Biographical dictionary

Last updated

A biographical dictionary is a type of encyclopedic dictionary limited to biographical information. Many attempt to cover the major personalities of a country (with limitations, such as living persons only, in Who's Who , or deceased people only, in the Dictionary of National Biography ). Others are specialized, in that they cover important names in a subject field, such as architecture or engineering.

Encyclopedic dictionary dictionary that collects short articles on a wide range of topics both of an encyclopaedic and a lexicographic kind, arranged in alphabetical order

An encyclopedic dictionary typically includes many short listings, arranged alphabetically, and discussing a wide range of topics. Encyclopedic dictionaries can be general, containing articles on topics in many different fields; or they can specialize in a particular field, such as art, biography, law, medicine, or philosophy. They may also be organized around a particular academic, cultural, ethnic, or national perspective.

Who's Who is the title of a number of reference publications, generally containing concise biographical information on the prominent people of a country. The title has been adopted as an expression meaning a group of notable persons.

<i>Dictionary of National Biography</i> Multi-volume reference work

The Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published since 1885. The updated Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) was published on 23 September 2004 in 60 volumes and online, with 50,113 biographical articles covering 54,922 lives.



Tarif Khalidi claimed the genre of biographical dictionaries is a "unique product of Arab Muslim culture". [1] The earliest extant example of the biographical dictionary dates from 9th-century Iraq, and by the 16th-century it was a firmly established and well-respected form of historical writing. [2] They contain more social data for a large segment of the population than that found in any other pre-industrial society. The earliest biographical dictionaries initially focused on the lives of the prophets of Islam and their companions, with one of the earliest examples being The Book of The Major Classes by Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi, and then began documenting the lives of many other historical figures (from rulers to scholars) who lived in the medieval Islamic world. [3] When it comes to the numbers of individuals, American scholar of Islam Richard Bulliet argues that "a brief look at Brockelmann's Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur is sufficient to convince anyone that the number of individual biographies extant must run into the hundreds of thousands and most likely into the millions." [4]

Iraq Republic in Western Asia

Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 99% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with tiny minorities of Christians, Yarsans, Yezidis and Mandeans also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

Richard W. Bulliet is a professor of history at Columbia University who specializes in the history of Islamic society and institutions, the history of technology, and the history of the role of animals in human society.

Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur

Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur (GAL) is a reference work produced by the German scholar Carl Brockelmann. The work is considered a classic of Orientalist scholarship and it remains a fundamental reference volume for all Arabic literature.

See also

Related Research Articles

Hagiography Biography of a Christian saint

A hagiography is a biography of a saint or an ecclesiastical leader. The term hagiography may be used to refer to the biography of a saint or highly developed spiritual being in any of the world's spiritual traditions.

Madrasa school or college, often providing an Islamic education

Madrasa is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, secular or religious, whether for elementary instruction or higher learning. The word is variously transliterated madrasah, medresa, madrassa, madraza, medrese, etc. In the West, the word usually refers to a specific type of religious school or college for the study of the Islamic religion, though this may not be the only subject studied.

Religious antisemitism is aversion to or discrimination against Jews as a whole based on religious beliefs, false claims against Judaism and religious antisemitic canards. It is sometimes called theological antisemitism.

Islam in Iran

The Muslim conquest of Persia (637–651) led to the end of the Sasanian Empire and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion in Iran (Persia). However, the achievements of the previous Persian civilizations were not lost, but were to a great extent absorbed by the new Islamic polity. Islam has been the official religion of Iran since then, except for a short duration after the Mongol raids and establishment of Ilkhanate. Iran became an Islamic republic after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which ended the Persian monarchy.

Arabist academic or researcher who specialise in the study of the Arabic language and Arabic literature

An Arabist is someone normally from outside the Arab world who specialises in the study of the Arabic language and culture.

Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Habib ibn Samra ibn Jundab al-Fazari was a Muslim philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. He is not to be confused with his father Ibrāhīm al-Fazārī, also an astronomer and mathematician.

The historiography of early Islam refers to the historiogaphic study of the early history of Islam during the 7th century, from Muhammad's first revelations in 610 until the disintegration of the Rashidun Caliphate in 661, and arguably throughout the 8th century and the duration of the Umayyad Caliphate, terminating in the incipient Islamic Golden Age around the beginning of the 9th century.

ʾAḥmad ibn Yaḥyā al-Balādhurī was a 9th-century Muslim historian. One of the eminent Middle Eastern historians of his age, he spent most of his life in Baghdad and enjoyed great influence at the court of the caliph al-Mutawakkil. He traveled in Syria and Iraq, compiling information for his major works.

Rashid Rida Syrian Muslim scholar and reformer

Muhammad Rashid Rida was an early Islamic reformer, whose ideas would later influence 20th-century Islamist thinkers in developing a political philosophy of an "Islamic state". Rida is said to have been one of the most influential and controversial scholars of his generation and was deeply influenced by the early Salafi Movement and the movement for Islamic Modernism founded in Cairo by Muhammad Abduh.

Recorded history historical narrative based on a written record or other documented communication

Recorded history or written history is a historical narrative based on a written record or other documented communication. It contrasts with other narratives of the past, such as mythological, oral or archeological traditions. For broader world history, recorded history begins with the accounts of the ancient world around the 4th millennium BC, and coincides with the invention of writing. For some geographic regions or cultures, written history is limited to a relatively recent period in human history because of the limited use of written records. Moreover, human cultures do not always record all of the information relevant to later historians, such as the full impact of natural disasters or the names of individuals. Recorded history for particular types of information is therefore limited based on the types of records kept. Because of this, recorded history in different contexts may refer to different periods of time depending on the topic.

Biography Written account of a persons life

A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a person's experience of these life events. Unlike a profile or curriculum vitae (résumé), a biography presents a subject's life story, highlighting various aspects of his or her life, including intimate details of experience, and may include an analysis of the subject's personality.

Between the 9th and 14th centuries, the Muslim world developed many advanced concepts, techniques and use in production, investment, finance, economic development, taxation, property use such as Hawala, an early informal value transfer system, Islamic trusts known as waqf, systems of contract relied upon by merchants, a widely circulated common currency, cheques, promissory notes, early contracts, bills of exchange, and mufawada.

Abul-Qasim al-Hussein bin Mufaddal bin Muhammad, better known as Raghib Isfahani, was an eleventh-century Muslim scholar of Qur'anic exegesis and the Arabic language.

Historicity of Muhammad

While the existence of Muhammad is established by contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous historical records, attempts to distinguish between the historical elements and the ahistorical elements of many of the reports of Muhammad have not been very successful. Hence the historicity of Muhammad, aside from his existence, is debated. The earliest Muslim source of information for the life of Muhammad, the Quran, gives very little personal information and its historicity is debated. Next in importance is the sīra literature and hadith, which survive in the historical works of writers from the third, and fourth centuries of the Muslim era. There are also a relatively small number of contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous non-Muslim sources, which confirm the existence of Muhammad and are valuable both in themselves and for comparison with Muslim sources.

The Albert Hourani Book Award is an award honoring scholarly non-fiction books, given by the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to "recognize outstanding publishing in Middle East studies" and to honor work "that exemplifies scholarly excellence and clarity of presentation in the tradition of Albert Hourani", the distinguished scholar of Arab and Islamic history. On occasion two authors have shared the year's award; in some years, the society has given honorable mention distinctions. MESA first gave the award in 1991.

Dayr Tarif Village in Ramle, Mandatory Palestine

Dayr Tarif was a Palestinian Arab village in the Ramle Subdistrict of Mandatory Palestine. It was ethnically cleansed during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War on July 10, 1948.

Tarif Khalidi is a Palestinian historian who now holds the Shaykh Zayid Chair in Islamic and Arabic Studies at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

Manāqib is a genre in Arabic, Turkish, and Persian literature, broadly encompassing "biographical works of a laudatory nature", "in which the merits, virtues and remarkable deeds of the individual concerned are given prominence" and particularly hagiographies. The principle goal of such works "is to offer to the reader a moral portrait and information on the noble actions of the individuals who constitute their subject or on the superior merits of a certain group". Such texts are valuable sources for the socio-political and religious history of early and medieval Islam.



  1. Khalidi, Tarif (January 1973). "ISLAMIC BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARIES: A PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT". The Muslim World. 63 (1): 53–65. doi:10.1111/j.1478-1913.1973.tb03104.x.
  2. Scalenghe, Sara (2014). "Introduction". Disability in the Ottoman Arab World, 1500-1800. Loyola University Maryland. p. 16. ISBN   1107622794.
  3. Josef W. Meri (2005), Medieval Islamic civilization: an encyclopedia, 2, Routledge, p. 110, ISBN   0-415-96690-6
  4. Richard W. Bulliet, "A Quantitative Approach to Medieval Muslim Biographical Dictionaries" in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Apr., 1970), p. 195