Index Islamicus on CD-ROM

A Bibliography of Publications on Islam and the Muslim World since 1906 to 1997 Edited by G J Roper & C H Bleaney, Islamic Bibliography Unit, Cambridge Univ. Library. Edition 2. London, Bowker-Saur, 1999. ISBN 1-85739-250-7. ( ( (

The Index: This CD-ROM contains 202,961 bibliographic references published in European languages. Index Islamicus, first printed in 1958, remains unsurpassed, for reasons such as, a) its comprehensive coverage, b) valuable for current and historic sources, c) the only electronic index on Islam(1). Prof. J D Pearson, then Librarian, School of Oriental & African Studies, London, published the first volume and its supplements have continued(2). The importance of European languages is obvious from the relevance that Orientalism has to Islam(3).

Platform & Installation: Windows based; a demonstration disk is also available on request. The accompanying manual, User Guide, is easy to follow; online help is also available.

Contents: Searchable as a single unit, it is divided in two databases, viz., Archive File covering 1906-1980 (78274 records), and Current File 1981-1997 (124687 records). Topics covered include, architecture, arts, bibliography, economics, education, geography, history, libraries,  orientalia, philosophy, politics, sciences, society, theology, travel, etc.

Decadewise coverage of the Index as shown here, may also reflect the publishing patterns on Islam: 1906 to 1915=3912 (records); 1916-25=4282; 1926-35=6501; 1936-45=5659; 1946-55=8389; 1956-65=15768; 1966-75=22148; 1976-85=46058; 1986-95=70550.

Evidently, literature explosion in the last few decades, necessitated intensive and extensive efforts for indexing and developing suitable bibliographical control mechanisms. A quantitative analysis of the contents of the Index, for the 1970s is already done by this reviewer(4).

a) Currency of information: The contents are indexed within six  to twelve months of publication date. CD-ROM is updated annually;
b) Comprehensive: It covers most titles in the Euro languages, includes materials from many other countries. It covers all  shades and approaches to Islam, with no exceptions;
c) Reliability: A random check shows it is accurate in data collection.

Search Features : Allows simple search, browse, and advanced search. Simple for novice; Browse displays, for instance, variants mansori, mansouri, mansoory, mansuri. Advanced for experts. Can search by author, title, title keywords, free text, year, keywords, subject, source of publication, record type, hypertext, etc. Search by themes is possible, such as, Islamic economics, Islamic banking, Islamic foundation, Aga Khan, women rights, Taj Mahal, Islamization, copyright, dictatorship, Palestine, Israel and Zionism, Middle East peace process, imperialism, Islamic human rights, etc..

Search limitations: Cannot search by languages -- though its speciality lies in languages, a German, for example, cannot find German materials all at once -- even using an interactive electronic database!(5). Cannot search by place of publication, publisher, monograph, thesaurus --the classification pattern in printed form, not in CD-ROM, acts as a relative index(6). Lack of abstracts, and, appropriate keywords for each record.

Typos: Encyclopaedic Survey of Islamic Culture -- by Mohamed Taher -- volumes 3 & 4 carry same volume title; a few errors exists in other fields, some more 'proof reading' is essential.

Output formats: display (brief, detailed, customized, standard format, MARC format), print, save to file, and bookmark.

Recommended: Must be available in all academic and public libraries.

Prospects: Despite being only a secondary source (not full text), and its language bias, the Index stands as a single largest electronic resource on Islam in the world. None competes in scope and coverage -- a few printed indexes are indexing only current literature(7).

Index Islamicus, now electronic database, can be easily made available on Internet to be used by trillions of Muslims, and more number of truth seekers. Especially of value to Islamists, sociologists, historians, area study specialists, biographers, comparative religionists, researchers, students, orientalists, governments and administrators, planners, etc..

Many indexes are free on the Web, including, Education database (ERIC), Medical literature (MEDLINE), etc. It goes without saying that a unique index, such as, Index Islamicus, needs free and open access. This uploading of database is possible, either by advertisements, or, by major international Islamic institutions -- such as, Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah; Islamic University Malaysia, King Faisal Foundation, Riyadh; Aga Khan Chair For Islamic Studies, etc.. None had taken up the herculean task -- which a Western institution took up fifty years ago. At least a funding project for its sustenance, on the Internet, must be the minimum to be expected from such reputed bodies. This can be taken up by a single institution or as a collective effort.

The Index can add features, such as: a) abstract of each bibliographic record, b) increase Third World's coverage, and, C) state the physical location of each indexed document in a major library -- improving the function of the Index to act as an electronic union catalog of Islam.

References and notes:
1. Reviews of the printed version: "An indispensable tool for graduates and undergraduates alike" (Choice); "...a remarkable bibliographical tout de force sustained by ability, scholarship and hard work." (Brit. Soc. for Mid. East. Stud.); "it is vital for researchers and information specialists to have an authoritative guide to the literature of the field" (Amer Ref Book Ann).

Citations on the CD-ROM version: "It not only records the contributions of Western Orientalists and social scientists across a wide range of subjects, but also the important and rapidly growing output of material by Muslim scholars writing in European languages" (Online & CD-ROM Review); "Information is compiled from publications in all European languages on all fields of activity involving Muslims" (Bobst Library at NYU).

2. Index Islamicus, 1906-1955: a catalog of articles on Islamic subjects in periodicals and other collective publications, assisted by Julia F Ashton (1958).

3. Two recent papers help in understanding the Index and its coverage, G Roper's "European-language periodicals as sources of Information on the Muslim World" and M A Anwar's "Europe and Muslims", presented at Islamic Information Sources Symposium, Riyadh, 31Oct -3 Nov.1999, deal with this subject (See the abstracts of these papers).

4. thesis: Bibliometric analysis of the literature of the field of Islamic Studies, now in print: Quantitative Study of Islamic Literature, Delhi, 1994 (See the summary ). A content evaluation is overdue to identify how much of this resource is contributing to the body of Islamics and how much is published just due to the publish/perish trends of the post-modernism era.

5.  Erroneously, all entries are in 'English' (see display in MARC format). The Bowker-Saur MARC tags are: 000$a nas; 008$a date of accession; 041$a language of text; 100$a personal (last) name; 100$h personal (first) name; 245$a title; 260$a place of publication and publisher; 260$h year of publication; 300$a pages; 500$a note section; 690$y tracing; 999#a  ic current file.

6. The subject categories, in printed index include: History, Sciences, Religion, Law, Philosophy, Geography, Bibliography, Islamic Studies (with sub categories).

7. Recent attempts to compile indexes of current literature on Islam/Muslims:
Muslim World Book Review (print only), also lists recent publications;
Periodica Islamica (print only);
Glimpses from the Arts of the Islamic World (CD-ROM/print: contact email to:
(CD-ROM: Islam
Islamic databases): Internet Directory of electronic databases;

Dr. Mohamed Taher, Ph.D., D.Litt.
Information Scientist.
View my Islamicity