Author Archives: Justin Parrott

About Justin Parrott

Justin is Acquisitions and Research Librarian at NYUAD specializing in the Middle East, Islamic studies, and Arabic literature.

How do you vowel that Arabic name?

One tricky challenge students of Arabic encounter is reading an Arabic name or word without its vowels.

As students know, Arabic is not always written with its vowels. Sometimes you’ll come across a name like this:

 ابن الملقن

If you’ve never heard the name before, how could you know how to say it just from reading it?

Is it Ibn al-Malqan? al-Mulqan? al-Milqun?

Fortunately, the Library of Congress assigns standard transliterations of Arabic names that libraries all over the world follow. If you type an Arabic name into world-wide library database Worldcat.org, you’ll probably find it in a record somewhere.

Let’s see what we find this time:

Worldcat screenshot

Looking at all these records, we now know with a high degree of certainty that the author’s name is ʻUmar ibn ʻAlī Ibn al-Mulaqqin. There is a double consonant (shaddah) on the qaf. Wow, I was way off!

I use Worldcat all the time to help me vowel Arabic words I’ve never heard before. If you use another way, let us know!

Islam in the age of apps and social media

We know that the information age, with the advent of the internet and the iPhone, has made a big difference in the lives of people all over the world. But how has it affected the way Muslims practice Islam and network with each other?

Pioneering work on this topic has been done by Gary Bunt at the University of Wales. He argues, with much evidence, that the internet has profoundly impacted the way some Muslims perceive Islam, even that there now exist specific forms of “digital Islam” distinct from traditional methods of networking..

And not just the internet, but also Facebook, Twitter, and smart phone apps are changing views of Islam very rapidly and continuously, for better or worse. This ongoing process is being documented and discussed at Dr. Bunt’s website Virtually Islamic.

Do you have something you can add to the conversation?

Here is a short bibliography to get you started:

Bunt, Gary R. Virtually Islamic: Computer-mediated Communication and Cyber Islamic Environments. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000.

Bunt, Gary R. Islam in the Digital Age: E-jihad, Online Fatwas and Cyber Islamic Environments. London: Pluto Press, 2003.

Bunt, Gary R. iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Bunt, Gary R. “Surfing the App Souq: Islamic Applications for Mobile Devices.” CyberOrient 14.1 (2010).

El-Nawawy, Mohammed, and Sahar Khamis. Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Come to the library if you need help!

Oxford Handbooks are online all the time

Did you know that we can access the set of Oxford Handbooks online? (Click the link!)

We have many of these in print, but some of them we only have access to online. And FYI, some of these can only be accessed by going through the databases tab (link above) and cannot be accessed by searching in the books & more tab.

These handbooks are great references resources for getting yourself up to speed on a topic as quickly as possible, and they’re a great complement to Oxford Islamic Studies online.

Some of the handbooks most relevant to Islamic studies are the following:

  • The Oxford handbook of Islamic theology
  • The Oxford handbook of Islam and politics
  • The Oxford handbook of American Islam
  • The Oxford handbook of African American Islam
  • The Oxford handbook of European Islam
  • The Oxford handbook of the Abrahamic religions
  • The Oxford handbook of the sociology of religion
  • The Oxford handbook of religion and the American news media
  • The Oxford handbook of religion and the arts
  • The Oxford handbook of religion and violence
  • The Oxford handbook of religious diversity
  • The Oxford handbook of religion, conflict, and peacebuilding

There are even more exciting topics that can help you in a wide variety of subjects. Take a look through the database and see if you can find something that interests you!

New Book: Arab liberal thought after 1967

The Middle East is often caricatured as a region fraught with totalitarian ideologies, authoritarianism, and violent conflict. Challenging this assertion, the authors of this newly-arrived collection of essays examine the core issues of post-1967 Arab liberalism. Students will find the citations and bibliographies in this dense volume a good point of departure for further research.

Arab liberal ideas have found an affinity within a number of ideological camps: nationalists, leftists, Marxists, mystics, secularists, and Islamists. Debates surround the meanings and boundaries of key concepts like citizenship, democracy, human rights, and pluralism. Sometimes these various camps agree or disagree on their vision of a just society, but regardless they’re all part of the ongoing conversation.

Do you have anything to add to the discussion?

Hatina, Meir, and Christoph Schumann. Arab Liberal Thought After 1967: Old Dilemmas, New Perceptions. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

So you have a research project – where to start?

When you’re beginning a research project from scratch and you don’t have enough background information, the best place to start are the well-known reference and introductory works on the subject.

These types of work have many titles: encyclopedias, companions, textbooks, dictionaries, bibliographies, lexicons, introductions, primers, handbooks, key to… etc.

Encyclopedias are usually the best place to start, as they have the most detailed level of research among reference works. Articles within them are supposed to be “a repository of all known facts,” i.e. a current overview of everything known on a given topic. They distill vast bodies of secondary research into a small space to make it easier for you to see the big picture.

Encyclopedias tend to range from very broad (i.e. Encyclopedia of Islam) to more specialized and specific (i.e. Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World). If you don’t know a lot already, you want to begin with the general topics and work your way into more specific materials. Imagine you are trying to find a little café in New York City. First, you might need to look at a map of the whole city, then at a map of Manhattan, then of a map of Uptown, and then a map of the subway. Same thing with encyclopedias and references.

While encyclopedias ought to be neutral, scholarship often advances from a relative viewpoint. You might notice that some encyclopedias lean towards various positions. That’s why it’s always a good idea to refer to multiple reference sources.

Sometimes the field of scholarship advances quickly and a new work appears at the time the reference encyclopedia was published. Keep in mind that recently published sources might not account for a year or two of secondary literature published after its writing. Even old encyclopedias have value as you can trace the intellectual history of a concept.

Take note, however, that reference works are usually not cited in academic papers. They’re mostly used for getting you up to speed on a topic.

Today, the most important references are online. My particular favorite is Oxford Islamic Studies, but all of them are generally good resources. Here are some of the go-to references in Islamic Studies:

Take a look at our Middle East Studies Research Guide for even more!

Study Quran : a new translation and commentary

We recently had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Joseph Lumbard from American University of Sharjah (AUS) to discuss his work on the recently published Study Quran : a new translation and commentary.

This is one of the most extensive works on the Quran in the English language and will likely be a key reference for years to come. Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an accomplished scholar and authority in Islamic studies, this volume offers the following to students and scholars:

  • A new English translation of the Quran that is accurate, accessible, and reliable in how it renders this sacred text.
  • A wide-ranging verse-by-verse commentary that brings together the most respected and distinguished traditions of metaphysical, spiritual, theological, and legal interpretation of the Quran within Islam.
  • A helpful introduction to each surah that provides an overview and background of its teachings
  • Essays by fifteen internationally renowned scholars on how to read and understand the Quran and its role in shaping Islamic civilization.
  • A beautiful two-color, two-column design that presents the sacred text and commentary in the spirit of traditional Quran manuscripts.
  • Maps, a time line of historical events, comprehensive indexes, and other features to aid reading.

Our copy is coming in next month, so let us know if you want to check it out.

A look at knowledge in Islam during #UAEReads

Lots of booksThis year was declared the year of reading in the UAE, with a national campaign to promote literacy, books, and intellectual curiosity among the populace. You can follow the campaign on social media visa the hashtag #UAEReads.

Islamic civilization and cultures have many precedents and a rich history from which to draw support for such educational initiatives. It is widely believed that the first verse of the Quran to be pronounced was: Read! (Surat al-‘Alaq 96:1)

According to the late professor of Arabic literature at Yale University, Franz Rosenthal, knowledge was one of the key ideas motivating the development of Muslim traditions. In his classic work, Rosenthal writes:

For ‘ilm [knowledge] is one of those concepts that have dominated Islam and given Muslim civilization its distinctive shape and complexion. In fact, there is no other concept that has been operative as a determinant of Muslim civilization in all its aspects to the same extent as ‘ilm. This holds good even for the most powerful among the terms of Muslim religious life such as, for instance tawhid “recognition of the oneness of God,” ad-din “the true religion,” and many others that are used constantly and emphatically. None of them equals ‘ilm in depth of meaning and wide incidence of use. There is no branch of Muslim intellectual life, of Muslim religious and political life, and of the daily life of the average Muslim that remained untouched by the all-pervasive attitude toward knowledge as something of supreme value for Muslim being. ‘Ilm is Islam, even if the theologians have been hesitant to accept the technical correctness of this equation. The very fact of their passionate discussion of the concept attests to its fundamental importance for Islam.

Rosenthal, Franz. Knowledge Triumphant. Boston: Brill, 2007. p. 2.

We have access to many scholarly resources in the library that explore this topic from a variety of angles. Here is just a quick sample list:

As always, we’re happy to help you find more!

U.S. Intelligence on the Middle East, 1945-2009 (Brill)

Brill US intelligence databaseWe recently acquired a new database from Brill entitled U.S. Intelligence on the Middle East, 1945-2009.

According to the publisher:

This comprehensive document set sheds light on the U.S. intelligence community’s spying and analytic efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. It covers the time period from the end of World War II to the present day, up until the 2002-2003 Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) assessments, the Global War on Terror, the Iraq War, and Iran’s nuclear program.

Included in the database are “top secret” declassified primary source documents such as CIA briefings. Each document includes other relevant primary sources, reference works, bibliographies, books, and journal articles. A “background” essay by editor Matthew M. Aid puts the sources in the context of the U.S. Intelligence community’s “misadventures” in the Middle East, including key dates and events in the region. A supplemental bibliography, glossary, and chronology help build an even clearer contextual picture.

This database will be useful for researchers of Middle Eastern history and politics, U.S. foreign policy in the region, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the Syrian civil war, both U.S.-led wars in Iraq, the Iranian revolution and nuclear program, as well as other countries like Lebanon, Libya, and Jordan.

Teaching Arabic in the Gulf : opportunities, merits, and challenges

NYUAD at MESAI recently had the pleasure of attending an NYUAD-supported talk at the 2015 MESA (Middle East Scholars Association) conference in Denver, Colorado. The title was Teaching Arabic in the Globalized Arab Societies of the Gulf. Our professors Muhamed Al Khalil, Nasser Isleem, Laila Familiar, and Khulood Kittaneh gave presentations to the group about their activities at NYUAD.

Laila Familiar delivered a presentation entitled Contemporary Gulf Narrative as a Pedagogical Tool to Promote Language and Culture Proficiency. In other words, the talk was about incorporating fiction and other cultural texts in the Arabic language curriculum as she had done with the publication of Hoda Barakat’s Sayyidi wa Habibi: The Authorized Abridged Edition for Students of Arabic.

Nasser Isleem and Khulood Kittaneh reported on the success of their immersion-style j-term course in a presentation entitled Promoting Language Proficiency and Intercultural Competence in Arabic Language Through Short Intensive Immersion Program in the City of Al Ain. This comes on the heels of Nasser’s recently published and popular book Ramsah : an introduction to learning Emirati dialect and culture. Their activities even merited a report in the local Arabic news here (beginning at 11:30 minutes).

Program director Muhamed Al Khalil gave us a big picture view of Arabic language in his case study of U.A.E. policy entitled Linguistic and Extra-Linguistic Influences on Language Policy in Globalized Economies. This comes amid nervous discussion across the Arab-speaking world and elsewhere that Arabic is losing its influence.

There were other great presentations about the Middle East at the MESA conference, including a book and vendor exhibit highlighting the latest scholarly publications in this field.

NYUAD Library has a number of great resources for learning Arabic and researching in Arabic. Check out the Arabic Learning Research Guide for a survey of the types of resources available. And always, you are more than welcome to come into the library for a consultation!

Islamophobia : a challenge for us all

Islamophobia Challenge Pluralism EspositoIslamophobia, or anti-Muslim prejudice, is a major issue in academia, politics, and international relations. In 1997, the Runnymede Trust issued a report entitled Islamophobia : a challenge of us all describing hostility towards Muslims as a set of closed views that can potentially lead to exclusion, discrimination, and even violence.

Ever since Muslims have become more visible in Western counties, academics and journalists have discussed, analyzed, and put forward their views of this social phenomena. Some of them reject the use of the term outright, while others consider it only the latest manifestation of a long tradition of intolerance.

We have a lot of resources in the library if you want to join the discussion, including the latest work by NYU professor Arun Kundnani. Here is a brief bibliography of some resources available in the library:

  • Ansari, Humayun, and Farid Hafez. From the Far Right to the Mainstream: Islamophobia in Party Politics and the Media. Campus, 2012.
  • Carr, James. Experiences of Islamophobia: Living with Racism in the Neoliberal Era. Routledge, 2016.
  • Ernst, Carl W. Islamophobia in America: The Anatomy of Intolerance. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
  • Esposito, John L. Islamophobia: The Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century. Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Green, Todd H. The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West. Fortress Press, 2015.
  • Kumar, Deepa. Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. Haymarket Books, 2012.
  • Kundnani, Arun. The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror. Verso Press, 2014.
  • Lean, Nathan C, and John L. Esposito. The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims. Pluto Press, 2012.
  • Morgan, George, and Scott Poynting. Global Islamophobia: Muslims and Moral Panic in the West. Ashgate Publishing, 2011.
  • Sheehi, Stephen. Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign against Muslims. Clarity Press, 2011.
  • Taras, Ray. Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe. Edinburgh University Press, 2012.
  • Tyrer, David. The Politics of Islamophobia: Race, Power and Fantasy. Pluto Press, 2013.

These works and their citations can lead to other resources and views. When you research, it’s always a good idea to see where these writers are coming from and look into their sources yourself for more information.

As always, come to the library and get help from a librarian if you need more!