The Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopedia
Islamic culture and civilization is undoubtedly one of the most radiant civilizations of mankind and numerous races have had a share in its establishment. But there is no doubt that the most important and the largest group responsible for its establishment have cropped up from Iran. A land that itself possesses a great culture tradition and in the Islamic era, because of this very tradition it was transformed into the biggest showcase of the civilization of Islam and the culture of humanity. The knowledge of all the aspects of this great civilization that was known for centuries to the world of middle ages and is today the subject of studies in various fields of university education, is however a difficult task, albeit not impossible. With regard to the vast geographical expanse, of its time this civilization was the creator and origin of very many view points and opinions. Even a comprehensive introduction of it requires the efforts of a large group of researchers in various fields of study. For this reason, whenever the thought of complication of the works, including the various positions of Islamic culture and civilization has occurred , many scholars have entered this arena in order to undertake research of some of its latent dimensions in accordance with the modern viewpoint and scientific methods and shed new light on them. In this manner, the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center was founded in the year 1983 with the purpose of compiling the general and specialized dissertations especially in the area of Islamic and Iranian culture and civilization. It proves this point that if the promoters, commentators and researchers of each civilization belong to that same culture and civilization and make use of the right methods of research, they can certainly do a better job because they are familiar with the body and soul of that culture.
But the realization of such an objective in the initial years of the establishment of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center was not easily attainable for some of the experts and they came to the conclusion that as yet the origins of much of the research on Islam and Iran was in the hands of the European researchers. In fact, until quite recently , the only relatively comprehensive and well- researched source concerning the various positions of Islamic culture and civilization was an encyclopedia that was written by a number of western scholars and a few whose second edition is also now in the process of completion. Despite this, with reliance on the cultural backing and scientific capabilities of the Iranian researchers and scholars, the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center began its work. After years of effort, it brought out its first volumes, all the eastern and western critics confessed to the scientific capabilities of the Iranian researchers and the encyclopedia quickly established itself as a great and documented and accurate source in the world of Islamic and Iranian research. Gradually, it was transformed into one of the largest centers of research in the field of Islamic culture and civilization. The scientific organization of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia and also the tools and equipment of research in it, are worthy of consideration at the global level. At present, in this center, about two-hundred researchers and teachers are employed on a continual basis. The specialized library with approximately four- hundred thousand volumes of printed and hand-written books, films, an assorted number of political charters and documents and more than two thousand titles of scientific magazines, both local and foreign, assist the researchers in the job of research and compilation. This organization is composed of a higher academic council and numerous academic departments. Each department has a head, assistant and some affiliated and associate members. The head of the departments are considered to be among the best and most accredited teachers of the country. The academic departments of the center consist of the following:
The department of Arabic literature; the department of Persian literature; the department of religions and mysticism; the department of geography; the department of science; the department of religious law, Qur’anic sciences and narrative; the department of philosophy; the department of oratory and sects; the department of sociology; the department of art and architecture and the department of Iranian studies. The higher academic council that has the responsibility of determining the academic policies of the center is also composed of heads of academic departments and advisors who hold one session of meeting monthly in which the academic issues are reviewed, proposals are approved or rejected and opinions are presented.
It is necessary to point out that in this center at present there are three encyclopedias in the process of compilation: the Great Islamic Encyclopedia of which ten volumes have been published so far; the Encyclopedia of Islamic Religious Law and the Great Iran Encyclopedia, whose articles are in the process of research and compilation, and each of them consist of various sections with independent managers.
The method of research and compilation in the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center is based on a specific method and is to some extent innovative. It can be said that in the field of group activity it has been extremely successful. This method can be summarized in the implementation of a stage that encompasses all the academic activities for the compilation and composition of the encyclopedia. These stages follow:
1. - Selection of headings
For this task, a special department named “department of selection of titles” exists. The researchers of this department, by referring to firsthand sources, dictionaries, encyclopedias, outstanding books and historical references besides other sources, note down on special sheets of paper, that which evidently can be taken up for research as a source for an encyclopedia and reveal the source or sources of it also right there. With regard to the subject of the title or heading, they write on it the specific code of the relevant department. Then each one of these sheets is placed in alphabetical order in its respective place and is sent at periodic intervals to the office of the academic departments. The head of each department with the help of the assistant departments and with consultation with members of the department and on his academic judgment, reviews these headings. It is possible that some will be eliminated; some others with regard to their subject are sent to other departments, new headings are added to them and or he may propose that it is necessary that several academic departments cooperate with one another in the collection of an article. Then the sheets of headings of each department are returned after these appraisals and presentation of proposals once again to the department for selection of titles and once again they are investigated, reviewed and their measure determined by a special commissions. Each one of the meeting of the special commissions is devoted to the review of the headings of one of the academic departments and the head or the assistant and the representative of the head of the relevant department is also present in this commission. The duty of the commission with the presence of the head or the representative of the academic department is to review the heading and in the process of this review it is possible that a heading is eliminated or returned and or other titles are added to the list of the headings of the department and the approximately quality of an article that is written under any title determined in this same commission. The approved heading is the final list of the titles of the encyclopedia that are registered in the headings office and are communicated to the relevant departments and entered in the computer of the center.
2. Creation of an academic file
A special department in the Encyclopedia Center is responsible for the creation of an academic file meaning identification and gathering of source of research and compilation of headings. Every heading, after its final approval, is communicated to this department and the researchers of the files department under the supervision of the head of the department. With regard to the academic code of the heading that shows what topics it includes and pertains to which academic department, they undertake to create an academic file about that heading. For this purpose it strives to obtain important and reliable sources including eastern or western sources, books, magazines, manuscripts and computerized data and digitalized books. An image form is created to prepare an academic file that at least for the commencement of the research, can be considered to be a good help for the researchers. The researchers of this department are likely to consult with the heads of departments and also other researchers for the creation of a file. In any case, each file, after its creation, is given by the head of the department for completion to a senior researcher and after its completion is sent back to the relevant department.
3. Research and compilation
One of the duties of the academic departments of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center is identifying and absorbing researchers and distinguished writers in Iran and abroad. The head of each department with regard to the approved opening and the academic files that enter the relevant departments, appoints distinguished writers as candidates for compilation of each article. Every topic is sent by means of a note that includes the name of the heading, the length of the article, and date of delivery together with its academic file to the writer under consideration. The writers and researchers of the departments are composed of a small number of associate members and a larger number of affiliated members who are free to make use of all the facilities of the center for the purpose of research. In the process, they can freely consult with the heads of departments and the rest of researchers.
4. Each article after compilation
Each article is delivered to the editor in chief and from there after registration is sent to the department of selection of heading so that the article is reviewed and approved from the point of view of accuracy of heading and or turning over the heading of an article to other headings of the encyclopedia.
5. Department of control of articless
Each article, after having been reviewed by the selection of heading, is returned to the office of the editor in chief and from there with a special note of the editorial is sent to one of the members of the department of control so that article is evaluated from the point of view of accuracy of transference and documentations. In this department, each bit of information that the writer has presented in the article and has originated from a source is compared with the source or sources of reference and documentation and a report is prepared. This report is sent back along with the article and the academic file and then the aforesaid report is read thoroughly amended and completion of the information presented or documentation of the article is carried out.
6. Academic edition
An article that has been reviewed in this manner, together with the control report and amendments of the writer or his replies to the control report, are all delivered to the relevant academic department. In this stage the head of the department or his assistant carry out the evaluation and academic editing of the article. It is possible that in this stage, an article in the opinion of the department head is not of an acceptable academic level and is rejected. At this instance, the head of the departments sends the article for repeat compilation to the original writer or any other writer that he considers to be necessary. In general, an article that from the point of view of structure and compilation of subject and fluency is approved by the head of the department enters the stage of academic editing. Here the editor reviews the control report meticulously and in fact carries out a sort of refereeing regarding the article and parallel to it, polishes the article from the academic point of view. It is possible that the editor at this stage discusses and exchanges views with the writer about the subject or the subjects that have been mentioned in the article so that the ambiguities are eliminated or the source and documents finalized. After the academic editing, the typed article is read and duly attested by the writer and at that point the head of the department also signs and gives his approval and the article is ready to enter the next stage.
7. Final Editing
In this department: all articles of the encyclopedia from every academic department go through several reviews. In other words, every article in the department of final editing from the point of view of validity of the topics taken from the sources, and the length of the article are analyzed and are edited technically from the viewpoint of speech and language and calligraphy. After the completion of the final stage of polishing and editing, the article is sent for final typesetting. Meticulous re-reading of the typeset text and care of the form and meaning of the articles and supervision over the printing of the encyclopedia are among the other duties of this department.
The chief editor of the encyclopedia continuously supervises all the above mentioned stages from selection of titles to final editing and the printing of the work. At each one of these stages, the article goes to the office of the editorial head and the next stage, after the registration in the office and computer of the editorial chief, with a note of the chief editor it enters the next stage. The obligation of the researchers and the encyclopedia center to carry out these stages, eliminates some of the likely problems of team work such as difference of taste and has shown that these differences despite the existence of an organized and tested method is solvable and tolerable and these same differences of opinions can even be the cause of change and improvement.
This method of working as well as the positive results that have been obtained from it has undoubtedly left behind an important effect on the process of Iranian and Islamic research. In addition that the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center, by adopting these techniques, has laid the foundation of a new tradition in the writing of encyclopedia in Iran. It has also facilitated the achievement of result of many university researches and has played an important and effective role especially in the area of compilation of the university. At the present, the subject of many of the post-graduate and doctoral thesis in the field of human sciences have been inspired by the heading and titles of this encyclopedia, that for the first time, has been put forward in a scientific and documented manner. By being in possession of a superior level of research and also availability of sources of research, has introduced new methods and thinking for the researchers. In addition, the emphasis of this center, on employing young researchers in various departments and the advice to the distinguished teachers, has by itself had a great impact in the establishment of a class of young researchers’ knowledge in Iranian and Islamic history and culture. It needs to be mentioned that the big result of it is gradually beginning to appear now. In this respect it can be said that the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center in these years, in the role of a university, has trained researchers that from the academic and research view point are placed at the best of levels. Just as has been pointed out, it strives to arrange for the tools and implements of research in the best form and place them at the disposal of the researchers. Nowadays, even in the field of human sciences research, computers are extremely efficient and useful. Provided that there is sufficient information available of their services, a lot of time can be saved. The Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center, with emphasis on this point and the special bias it has for state of the art technology in order to speed up the realization of its objectives, has endeavored to encourage its researchers to make use of computers and various kinds of software for research work. For this task, it has initiated long term plans and in this respect it is regarded to be among one of the pioneering centers in the Iran.
From the beginning of the year 2000, this center, with the establishment of the “information council,” entered a new phase of its existence in the field of utilization of information technology in an earnest manner. The activity of the center towards utilization of computerized information technology is summarized in three parts as follows:
The first part is computerized and, in general, is considered to be among the essential requirement of a research center. The computerized library in comparison with the ordinary book library and possesses numerous features and advantages. The possibility of computerized browsing in this section is attractive for the researcher so that he can drive the maximum benefit from the use of this library.
The computerized library is composed of three main sections of which the fist one is the ‘CD bank’ consisting of compact discs that place a considerable amount of the required sources and data at the disposal of the researchers. The second section is the archive of the computerized library that is composed of a collection of the files of the library that is arranged and collected from the internet and or other sources and a copy of it is saved in the archive file on the computer memory. To give an approximate statistical data, the archive file at present incorporates something like about four- thousand titles of books, and steps have been taken for increasing its data base. The specialists of the center are presently busy with the planning of a program by means of which one can search the archive file in a centralized library that is an archive of the various links with the internet network and books that are placed online over the network. By making use of the internet facilities we can have access to this library.
The second part of the informative activities of the center is the exchange of information. The interface of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center, with other recognized research and academic centers of Iran and the world, allows researchers of the center to communicate with other researchers that are engaged in research work and are active in similar fields in the various cities and countries of the world. They obtain information of the latest publications and reviews that are performed on the various books. Generally, gaining information of every point can be important for a researcher which necessitates that action be taken towards development of the use of the internet and exchange of information. One of the main objectives of this development can be the extension of the activity of the center of information over the internet.
Presently, researchers in any place in the world can obtain information by communicating with the web site of the center. We hope that in the future, the important texts of it are also placed at the disposal of the researchers.
The local area network or “LAN” of the center, with regard to it having eighty knots, each of which connects and relates a department or academic division with one another, is an important network that is present in possession of a high technical capabilities.
The third part of the informative activity of the center pertains to the matter of functional software. The search, maintenance and editing of information, its organization for subsequent editing and some secondary services such as translation are among the services of this software that facilitate individuals in using their time in matters that can be economized upon as well as help them to make the maximum use of their concentration in their creativity and scientific productivity. Besides the implementation of the general stages of research and collection and compilation of the encyclopedia, it is possible that each one of the academic departments adopt specific methods of selection and primary evaluation of their respective headings and the form of research and presentation of the subject. But all of them agree to this definition that any responsible academic activity at the global level must be undertaken in an impartial manner and be detached from baseless sentiments and prejudices. It needs to be mentioned that the observance of these very points have sometimes resulted in the criticism by those persons that hold the opinion that history and culture must not be viewed from a neutral standpoint. But as it is the job of every one of these to give accurate and at the same time concise information that will assist the reader in his belief and adoption of a stance in relation to events and issues that have been put forward, it cannot look at issues with a prejudiced view. This is the case especially as the objective of this thesis is to benefit all the sects and races in Islamic nations and to transform them into a documentary source and basis throughout the world of Islam. About the conciseness of the proposed subjects, it must be emphasized that the style of expression and presentation of the subject itself requires a special technique and method and is an art that is realized only as a result of application, experience and total and sufficient command over the subject. It is obvious that conciseness is in accordance with scientific and technical standards. It shall enable the reader to avoid having o refer to tens or rather hundreds of different books, and this is one of the very objectives of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia.
The Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center regards the safeguarding of the heritage of the ancestors and the national culture of Iran to be its biggest duty, and the compilation of various thesis is an affirmation of this very duty. But alongside this, it has launched an extensive search for the collection of the written works on the culture of Iran and has acquired invaluable handwritten manuscript in this center whose list has been published and placed at the disposal of researchers.
The Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center maintains the oldest and most complete copy of the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings) of the poet Abol Qasem Ferdowsi in its treasury of hand-written books. This exquisite copy was written in the seventh century A.H. and along with illustration and calligraphy also has the five disciplines in a complete form in its margins. This one-thousand paged Shahnameh” (Book of Kings” has been placed at the disposal of the general public in limited distribution in the form of facsimile copies with two types of covers. The sales department of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center is charged with the duty of arranging for the appropriate and extensive distribution of the publications of the center both inside and outside the country. This department, in addition to participating in all the book fairs at the provincial, country–wide and international levels, has installed an orderly service for the issuance of special membership cards and sending books by post to the address of the subscribers. The department has also taken into consideration special discounts for professors and university students and the lecturers and clerics of the seminaries as well as for teachers and cultural strata of the society. By contacting this department located in the premises of the center, they can avail themselves of these facilities.
Of the collection of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia, so far ten volumes have been published as follows:
First volume: (Aab, Aale Davoud) 1989
Second volume: (Al- Rashid, Ibne Azraq)1990
Third volume: (Ibne Azraq, Ibne Sirin) 1990
Fourth volume: (Ibne Sina, Ibne Maisar) 1991
Fifth volume: (Ibn Maimoon, Abol azQalqnsi)1991
Sixth volume: (AbuAzzeh, Ahmadbin Alavieh, Uzbek Khan)1996
Eighth volume: (Uzbekistan, Ashbilieh)1998
Ninth volume: (Ashtab, Albireh) 2000
Tenth volume: (Albairi, BabaTaher) 2001
Likewise, with regard to the subject of this encyclopedia and for purpose of increasing the readership and their audiences, it has been decided that simultaneous with the publication of the volumes in Farsi, the Arabic translation shall also be published. For this task, a special academic group has been established at the center and outstanding translators and researchers have resorted to the task of translation of the encyclopedia. So far, four volumes of the Arabic translation of this encyclopedia entitled “Great Islamic Encyclopedia” (Dairatul Ma’aref al-Islamiat al-Kubra) has been published as follows:
First volume: (Aab-Aaeen Alimshahi)1411A.H/1991
Second volume: (A-Ibne Khurasan)1416A.H/1995
Third volume: (Ibne Al-Khurasani-Ibnekasir)1418A.H./1997
Fourth volume: (Ibne Kasir-Abu Talib) 1420A.H/1999
After the publication of a few volumes of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia, in accordance with the proposal of the chief editor and the approval of the higher academic council, the compilation of others thesises such as the “Great Encyclopedia of Iran,” which is a universal and national thesis as well as the thesis of religious laws were commenced. Each one of these is in possession of an independent academic organization that is actively engaged in this center and is under the supervision of the chief editor and the higher academic council.
To contact the Great Islamic Encyclopedia Center:
Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopedia
Beginning of Darabad,
Telephone: (Center ): 22976226 (ten lines)
Fax: 2297663 (secretariat), 2281133 (Public and Cultural Relations)
Telephone (Sales Department): 2297677, Fax: 2297707 P.O. Box No.:19975-197