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Islamic Book Trust to publish first English Qur’anic encyclopedia

In this file photo, former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, left, launching a book published by IBT. (AN photo)

By P.K. Abdul Ghafour | 19 Nov 2012

The Kuala Lumpur-based Islamic Book Trust (IBT) announced it will print the Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’an in English and help spread the message of Islam around the world.

Haji P.K. Koya Kutty, executive secretary of the non-profit publishing house told Arab News, “This is the first Qur’anic encyclopedia in English in the world and the scholarly work is prepared entirely by Muslims.

The encyclopedia will be produced as a joint venture between the Center for Islam and Science in Canada and the Society for Qur’anic Studies in Pakistan.

Kutty said the encyclopedia will reference a wide range of traditional Muslim sources including lexicons, exegeses, Hadith collections, biographical dictionaries, universal histories, works of jurisprudence, Prophetic biographies, and moral psychology dissertations — some of which have never been presented in any encyclopedic work in a western language.

The 47 entries of this first volume will provide extensive original translations of source material and integrate various perspectives from the Islamic tradition into comprehensive and authoritative articles on concepts, people and places mentioned in the Qur’an.

The Malaysian publishing house, IBT, was established in 1991 for the promotion of Islamic books and literature.

“We often hear complaints that Malaysians are poor readers. It is a formidable obstacle to anyone embarking on book publishing here, especially serious Islamic books. It is also thought Muslims read even less and Muslim households spend little on books. Add to this the general perception that Islam in this country is a ‘Malay’ affair and therefore publishing Islamic books in English will not be a viable business venture,” said Kutty.

Most books published about Islam, whether in Bahasa Melayu or English, are of a mundane nature, similar to the “do it yourself” and self improvement books. Serious Islamic books on subjects like history, law, economics and current affairs seldom present in their publication line-up.

Kutty said, “We decided to challenge this intellectual apathy toward Islam and things Islamic, especially among the educated, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and venture into publishing Islamic books in English, to begin with.”

“We started with an edition of Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s English translation of the Qur’an. This caught the imagination of the English-reading public and we were so encouraged by the response to this little book that we followed it up with another version. This edition was without text and included commentaries to help the reader understand the historical context of certain verses and explain difficult passages and was specially meant for non-Muslims,” he said.

Encouraged by their success IBT published more books in English.

Kutty said, “We found an enthusiastic partner and distributor in the publishing company, The Other Press (TOP), which has published ‘Asia and Western Dominance’ by KM Panikkar, followed by Abul Kalam Azad’s ‘The Opening Chapter of the Qur’an.’
IBT re-launched in 2003 as an online bookstore.”

“We were the first publisher in Malaysia offering titles online,” Kutty said.

IBT and TOP have together published more than 200 titles on various aspects of Islam such as Qur’an and Qur’anic studies, Hadith and Hadith studies, history, biography, law, contemporary issues, and the fundamentals of Islam.

“Our books are of an academic nature and our unique approach in Islamic publishing has earned us the praise of the local and international academic community. Some of our titles are recommended reading in local universities. By concentrating on serious Islamic titles in English, we have been able to reach out to both Muslim and non-Muslim readers all over the world and their response is most encouraging,” he said.


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