First Phase: Encyclopaedias
The Muslim Civilisations Abstracts project was inspired by the conference on encyclopaedias, “Organising Knowledge: Encyclopaedic Activities in the Pre-Eighteenth Century Muslim World”, organised in June 2003 at AKU-ISMC in London. Due to the fact that in recent years Muslim societies have experienced a resurgence in the production of encyclopaedic works, it was proposed that the project explores this area in the initial phase, and a programme of thematic research was suggested for the later phases. The encyclopaedic projects in question had been initiated in 1983 when a certain “pride and confidence in the Islamic religious and cultural heritage” was being affirmed concurrently in Iran and Turkey. Hence the Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopedia was launched in Iran and the TDV Islam Ansiklopedisi was conceived by the Turkish Religious Foundation in Turkey.
Although, these initiatives inspired the MCA project, the objectives of this endeavour was to allow access to perspectives published in less accessible languages in order to generate more balanced views. The goal was not to endorse these studies and present them as more valuable than English or French publications, but rather make them known to the public at large. Moreover, the project sought to make available abstracts and reviews of Encyclopaedias dealing with the Muslim societies, rather than undertaking an encyclopaedic project.
The project’s initial stage covered encyclopaedias published in any language and in any country. By covering all topics related to Muslim civilisations, and by focusing on encyclopaedic works, the MCA has engineered a multidisciplinary project. Scholars working on an array of topics related to Muslim civilisations have been involved in the first stage of the project, and, thanks to their dedication and insight, the MCA catalogue is equipped with the best intellectual tools for the benefit of researchers.
The first catalogue was published in 2009 under the title of Encyclopedias about Muslim Civilisations, and gathered more than 200 abstracts.
The pilot project on encyclopaedias provided an excellent opportunity to set a paradigm for the MCA project as a whole. Despite covering a broad range of fields, this exercise has given the editorial team the necessary time to refine its goals, and to select themes for the later stages.