In the past two decades, the academic world in the West has seen a proliferation of literature on Islam and Muslim cultures and civilizations. Some writings have been original while others have been either translations from works authored in languages such as Arabic and Persian or a mixture of translation and original writing. Encyclopaedia Islamica falls within the latter category. It has its own original entries while for the most part it is a translation of the Da͗irat al-Ma͑arif-i Buzurg-i Islami (published in Iran) with additional articles authored by researchers associated with the Institute of Ismaili Studies.
The publication of the Persian original has been under the editorship of Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi who, up to 1979, was a political prisoner. Following the Revolution and his release from prison, Bojnourdi devoted his life to establishing and nurturing his encyclopaedia project. Bojnouridi was able to recruit older scholars in post-revolution Iran to write entries for the encyclopaedia. Da͗irat-ul-Ma͑arif-i Bozorg-i Islami along with Daneshnameh Jahan-i Islam began as projects to fill the gap in encyclopaedic writings in the Persian language.
Bojnourdi’s Herculean achievement in bringing together various luminaries of Persian literature and scholarship has largely been unnoticed in Western academic circles and Persian/Islamic studies departments. The Institute of Ismaili Studies should be commended for taking on the mammoth task of translating, editing, and rewriting the entries as well as commissioning further entries in English. The end result is an encyclopaedia which provides comprehensive coverage of Shi͑a Islam. In that sense, it is a welcome addition to the existing encyclopaedic literature on Islam that has been written in English and other European languages since the Shi͑a viewpoint has been neglected (or even suppressed) in the encyclopaedias that have hitherto been [End Page 107] written in the West on Islam. Therefore, the publication of Encyclopaedia Islamica is a notable step forward in including the Shi͑a viewpoint in scholarship on Islam.
This review takes a close look at the third volume of this encyclopaedia, starting with the elusive concept of adab to al-Bab al-Hadi ͑Ashar, the renowned theological treatise by the famed Shi͑a scholar ͑Allamah al-Hilli. Despite occasional stylistic incongruities, this volume contains little gems that could serve as unique sources in English on these topics. The short entry on Ayat Allah (i.e. Ayatollah) provides excellent insight into the evolution and history of this honorific term. The piece on ͑Ayn al-Qudat al-Hamadani contains new insights on the life of this passionate Persian mystic martyr whose life and works remain hidden to many English readers even within academic circles. The volume contains 12 unique entries on Imam ͑Ali (A), some of which have been written as original pieces in English. The most illuminating one is the sixth entry entitled ‘Mysticism’, authored by Mohammad Reza Jozi and Reza Shah-Kazemi, two scholars who have lectured and written extensively on the character and personality of Imam ͑Ali ibn Abi Talib.
Farhad Daftary and Wilfred Madelung serve as the Editors-in-Chief of this volume (and previous volumes as well). Both are internationally recognised authorities in the fields of Shi͑a and Isma͑ili studies. Daftary has written the entry on the ‘Assassins’ for this volume. As Daftari’s expertise is in the field of Ismaili Studies, he appears to have revised the entry on Alamut, the citadel that served as the centre of Isma͑ili power in Iran, either before or after translation. Such revisions and expansions, compared to the original Persian edition, occur in entries such as ‘Adam’ where Russel Harris has added his notes on the etymological and artistic aspects of this entry, and Stephen Hirtenstein has written on the representation of Adam in Sufi texts (21–35).
However, one should point out some errors and omissions. There are minor errors in transliteration such as Kitabkhanah-yi Sa͑ada (367), which should be Kitabkhanah-yi...