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Islam

Elwaraq.net. The Arabic Electronic Library

Al-Warrâq, www.elwaraq.net, which could roughly be translated as the “bookseller”, is one of the biggest online libraries in the Arab world with headquarters in the United Arab Emirates. The web site carries hundreds of classical works ranging from poetry to medieval encyclopaedias, from philosophy to spirituality, from collections of prophetic traditions and legal texts to medieval dictionaries, giving users free access to its resources, the one exception being advanced textual research.

 

 

In its creators’ own words, “our Arab-Islamic nation faces a great cultural challenge. Responding to it must begin by re-interpreting our cultural and intellectual traditions and by removing the dust that has settled over them after centuries of backwardness and ignorance.”

 

In view of its content, the site gets quite a number of hits (reportedly in the top 50,000 sites according to Alexa). What is striking though is the type of books people want to read. With more than a million hits One Thousand and One Nights tops the list, followed by a treatise on the interpretation of dreams , then the The Meccan Revelations, the masterpiece by Andalusian mystic Ibn al-Arabî, , two medieval lexicons; next in line are another treatise of oniromancy, the Book of Songs (Kitab al-Aghanî) from the Abbasid era, some history books and the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity, one of Islam’s foremost philosophical texts written in Basra in the 10th century by a mysterious group of anonymous scholars. No top ten spot instead for Ibn Taymiyya or any other authors favoured by the region’s all-pervasive Wahhabists, who also tend to dominate its publishing industry.

 

 

It is noteworthy to mention that verses by the most famous Arab poet, al-Mutanabbî, and photos of the main Islamic monuments are available for daily downloads on people’s cell-phones. Also available are discussion forums and a feedback board where users can report errors.

 

If there is one criticism to level at the web site’s administrators is the absence of texts by Jewish or Christian authors, an omission that fails to recognise that today as in the past Arabic is a language of culture also for many non Muslims.

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