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Al-Ṭafratul-Ramaḍānia 1444 Initiative

Partial Record of a Long Journey

In 2008, when the 3-Volume Concise Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān (CEQ)—conceived the year before—became the 7-Volume Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān (IEQ), no one associated with the project had a true idea of the nature of difficulties involved in generating its text, embodying the scholarly apparatus of the encyclopedic genre to present all concepts, persons, events, places, and things mentioned in the Qurʾān; it was a leap of faith.

Muslim scholars from around the world were consulted to fine-tune the initial list of entries, which grew in length and depth—leading to an increase in the number of pages from 1500 to 3,500. The number of entries remained the same, more or less, but it was the depth with which each article was to be treated that changed dramatically and, in retrospect, it is this depth that has become the defining feature of the IEQ text.

Fourteen years later, it can be said with deep gratitude to our Lord: there is no reference work on the Qurʾān in any language, including Arabic, that matches this level of grounding in the deepest layers of Muslim reflection on the Book—we thank Allah Most High for opening this path and facilitating whatever has been accomplished so far. The unique features of IEQ include integration of fourteen hundred years of Muslim reflection on the Qurʾān, an idiom that retains the flavor of the spiritual elevation one encounters in the works of the giants of Islamic exegetical tradition, and the highest standards of academic scholarship.

I still remember, with the highest degree of humility and gratitude, the exultation which whelmed me when I beheld the first volume in 2013. The feeling of humility and gratitude was enhanced when scholars from the entire spectrum of contemporary Muslim scholarly scene expressed their appreciation for the work—dubbing it a “work of excellence, imbued with beauty”, “an unparalleled achievement,” and “a model for all future works”.

While these accomplishments are undeniable, it can also be said at the threshold of the fourteenth year of its launch, that IEQ is nowhere close to finish. Since 2020, when the project was reconfigured as an online encyclopedia, we have made some progress in filling the text of the yet-to-be written entries, but not a lot. There were 47 entries in the first volume, now have text for one hundred and three more entries, thus giving us a mere sum of 150 completed entries out of a total of 517 in fourteen years; this certainly creates doubts about the viability of the project.

Yet, when the glass is seen as half-full, a different picture begins to emerge. And when a new plan for the completion of the project is added to the equation, there is an actual surge of joy in the heart.

But first, an important note: The most difficult part of this project has been—and remains—generation of text. IEQ text is highly demanding, even for the most accomplished scholars, for two reasons: it demands a full immersion in the ocean of sciences of the Qurʾān, an ability to synthesize the vast amount of knowledge into an integrated text with full scholarly apparatus, and—most of all—a deep knowledge of the intra-textual layers of the Book that is defined by its totum simul (simultaneous totality), thus presenting, in a highly condensed manner, all three axial themes of the Qurʾān in any given constituting unit of the Book.

At the beginning of the IEQ Project, we had naively hoped that since there are literally hundreds of Muslim academic scholars in the world, a mere fraction of them, say 300, taking two entries each, would yield the entire text in less than two years. We learned—in some cases, in a hard way—that most Muslims working in the Western universities are unable or unwilling to write for IEQ for two reasons: (i) they have little or no grounding in the classical Tafsīr and other works dealing with other branches of the sciences of the Qurʾān (ʿulūm al-Qurʾān); (ii) they fear for associating their names with a work that takes as its foundational belief, the fact that the Qurʾān is the actual Speech of Allah Most High, because this stance can jeopardize their jobs and careers, because the system they are beholden to demands that they forego their personal beliefs when donning the academic hat. On the other hand, those who work within the Muslim countries, even in the so-called International Islamic Universities, are unable to contribute for other reasons, most dealing with the lack of academic rigor, apathy, laziness, local social, political, and economic environment, and, once again, most of them have no grounding in the traditional Islamic scholarly tradition.

Proposed Plan for the Completion of IEQ Project

After all these years, it is extremely clear that the only option to generate IEQ text is to hire a small team of madrasa-trained scholars who can write in Arabic, Urdu, or Malay, and have another small team of translators familiar with the Western academic norms to work with them to produce the remaining text. We have now started a systematic effort to locate such scholars.


Of the remaining 370 entries • 25 are in the short category (less than 1500 words; that is less than 2 IEQ pages); • 66 are minor (3-4,000 words, that is, 4-5 pages) of two primary kind: concepts and proper names; • Entries on proper names (places, persons, events, things) have relatively well-established parameters and material is readily available; • most of the minor entries in the “concept category” either deal with concepts that are not so complex or are auxiliary to other multi-layered concepts and, hence, easier to write compared to those in the major and special categories; • once these 91 entries are completed, IEQ project will reach half-way mark.

Al-ṭafratul-Ramaḍānia (The Ramadan 1444 Leap)
This initiative has been conceived as a practical plan with the following six specific goals: i. the remaining 25-short entries: To be assigned to 15-20 scholars with request for completion before the end of Ramadan 1444 as “zakat of their scholarship”—the act of purification every believer loves; ii. 66 minor entries: To be assigned to the same or other scholars, with request to complete these by August 2023; iii. Copies of Volume 1: We have approximately 650 copies of Volume 1. iv. If we can sell these during Ramadan 1444 through masjid-outreach in different cities, similar to what was done in 2013, this will generate enough funds to print Volume 2 in fall 2023, insha Allah. v. The community outreach drive will also build momentum for the launch of Volume 2, reconnect IEQ project with the masjid-network and yield other benefits. vi. Find donors who can pay for donation of an IEQ copy to “influencers” (selected senators, members of the parliament in Canada and USA, community leaders in other faith communities, and other opinion makers throughout North America).