Reading Muslims Project

Reading Muslim is an inter-and multi disciplinary project funded through the university of Toronto’s Connaught Global Challenge Grants Program.

Reading Muslim project is a Network of academics, scholars and researchers, and is re-examining the place of textuality in the Islamic Studies. This project is aiming to “elevate the understanding of Islam, Muslims and society”, by examining a set of methodological and political questions about the Islam today through the lens of textuality.

  • “Who are the privileged readers of Muslim texts?
  • What is the relationship between texts and Islamic tradition?
  • Who gets to decide the relationship between textuality and orthodoxy?
  • How do texts support the legal and bureaucratic institutions of the modern state in its project of governance?

This project provides access to three different types of content such as articles, podcasts and videos. Each item provides an introduction about the author along with the full access to the content.

“Reading Muslims begins from the premise that consideration of texts and textual methods are indispensable to the study of Islam. Islam began with a book : al-Kitāb, the Qur’anic revelations. From this first textual experience came others: Qur’anic exegesis, the Law, Sufism, etc. Islamic studies scholars, whether Muslim or not, read Muslim texts to understand the Islamic tradition. But they also read Muslim bodies and practices through an ethnographic lens. And, to make things more complicated, they read Muslims as readers of their texts, paying attention to various interpretations within Muslim communities.”

This platform is comprised of four research hubs. Hub 1: Muslims as Readers, Hub, 2: National Security and Anti-Muslim Racism, Hub 3: Reading Practices, Hub 4: Anthropology of Islam. Under each hub researchers and community partners are looking “textuality in Islamic studies and its place in the formation of community identities in dynamic societies.”

Each hub provides a brief introduction to the aspects that will be examined, name of the researchers and community partners as well as access to the various available contents through the Reading Muslims platform.

Moreover, Reading Muslims provides information about their upcoming events on their website.

Qur’an Tools

Qur’an Tools [login page] is a free and open source software facilitating the critical study of the Qur’anic text. It was created and developed by Dr. R. Michael McCoy former Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Notre Dame and Dr. Andrew G. Bannister, Adjunct Research fellow at Melbourne School of Theology, and an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Toronto.

In order to use Qur’an Tools, you will need to create an account (email/password). Once logged in, all functionalities become accessible: searching, browsing, text mining, grammatical analysis, cross-referencing, and so much more.

To get started, we suggest consulting the User Guide that provides an outline and explanations of the many features available.

From the homepage, you can already conduct a great variety of searches in Arabic, English transliteration or English. It is important to point that English translations used by Qur’an Tools are:

  • M. Pickthall’s The Meaning of the Glorious Koran: an Explanatory Translation published in 1930
  • A. Yusuf Ali’s The Holy Quran Translation released in 1937
  • A. J. Arberry’s The Koran Interpreted first published in 1955
  • M. H. Shakir’s The Holy Quran originally issued in 1968.

The ‘Roots’ window offers to add a specific word root to your search box, the ‘Verse Picker’ allows to access directly a particular verse, and the virtual keyboard enables to type either Arabic letters or transliterated characters.

Qur’an Tools is so rich in terms of options and functionalities, that it would impossible to provide a screenshot of every single result page that may display. However, we can highlight some commonalities accross results pages: the Arabic text always comes accompanied by its transliteration in Latin characters, and a translation; also, search terms are highlighted.

Reader Mode
Interlinear Mode
Parse Mode

More advanced features can be found at the top of the page:

Among those, we will only highlight the ‘Chart” functionality that provides visual representations of the textual analysis:

Last, from the Preferences and Account Settings page, users can customise display options such as the search result highlight colour, or the default English translation. And for more insight on how to use the software, a video tutorial is available. Students and scholars whose research involves textual analysis of the Qur’anic text will benefit greatly from this powerful tool.

Qur’an Tools is an open source project, released under the GNU General Public License with terms of use.

GSSneareast: “Network for Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Near East”

GSSneareast: Network for Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Near East is an online research and networking platform designed by and for scholars interested in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in the Near East. Its aim is to set the grounds for a collaborative, stimulating, and inter-disciplinary virtual environment dedicated to researchers and institutions engaged in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in the Middle East and beyond. The platform was softly launched in the Fall of 2021 and should be completed in the Fall of 2022.

GSSneareast was created and is maintained by Gülşah Şenkol, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Orient-Institut Istanbul, specializing in comparative women’s history in the Middle East. Dr. Şenkol graduated in History from Ohio State University in 2019, and held a number of visiting fellow positions at North-American, Turkish and Swedish Universities/Research Centers. Her research focuses on the history of feminist movements in the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“GSSneareast is grounded firmly in the idea that gender, and sexuality studies need[…] to be a collaborative endeavor, and that conversation[s] about our disciplines, approaches, and research will play a big role in moving scholarship forward.”

The platform was endorsed by numerous research institutions: the Queer and Feminist Studies Working Group at the European University Institute (EUI), Gesellschaft für Turkologie, Osmanistik und Türkeiforschung (GTOT), Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes (IFEA), Institute for Mediterranean StudiesFoundation for Research & Technology Hellas (IMS-FORTH), Kadir Has University Gender and Women’s Studies Research Center (KHAS GWSRC), Koç University, Netherlands Institute in Turkey (NIT), Rem-Em: Remembering and Coexisting in the Eastern Mediterranean Platform, Sabancı University Istanbul Policy Center (IPC-MERCATOR), the Association for Women’s and Gender Studies in Turkey (TOCIKAD), the History Foundation (Tarih Vakfı), the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII), Women’s Library and Information Center Foundation in Turkey (WLICF).

At the time of our visit, the GSSneareast platform highlighted various past and future projects such as:

According to Dr. Şenkol’s description of the project, the GSSneareast platform should eventually feature geographic information system (GIS) mapping tools to create an interactive database of scholars in the field, WGSS programs, departments, and research centers in the region and beyond, Libraries and archives holding relevant collections, not-for-profit organizations, research projects, and databases focusing on Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Near East. The platform should also make available practical information for young scholars in the field (“How to’s”), a podcast, and a discussion forum, and hold an annual colloquium and a biennial workshop to advance conversations on innovative approaches to the field.

To learn more about the GSSneareast platform and related projects, you may watch this short promotional video :

The Poetry Encyclopedia الموسوعة الشعرية

The Poetry Encyclopedia الموسوعة الشعرية is the first electronic encyclopedia of Arabic poetry launched in 1998, and then the website was updated in April 2016. The Encyclopedia is a model that demonstrates the efforts of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism to enhance the cultural scene. The department is keen to research, record and document the ancient heritage of Arab culture, and reissuing it in a modern form as a sustainable legacy for current and future generations.

All those interested in literature, poetry and readers can visit the Poetry Encyclopedia and take advantage of the resources, content, easy search channels and interactive applications available through this new advanced edition. “Poetry Encyclopedia 2016” a new vision for cultural resources.

The homepage displays various corners, such as Poet and Diwan شاعر و ديوان, poem of the day قصيدة اليوم, article of the month المقالات الشهرية and the listening corner الاستماع للقصائد, which includes a large number of poems heard by the voices of elite poets and artists. The heritage library and linguistic dictionaries are other areas that are worthwhile exploring.

The encyclopedia currently presents selected collections of elite Arab poets, past and present, even if the poets didn’t have a printed collection. It includes about 3 million verses within 143,000 poems in 3,080 collections.

It is important to note that the new version provides information on the poet, the poetic diwan, the appropriateness of the poem’s systems (Metre and rhyme) and learn about different styles of Arabic poetry and read literary analysis. Also, users can search by poet’s name, verse, phrase, or date of authorship.

In addition to the heritage library corner, which includes 488 references of the most famous and the most important collections and encyclopedias of Arabic literature and its dictionaries.

The Poetry Encyclopedia provides an interactive electronic portal and an integrated tributary of knowledge and literature. It provides readers with easy and quick access to a wide range of poems and listen to them in different techniques. As well as providing an archive space, and channels for recording their impressions and opinions.

Wikilala: an Ottoman digital library

Started in 2019, Wikilala is a digital library making available and full-text searchable documents printed between 1729, when Ibrahim Müteferriqa founded the first Turkish printing Press and the letter revolution in 1928. The project was launched by Hiperlink‘s (first Turkish digital library) project manager, Sadi Özgür, and an academic member at the History Department of Istanbul Aydın University that acted as a consultant, Harun Tuncer.

Wikilala aims “to enable researchers and enthusiasts studying in almost all branches of science, such as culture, art, history, literature, architecture etc. to rediscover even the smallest details in order to illuminate a landscape that has been dimly lighted for two centuries. (…) Wikilala allows (…) to access this huge storage of knowledge.”

“About” page, Wikilala (URL:https://www.wikilala.com/about)

According to the description on the “About” page, Wikilala includes thousands of books, magazines, journals, newspapers,etc. that have been digitized in high-resolution, catalogued, and OCR’ed (i.e. Optical Recognition Character) to allow for full-text searchability. The project also include the “latinization” of texts to allow people who don’t have command of Ottoman Turkish to search the texts in Latin script.

To access Wikilala materials, visitors need to create an account (which is free with an institutional email). Once logged-in, the entire library becomes available.

From the main page (captured above), users can search the library in Latin or Arabic scripts (thanks to a handy multilingual and multialphabets virtual keyboard), or pre-select the type of documents they want to search/read: Newspapers, Journals, Books, Manuscripts and Documents.

From the results page, users will be able to sort the list in the order they want (alphabetical, chronological, etc.) and/or refine the list using the filters available in the right-hand-side column.

There are two methods to open documents: clicking on the Read Now button at the bottom right of the item’s page, or scrolling down to the thumbnails view: both options will open Wikilala’s viewer. The viewer is limited to online reading and full-text search: unfortunately, it does not offer download, saving or printing options. Perhaps will this be a future development?

Wikilala is a platform developed by a private company named hiperkitap, that works on numerous other products individuals and institutions can subscribe to or purchase. McGill can trial it for free until the end of 2021: take advantage of it!

The interface is available in both Turkish and English.

Islamic Art at The David Collection

The David Collection is a museum of fine and applied art in Copenhagen, Denmark, built around the private collections of lawyer, businessman and art collector C. L. David.

The museum is particularly noted for its collection of Islamic art one of the largest in Northern Europe. The collection of Islamic art contains works from almost the entire Islamic realm, from Spain in the West to India in the East and dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries.

Islamic Art Collection

The Islamic works of art are presented from three different perspectives: Islamic art organized chronologically and geographically, Islamic art grouped according to material, and Islamic art presented in its cultural context.

Dynasties and Geography

The works of art here are divided into 20 sections according to specific epochs and dynasties and according to different geographic regions. Each of the 20 sections provides a historical introduction, a map, a selection of works of art, coins, and architecture.

Materials

The objects are categorized into eight different groups. This makes it possible to see how both stylistic features and techniques were developed within a specific medium both over time and across geographical borders.

Calligraphy / Miniature Painting / Ceramics / Glass / Stone and Stucco / Ivory, Wood, and Papier-mâché / Metalwork, / Weapons, and Jewelry / Textiles, Carpets, and Leather

Cultural-history Themes

Focusing specifically on the cultural background for art in the Islamic world, this section illustrates fourteen themes of special relevance. Each theme is illustrated with a selected group of objects, accompanied by an explanatory text.

Islam, the Religion \The Five Pillars of Islam \ The Prophet Muhammad \ Mecca and the Kaaba \ Sunni and Shia \ The Mosque \ The Religious Prohibition Against Images \ Symbolism in Islamic Art \ Islam in China \ Sufis \ Dervishes, and Holy Men \ Trade, Measures, and Weights \Mechanics, Astronomy, and Astrology \ Medical Science \The Art of War

Primary Source Database Trials (Fall 2021)

During the month of October (September 27th to October 27th), the Islamic Studies Library will be trialing several primary source (mainly newspapers and periodicals) databases that are of interest to anyone whose research focuses on Afghanistan, the Arab World in general and Egypt in particular, or Turkey. Please check below for content and access details.

  1. Afghan Central Press Digital Archive

The ‘Afghan Central Press’ collection brings together four national, Kabul-based publications of Afghanistan whose long runs and prominence provide a concentrated vantage point for understanding developments in Afghanistan for much of the twentieth century. The English-language Kabul Times is presented alongside Pushto publications Anis, Hewad, and Islah.Together, the archives of these newspapers provide a chronicle of events from the fall of the Kingdom of Afghanistan, the establishment of the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the Soviet invasion, the rise of the Mujahedeen, the establishment of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, invasion by the United States and the ensuing period of reconstruction from the view of the capital.

https://gpa.eastview.com/acp/

2. Al-Ahram Digital Archive

Founded in 1875, Al-Ahram (الأهرام‎, “The Pyramids”) is one of the longest-running newspapers in the Middle East. It has long been regarded as Egypt’s most authoritative and influential newspaper, and one of the most important newspapers in the Arab world, with a circulation of over 1 million. Prior to 1960, the newspaper was an independent publication and was renowned for its objectivity and independence. After being nationalized by President Nasser in 1960, Al-Ahram became the de facto voice of the Egyptian government and today the newspaper is managed by the Supreme Council of Press. Al-Ahram has featured writings by some of the most important political and literary voices of the day, including Nobel Literature Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, nationalist leaders Mustafa Kamil and Saad Zaghlul, as well as Salama Moussa, Taha Hussein, Yusuf Idris, Edward Said, Hamid Dabashi, and Anis Mansour.

The interface of ‘Al-Ahram’ is available in both English and Arabic.

https://gpa.eastview.com/alahram/

3. Cumhuriyet Digital Archive

Established in May 1924, ‘Cumhuriyet’ (“The Republic”) is the oldest secular Turkish daily newspaper and is widely considered one of the last remaining opposition newspapers in Turkey. Founded by journalist Yunus Nadi Abalıoğlu at the initiative of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Cumhuriyet was the first newspaper of the Turkish Republic and promoted a belief in democracy, secularism and the rule of law. According to the newspaper’s editorial principles: Cumhuriyet is an independent newspaper; it is the defender of nothing but the Republic, of democracy in the scientific and broad sense. It will fight every force that tries to overthrow the Republic and the notion and principles of democracy. It will endeavor for the embracing by society of the principle of secularism along the path of “Enlightenment” ushered in by Atatürk’s revolution and principles. Over the last 95 years, Cumhuriyet has stood witness to the changing landscape of Turkey’s political, social and economic environment. Despite the challenges of these times, the institution of Cumhuriyet has sustained its coverage of domestic and international news, providing critical documentation of Turkey’s dynamic history and its relations with the global community. In the twenty-first century, Cumhuriyet continues its dedication to the principles of democracy and secularism as embodied by Atatürk. The newspaper has a daily circulation of over 30,000 and receives roughly 25 million visitors to its website each month. It is one of the most influential newspapers in Turkey and is regarded by domestic and foreign readers as a reliable source for impartial, intelligent news reporting.

The interface of ‘Cumhuriyet Digital Archive’ is available in both English and Turkish.

https://gpa.eastview.com/cumhuriyet/

4. Kotobarabia Arab Leaders, Historians and Philosophers Collection

‘Kotobarabia: Arab Leaders, Historians and Philosophers’ is “a compendium of early works of an astounding variety of disciplines from important Arab writers, spanning fields from feminism and social theory, to classics of literature, history, and the sciences. Includes works by the Four Imams of the Sunni Sect, the Al Azhar Modern Sheikhs, various authors of the Modern Arab Enlightenment, and rare works by the former Egyptian royal family. Consisting mostly of historic texts, the books in this collection are full-image, with searchable metadata only.

https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/books/1710#/

The online reading interface is very similar for preriodicals and monographs. It allows to navigate easily within documents from the -left or right-hand side depending on the language of the interface- side menu. In addition, users will be able to read in full screen mode, select and copy a section to paste elsewehre, print, download as a PDF, email and cite. It is also possible to search for occurrences within publications: a virtual keyboard is available for those who don’t have non-roman scripts keyboards.

The trials started on Monday, September 27th, and will run until Wednesday, October 27th. These databases can be accessed either using the links provided in this blog post, or going to the A-Z database list (as shown below):

Please note access is based on IP addresses, and therefore limited to members of the McGill community. Also, note that activating the VPN may be required when/if you are off-campus. Check these databases out and let us know what you think!

A highlight of the Islamic Studies Library research guides

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia (A Center for Islamic and Iranian Studies)

The Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia started in 1981 as a scientific research institution aiming to publish general and specialized encyclopedia.

To achieve their goal a group of scholars and researchers from different fields were called and after carefully studying best practices in the world of encyclopedias, Great Islamic Encyclopaedia- دائرة‌المعارف بزرگ اسلامی was compiled as their first project. Later the center expanded to a research institution with a broader mandate in research and publishing and developed a digital library as well as published various other encyclopedias in different topics such as culture, Iran’s folk culture, Islam, Iran’s Geography, etc.

Some of their encyclopedias are open access and available via The center’s website, Encyclopedias such as:

Image credit : https://wikinoor.ir

Encyclopedia of Iran which is a resource about Iran’s folklore culture and provides information about values, customs, beliefs, superstitions in Iran’s society as well as documenting the oral culture for historical and sociological research. So far 6 volumes are published, this encyclopedia is published in Persian language however each entry has a roman phonetics as well as a label with the corresponding topic of the entry or name of the Author of that entry.

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Image credit: https://fa.wikipedia.org

Great Islamic Encyclopaedia- دائرة‌المعارف بزرگ اسلامی which is known to be a comprehensive encyclopedia on Islamic topics is also available online. This encyclopedia has been translated to English, Arabic as well but only the one in Persian is accessible online. Each entry besides providing access to the entry article, also provides corresponding volume number in the print version for that article. Islamic Studies Library of McGill has the print version of the book and can be accessed here   .

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دانشنامۀ فرهنگ مردم ایران  is another open access resource from this center, encyclopedia of Iranian people culture, which explores various aspects of Iranian culture from past to contemporary era and is a useful resource for sociological, historical and anthropological research.

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دانشنامه تهران بزرگ  The Greater Tehran Encyclopedia is a detailed and specialized encyclopedia designed to compile a comprehensive, credible information about  all aspects of the material and spiritual life of Greater Tehran. It is estimated that the Great Encyclopedia of Tehran will contain about 12,000 articles, which will cover various topics from the aspects of political, social and cultural life of Greater Tehran, especially in the last 200 years.

The Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia website also lists the most recent added articles from each of the mentioned encyclopedias as well as the most viewed articles, access here.

Islamic Studies as Sacrificial Listening

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

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

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

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