Friday, July 20, 2007

223)Libraries, where knowledge is stored and dispensed in the form of the written word, art, picture and digital media.

Libraries, those repositories of accumulated knowledge, have played a key role in every incarnation of Ismaili and Muslim society and culture since the inception of Islam. Those libraries that immediately come to mind are the ones in Baghdad(Abbasid Caliphate), Cordoba and Seville(Umayyad Islamic Spain), Al-Azhar and Dar al-Ilm(Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt), the library at Alamut(Persia) and many others. When the Mongols invaded Alamut in 1256CE, they made a point of destroying the Ismaili libraries during their genocidal orgy.

Libraries and, more importantly, the links between and among libraries, are once again taking their proper place in Civil Society among different Islamic cultures:

IIS Participates in Middle East Libraries Conference
July 2007

Wendy Robinson, a Research Assistant at IIS’ Department of Academic Research and Publications (DARP), gave a presentation at the MELCOM International (Middle East Libraries Committee) conference in Sarajevo last month on the forthcoming publication of Encyclopaedia Islamica. Ms Robinson gave the talk to the conference of librarians working in the field of Middle Eastern studies at their annual meeting, held for the first time in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The talk introduced the IIS and Encyclopaedia Islamica, an abridged translation of the Persian Encyclopaedia Da’irat al-Ma‘arif-i Buzurg-i Islami. The first volume of the translation will be published in 2008 under the chief-editorship of Professor Wilferd Madelung and will encompass approximately 16 volumes.

The conference was hosted by the Bosniac Institute in Sarajevo and run in conjunction with the Faculty of Islamic Studies of the University of Sarajevo. More than fifty delegates were in attendance from institutions based in Europe, the Middle East and North America. The IIS was also represented at the conference by Ms Shellina Karmali, the Audio-Visual and Special Collections Librarian. Participants discussed recent developments in bibliography, cataloguing, technology, and co-operation between institutions, and showcased items of specific interest in their collections.

There was also considerable discussion of methods to preserve the unique cultural heritage of manuscript and rare book collections related to Islam and Muslims, particularly by digitisation. The importance of this endeavour was highlighted by a special visit to the former National Library in Sarajevo, 90% of whose collection (1.5 million volumes) was destroyed by shelling during the siege of the city. One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation by AndrĂ¡s Riedlmayer, of the Aga Khan program at Harvard University, on the destruction of Islamic cultural heritage in the Balkans. One of the worst examples of which was the burning in 1992 of Sarajevo’s Institute for Oriental Studies, resulting in the loss of the Ottoman provincial archives and the country’s richest collection of Islamic manuscripts (5,263 codices in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, Persian and Bosnian).

Conference participants also visited the Ghazi Husrev Bey Library, the Faculty of Oriental Studies in Sarajevo, the Blagaj Tekke and the famous Stari Most (old bridge) and old city in Mostar, funds for the restoration of which were provided by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4(2006)
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan 4(2005)