Key Resources in Middle East Librarianship

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Stacia Stein

This semester I am taking a class in Middle East Librarianship. As part of the course, I have been tasked to select 10-15 reference works that should be part of any basic Middle East reference collection.

In order to determine what these resources ought to be, I developed a few research strategies. First, I narrowed the focus to resources that would be useful in an academic law library. This required additional consideration because there are many legal jurisdictions within the Middle East. To address each jurisdiction separately would require more than 10-15 reference works.

Therefore, I decided to further narrow the focus to resources that deal with Islamic law generally or that provide useful background on Islam for the legal scholar. Secondly, because of my own language limitations, I chose to look only at resources aimed at English speakers.  Finally, I also wanted to have a nice mix of databases, serials and monographs in the collection.

In order to determine what the most useful resources might be, I looked at various libguides at libraries with well-known Mid-East collections. When available, I also tried to find reviews of the sources to flesh out scope, perspective and intended audience. I also consulted In Custodia Legis the blog for the Law Librarians of Congress, and Int-Law listserv’s public message archives. Are there any key resources that I missed? Are there any research strategies I should have applied?


Lexis Middle East (

Lexis Middle East provides legal news and commentaries from the Middle East as well as access in English and Arabic to the statutory laws and cases of the United Arab Emirates.  Law students and attorneys are already familiar with the Lexis platform, making this an especially useful tool in the legal setting. This resource enables users to keep up with the daily news and legal developments in the region.

Brill Online (

Brill publishes many essential resources for the Middle East scholar. While these publications are available in print, they are also available electronically through Brill Online. Key reference works include:

Bearman, P., Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W. P.  Heinrichs. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition.

This is an authoritative resource for the Islamic World.  Originally published at the end of the 20th century, its focus is on the current knowledge of the Islamic World at the time. It covers religion, people and the countries in which they live. It covers history, culture, politics, geography, topography, and religion. Its scope encompasses the old Arab-Islamic empire, the Islamic countries of Iran, Central Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Indonesia, the Ottoman Empire and all other Islamic countries.

Bearman, P., Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W. P.  Heinrichs. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Glossary and Index of Terms.

This is the essential companion resource for the Encyclopaedia of Islam. The Glossary and Index serves to help define and provide insight into the vocabulary of Islam.

Houtsma, M. Th., T. W. Arnold, R. Basset and R. Hartmann. (eds.) (1913-1936). Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition.

This is a classic resource for Islamic scholars. First published between 1913 and 1936, this Encyclopaedia covers the subject areas of philology, history, theology and law until the early 20th century.

Fleet, K., Krämer, G., Matringe, D., Nawas J., Rowson E. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Third Edition.

Publication for this most recent edition of the essential Encyclopaedia of Islam began in 2007. It is an entirely new work reflecting the current scholarship on Islam. The scope includes Islam in the 20th century, Muslim minorities worldwide, social sciences and humanities.

McAuliffe, J. D. (ed.) (2001-2006).  Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān, 1st Edition, 5 vols. plus index, Leiden: Brill.

In five  volumes and with nearly 1000 entries, the Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an is the first comprehensive reference work on the Qur’an in a Western language. It includes Qur’anic terms, concepts, personalities, place names, cultural history and critical interpretations.  Additionally, the Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān Online provides access to 62 Early Printed Western Qur’āns Online as well as a finding aid for textual research.

Bleaney, C.H., Sinclair, S., García Suárez, P. (ed.). Index Islamicus.

The Index Islamicus is a bibliography of books, articles and reviews on Islam and the Muslim world. Published annually since 1906, it is an international classified bibliography of publications in European languages on all aspects of Islam and the Muslim world. The geographic scope includes the Middle East. It is also about the other main Muslim areas of Asia and Africa, plus Muslim minorities elsewhere.

Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies (MECAS) (

MECAS is a popular bibliographic database among scholars of the Middle East. It provides access to a wide range of journal and newspaper articles, books, research, and policy and scholarly discourse regarding the countries and peoples of the Middle East from 1900 to the present. Subject coverage includes arts and humanities, cultural heritage, economic affairs, business and industry, ethnic diversity and anthropology, international relations, political affairs and law, archeology, religion, and society and social welfare.

Oxford Islamic Studies (http://

This is another database that provides excellent background materials on a wide range of topics relating to Islam. Key publications available in the Oxford Islamic Studies database include:

  • John Esposito (ed.) The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World
  • John Esposito (ed.) The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World
  • John Esposito (ed.) The Oxford Dictionary of Islam
  • John Esposito (ed.) The Oxford History of Islam.

Oxford Islamic Studies Online also has various tools available for exploring the Qur’an, including a side by side view to compare and contrast translations of the Qur’an, line by line, and a function that allows the user to find the context for almost any word in the Qur’an.

SHARIAsource ( – (expected beta launch in 2015)

SHARIAsource is not yet available online but promises to be “the go-to site for researchers… seeking to grasp the basics and complexities of Islamic law.” The site aims to provide both primary sources of Islamic law as well as scholar analysis and papers about Islamic Law. SHARIAsource calls itself a combination of Westlaw and SCOTUSblog for Islamic law and would be especially useful for law students and practicing attorneys.


Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (Brill)

The Yearbook covers Islamic and non-Islamic legal subjects, including the laws themselves of twenty Arab and Islamic countries. The Yearbook includes: articles on current topics; country surveys reflecting important new legislation and amendments to existing legislation per country; text of a selected documents and court cases; a “Notes and News” section; and book reviews. This is a useful resource for scholars and practitioners looking to stay current on Islamic and Middle Eastern legal developments.

Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic law (University of California, Berkeley, School of Law)

The Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law is a digital, student-run publication of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. The journal focused on legal and philosophical issues relating to the Middle East and Islamic world, the Middle Eastern countries, Islamic law, and related topics. This journal is useful for scholars of Islamic law.

Electronic Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (open access) (University of Zurich Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Legal Studies)

EJIMEL focuses on the relations between Islam and national and international law. The journal reflects on these relations from a historical context and from many different points of view. The journal also explorers current legal developments in the fields. EJIMEL has a scholarly focus and its scope includes all aspects of of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, such as, democratization, constitutional law, Islamic legal theory, family, gender and human rights. With a global outlook, the journal seeks to highlight the interdependence of legal orders influenced by Islamic law, with other legal jurisdictions worldwide.

Islamic Law and Society (Brill)

Islamic Law and Society seeks to provide a forum for comparative research in the field of Islamic law. The geographic coverage of this resources includes Muslim and non-Muslim countries. Subject matters include theoretical and practical applications of the law. The journal covers all eras of Islamic law and scholarship, from its beginnings up to the present day.  While the main focus of the journal is Islamic law, the journal considers this subject matter from historical, juridical and social-scientific perspectives. The journal also includes articles discussing current legal issues and legislation. For this reason, Islamic Law and Society is useful for both legal scholars and practitioners.

Arab Law Quarterly (Brill)

The Arab Law Quarterly focuses on trade with and investment in Arab States. Subject areas include Arab laws in transnational affairs, commercial law, Islamic Law, and international and comparative law. The intended audience is corporate and international lawyers, and jurists, both academic and practicing.


Baderin, M. (2014). Islamic law (Vol. 1-3). Surrey: Ashgate.

This series of three volumes brings together the best and most influential contributions on Islamic law and, in so doing, provides students and researchers with a ‘one-stop’ resource to help them navigate their way through the widely dispersed and varied literature on this subject.

Mallat, C. (2009). Introduction to Middle Eastern Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This resource provides a solid introduction to the sources of law in the Middle East. Introduction to Middle Eastern Law covers the subject areas of religion, human rights, democracy, indigenous laws, banking and company law, as well as the status of women within the context of the legal systems of the Middle East. The book takes a broad approach to Middle Eastern law and covers Islamic law as well as the laws of Christian and Jewish Near Eastern communities. This key resource provides a detailed survey of the foundations of Middle Eastern Law. Sources addressed include court archives, records of Hammurabi, the compendia of law in the Islamic classical works, and the latest decisions of Middle Eastern high courts. This source is especially valuable for its practical focus on the way legislators and courts conceive of and apply law in the Middle East.

Schacht, J. (1966). An introduction to Islamic law. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

This is a foundational resource that outlines the Islamic legal system. This resource provides both a historical context as well as contemporary overview of Islamic law. The first half of the book presents the evolution of Islamic law. The latter half of the book provides a comprehensive overview of the laws and regulation.

Hallaq, W. (2009). An introduction to Islamic law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

This book is aimed at undergraduate students interested in Islamic law and provides an accessible and fundamental introduction to Islamic law and its history. The first part of the book discusses Islamic law in a pre-modern context. The second part of the book looks at how the law was transformed during the colonial period.

Arabi, O, Powers, D and Spectorsky, S (eds.) (2013). Islamic Legal Thought: A Compendium of Muslim Jurists. Leiden: Brill.

This book is especially useful for specialist in Islamic legal history as well as lawyers interested in the development of Islamic legal thought. This compendium is organized chronologically and highlights the work of 23 Muslim jurists from Abū Ḥanīfa, born in the year 699 AD, to Ḥasan al-Turābī, born in 1932 AD. Twenty-three scholars each contribute a chapter on a distinguished Muslim jurist. Each chapter contains a bibliography of the jurist and a translated sample of the jurist’s work.