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Al Azhar online library offers access to rare manuscripts

By a staff reporter / 7 November 2006

DUBAI — The response to the online library of Al Azhar, one of the Islamic world’s oldest and most prominent learning centres, has been overwhelming so far, say officials.

The online service, www.alazharonline.org, launched about a month ago, provides global visitors with access to thousands of its rare manuscripts.

Mohammad Tokan, the first subscriber of Al Azhar online, said, “The best thing about this project is that it gives everyone a chance to read about the Islamic culture. And since I’m keen to know about Sufism, I can find all the rare references online at Al Azhar,” said Tokan, an IT engineer with Engineering House in Amman.

Al Azhar reportedly has 1.5 million hits and more than 36,000 visitors in less than one month.

Interestingly, 60 per cent of the hits are from the United States.

When subscribing to Al Azhar online, scholars, researchers and millions across the world will be able to view rare manuscripts that would otherwise have been inaccessible.

Moreover, subscribers will be able to download digital copies of several priceless manuscripts.

CDs of the manuscripts can be also obtained from Al Azhar’s online library for a small fee.

“I really loved the service. It is very fast and efficient. The presentation of the web site is just amazing.”

“I can see the efforts and hard work behind it,” concluded Tokan.

The money generated from the subscription of these services will be used to enhance the project and preserve these rare manuscripts in a digital format and facilitating greater accessibility to users around the world.

Al Azhar’s online library contains over 27,000 manuscripts in 3 million pages that cover 63 fields in science and arts.

On the completion of the archiving of the rest of Al Azhar’s manuscripts, that are over 42,000 manuscripts in 7 million pages, it will be the largest manuscript web site on the Internet and the first of its kind in the world.
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