Middle East Virtual Libraries
Introduction: Islamic texts on the Internet
The Internet is full of Islamic material, and offers a large number of virtual libraries of varying quality. The best libraries of this kind provide vast numbers of classical and modern texts in electronic—and therefore searchable—form. The more basic libraries are little more than electronic repositories for documents produced by different people, which can vary immensely in their accuracy.
Online virtual libraries almost invariably lack references to printed editions, and therefore cannot be quoted. One notable exception is al-Warraq (s. below), who are gradually updating their texts with references to published editions. In any case, virtual libraries are valuable tools for locating particular words, names, or phrases in a given group of texts.
Created by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Jordan, this website offers a range of Commentaries in Arabic, as well as detailed lists of variant readings by all of the canonical 'readers'. It Includes a search function and a virtual keyboard.
Holy Qur'an Resources on the Internet [English]
A website based in the UK, with links to most English translations of the Qur'an, and to translations into various foreign languages (from Albanian to Urdu).
A relatively simple site that offers the Qur'?n in text format, fully vocalized, but without frills: perfect for copying and pasting. It also includes a search function, and the text of four (Shiite) commentaries in Arabic.
This section of a much larger site provides several interesting search functions for the text of the Qur'an, such as 'phonetic' searches (Arabic in transliteration), topical searches, and even a search function in Chinese (traditional & simplified)
Sahih al-Bukhari [English]
An English translation of the J?mi' al-Sah?h, with a search function (English only), and chapter headings in Arabic. Because of the variant numbering schemes used in the printed editions, it is difficult to trace the Had?th texts back to the original Arabic. The chapter headings are useful in this respect; set the encoding in your browser to Arabic (windows) to display Arabic characters.
Had?th al-Islam [Arabic]
A website of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Saudi Arabia. It includes the Arabic text of the Kutub al-sittah, as well as the Muwatta', Musnad Ahmad, and a number of commentaries. Fully searchable; vocalization can be turned off.
Had?th Database [Eng]
A database of Had?th maintained by the Muslim Students' Association at the University of Southern California. Users can search (in English only) the entire text of the Sih?h of Bukhari and Muslim, the Sunan of Abu Dawud and Malik's Muwatta'.
Nawawi's 40 Had?th [Eng]
Contains the text of Nawawi's Forty Had?th; the translation is based on that of Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies.
Virtual Libraries : General
A superlative virtual library, containing a good portion of the canon of classical Arabic literature, but probably stronger on the side of belles-lettres than on that of 'Islamic sciences' proper. New users are required to register, but there is no registration fee. The site is entirely in Arabic, but it includes two types of virtual keyboard, which can also be used for searching other Arabic sites.
One caveat is that searches are not analytical : variations of the same word with/without an article or affixes may not be retrieved; the other problem is that certain parts of the website do not display well with some browsers. Finally, 'page' numbers in most texts do not refer to any particular edition. That said, the owners of the site are in the process of updating their service by replacing selected texts with scholarly editions, where available.
Fiqh al-Isl?m [Arabic]
A website related to Had?th al-Islam above, and maintained by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs. It contains a selection of classical works in all branches of traditional learning, including the text of Maw?rid?'s al-Ahk?m al-Sult?n?yah.
A comprehensive online with well over 6,600 titles (mainly in the Religious sciences) in Arabic and Persian. It offers complete versions of religious texts like Tabatabai's Commentary on the Qur'?n or the Nahj al-Bal?ghah, as well as that of literary works like Firdawsi's Sh?hn?mah.
Initially, the site may seem a bit difficult to use: to access the library, one has to click on one of the 'index' tabs (alphabetic or subject indexes are available). What is more, the list of titles on the Arabic page appears to be different from the list of titles available on the Persian version of the same page. Navigation within the books is somewhat easier, thanks to indexes and scroll bars.
Maktabat al-mishk?t [Arabic]
Not an online library at all, but a repository for electronic copies of Islamic books. It contains a large number of classical works in the form of Word or .zip files that can be downloaded. The quality of the files varies.
Maktabat sah?b al-salaf?yah [Arabic]
Another repository for electronic copies of Islamic books. As its name indicates, the website has a salafi slant to it, but it still contains a number of useful files, such as a downloadable version of Tabar?'s Ta'r?kh.
This section of a larger Islamic website provides a large selection of classical texts in all traditional sciences. It has an author index, and offers a detailed search function that allows for restricted searches for poetry, section headings, etc.
A well-designed site with access to the works of some three dozen poets of the classical period, including Firdaws?, H?fiz, and Khayy?m.
Shiabooks [Persian / Arabic]
A vast virtual library, with an emphasis on religious material. Despite its name, the library contains a large number of works by Sunni authors. Neither the search function nor the subject index appear to work, and navigation within the site could be easier, but nevertheless this resource is useful because of the sheer amount of text that it contains.
Virtual Libraries : Local or subject-specific
D?r al-'Ul?m, Deoband [Urdu]
The D?r al-'Ul?m maintains a website with miscellaneous publications, mainly in Urdu. It provides access to an extensive collection of Fatawa in Urdu.
The organization maintains an online library with all its fatwas. However, at the time of writing, most fatwas were available in Arabic only. French translation of some fatwas can be read at Islamophile (see below).
This French website contains translations of modern fatwas by the European Council for Fatwa and research, as well as a small selection of Islamic religious works in French.
Has a small selection of classical works in all of the traditional Islamic sciences, including Maw?rid?'s Ahk?m al-Sult?n?yah.
This very comprehensive site offers collections of Sermons from all over the Islamic World, arranged by country, mosque, preacher, and topic. It provides English translations of select sermons, as well as legal texts on how to write, and hold a Friday sermon.
Information and Research Specialist, Middle East Collection Liaison
Image from Saheefe-ye Hasti