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Scholars, Scribes, and Readers: An Advanced Course in Arabic Manuscript Studies6-10 June 2016, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK

The Islamic Manuscript Association, in cooperation with Cambridge University Library and the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation, is pleased to announce an advanced short course in manuscript studies, entitled Scholars, Scribes, and Readers: An Advanced Course in Arabic Manuscript Studies, which will be held at Cambridge University Library from 6 to 10 June 2016.

This intensive five-day course is intended for researchers, librarians, curators, and anyone else working with Islamic manuscripts. As an advanced course, it is particularly aimed at those who already have some experience in Islamic codicology and palaeography and all participants must have a good reading knowledge of Arabic. The course will focus on Arabic-language manuscripts from various regions, including historical Turkey, Iran, and India. It is hoped that this advanced course will allow participants to gain greater exposure to and familiarity with the vast array of practices encountered in Arabic manuscripts.

The workshop will consist of three days of illustrated, interactive lectures on selected manuscripts and two days of hands-on sessions focusing on a selection of manuscripts from the Cambridge University Library collection. The manuscripts selected for presentation by the instructor cover the whole range of scribal practices encountered in a variety of subjects/genres, geographical regions, and historical periods (see the programme for details).

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You can download fifty years of publications by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for free. Yes, for free. There are books on the art of Islamic Spain, Egypt, the Near East, etc. Check it out here.

The Digital Islamic Humanities Project at Brown University is pleased to announce its third annual conference, titled “Distant Reading and the Islamic Archive,” which will be held on Friday, October 16, 2015.

Paper abstracts and the full event program may be found on the conference website (http://islamichumanities.org/conference-2015/).

Please note that event will be live-streamed over the web. You may access the webcast beginning tomorrow morning (Friday) at 9:00 am EST.

Speakers and paper titles:

David Vishanoff, “A Customizable Exaptive “Xap” for Charting Currents of Islamic Discourse across Multiple Bibliographic and Full Text Datasets”

Peter Verkinderen, José Antonio Haro Peralta, and Hannah-Lena Hagemann, “Which Muḥammad? Computer-Based Tools for the Identification of Moving Elites in the Early Islamic Empire”

Alexander Magidow & Yonatan Belinkov, “Digital Philology and the History of Written Arabic”

Elias Muhanna, “Modeling Mannerism in Classical Arabic Poetry”

Maxim Romanov, “al-Ḏahabī’s Monster: Dissecting a 50-Volume Arabic Chronicle-cum-Biographical Collection From the 14th Century CE”

Seyed Mohammad Bagher Sajadi & Mohammad Sadegh Rasooli, “Automatic Proper Names Extraction from Old Islamic Literature”

Karen Pinto, “MIME and Other Digital Experimentations with Medieval Islamic Maps”

Nir Shafir, “Distant Reading the Material and Bibliographic Record of the Early Modern Islamic Archive”

Eric van Lit, “A Digital Approach for Production and Transmission of Knowledge in Islamic Intellectual History”

Taimoor Shahid, “Mobile Ethics: Travel and Cosmopolitanism in the Islamic Archive”


Rustam fighting a Jinn from a medieval Islamic manuscript

Anyone who has read about Aladdin knows about the genie in a lamp. The English term “genie” stems from the Arabic “jinn,” a reference to spirits in various physical forms that are said within traditional Islamic theology to have been created from fire. Artistic representations of the jinn are varied, but often show monstrous and distorted bodies. A collection of illustrations can be found online here. From our modern perch, such depictions belong to fantasy and science fiction. But literalists who seek to return to the way of thinking, although selectively, of what they think was thought at the time of the Prophet seem to believe in the jinn as part of an apocalyptic scenario for the end of the world.

While denouncing those who would walk into a bar and order gin and tonic, the extreme salafi belief in a real-life jinn is just as toxic, and not simply to one’s sobriety. I grew up in a Fundamentalist Baptist church where belief in the Devil, evil spirits and angels was prominent. It was convenient to have the Devil. a.k.a. Satan, around to explain why bad things kept happening to otherwise good people. The philosophical question of the “problem of evil” and how a just and loving God could allow such evil in the world was evaded by saying that God was allowing Satan to control the world. Life, thus, was a test and one that no one could win alone. Hence the need to put a “Jesus saves” bumper sticker on your car and condemn the “unsaved.”

There are few greater evils in the world today than belief in an unseen evil power that serves as the excuse to explain why there is so much hatred, prejudice, violence and killing. The Christian doctrine of “original sin” shifts the blame back to a naked Adam and Eve, who dared to seek the knowledge of good and evil. Islam avoids original sin, but nevertheless there have been many Muslims who justify evil in this life. Reports of ISIS fanatics who rape Yazidi women as a duty to their faith is a case in point. So is the mantra that the caliph or ruler must be obeyed, no matter how unfair, corrupt and evil he is. The old Manichean dualism of an eternal battle of good vs. evil is not only maintained, but magnified.

I wish there really were jinn and that they would show themselves so that modern day Rustam’s could battle them and conquer the fear of such beasts. It is the fear of the invisible that is the greatest fear to overcome.

Welcome to the Abou Naddara Collection website!

This website offers the complete newspapers published by the Egyptian nationalist James Sanua (يعقوب صنوع, 1839-1912) from 1878 to 1910. In addition, formerly unpublished manuscripts by the same author, articles from newspapers of the period about the journalist and his oeuvre, as well as the decorations he received are also available. Most of the material was directly scanned from the originals published at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, and therefore contains an ample variety of magnificent and colorful lithographs.

It was financed by the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” of Heidelberg University and realized in a collaboration of Project B1 “Gauging Cultural Asymmetries: Asian Satire and the Search for Identity in the Era of Colonialism and Imperialism” and the Visual Resources Team of the Cluster’s Heidelberg Research Architecture.

Newsweek has an interesting article by Christiane Gruber, an associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Michigan, about Muslim cartoons against ISIS. Check it out here.

The following illustration is preserved in the New York Public Library. It features Muhammad receiving a letter from Bazan, the king of Yemen. It was created for Murad III, Sultan of the Turks, 1546-1595 by Darîr Erzurumî, fl. 14th cent.

Orientality is a biennial conference series developed by the Orientalist Museum, Doha.

The inaugural conference took place at Cambridge University in 2013. Subsequent conferences are scheduled for the National Portrait Gallery, London, 2015.

The only conference of its kind, Orientality gives international art and museum professionals an opportunity to come together and discuss the art, history, politics and future of the Orientalist art movement.

In the process it aims to develop understanding between east and west, and showcase the continued vibrancy of the Orientalist art movement in the 21st century.

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