intends to create multiple derivative copies to extend access of these rare materials to scholars, students and the public.*

The Maps and Cartography section contains two kind of documents: original maps of Jerusalem reproduced here as a tool for researchers, and links to existing sets of Jerusalem maps—both historical and contemporary.

Palestine Open Maps is a platform for map-based exploration and immersive storytelling. This alpha version of the platform allows users to navigate and search the historic map sheets, and to view basic data about present and erased localities.*

In these text-maps by Palestinian writers, you will find a fusion of voices. Writers were asked to write a portrait of the city or town their families come from—experienced or imagined. They were to draw from family members, stories, dreams, or other channels. The contributors are listed under their city of origin; those who come from two different cities are placed under the city they wrote about. This map is an architectural metaphor. It’s a construction site, where readers can watch the map being built with every feature.*

More than 120 village memorial books, about the over 400 Palestinian villages that were depopulated and largely destroyed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War have been published. Compiled as documentary histories and based on the accounts of those who remember their villages, they are presented as dossiers of evidence that these villages existed and were more than just “a place once on a map.” *

The G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection is a rich source of historical images of the Middle East. The majority of the images depict Palestine from 1898 to 1946.*

Hanna Safieh collection consist of  black and white photo of Palestine and the Holy Land dating back to 1927 and featuring historic and biblical locations such as Jerusalem and the Old City, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jericho and more.*

A collection of postcards donated to Columbia University by Steven Wachlin.

Started in the 1990’s, Dreams of a Nation is a Columbia University based archival project aiming at preserving and promoting Palestinian cinema. Dreams of a Nation resulted in the organization of two Palestinian film festivals held in 2003 and 2204, and the publication of a book entitled Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema authored by Dr. Hamid Dabashi (Verso, 2006).

The Palestinian Museum – Non-Governmental Association dedicated to supporting an open and dynamic Palestinian culture nationally and internationally. The Museum presents and engages with new perspectives on Palestinian history, society and culture. It also offers spaces for creative ventures, educational programmes and innovative research.*

PASSIA seeks to present the Palestinian Question in its national, Arab and international contexts through academic research, dialogue, education and publication. In order to facilitate understanding of Palestinian positions, it endeavors to analyze current policy issues, provide a constructive forum for open discussion, conduct high quality, independent research and publish studies and information papers. In addition, PASSIA aims to empower young Palestinians through training programs and seminars that build capacity, skills and expertise.*

The Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) was established in Beirut in 1963 as an independent non-profit research institution, unaffiliated with any political organization or government. The creation of the institute, the first of its kind in the Arab world, occurred at a time when the Palestine Question was regaining its central place in inter-Arab politics and when Palestinian identity was regaining its vitality.*

The Center for Palestine Studies promotes the academic study of Palestine by supporting research, teaching, and intellectual collaboration among scholars within Columbia University and beyond. CPS provides an institutional home for faculty, post-doctoral researchers, and students at Columbia in fields that include history, literary studies, the social sciences, religion, philosophy, law, archaeology, architecture, and the arts. CPS also builds connections with other institutions and scholars to strengthen the academic study of Palestine and Palestinians throughout the United States and the world.*

The New Directions in Palestinian Studies research initiative of Brown University’s Center for Middle East Studies, launched in 2012. Over the past generation, the field of Palestine and Palestinian studies has grown rapidly, attracting some of the best and brightest scholars. Launched as a research initiative of Brown University’s Middle East Studies program in 2012, New Directions in Palestinian Studies (NDPS) has built an international community of scholars dedicated to decolonizing and globalizing this field of study New Directions in . Palestinian Studies brings together emerging and established scholars to shape the agenda of knowledge production on Palestine and the Palestinians.*

Cognizant of the Palestine Studies Trust adjacent to the University of Exeter initiated by Dr Uri Davis in the early 1980s, Professor Ilan Pappé and Dr Ghada Karmi founded the European Centre for Palestinian Studies (ECPS) in 2009. It is dedicated to producing interdisciplinary on the history of Palestine and the Palestine/Israel conflict.*

LAP is a network of self-defined librarians, archivists, and information workers in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.*

*Descriptions of resources provided are taken from the source official website.

A Page on Iranian History

Iranologie.com is created by Khodadad Rezakhani, a scholar of late antiquity and the early medieval period, mostly in West and Central Asia. He created this site with a focus on Iranian history and is aiming to provide information about history and culture of Iran as well as about “Iran as a modern nation-state”.

The main feature of the website is “The History Page” which is the access point to the main content on the site about Iranian history categorized in three eras of: 1. From the Ancient Times to 650 CE, 2. From Islam to the Safavids, 3. From the Safavids to Modern Iran.

Khodadad Rezakhani, the creator of the site, has a PhD form UCLA in late antique Near East and he is a professional academic dedicated to teaching , researching and writing. He describes the reason for initiating this project as :

“However, I have a deep interest in bringing academic research to the public and find producing knowledge for purely academic audiences to be undemocratic and against the spirit of knowledge. As such, I try to engage in anyway I can, giving interviews to TV and Radio programmes and appearing on various segments dedicated to history. But more than anything, I try to use the internet, and have done so since 1996 (!) to engage, through my podcasts and my weblog, and make sure that what me and my colleagues are working on does not remain behind the locked doors of academic journals.”

Iranologie.com is host for the History of Iran podcast and history Podcast in Persian. Both podcasts cover Iranian history fro pre-Islamic to Islamic and modern ear, one in English and the latter in Persian language. Moreover, all sources and additional materials that were referenced in the podcasts can are listed on Podcast section of the site.

Iranologie: the History of Iran Podcast

In addition to the History and two valuable podcasts, recently, the author of Iranologie.com also created a new project on Twitter, “ @historianofIran, which is a rotating weekly account where different scholars of Iranian history, culture, and languages write about their work for a week at a time”.

last but not least, historical issues are discussed mostly by the author both in English and Persian in the form of a blog and can be accessed on Iranologie.com here.


Mouse & Manuscript

Mouse and Manuscript is a free online collection of codicology and paleography lessons in a form of an innovative online “textbook”. Mouse and Manuscript is created by researchers and librarians at Leiden University, using rich and outstanding collection of Oriental manuscripts at Leiden University.

According to Dictionary of English Manuscript terminology:

“‘Codicology’ denotes the study of manuscript books, or codices, in all aspects, including their physical structure, texts, script, binding, decoration, and other features of their production.” *

“’Paleography’ denotes the study of handwriting and of the history of scripts. It involves such practices as the analysis and description of old manuscripts, the deciphering of texts, the dating and identification of hands and scripts, and recognition of the place of origin of a manuscript and of the scribal practices and conventions represented in it.” **

These lessons are offered in an interactive fashion and the goal is to teach various aspects of codicology and paleography. Moreover, by analyzing historical traces in the digitized manuscripts used in this collection, these lessons are trying to show case methods of book making prior to printing press. So far 53 lessons are released and  some of the titles are as follow:

The Manuscripts used in this online textbook are in Arabic, Persian, …. and from Middle East, East Asia, Africa and beyond.

Each lesson consists of several parts, such as an overview of the the manuscript, discussing the specification of the document, transcription and transliteration of the content, and more importantly, fully high resolution digitized manuscript, with the possibility of zooming and turning pages.

Damage and protectionLESSON 7 – DR. DORRIT VAN DALEN

At the end of each lesson a list of more relevant readings and resources as are given well as some assignments/homework.

Dorrit van Dalen initiated Mouse and Manuscript, created and edited several lessons (2, 12, 14, 20, 21, 22, 51) and launched the website in 2020. All other contributor and creators of the lessons are linked to Leiden University through their researches, to learn more about individuals involve in this project click here.

McGill Islamic Studies Library also have various resources on Codicology and Paleography that can be searched and found via library catalogue . some of the titles are as follow:

  • Comparative oriental manuscript studies : an introduction, by Alessandro Bausi, Eugenia Sokolinski, Pier Giorgio Borbone 2015 , Link to the library here.
  • علم الاكتناه العربي الإسلامي = Arabic Islamic palaeography [sic] and codicologyʻIlm al-iktināh al-ʻArabī al-Islāmī = Arabic Islamic palaeography and codicology, by تصنيف قاسم السامرائي., سامرائي، قاسم . 2001. Link to the library here.
  • Writings and writing : investigations in Islamic text and script : in honour of Dr Januarius Justus Witkam, Professor of Codicology and Palaeography of the Islamic world at Leyden University, by Robert M Kerr 1968- (Editor), Thomas Milo (Editor), Jan Just Witkam 1945- (Honouree.) 2013. Link to the library here.

* Beal, P. (2008). codicology. In A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology 1450–2000. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 3 Feb. 2021, from https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199576128.001.0001/acref-9780199576128-e-0184.

**Beal, P. (2008). palaeography. In A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology 1450–2000. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 3 Feb. 2021, from https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199576128.001.0001/acref-9780199576128-e-0718

Journals, magazines, and newspapers open access initiatives

The Egyptian Press Archive of CEDEJ

The Egyptian Press Archive of CEDEJ is an initiative of the Centre d’Études et de Documentation Économiques, Juridiques et Sociales (CEDEJ) based in Cairo and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) consisting of scanning and publishing online press articles collected and curated by CEDEJ over the past 40 years. To learn more visit the site.

Syrian Print Archive

Syrian Prints Archive is an independent documentary initiative “without any political, partisan or religious affiliations”, that provides archiving and storing services for Syrian print media issued since the outbreak of the March 2011 Revolution, regardless of content or orientations. Between March 2011 and the end of 2014, Syrian media witnessed a significance rise in the number of print publications. To learn more visit the site.

The Directory of Free Arab Journals (DFAJ)

The Directory of Free Arab Journals (DFAJ) is an initiative of Middle Eastern Open Access activists aiming at producing a directory of all open access (OA) scientific journals produced in Arab countries. DFAJ currently includes 250 journals  from 172 publishers in 17 Arab countries. The directory is published under a CC-BY-NC license. Initially launched in 2013, a new version was released in March 2017. To learn more visit the site.

Archives of Arabic cultural and literary journals

This archive aims to preserve Arabic literature and cultural heritage as well as serving research and educational purposes. This digital archives of Arabic cultural and literary journals offers Open Access to no less than 208 journals, among which some of the most significant periodicals of the 19th-20th centuries from Egypt (al-Hilal, al-Manar, al-Muqtataf, etc.), Palestine (al-Karmal), Syria (Journal of the Arabic Academy of Sciences), or Tunisia (al-Fikr). To learn more visit the site.

Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers

The Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers collection is part of East View’s Global Press Archive® (GPA) program. Open Access to this collection is made possible through the generous support of the Center for Research Libraries and its member institutions.. The collection includes publications ranging from across a dynamic region. A broad overview on important historic events from 1870 to 2019. To learn more visit the site.

Two valuable collections of Islamic materials @Library of Congress

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The Library of Congress houses, preserves, collects and makes accessible numerous valuable and historical materials from across the globe in different languages, forms and subjects, this includes  a noteworthy collection of rare Persian language materials. This collection is part of the “African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division” and includes various rare materials of early print books, lithographic books and manuscripts.

Qurʼān. [1739 or 1740, 1739] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2017406495/>.

Sūrat al-Qāf. [18th Century] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2017498316/>.

According to the Library of Congress most materials in this collection was acquired in 1930s through a well-known dealer in fine Islamic and Near Eastern arts, Kirkor Minassian. This acquisition includes rare manuscripts and books in Arabic, Persian, Armenian and Turkish language, however the rare Persian language collection grew beyond Minassain acquisitions as the library continued to acquire more materials from other sources as well as to receive rare collections in a form of donation from generous people.

Ṣāfī, Aḥmad Rashīd, Scribe, Ibrāhīm AdʹHam Gharbaldah Balawī, and Charles C McVicker. Qurʼān
. [18–?] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2010471600/>

This collection consists of materials in different subject and disciplines from the entire Middle East. However, literary works and historical lithographs makes up for much of the collection.

“A number of these items are exquisitely illuminated anthologies of poetry by classic and lesser known poets, written in fine calligraphic styles, and illustrated with miniatures. Many also have beautiful bindings. A number of the illuminated books are multilingual works, which include Arabic and Turkish passages in addition to Persian, focusing on scientific, religious – philosophical and literary topics, and others are holy books important to all confessional traditions within the Islamic world.”

In 2014 in an exhibition, called “A Thousand Years of the Persian Book” that was held by The Library’s Near East Section, 40 items of rare Persian collection were shown to the public, this exhibition led to a digitization project in 2015. As a result of this ongoing project up until now 169 lithographs of the Collection are digitized and made available.

This beautifully organized collection can be accessed here. Each record provides access to a digitized format of the item as well as a description about the item such as a physical account, bibliographic information and when available summary of the content.

In addition to the abovementioned collection, Library of Congress also provided to a large collection of Arabic script calligraphy sheets from 9th to 19th century. 373 calligraphy sheets can be browsed online which mainly consist of fragments of Quran written on paper or parchment.

Access the collection here.

This beautiful collection also provides detail description for each item as well as script of the presented sheet, calligraphic style, date and physical account of the item. This collection also includes a section of Special Presentations:
Calligraphers of the Persian Tradition
Ottoman Calligraphers and Their Works
Qur’anic Fragments
Noteworthy Items

Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers

The Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers collection is part of East View’s Global Press Archive® (GPA) program. Open Access to this collection is made possible through the generous support of the Center for Research Libraries and its member institutions.

“Supporting Area Studies and Advancing Digital Humanities”

The East View Global Press Archive® (GPA) is a program that embraces an unprecedented variety of global news publications, presented in full-image and full-text format optimized for scholarly use… GPA is the result of a landmark initiative of Stanford Libraries and the Hoover Institution Library & Archives to digitally preserve and make more accessible thousands of original print newspaper publications collected by the Hoover Institution and now housed by Stanford Libraries”

The collection

The Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers collection includes publications ranging from across a dynamic region. A broad overview on important historic events from 1870 to 2019.

Total Publications            84

Total Pages                         896,018

Total Issues                        81,254

The collection comprises out-of-copyright, orphaned content, mostly in Arabic, but also includes key titles in English and French. The platform can be viewed in Arabic or in English. The collection offers a unique opportunity to researchers to access content, never been digitized or available as open access material, from the Middle East and North Africa.

Browsing the collection

The Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers can be browsed in 3 different ways:

Title navigation: Listing all the 48 titles alphabetically including the country, city, language and date range availability.

Date navigation: An interactive calendar where you can select a specific date. A list of publication that correspond to the selected date, if available, will display.  

Map navigation: An interactive map displaying pins of newspaper publications based on the geographic location.

On the home page there is a cool feature, a random selections of publications that was published on a day that matches today’s date.

Searching the collection

You can conduct a simple search using keywords or an exact phrase using quotation marks around your search terms. The Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT help in refining the search results. Also, there is an advanced search option that allows you to limit and narrow down your search results.

Searching the collection can be performed using Arabic, English or French. The keyboard button displays Arabic letters and it is quite useful to those with English keyboard only. It is worthwhile searching a chosen keyword in various languages, as results may vary.

Access to East View Global Press Archive® databases is provided solely for academic and research purposes. To learn more about the use of the materials, citation guide and copyright click here

Islamic Art @Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert museum (V&A) of art and design’s collection contains over 2.3 million objects showcasing 5000 years of human art and creativity. The Museum’s collection consists of UK’s national as well as international collections. These collections contain wide range of resources for learning, research and study of various topics such as: architecture, book arts, sculpture, Asian art and design and etc.

Since the beginning of the V&A in 1850’s and when Queen Victoria laid the first stone of the Museum in 1899, Museum’s mission has been to provide tools and ways of learning and engaging with their collection. Moreover, building an excellent collection with global relevance and attracting international audiences and collections has always been part of their mission; therefore, V&A collected various outstanding resources and examples of human art and creativity from around the world. 

In that regard, the V&A houses a great collection of Islamic art, which holds more than 19000 artifacts and items from early Islamic era to early twentieth century from Middle East and North Africa.  This great collection usually can be visited in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, however, now that due to COVID-19 situation the Gallery is closed, the highlight of this collection is accessible digitally and can be found here.

This very well organized collection also provides exclusive information about the item’s history, place, date, material, techniques that were used in creation of the objects.

V&A Museum has a rich collection of South Asian artifacts which is described as: “The collections from South and South-East Asia comprise nearly 60,000 objects, including about 10,000 textiles and 6,000 paintings covering the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. The range of the collection is immense.”

South Asian Collection Highlights

Calligraphy as an astonishing form of Islamic Art also made its way to V&A collection and can be visited here, also at the end of the page a slideshow of different objects of the collection featuring beautiful work of calligraphy from different style, era and techniques.

“Tray featuring a calligraphic script, 1330 – 60, possibly Syria or Egypt, brass. Museum no. 420-1854. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London”

Exhibition | Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy

Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy was on display in the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) from February 8th to March 13th, 2020. The library closure and service disruptions, caused by Covid-19, made the exhibition inaccessible to our students, professors and visitors. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the exhibition, featured calligraphers, the ISL calligraphy panels collection and two events organized in conjunction with the exhibition.

Arabic calligraphy is one of the most recognizable forms of Islamic Art. While originally used to preserve the Word of God (Qur’an), Arabic calligraphy also appeared in other written texts (philosophy, literature and poetry). It further developed to represent figurative depictions and decorations that were uncommon in Islamic Art. Distinct scripts and styles like Kufic, Naskh, Raqaa, Diwani, Thuluth or Nastaliq flourished across the Muslim world often unified by specific common principles. Major elements of the Arabic script such as fluid lines and ornamentation offer contemporary calligraphers the flexibility to create a free-form twist on classic techniques, repositioning calligraphy for today’s context.

This exhibition brought together a new wave of calligraphy artists from various corners of the world united by the art of writing and the desire to break through barriers, tell a story and reach other cultures.

Featured Calligraphers

Massoudy chooses a word from the chosen quote and recreates it in much larger dimensions, with its straight lines and its curves and a new geometrical structure. Then, he writes the whole sentence underneath or on the side.

eL Seed is a street artist who uses Arabic calligraphy and a distinctive style, he calls Calligrafitti to spread messages of peace, unity and to underline the commonalities of human existence.

He is the great master of Calligraphy, praiser of the divine word. All the routes of the Mediterranean and the Middle East meet in the qalam of Ghani Alani, without contrast. His writing is not of dualities, but of harmony.

The master calligrapher, who has made the ancient Arabic tradition evolve from its religious roots, is creating deeply intellectual work that reflects his interest in modern poetry and literature, alongside Christian and Sufi philosophy. 

Mahdaoui’s work inspired by Arabic calligraphy is remarkably innovative as the aesthetic dimension of letters brings forth a sense of the poetic, highly rhythmic, arresting us with its rich abstracts compositions.

Karaduman considers calligraphy art as a drawing science in aesthetical terms and conducts research and examinations in this field. He completed approximately 50 Holy Korans, verses and hilye-i sharifs by renovating, revising and imitating artworks of which some belong to calligraphy masters.

Haji Noor Deen brings an immense learning in traditional thought and Islamic art to a modern audience, juxtaposing them in a new calligraphic style all his own, both Eastern and Western.

Zenderoudi has a superb style arising from juxtaposition and simultaneous use of freedom of Western modern art and the power of decorative and visual elements of the Oriental and Iranian traditions.

ISL Calligraphy Collection

A wealth of Arabic/Islamic calligraphy titles were on display and were available for browsing. Now, these titles can be can be found via the McGill library catalog.  In addition to the circulating collection, the McGill Islamic Studies Library has a permanent digital exhibit Arabic/Islamic Calligraphy displaying a selection of dry black and white calligraphy and colorful illuminated pieces dating from the 10th to the 19th century.

Calligraphy Events

The ISL hosted two events following the launch of Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy exhibit.

Calligraphy workshop with Mehdi Sharifi

Mehdi Sharifi is a trained calligrapher who masters a number of calligraphic methods. In January 2008, he was awarded the Best Momtaz Degree from the Iranian Calligraphers Association. In the workshop, he exhibited some of his artistic works, and demonstrated different methods for writing Nastaliq. The workshop was well attended. Participants had the chance to see firsthand various calligraphy tools and papers used in Calligraphy art. Almost everyone left with a souvenir from the calligrapher ( individual name written in calligraphic style).

ISL Calligraphy workshop | Octagon Room

A presentation by Dr. Hela Zahar, entitled Modulations du calligraffiti arabe & tensions arabo-occidentales

Dr. Hela Zahar is the director of the Lavallois Centre for Higher Education in Digital Arts and Creative Economics. Multidisciplinary, Zahar is a practitioner in calligraphy and digital arts, a teacher and researcher in urban and digital culture. Recipient of the INRS “Best Doctoral Thesis” Award (2018) and the “Cust of the Jury” Award – 5th Gala of Excellence, Maghreb Congress in Quebec (CMQ): The Way of Success (2017).

This fascinating and original talk was based on Dr Zahar’s PhD thesis defended in 2018 at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (Université du Québec, Montréal). Her thesis analyzed “the political implications (…) of Arabic calligraffiti, a form of urban art that is inspired both by graffiti and Arabic calligraphy” in both Arab and Western cities. After conducting a digital and physical ethnography of calligraffiti that developed in Montreal, Paris, and some Tunisian cities between 2008 and 2017, Zahar examined the “various conflicts and power relations, such as Arab-Western tensions in the visual culture of Western cities, tensions around the religious role of Islamic calligraphy in Arab cities, tensions around urban art in all cities, and around the various digital spaces where these works are disseminated.”

The Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy exhibition was curated by Anaïs Salamon (Head Librarian, ISL) and Senior Library Assistants, Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian and Samah Kasha.