A Brief History of Al-Furqan
Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation was established initially with the aim to document and preserve the Islamic written heritage, principally through its work in surveying, imaging, cataloguing, editing, studying and publishing Islamic manuscripts. But, with time, its scope of activity has expanded, and it has become a Foundation, consisting of three centres:
1. The Centre for the Study of Islamic Manuscripts (Manuscript Centre)
The Manuscript Centre within Al-Furqan was established in 1988, aiming to preserve and study the Islamic manuscripts, which constitute a particularly important part of Islamic heritage.
The Foundation has as its aim, the documentation and preservation of the Islamic written heritage. It is pursuing this aim principally through its work in surveying, cataloguing, editing and publishing Islamic manuscripts.
Islamic manuscripts are estimated to number three million, covering subjects as diverse as the Quran, Prophetic traditions, jurisprudence, logic and philosophy, as well as mathematics, botany, biology, poetry, literature, art, crafts, etc.
Nowadays, these manuscripts are not the exclusive preserve of Arab and other Muslim countries, or even of countries with large Muslim minorities. Manuscripts are found extensively in Europe, the Americas, Japan, Australia and Africa. There is hardly a country that does not possess some manuscripts produced under the aegis of the Muslim civilisation.
This large and important resource is, tragically, in great danger of being damaged or even lost forever, due to political conflicts, social upheavals or merely natural causes. Whenever and wherever there is a lack of resources essential for its maintenance and preservation, this heritage is in danger.
The Manuscript Centre within Al-Furqan is committed to mobilising all available expertise to preserve these manuscripts and to restore their content to the cultural mainstream.
2. The Centre for the Study of the Philosophy of Islamic Law (Maqasid Centre)
The Centre for the Study of the Philosophy of Islamic Law was established in the year 2005, under the umbrella of Al-Furqan.
The mission of the Centre is summarised in the revitalisation of the knowledge of al-maqasid (objectives, purposes), in order to develop the process of ijtihad (free reasoning) and the renewal of Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence), its fundamental theory (usul), and Islamic thought in general. The Centre also aims to broaden the horizons of knowledge for students of Islamic studies everywhere.
3. The Centre for Compiling the Encyclopaedia of Makkah and Madinah (Makkah and Madinah Centre)
The Centre for Compiling the Encyclopaedia of Makkah and Madinah owes its existence to two people, the late Sheikh Hamad al-Jasser and Dr Abbas Saleh Tashkandy, former Head Librarian at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.
In 1991, the late Sheikh Hamad al-Jasser, a member of Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, gave a keynote speech at the Foundation’s launch, in which he presented some of the most valuable manuscripts of Makkah and Madinah and urged the Foundation to undertake the task of producing an encyclopaedia of the two great cities. Dr Abbas Saleh Tashkandi was the first with whom HE Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani - the Chairman and Founder of Al-Furqan - raised the idea in 1978.
The first meeting of the Encyclopaedia's Council of Consultants was held in Jeddah on 4 November 1994, under the chairmanship of Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani.
After a series of intensive meetings with consultants and academic councils, in Istanbul, Madinah and various other places inside and outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, spanning a period of four years, work started on the encyclopaedia.