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'Muslim World Almanac 2008'.

Review by Dr Mehtab Syed Karim and Moinuddin Khan In the first publication of its kind, we are reminded that Almanac is originally an Arabic word which has been taken from "almanakh", meaning the calendar, in modern sense too, an almanac, is an annual calendar of events and developments, data and statistics of a country, a group of countries, or the world as a whole. It is in the nature of a publication of this kind that it will have to be updated and published on continuing basis from year to year. Thus the "Muslim World Almanac 2008", edited by Saqib Jawaid Anwar Al-Hassan and published by Research and Documentation Society, is a pace-setter for the revival of a virtually abandoned pursuit of an intellectual activity on the part of the Muslims.Islam, the living and dynamic Faith of about 1.5 billion people, dispersed all over the world, is increasingly coming into sharp focus owing to some recent events. Unfortunately, there is a widespread belief in the West that Islam fosters violence, which is utterly untrue as the Noble Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) enjoin upon the Muslims to be the best models of humanity and law-abiding citizens, wherever they live. The "Muslim World Almanac 2008" providing a ground-breaking work of global dimension is not only a re-visit of the unifying power of the book to gather together disparate Muslim populations through publication of authentic information and dispelling ignorance about co-religionists living far and near on this planet but also as an initial study of a world-wide community practicing the same precepts of Islam.In retrospect, compilation of work on Muslim countries, or for that matter on the Muslim populations, have never been fairly dealt with in toto in any standard publication of repute as has been done by Makkah and Karachi based Research and Documentation Society, which plans to come up with such a publication every year. The Society's motto is "to know ourselves before knowing the world". To come up with "a handy reckoner on the Muslim world" which runs into a thousand pages presenting an objective review of Muslim life in the 21st century (15th century Hijrah) is indeed a gigantic task. It is a timely clarion call for the Muslims, who slowly but surely with a population approaching 1.5 billion people are climbing towards over a quarter of the world's population.The successful execution of a great work of this kind could alone be handled by a full-fledged board of eminent scholars and editors, besides requisitioning the services of experts and analysts, who have done full justice to the topics assigned to them. Their names and affiliations have enhanced the prestige and the dignity of this publication. They have jointly come up with a vade-mecum for the study of Muslin societies in all their historic diversity and help assessing the challenges and tribulations faced by the present day Muslim populations, whether living in predominantly Muslim countries or in countries where they are living minorities. This reference compilation goes a long way to dispel misgivings about Islam by highlighting Muslims' pivotal role in presenting the true spirit of Islam and bridging the gap between Islam and rest of the world. Not only past achievements of the Muslims have been highlighted but also their present-day status has been brought into focus. The key issues, which the Almanac could hardly ignore under prevailing Islamophobia, include: 1) importance given to human rights and social egalitarianism by Islam; 2) the significance of such an important and widely-misunderstood Islamic institution as Jihad; 3) the significance and role of mosques in Muslim community life; 4) the dignity, status and security of women in Islam; 5) terrorism, extremism, sectarianism and other subversive cults and ideologies and; 6) the cardinal teachings of the Glorious Qur'an and the Traditions of the Noble Prophet (Peace be Upon Him). Of course there is much more in this encyclopedic compendium under its fourteen different sections. Being an Almanac and a maiden issue, it has not only to deal with the glorious past of Muslims but must also dwell upon the contemporary events. Some current topics interalia are: environment, presenting an Islamic perspective; current Muslim issues, dealing with the plight of Muslim minorities in Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and India; Islamic Banking; Muslim Institutions, covering both religious and secular present-day institutions of learning including Muslim institutions in history; wile a special section brings forth issues of Palestine, Kashmir, the dilemma in Darfur and the struggle of Chechen Muslims into limelight. The Almanac provides a know-all portrayal of Muslim countries with pictures of each country's leaders, important buildings, places and happenings interspersed with the text. Such an extensive coverage is not available in any other publication to date and thus the "Muslim World Almanac 2008" stands to serve both the Muslim and Non-Muslim readers everywhere. Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries and this portion of the Almanac could serve as a travel guide for holiday-planners particularly Muslim tourists, who post- 9/11 would prefer to spend their vacations in a Muslim country, rather than due to their Faith, face suspicions and embarrassments in may western countries. Many Muslim countries have beautiful natural sites, which are not much known to the tourists in the Islamic world, e.g. Petra in Jordan, which is of historical importance to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The dynamism of tourism is expected to continue outpacing economic growth in future, driven by globalization and economic expansion. This is a first ever publication where an important chapter on Demography of Muslim countries is included with complete statistical data on 57 Muslim countries on 123 parameters including on social, economic, health and demographic indicators running into 128 pages. Profiles of independent Muslim states spread over large parts of the globe has thus, been comprehensively presented in an objective and factual manner with the help of statistical data. As much as possible the latest data is provided succinctly and precisely under uniform headings. One can just compare and contrast the prevailing situation in different Muslim countries during the past three decades. While making a comparative study of progress made by different Muslim countries, one may note poor indicators-such as literacy rate, economic condition, natural resources, and the status of science and technology in a majority of these countries, and wishes that a lot could be done in these spheres, which would strengthen the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as a force to be reckoned with on international forums. For example, the lowest literacy rates are reported from West African Muslim countries, such as in Niger where only 15 percent of population can read and write due to low allocation to the social sector, as against a small country like Brunei which spends 9 percent of its GDP on education and thus has 94 percent literacy rate. We must realize that education is be-all and end-all for the progress and survival of any Muslim country. They can only compete with the West as well as China and Japan, if they pool their economic resources and with the help of highly educated Muslim scholars and scientists--working within academic institutions in their own countries or in the West-- and educate the youth who constitute about one-third of most of the countries in the Muslim world. Indeed it is high time, that a university with multiple campuses in the Muslim world is established to promote higher education and scientific development as was done by the Muslim scholars in the past. Science and technology are the driving force for innovation and creativity and can strengthen indigenous technology, production efficiency and development of human capital. Unfortunately, after the period of decline, the Muslim lagged behind other nations in this crucial area. Later with independence from colonial rules, the search for knowledge and pursuit of excellence in the fields of science and technology has gained a thrust, though much has to be achieved. The Muslim world must pull its weight to induce scientific and technical progress. For example, advancement in telecommunication technology has the potential to lead us into sharing scientific research and studies among Muslim countries. The overall economic condition of Muslim countries leaves much to be desired, whereas many are invariably rich in mineral and natural resources. Allah has endowed them with untapped wealth beneath their feet, which is the envy of the West. Thus, by pooling their resources these countries could make concerted efforts in the promotion of higher education and science and technology and pull out their poorer brethren from the shackles of poverty. The Muslim World Almanac 2008 is indeed a noteworthy attempt to negate all wrong notions about Islam and Muslims and speaks for a vast majority of people still committed to tension-free world and still happily devoted to a civilized discourse of global goodwill and harmony. The Almanac is recommended to all and sundry, as well as students, experts and professionals. With such vast information in one volume no library, particularly in a Muslim country can afford not have a copy of the Muslim World Almanac 2008.n'Muslim World Almanac 2008'

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Jun 7, 2008
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