Demonstrators in Tahrir Square cheer after hearing news of the resignation of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011. Dissent, according to The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Thought, is a primary obligation in the face of an unjust form of government. John Moore / Getty Images
Demonstrators in Tahrir Square cheer after hearing news of the resignation of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011. Dissent, according to The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic ThoShow more

Encyclopedia compiles the complexities of Islamic political thought

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought
Gerhard Bowering, Editor
Princeton University Press

It was a spring afternoon in New Haven in 2005 when I met with Gerhard Bowering in his office on the fourth floor of the Religious Studies building, directly across from Yale's Sterling Memorial Library.

Prof Bowering told me that he had been approached by a publishing house to serve as editor in chief of a new encyclopedia on Islamic political thought. He asked me to join him as the assistant editor. Little did we know that our pact of collaboration was the initiation of a seven-year-long journey culminating in the product we see on our shelves today: The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought.

Prof Bowering was strongly attracted by the idea of an encyclopedia of Islamic political thought because there was hardly any easily available comprehensive source of information on the thought patterns that inspired the great variety of political action taken by Muslim nations all over the world.

In today's world, much emphasis is given to political action, but little attention is paid to the vision that inspired Islamic politics and defined the root-causes of its underlying thought patterns. From the beginning, he envisaged an encyclopedia that would combine two factors.

First, it would give substantive information on representative political topics in a contemporary perspective and, at the same time, offer an in-depth historical perception of the traditional roots of Islamic political thought. Second, it would be an encyclopedia that combined the great variety of particular informative articles with well-selected broad analytical core articles that would work as brackets for the wealth of information found in the particular articles. These two tangents of his vision inspired the composition and compilation of the encyclopedia.

Two other factors were crucial for the success of the project. The first was the comfortable working relationship between the general editor and myself as the assistant editor. The second was the selection of the team of associate editors: Patricia Crone (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton), Wadad Kadi (University of Chicago), Devin Stewart (Emory University), and Muhammad Qasim Zaman (Brown and then Princeton University), all of them leading scholars in the field. Their dedication to the project was an auspicious beginning and offered a firm scholarly foundation to its ambition and scope.

The first formal step, after the assembly of the team, was to develop a project proposal that outlined its scope, structure, and purpose as an accessible single-volume reference for students, non-specialist scholars, and the educated public.

We organised the entries into four broad categories, each under the supervision of one of the associate editors: "Sects" (Crone), "People" (Kadi), "Law" (Stewart), and "Modernity" (Zaman), while Prof Bowering took the editorial responsibilities for the 15 core articles (Authority, Fundamentalism, Caliph and Caliphate, Government, Jihad, Knowledge, Minorities, Modernity, Mohammed, Pluralism and Tolerance, Quran, Revival and Reform, Sharia, Tradition and Political Thought, and 'Ulama').

In 2006, the team met at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. There we agreed on our respective roles, enhanced the entry list, and determined the approximate length for each entry. Our vision from the beginning was to collaborate towards a single-volume reference work consisting of approximately 400 entries that amounted to a cumulative word-count of 500,000. And that is precisely what we delivered.

As assistant editor, I was also responsible for many of the logistics involved in compiling the articles included in the encyclopedia. The painstaking production process may be broken down into the following three elements: development of a project website with guidelines for contributors and sample entries; the need for a method to contact potential contributors, solicit entries, and enter into formal contracts and provide real-time access on the project's status. The first of these was accomplished fairly quickly. The decision to adopt the transliteration guidelines of the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, with minor modifications, enabled us to deal with a potentially complicated aspect of Arabic-Islamic scholarship in a straightforward manner.

The second and third items were a lot more involved. Although the editors had offered contributor names for each entry in our initial meeting, writing for encyclopedias is a labour of love. The honorarium is a paltry sum, and academic institutions tend to give such contributions little to no credit for tenure files. Each of the editors did their part to initiate personal appeals in their respective circles. As a consequence, we were able to muster an impressive list of entries and contributors. The third item was equally daunting. As assistant editor, it was my fear that the processing of entries would be an endless jumble of Word files and emails. Would the editors work on entries in parallel? How would differences of opinion be resolved?

In order to nip these potential issues in the bud, I wanted to run the project on a website that was always accessible, where all edits were tracked automatically, and each entry could be edited by only one person at a time. The solution presented itself in the form of a public Wiki site, I organised the site into separate sections for each editor, a common page for all entries in alphabetical order, and links to the public website and guidelines. Everybody on the team was provided access.

The question of how to control the content of entries came to the fore from time-to-time. Our guidelines clearly stipulated that entries should be accessible as general introductions to concepts, but distinguish themselves from related works by highlighting political thought.

Fortunately, the bulk of the entries arrived in relatively good form. Anne Savarese, who was responsible for the management of the volume at Princeton University Press, would go over each article with a fine-tooth comb. The cooperation with her and her staff proved decisive for the smooth completion of the encyclopedia, which had no template in its vision and structure.

In this manner, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought came to life over a period of seven years. A project of this scale requires a stunning amount of goodwill and cooperation.

This spirit drove the team of editors under the leadership of Prof Bowering, both among the scholar-experts as well as on the side of the administration. Anne Savarese of Princeton University Press remained a stalwart supporter of the project, despite repeated delays, recognising the limitations on time and often going out of her way to provide necessary resources. The project would not have been successful without all the moving parts agreeing to constantly re-align for the purpose of achieving a higher objective. All of the editors ended up contributing more entries than they had initially agreed to. Watching them work has been an inspiration. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it all.

Mahan H Mirza is assistant editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought.


Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Know your cyber adversaries

Cryptojacking: Compromises a device or network to mine cryptocurrencies without an organisation's knowledge.

Distributed denial-of-service: Floods systems, servers or networks with information, effectively blocking them.

Man-in-the-middle attack: Intercepts two-way communication to obtain information, spy on participants or alter the outcome.

Malware: Installs itself in a network when a user clicks on a compromised link or email attachment.

Phishing: Aims to secure personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Ransomware: Encrypts user data, denying access and demands a payment to decrypt it.

Spyware: Collects information without the user's knowledge, which is then passed on to bad actors.

Trojans: Create a backdoor into systems, which becomes a point of entry for an attack.

Viruses: Infect applications in a system and replicate themselves as they go, just like their biological counterparts.

Worms: Send copies of themselves to other users or contacts. They don't attack the system, but they overload it.

Zero-day exploit: Exploits a vulnerability in software before a fix is found.


Favourite place to go to in the UAE: The desert sand dunes, just after some rain

Who inspires you: Anybody with new and smart ideas, challenging questions, an open mind and a positive attitude

Where would you like to retire: Most probably in my home country, Hungary, but with frequent returns to the UAE

Favorite book: A book by Transilvanian author, Albert Wass, entitled ‘Sword and Reap’ (Kard es Kasza) - not really known internationally

Favourite subjects in school: Mathematics and science

Dengue fever symptoms
  • High fever
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  • Severe headache
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  • Vomiting
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If symptoms occur, they usually last for two-seven days


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Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates


Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

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Rating: 4.5/5

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Andre Bikey (Jamshedpur) The Cameroonian defender is onto the 17th club of a career has taken him to Spain, Portugal, Russia, the UK, Greece, and now India. He is still only 32, so there is plenty of time to add to that tally, too. Scored goals against Liverpool and Chelsea during his time with Reading in England.

Emiliano Alfaro (Pune City) The Uruguayan striker has played for Liverpool – the Montevideo one, rather than the better-known side in England – and Lazio in Italy. He was prolific for a season at Al Wasl in the Arabian Gulf League in 2012/13. He returned for one season with Fujairah, whom he left to join Pune.

UAE tour of the Netherlands

UAE squad: Rohan Mustafa (captain), Shaiman Anwar, Ghulam Shabber, Mohammed Qasim, Rameez Shahzad, Mohammed Usman, Adnan Mufti, Chirag Suri, Ahmed Raza, Imran Haider, Mohammed Naveed, Amjad Javed, Zahoor Khan, Qadeer Ahmed

Fixtures: Monday, first 50-over match; Wednesday, second 50-over match; Thursday, third 50-over match

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Five expert hiking tips
  • Always check the weather forecast before setting off
  • Make sure you have plenty of water
  • Set off early to avoid sudden weather changes in the afternoon
  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear
  • Take your litter home with you

The flights
Whether you trek after mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda or the Congo, the most convenient international airport is in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. There are direct flights from Dubai a couple of days a week with RwandAir. Otherwise, an indirect route is available via Nairobi with Kenya Airways. Flydubai flies to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, via Entebbe in Uganda. Expect to pay from US$350 (Dh1,286) return, including taxes.
The tours
Superb ape-watching tours that take in all three gorilla countries mentioned above are run by Natural World Safaris. In September, the company will be operating a unique Ugandan ape safari guided by well-known primatologist Ben Garrod.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, local operator Kivu Travel can organise pretty much any kind of safari throughout the Virunga National Park and elsewhere in eastern Congo.


Date started: February 2017

Founders: Amira Rashad (CEO), Yusuf Saber (CTO), Mahmoud Sayedahmed (adviser), Reda Bouraoui (adviser)

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: E-commerce 

Size: 50 employees

Funding: approximately $6m

Investors: Beco Capital, Enabling Future and Wain in the UAE; China's MSA Capital; 500 Startups; Faith Capital and Savour Ventures in Kuwait

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants

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The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

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If you go

The flights
Emirates flies from Dubai to Seattle from Dh5,555 return, including taxes.

The car
Hertz offers compact car rental from about $300 (Dh1,100) per week, including taxes. Emirates Skywards members can earn points on their car hire through Hertz.

The national park
Entry to Mount Rainier National Park costs $30 for one vehicle and passengers for up to seven days. Accommodation can be booked through Prices vary according to season. Rooms at the Holiday Inn Yakima cost from $125 per night, excluding breakfast.


Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

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Bert van Marwijk factfile

Born: May 19 1952
Place of birth: Deventer, Netherlands
Playing position: Midfielder

Teams managed:
1998-2000 Fortuna Sittard
2000-2004 Feyenoord
2004-2006 Borussia Dortmund
2007-2008 Feyenoord
2008-2012 Netherlands
2013-2014 Hamburg
2015-2017 Saudi Arabia
2018 Australia

Major honours (manager):
2001/02 Uefa Cup, Feyenoord
2007/08 KNVB Cup, Feyenoord
World Cup runner-up, Netherlands