How and Why to Study Islamic Law Online This Academic Year The elections are underway. The pandemics keep us remote. And the only thing we can say for sure is that our work is more vital than ever: an imperative to gain and share knowledge (above ‘truthiness’) with all that’s unfolding in the U.S., France, and across the Muslim world. We will do so, and get through these unprecedent times together. As many of you know, Dean Manning recently announced that Harvard Law School will remain online for the rest of this academic year. We support the decision because we are committed to the health and safety of the campus community, and because we are committed to pursuing our mission of promoting research and providing resources in the academic study of Islamic law. The good news is, we’ve found many ways to do just that, as we adapt to this new virtual environment.
The SHARIAsource Portal houses curated special collections and primary sources of Islamic law globally; and it also anchors our digital humanities and data science initiatives. Three major new projects are set to soon launch: Courts & Canons (CnC) is a tool designed for registered users interested in the history and operation of Islamic law, to enter and search data in and about early Islamic courts and legal canons—principles of interpretation—used within them. StackLife 2.0 will offer new ways to search and visualize the Islamic collections across Harvard Libraries. CorpusBuilder will offer the first accurate Arabic and Persian OCR system for reading scans of historical texts, to operate alongside the corpus in the Open Islamic Texts Initiative (OpenITI) and other corpora, for new possibilities in natural language processing and machine learning in our field. And, we have a broad swath of freely accessible online publications: a new Journal of Islamic Law, original podcasts, recorded videos of past events, and the Islamic Law Blog, that will soon feature a new roundtable convening leading and emerging scholars on all the new methods of Islamic legal history and historiography. The silver lining of all of this is: there is a lot there, more to come, and plenty of ways to get involved or participate online.
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