In 1981, while visiting Egypt for a consulting assignment with USAID, I purchased the old Cairo edition of the massive dictionary Tāj al-‘Arūs of Murtaḍā al-Zabīdī (d. 1790). This was in about 10 large and heavy volumes. For it and a few other books I bought a cheap suitcase and paid the porter who carried it from the taxi to the airline desk a large baksheesh. When I arrived back in New York, as I was entering the door of our home, the suitcase burst open and Tāj al-‘Arūs was spread on the floor.

That was some 35 years ago, but now I have pdf files of the entire modern Kuwaiti edition courtesy of While a scholar of Arabic used to either buy the physical book (I purchased a set of Lisān al-‘Arab in Baghdad in 1979) or be based near a major library (I had the advantage of the Oriental Room of the New York Public Library), now all it takes is a click of a mouse and many megabytes of space to build up a library of Arabic dictionaries.

For those who are looking for Arabic dictionaries available online or in pdf format, here is a list. Others are welcome to suggest sources they know.

Online Arabic Dictionaries

• The first place to go for classical Arabic is al-Bāḥith al-‘Arabī (, which is searchable by word in Arabic for the following dictionaries:
Lisān al-‘Arab of Ibn Manẓūr (d. 1311 CE); Maqāyyis al-lugha of Aḥmad ibn Fāris (d. 1004) ; al-Siḥāḥ fī al-lugha of Ismā‘īl ibn Ḥammād al-Jawharī (d. 1003); al-Qāmūs al-muḥīṭ of al-Fīrūzābādī (d. 1329); and, al-‘Ubāb al-zākhir of al-Ḥasan ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣaghānī (d. 1252).

• The Arabic website al-Ma‘ānī ( is an excellent source for Arabic definitions of Arabic terms.

• For Arabic to English, the original text of Edward Lane’s (1863) An Arabic-English Lexicon is available as an online pdf at It is also available as a download at and at

Arabic Dictionaries in PDF

• Al-Fayrūzābādī’s al-Qāmūs al-muḥīṭ is at
• Ibn Manẓūr’s Lisān al-‘Arab is at
• Al-Ṣaghānī’s al-Takmila wa-al-dhayl is at
• Al-Zabīdī’s massive Tāj al-‘arūs (Kuwaiti version) is at

• see also Dozy, R. (1881) Supplement aux Dictionnaires Arabes. Leiden Brill. at

Arabic/English, English/Arabic, etc.

• Baretto, Joseph (1804) A Dictionary of the Persian and Arabic Languages. Calcutta : S. Greenway, India Gazette Press. Vol. 2 at

• Johnson, Francis (1852) A Dictionary, Persian, Arabic and English. London: W.H. Allen. at

• Penrice, John (1873) A Dictionary and Glossary of the Kor-ân. London: Henry S. King. at

• Richardson, John (1810) A Vocabulary, Persian, Arabic, and English; abridged from the quarto edition of Richardson’s dictionary is at

• Steingass, Francis Joseph (1882) English-Arabic Dictionary: For the Use of Both Travellers and Students. London: W. H. Allen and Co. at

• Steingass, Francis Joseph (1884) The Student’s Arabic-English Dictionary. London: Crosby, Lockwood and Son at

• Wehr, Hans (1960) Arabic-English Dictionary is available as a pdf at

• Wortabet, William Thomson Arabic-English Dictionary is available as a pdf at

Arabic Dialect Dictionaries

• Ben Sedirah, Belkassam (1910) Petit dictionnaire arabe-français de la langue parlée en Algérie, contenant les mots et les formules employés dans les lettres et les actes judiciaires. Alger: Jourdan. at

• Biberstein-Kazimirski, Albert de (1860) Dictionnaire arabe-francais contenant toutes les racines de la langue arabe : leurs dérivés, tant dans l’idiome vulgaire que dans l’idiome littéral, ainsi que les dialectes d’Alger et de Maroc. Paris: Maisonneuve: Éditeurs pour les langues orientales, Européenes et comparées. at

• Cameron, Donald Andreas (1892) An Arabic-English vocabulary for the use of English students of modern Egyptian Arabic. London: Bernard Quaritch. at

• Crow, Francis Edward (1901) Arabic manual. A colloquial handbook in the Syrian dialect, for the use of visitors to Syria and Palestine, containing a simplified grammar, a comprehensive English and Arabic vocabulary and dialogues. London: Luzac and co.

• Hinds, Martin and el-Said Badawi (1986) A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic is available as a pdf at

• Landberg, Carlo (1901) Études sur les dialectes de l’Arabie méridionale. I: Ḥaḍramoūt. Leiden: Brill. at

• Landberg, Carlo (1909) Études sur les dialectes de l’Arabie méridionale. Datina. Leiden: Brill.

• Nishio, Tetsuo (1992) A Basic Vocabulary of the Bedouin Arabic Dialect of the Jbāli tribe (Southern Sinai). Tokyo : Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa.

• Rhodokanakis, Nikolaus (1908) Der vulgärarabische Dialekt im Dofâr (Zfâr). Vienna: Alfred Hölder. at

Arabic Thesaurus

• Ibn Qutayba Adab al-kātib. Beirut: Mu’assisa al-Risāla. at

• Ibn Sīda, Al-Mukhaṣṣāṣ. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya. at

• Khuwārizmī, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad (1866-1903) Liber Mafâtîh al-olûm: explicans vocabula technica scientiarum tam Arabum quam peregrinorum. Edited by G. Voten. Lugduni Batavorum: Brill. [in Arabic] at

Specialized Arabic Terms

•Al-Damīrī (1908) Ad-Damîrî’s Ḥayât al-Ḥayawān (A Zoological Lexicon). Translated by A. S. G. Jayakar. London: Luzac. Vol. 2, Part 1. at

• Al-Damīrī Ḥayāt al-ḥayawān ms. at

• Fleury, V and Muammad Souhlal (1915) L’arabe pratique et commercial à l’usage des établissements d’instruction et des commerçants, lecture, écriture, grammaire, syntaxe, exercices d’application, conversation, lexiques, dictionnaire commercial. Alger: Jourdan.

• Dozy, Renard (1845) Dictionnaire Détaillé des noms des vêtements chez les Arabes. Amsterdam: Jean Müller. at

• Fonahn, A. (1922) Arabic and Latin Anatomical Terminology. Kristiania: Jacob Dybwad. at

• Ibrāhīm, Rajab (2002) al-Mu‘jam al-‘Arabī li-asmā’ al-malābis. Cairo: Dār al-Mufāq. at

Mu‘jam muṣṭlaḥāt al-‘ulūm al-shar‘īyya. Saudi Arabia, 2017. Vol. 1 at

• Siddiqi, Abdussattar (1919) Studien über die Persischen Fremdwörter im klassischen Arabisch. Göttingen, Vandenhoeck. at

• Yāqūt, Mu‘jam al-buldan. at

Exploring Arabic Texts:

There are many more sources available at if you put “Arabic language” in the search bar. Important sources for links to pdfs of Arabic language texts include the following:

• Arabic Collections Online (NYU Aby Dhabi):
• Al-Madinah Inernational University Digital Library:
• al-Maktaba al-Shāmila:
• Mawqa‘ al-ḍīyā‘:
• al-Mostafa:
• Waqfeya:

• See the list of sites at

Islamic Africa is a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, academic journal published online and in print. Incorporating the journal Sudanic Africa, Islamic Africa publishes original research concerning Islam in Africa from the social sciences and the humanities, as well as primary source material and commentary essays related to Islamic Studies in Africa. The journal’s geographic scope includes the entire African continent and adjacent islands. Islamic Africa encourages intellectual excellence and seeks to promote scholarly interaction between Africa-based scholars and those located institutionally outside the continent.

For anyone doing research on the Middle East for the past two centuries, there is an incredible archive online. Details below:

Alphabetical List of Open Access Historical Newspapers and Other Periodicals in Middle East & Islamic Studies

Below is a list of Open Access historical newspapers and other periodicals in Middle Eastern Studies.
Most titles on the list have been digitized by independent projects across the globe and may not have been fully cataloged. It is often difficult to find and access them on the web or through catalogs such as HathiTrust, AMEEL, Gallica, Revues, WorldCat, etc.
We welcome your comments and suggestions of additional titles to include. Please use the comment feature at the bottom of the page.

For the list of active Open Access journals follow this link:
Alphabetical List of Open Access Journals in Middle Eastern Studies

132 titles as of May 14, 2015.

For my post on the Arab youth views of democracy, click here.

The photograph illustrates Luce Ben Aben, Moorish women preparing couscous, Algiers, Algeria.

There is a trove of old photographs from around the Middle East at the website

Kurds in national costumes

Young girl of Bethlehem. This color photochrome print was made between 1890 and 1900.

There is an extraordinary collection of 47 Magic Lantern slides from the 1930 Beloit College Logan Museum Expedition to Algeria by George L. Waite, the photographer and cinematographer. This is available in an online collection at the website of the Smithsonian Institution. Click here to access the collection.


Given all the unhappiness, it is refreshing to find a little happiness in the Middle East, even if it is musical. Enjoy the following:

Happy in Yemen (

Happy in Abu Dhabi (

Happy in Algeria (

Happy in Egypt (

Happy In Kuwait (

Happy in Jerusalem (

Happy in Jordan (

Happy in Lebanon (

Happy from Morocco (

Happy in Qatar (

Happy from Saudi Arabia (

Happy in Turkey (

As the month of Ramadan draws to a close, the ethical dissonance that now overshadows just about everything else in the Middle East is evident in the daily news. Muslims are dying daily from suicide bombs strapped to the waists of fellow Muslims, military bullets in Egypt and Syria, as well as sectarian violence just about everywhere. The focus during this month of Ramadan is on fasting, a temporary denial of the basic necessities (food water and sex) for a period of time under the sun. But it would be much better if the fasting extended to a moratorium on all violence.

Islam did not invent the idea of fasting, which was once a major ritual in both Judaism and Christianity. One might argue that contemporary Catholic Lent is a watered-down version, playing fast and loose with the more rigorous traditions of the past. In Islam fasting is one of the so-called five pillars, a ritual that most Muslims believe is essential for the believer. The Quran is quite clear on this:

Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. Surat al-Baqara (2:185)

The fact that there are exceptions (while traveling, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or menstruating, taking necessary medicine, etc.) indicates that there has always been flexibility built into the ritual. In these cases the rule is that the fast be made up at another time in the year. Some individuals (a child before puberty, or someone who is insane or even a person who has a terminal illness) are not obliged to fast at all, nor to make up any fasting days.

But how much flexibility? What if a Muslim chooses not to fast for a reason other than those laid out in centuries of Islamic fiqh? (more…)

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