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Collection Details

Islam held at Asian and African Studies [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

Manuscripts, printed books and serials in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and all the Islamic vernacular languages of South Asia (Urdu, Sindhi, Kashmiri, Muslim Panjabi and Muslim Bengali) as well as some South-East Asian languages e.g. Malay, Javanese and Bugis. The manuscript collections are very large and wide-ranging, comprising over 300 copies of the Qur'an (ranging over all the styles of calligraphy and the geographical spread of Islam), 700 works on the Qur'anic sciences, 900 hadith collections, 1650 works of the various schools of Islamic law, 1200 works of mysticism, pietics, sermons and prayers, and nearly 900 works of Islamic philosophy. In Persian,Turkish, Urdu and Malay there are translations and commentaries on the Qur'an, works on hadith, law, philosophy, etc. The printed book collections are likewise large and wide-ranging and similar in content e.g. strong in early printed editions and translations of the Qur'an, with particularly good coverage of the Islamic publications lithographed in the Indian subcontinent, Iran and the Middle East, and Singapore in the 19th century. Western-language printed material on Islam may be found in the European Printed Books collection of OIOC and in the general RS & CD collections. Western-language manuscripts relating to Islam may be found in the European Manuscripts Section of OIOC and the Department of Manuscripts. Paintings, drawings and photographs of Islamic festivals, ceremonies, mosques and tombs, etc. may be found in the Prints, Drawings & Photographs collections within OIOC. Recordings of Islamic music (Qawwalis, etc.) may be found in the International Music collections of the National Sound Archive.

History and development

- The collection of Islamic texts and associated literature has been built up continously since the late 18th century. In the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, the intake of material relating to Islam benefitted enormously from the colonial legal deposit arrangements for India, as the sub-continent was one of the most prolific centres of Islamic publishing at that time. Printed books, especially modern critical editions of texts, are still collected, as are manuscripts occasionally.


- The collection is very important in both national and international research terms for its breadth and depth across languages and across material formats. For more information on strengths, see the records for individual language collections, especially Arabic.

General arrangement and access regulations

The British Library's holdings on Islam cut across many different language and format collections - e.g. the Islamic manuscripts are shelved as part of OIOC's oriental manuscripts collection; Islamic printed books likewise within the individual language collections.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

Central Asia and the Caucasus, East Asia, Near & Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, South East Asia.

Languages of material

Arabic, Buginese, Javanese, Malay, Persian, Turkish, Urdu.


Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Development, Law, Philosophy, Religion.

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Audio materials (includes cassettes & CDs), Books, Manuscripts, Newspapers (includes microfilm editions), Serials, Visual materials (includes photographs, prints, drawings, videos & films).

Total size of collection

Impossible to estimate as islamic holdings cut across so many different language collections.

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed, and the average intake has stayed the same.

Content date range

0 to 0 AD

Collection Catalogue Information


There is no separate catalogue for Islamic holdings - please refer to other catalogues for manuscripts or printed materials in individual languages.

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