Prepared by: Mufti Ismail Y Syed*
During Covid19 and mostly likely after that, using traditional library and their sources for Islamic sources for both primary and secondary, may not be the mainstream anymore as it once was. Virtual facility and remote based online searching and researching would become essential.
While it is tempting to go straight to generic search eg Google search for any Islamic terms, Islamic & Arabic studies students are strongly advised to refrain from using Google search (other than Google Scholar), as past experience has shown students are often thrown into irrelevant or second third grade sites including social media and blogging sites –– with materials often copied over/plagiarised from elsewhere as well as ridden with errors –– therefore students must only used the traditional online library sites that can link up with all traceable or verifiable online versions of the original books/sources eg pdfs/scanned hardcopies/ebooks, electronic sources or may use one of the suggested sites I have compiled below. Students MUST NOT use generic search engine like Google, MSN, Yahoo under any circumstances, not at least until they reach advance/graduate level/reaching level 6/final year of honours degree/final year Alimiyya studies. Period.
There are many sites and links to research websites and applications for primary Islamic sources incl utilising metadata. It can take time to getting used to, and no site is perfect; some has features which others don’t. It’s a matter of trial and error. By using the sites/applications below, one would get the gist of it and over a period of time would intuitively build up additional sense of where to locate the sources or which site or application to look up for relevant Islamic Arabic sources and information. Also usages of various sites depends on one’s taste, approach and user friendliness which varies from person to person.
As for secondary/English/orientalist sources, please continue using the normal library and research facilities which is used for any arts and humanities subjects incl Google Scholar, Discover in addition to your university / college library resources available remotely.
Suggested sites and applications for primacy Islamic Arabic sources
One of the most popular (and probably most comprehensive) search facility - Al Shamela:
NB A word of warning, site or destination could be prone to errors hence verification with scanned online PDFs and hardcopy is always advisable.
This is a fantastic addition to the online resources I came across recently than the older website
A cloned version for Al-Shamela which may be more user friendly:
To download books one may use:
Another great one (Application only but may have browser search facility):
Elkirtasse (may not be available on Apple):
Islamic Encyclopaedia portal - Gawami’ al-Kalim (Application):
Traditional online search - virtual library manual search:
For traditional manual search virtually using online PDFs library, Waqfeya is traditional one popular among Arab and South Asian scholars who prefer to use the tradition method to search as if they are in the library going through hard copy:
NB No search facility is available hence one needs to be well informed / have good idea to look up.
The Internet Archive, a digital library of internet sites as well as scanned paper books and hardcopies. Great place –– though manual searching and basic subject knowledge is required to locate the sources. OCR/word search facilities not always available, especially with Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Ottoman Turkish sources.
For Islamic history/tarikh, art and culture, Farabi digital library –– great place to digital online sources –– I liked it. You would have to register first for free access:
This has a few more features like checking up rawis and what Tahqiq there is, but not as broad as the above ones
This is nice one:
Another site, recent site that worked on the major (not all) hadith collections, has search facility:
مشروع السنة: الشبكة العالمية لدراسة الحديث «إحسان»:
This is an Urdu based one which searches through PDF
Another one (helpful for tafsir and hadith):
One of the most comprehensive Quran/Tafsir search facility, Al-Tafsir:
Another site for Quran Tafsir (user friendly, I liked it):
Another decent one, worth trying:
KSU Saudi Arabia Quran Tafsir project (not the best one and sources should be verified/compared with scanned hardcopies/PDFs):
Excellent resource to look up/search Islamic sources incl to locate digitised versions incl manuscripts:
and for manuscripts:
Hath Trust digital library –– an excellent repository of over 50 digital library collections from various locations
Another great one for simple or selective sources (I liked it):
NYU online Arabic search:
Another site for Islamic sources search incl hadith and tafsir:
Qatar National Library with widely available digitised sources:
For Indian subcontinent darse nizami and Deobandi kitabs:
Scanned digitised Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Ottoman Turkish books - project by Indian government, they scanned thousands of books from different libraries. So rare stuff from Ml Azad library in Kashmir, and Jamia Millia library etc is available. If you narrow search results to Urdu/Arabic/Farsi there are thousands of gems here:
Mostafa books online search:
Very interesting info: Al-Kitab project by AGU, has information on further available/efficient sites to search using metadata:
To read up more, look at
Online Catalogues (some with access to direct online material)
Fihrist (UK universities consortium for Arabic Islamic sources –– Catalogue only):
World Catalogue where books and sources can be search to locate across various libraries around the world, often some having links to online versions:
For Islamic and Arabic manuscripts
Online portal for digitised manuscripts:
Manuscripts of the Muslim World, OPENN - open repository by University of Pennsylvania, USA. Fantastic for those who want to dig in and check the manuscripts:
For details, read:
Digital Assets Repository (DAR) project of Bibliotheca Alexandrina or Alexandria library. Great access to thousands of digitised sources with advance search facilities. Most copyright free materials are available online with others giving limited access:
NB Usually used/alongside other search sites, comes handy when other sites fail.
An old information (2013, needs updating) on online collection but worth looking into:
Another materials available here Digital Collection in Early Printed Materials (Arabic), presented in Moscow conference, document can be accessed here:
Graeco-Arabic (Arabic-Greek) sources (classical Arabic and Greek sources)
A portal/corpus on Arabic and hundreds of Greek sources that has been translated into Arabic between 8th-10th centuries.
Persian/Farsi primary sources
Asnad, an online project by Philipps Universitaat Marburg Germany for Persian sources and Central Asian / Indian subcontinent sources (useful when doing research or trying to access original old prints/manuscripts, particularly for Hanafi Fiqh, fatawa/Aqida/ilm kalam and philosophy Islamic metaphysic students):
Another good site (not the best) for Urdu sauces:
تطبيق جامع الكتب التسعة - ادق واشمل تطبيق اسلامي خاص بعلم الحديث النبوي يشتمل على الكتب التسعة المشهورة لدى علماء السنة النبوية:
End note for teachers/lecturers/graduate teaching assistants
A note from a colleague Sh Haroon Rashid Anis:
I compare, Then usually prepare a word document and teach off that
First thing I do before I start looking for sharh is read/compare the chapter from at least 3 good nuskhahs
And note all differences.
I feel just reading the text without any sharh at all gives an 'organic' opinion of the author's work, then I can refer to the commentaries to see what they have said.
Credit and acknowledgements:
I would like to thank everyone who provided various tips and suggestions in preparing the resource list, including but not exclusive to,
Imam Muhiuddin of Enfield, London
Shaykh Haroon Rashid Anis
Br Abdullah Biqai
Some colleagues at Arabic and South Asian studies departments at various institutions who gave some tips and suggestions and prefer to remain anonymous.
I haven’t taken all suggestions / and or inputed my own preferences where it was deemed to be more appropriate or suitable for Arabic and Alimiyya students for their study and research. I have also committed painting and art websites (that may contain art or image from historical times of primary sources which was more of an art type as opposed to substance study).
Lastly I would welcome any suggestions or updates/corrections. Please tweet/tweet message me or alternatively email at:
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