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The Encyclopaedia of Makkah al-Mukarramah and Madinah al-Munawwarah

The civilisation of Islam is distinguished by several features:

The first is the fact that it covers many fields, including a flexible and sophisticated shari’ah which is based on justice and the public interest. It establishes the ideals of freedom, equality and mutual consultation. It extends widely to encompass sciences such as medicine, pharmacy, agriculture, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, and architecture.

The second feature is its precise, glaring birth. Whereas other civilisations hail from a hazy or obscure beginning, which in some cases spreads over several centuries, Islam was born in Makkah, on the very day Prophet Muhammad was entrusted with the delivery of the Islamic message. It then developed and flourished in Madinah where it established its roots and crystallised its ideals and principles, and from there it spread to all corners of the globe. It covered the entire world with knowledge in various disciplines of science and learning. They were the cradle of Islamic civilisation and the source of its light which has shone all over the world. The influence of the lively role of Makkah and Madinah continued far beyond the greater cities of Islam that followed in Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordoba, and Istanbul.

It was, therefore, always a dream and an inspirational vision for the founder and the chairman of Al-Furqan, His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, to produce an encyclopaedia of the two holy cities, acknowledging their scientific and cultural roles throughout the centuries. Dr Abbas Saleh Tashqandy was the first with whom Sheikh Yamani raised the idea in 1978.

During the first conference organised by Al-Furqān Foundation in 1991, the late Sheikh Hamad al-Jasser, a member of Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, gave a keynote speech at the Foundation’s launch, in which he presented some of the most valuable manuscripts of Makkah and Madinah and urged the Foundation to undertake the task of producing an encyclopaedia of the two great cities.

This encouraged His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani to fulfill his long-thought dream on publishing the Encyclopaedia of Makkah al-Mukarramah and Madinah al-Munawwarah.

After long studies, consideration and several international meetings in Makkah, Jeddah, Istanbul and London, the International Advisory Board and the Academic Board for the Makkah and Madinah Centre was set up. The general structure of the two boards was agreed upon and names of qualified experts in their particular disciplines were proposed. A unified set of scientific, linguistic and methodological rules were determined upon, which is adhered to in the preparation of the Encyclopaedia and its various sister publications; terminology and meanings were clearly defined and work schedules and systems of cross-referencing and bibliographic listing were drawn up.

The first meeting of the Encyclopaedia's International Advisory Board was held in Jeddah on 4th November 1994, under the chairmanship of Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani.

Due to the extent of the preparatory work for the research, the Centre for Compiling the Encyclopaedia of Makkah and Madinah  - housed in Jeddah - was set up to oversee and ensure the continuity of the project. The Centre includes an executive administration and a team of scholars, specialist and support services to sustain and assistant the research. The Centre also includes a reference service and a publication department, and is run by the Encylopeadia’s chief editor, Dr. Abbas Saleh Tashqandy.

The Encyclopaedia’s main aim is to acknowledge the two cities’ scientific and cultural roles and to demonstrate their historical significance by highlighting their role in spreading knowledge to different geographical regions. Its main focus is to bring to light and document the many roles played by both holy cities of Makkah and Madinah in various fields, such as the natural environment, the social, economic, cultural, scientific, religious and political life, as well as the architecture, planning and the sources documenting the history of both holy cities, based on an array of resources, such as books/publications, historical documents, photographs, maps and recordings. The project also highlights the profound role that these two cities played in supporting scientific and cultural initiatives throughout the centuries, as the origins of Islamic civilisation and its source of enlightenment that enlightened the whole world. Furthermore, the objective of the project is to bring to light the cultural and scientific active role of both mosques, the sacred mosque located in Makkah and the prophet’s mosque located in Madinah, in encouraging and protecting the advancement of knowledge since the birth of the Islamic civilisation and throughout its historical footsteps when it thrived further in other cities like Damascus, followed by Baghdad, then Cairo and Astana and thereafter.

The Encyclopaedia of Makkah al-Mukarramah and Madinah al-Munawwarah is a pioneering and timely project aiming to provide above all, an accurate knowledge and reference, hence contributing to the world knowledge and culture, creating opportunities for dialogue between civilisations. The collection series collates and references most of the works written on the subject of the two holy cities Makkah and Madinah. It provides facts and analysis to students, scholars and those members of the public interested in that topic. In addition, it supports researchers, academics, scholars and specialists to submit works and research papers about the two cities.

The Encyclopaedia’s distinctive coverage and meticulous methodology set by the involved experts in the field makes it one of the authoritative, reliable and primary sources in its related knowledge area. This is one of the largest projects of its kind. It would  reasonably be expected, for this scale of project, to be run by a state rather than one organisation single-handedly, when considering the high cost incurred by the research and the required long term planning and timescale.

The project is the work and co-operation of a large scholarly community of specialists, high esteemed scholars, experts and academics from different institutions, backgrounds and countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Netherlands and the UK., all working vigorously to produce the series. Scholars from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey have contributed to research on a variety of topics.

The project of The Encyclopaedia of Makkah and Madinah, published in Arabic, is a far-reaching and ambitious project. It has already produced six volumes, each averaging 650 large-size pages, printed on high-quality paper, and its outcome is expected to be published in around twenty volumes in due course.

From the day this project was thought of, set up and initiated over 20 years ago, His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani remains the sole funder and the immediate director and general supervisor of the project, closely monitoring its progress and continuouly nurturing its growth under his personal care and watchful eyes.

The Encyclopaedia Project’s Library

A reference library has been established to support the work of compiling the Encyclopaedia. The collection includes books, articles, studies, historical references and theses on Makkah and Madinah. The Centre also holds a collection of documents, texts, journals, microfilms and audio-visual material on the two cities.

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