The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies convened the first academic conference of the Doha Historical Dictionary of Arabic, over November 5-6. 2014 in Tunis. The theme of the meeting was titled “Towards a Comprehensive Bibliography of Arabic Epistemology from the Third to the Sixth Hijri Centuries”.

The conference participants, a select group of academic specialists, brought to completion their work focused on the three hundred years between 201 "After the Hijra" (A.H.) and 500 A.H. – a critically important period for the bibliography of Arabic epistemological production. The conference afforded an opportunity to collectively review the outcomes of bibliographic work undertaken by each of these scholars in the fields of their specializations, prior to attending.

The conference agreed upon a set of recommendations culminating the discussions held in workshops and panels throughout the conference, and brought the event to an end.  The second day’s plenary session, led by Dr. Ramzi Baalbaki, Chairman of the project’s Academic Board, had discussed reports of the conference workshops and tasked a specialist committee with review and auditing of all bibliographical entries, prior to their approval and incorporation, to expand upon the already-completed first phase of the bibliography (430 years prior to the start of the Islamic era, or AD 192, until 200 AH). This will then complete the bibliography of a total of ten centuries of Arabic epistemological production.

Recommendations regarding the most significant issues arising from the workshops were also agreed: development of criteria for selection of the best edition of each work to be classified with adoption of more than a single edition of a work should any one edition be insufficient; referral of dubiously attributed works to the audit committee for a firm decision on claims of attribution; establishment of a new domain, “Conduct and Honorable Attestation”, to supplement other domains such as day and night work, dhikr ceremonies, speeches, sermons and exhortations; consideration of university theses since these are usually critically edited if not generally published.

In the closing session, the dictionary project’s executive director Dr. Ezzedine Bouchikhi  commended the conference participants for their work and willingness to contribute their special competencies to the historical dictionary. He underlined the importance of the aim of preparing a bibliography to serve the needs of the Doha historical Arabic dictionary, following the previously established plan to consider printed publications including books, workbooks, pamphlets, folios and other items from the reference period to serve as textual references for the construction of the linguistic corpus. Consequently there should be an avoidance of distraction with anything that lies beyond the defined parameters of the bibliography and its associated issues.

He indicated that the bibliographic work presented in the conference will be reviewed and updated in light of the observations and recommendations recorded in the workshops and plenaries, with conference participants being accorded a period of two months after the close of the conference to submit the final versions of their bibliographies. A database of researchers interested in undertaking bibliographic tasks in all epistemological areas will be prepared. The website of the Doha Historical Dictionary of Arabic Language is soon to be launched, allowing interested scholars, researchers and students to follow details of project developments and to benefit directly as progress is gradually built up in areas of bibliography, linguistic corpus, and lexical entries. A specialist journal affiliated with the dictionary project will be announced in the coming months, he added.


Specialist workshops

Chairman of the Academic Board of the Doha Historical Dictionary of Arabic Dr. Ramzi Baalbaki opened the conference on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 in the presence of Dr. Abdul Latif Obaid, Assistant Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, and Dr. Ibrahim bin Murad of the Arab Organization for Education, Culture and Science.

The first day of the conference program participants worked in three separate academic  tracks of workshops according to their specializations: bibliography in Islamic Sciences; bibliography in literature and criticism; and bibliography in science, philosophy and history. For four hours they examined the work prepared in the relevant special area(s) of expertise, each participant presenting the output of the bibliographic work  undertaken and the methodology used in collecting specialized resources, as well as an overall evaluation of these sources.

The workshop addressing Islamic sciences studied the bibliography of Quranic interpretation and Quranic studies prepared by Dr. Mohammed Iqbal Farahat and Dr. Masa’id al-Tayyar;  the bibliography of jurisprudence and usul al-fiqh, prepared by Dr. Hassan Yishou; and the bibliography of Hadith prepared by Dr. Abdel Aziz Farah and the researcher Abdul Ati Sharkawy. In addition, a bibliography of Fiqh and qawa’id was prepared by Dr Mohamed Osman and Dr. Shabir Ahmed Saleh Qatran; a bibliography of faith doctrine and theology was prepared by Dr. Abdul Salam al-Majidi; Dr. Ahmed Al Dhbaib participated in the discussion, which was moderated by Dr. Mohammed al-Obeidi.

The workshop on bibliography of literature and criticism focused on bibliography of the study of language, dictionaries and language treatises prepared by Dr. Ramzi Baalbaki; the  bibliography of grammar and morphology was prepared by Dr. Odeh Abu Odeh and Dr. Hassan al-Malakhk;  the bibliography of poetry was prepared by Dr. Abdalwasa  Humairi and Dr. Walid Kassab;  the bibliography of prose was written by Dr. Mohammad Droubi;  the bibliography of criticism and rhetoric was prepared by Dr. Abbas Arahilah;  the bibliography of classifications and indexes was prepared by Dr Bilal Orfali.  Dr. Saad Maslouh and Dr. Ibrahim bin Murad  participated in the discussions, which were moderated by Dr. Rashid Blhabib.

The workshop on bibliography of science, philosophy, and history was conducted by Dr. Ezzedine Albouchekhi; the bibliography of mathematics, engineering, astronomy and other was prepared by Dr. Abdul Majid Naseer; the bibliography of   sciences and medicine was prepared by Dr. Mahmoud Al Masri; the bibliography of geography, travel and countries was prepared by Dr. Mohammed Alhilos; the bibliography on philosophy and logic was prepared by Dr. Abdul Razzaq Bennour, and bibliography of history, genealogy and biographies was prepared by Dr. Rabih Maghraoui. Dr. Abdul Salam Masdi Dr. Hassan Hamza participated in the discussions.


Foundational Lectures

The conference program included two plenary lectures, the first presented by Dr. Abdul Salam Massadi following the first day’s opening session was entitled "The evolution of language in literature and humanities through three centuries: the third, fourth and fifth." Those three centuries represent a period of epistemological maturity in the history of Arab civilization; the most important feature characterizing the Arabic language during this time was the generation of lexical and linguistic responses to the demands of mental abstraction, resulting in a  kind of explosion in semantics beyond the material world of sensation to abstraction and the construction of rational meaning.

On the second day of the conference Dr. Saad Maslouh delivered a second key  lecture on "the evolution of language in the linguistic sciences", which monitored the change that were taking places in linguistic study over the three critical centuries (the third, fourth and fifth Hijra). A large part of the history of the Arab lexicon was by this time vividly alive and  was seen to be clearly juxtaposed against other neighboring tongues.  As a result, attention should be paid to contemporary Arabic dialects which are tantamount to constituting a living repository for the oral history of the Arabic language, as he described it.

Both lectures demonstrated the historical basis for a modern appreciation of  the derivational power and linguistic potential of the Arabic language for the expression of novel and innovative concepts and the transfer of different types of knowledge.