Bibliographic Database and data visualizations

In cooperation with: The Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School and Faculty of Theology at Istanbul University / Project Period: 01/2021-12/2022 / Project-lead: Hakkı Arslan (Münster), Intisar Rabb (Harvard), Necmettin Kızılkaya (Istanbul)

In cooperation with the Program in Islamic law at Harvard Law School and the Faculty of Theology at the Istanbul University we are working on a comprehensive bibliographic database on the different genres of Islamic Law and on a website with data visualizations. For this purpose, we will use the "Courts and Canons (CnC)" digital platform which is hosted by the SHARIASource project at Harvard Law school and which was funded by Templeton foundation to build a dataset of canons. By extending its infrastructure and integrating a multi sectioned genre perspective the features available in the CnC database will be operationalized for our purposes.

Data fields

Which data will be collected: The bibliography contains more than 20 data fields with regard to a source like: title (short title, full title), author, source type, author’s year of death, the region author lived in, language, date and place of publication, date and place of writing, the school of law that the work belongs to, genre of the work, geographic and quantitative information of its manuscripts. These formal details are supplemented by description of the content of the sources in form of abstracts or subject headings and by biographical information about the authors scholarly activities, networks and genealogies. The bibliography covers the writings of the time from the beginnings of the Islamic law until the end of the 19th century – with special focus on the so called postformative period; and it will cover different empires and geographic era of Abbasids, Andalusian, Mamlūk, Ottoman, Safavid, and Moghul States, and also all schools of law in the languages Arabic, Persian, Turkish and urdu.

Combining and categorizing the information linked to the works of several genres of Islamic law, the bibliography organizes the overload of sources into systematic and ordered groups. Differing from the only author and source-based bibliographies, this bibliographic research develops an increased awareness of the context of specific sources by presenting the additional data for geography, time, school, and genre. The multi-sectioned structure of the bibliography also enables to track the interrelationships between diverse books, genres, schools of law, and even regions which provides additional points of evaluation in the academic studies. The bibliography is divided for example in 58 different legal and non-legal genres which are further organized in genre functions like record-keeping, group-identification, individual-identification, instruction (non-educational), explication, interpretation, pedagogy, devotion, linguistic analysis, etc. or further organized in disciplines, types, formats or modes of Genres.

Moreover, the bibliography is not limited to printed sources of Islamic law, but it also contains the manuscripts and their geographic and numeric information. This data permits to follow the distribution and gaining prominence of the specific manuscripts in both local and global contexts. Likewise, the simultaneous view of detailed data on the manuscripts also sheds light on the complex interrelationships between separate genres in various regions and time periods.
As the bibliography presents a vast collection of sources cataloged based on several aspects, researchers would conveniently carry out their research by means of filtering out the required specific data. Thus, this bibliographic study is not only crucial as it covers a great number of sources in a single work but also unique as it combines printed books and manuscripts that altogether depict a comprehensive and consistent picture of the evolution of Islamic legal thought.

Research Vision for Legal Genres: Bibliographies and Database Construction

Why legal genres? Tracing the use and function of genres in Islamic legal history requires groundwork on genres to be laid first: What are the genres? How do they relate to one another? To what purpose or function did authors use them over time? For each genre: when its main sources written, and where? Where are they housed today? What function did they perform in history and in law? Answering these questions requires not just constructing bibliographies of sources to encompass and trace the historical trajectory of each genre, but also, first, building an ontology for legal genres, in order to better situate various legal and historical works in relationship to one another, and thereby understand their regional‐conceptual distribution and functional use.

The working group will work with scholars who are experts in different major genres to develop bibliographies that collect works written on each genre from Islam’s advent through the end of the post‐classical period. They will offer conceptual papers at monthly lectures on the form and function of each genre, they will provide a starting point of bibliographic lists of all sources written in their chosen genre, and they will work with a team of student‐researchers provided by our group to supplement that list with respect to published and unpublished works, including base texts, commentaries, glosses, and the like. Those lists will feed into the genre database that will allow researchers to better see, display, and analyze the intersecting presence and function of sources across what we traditionally have defined to be genres in individual lists. The use of digital tools permits various forms of social network-mapping, geo-timelines, and other data visualizations. This would be next step: creating a dedicated website with different data visualizations of written texts in specific time periods, the circulation of texts in different geographies, scholarly networks, etc. The website will also be the platform for the publication of the monthly discussions on legal genres.

Open-end project

In the first year 10 different genres will be covered in the monthly lectures like usul al-fiqh, mukhtasar, sharh, hashiya, fatwa, risala, sijillāt, ikhtilaf al-fuqaha, ilm al-khilaf and tabaqāt al-fuqahāʾ. In the second year the Qawaid-related genres will be in focus. In consecutive projects different other fields like court documents, non-legal texts or an advanced model of bibliographies could be integrated in this database, so this could be long-term project. Of course, it is impossible to provide all the relevant information for the genres in one month, therefore we first start with the formal data fields and in the second step we add the description of the sources and the authors. The CnC platform also allows for a full-text database. So, in future projects it would be worth considering to expand the bibliography with full text database or at least with manuscripts. The University of Münster will provide funding support for the workshops and databases. The Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School will provide programmatic support: provide and host the CnC digital platform; identify developers to build and customize the database, and host a dedicated website for the project on the SHARIAsource platform.

The international project team consists of senior and junior researchers covering all the areas of expertise needed for such a large project. Under the supervision of Prof. Intisar Rabb (Harvard University), Prof. Necmettin Kizilkaya (University of Istanbul), and Dr. Hakki Arslan (University of Münster), a group of 10 student researchers are working on the bibliography. Additionally, a team of data scientists and software engineers is building the database and website.

This project is funded by the CRC 1385 "Law and Literature", Program in Islamic Law at Harvard University and Templeton Foundation.