For many years now I’ve watched debates on sharia and copyright—and specifically copyright on works of `ilm al-din—go round and round with very little new progress made. This is, I suppose merely reflective of the same ground reality of near-universal disregard of copyright which shapes the general debate.

But what’s surprising is that some of what seems to draw the most ire from those in favor of protecting content creators’ investments is the habit—especially in the Arab world— of “unscrupulous” publishers reprinting the texts of critical editions prepared at great expense. We’ll ignore the fact that many critical editions are actually masters and doctoral theses. The simple, plain truth is that a critical edition of a public domain work (and it would be extremely rare to find a critical edition of a non-public domain work) is not a copyrightable work in itself. Frontmatter, footnotes and so on will be subject to copyright, but the text itself is merely a reproduction of something already free to all—no matter how much effort and cost was expended in preparing it. I suspect that even those footnotes which point out variations between manuscripts are also part of the public domain as they constitute facts, and one can not copyright a list of facts. Yes, a pdf of a scanned copy of a critical edition is probably a copyright violation, but printing a separate edition based on the text prepared by the editor should be perfectly legal. And unless the proponents of shar`i copyright—which in my opinion has no leg to stand on aside from local law—are willing to contend that the sharia’s protection of creator effort and intellectual property extends beyond what the relevant statutes and treaties require, it must be ceded that this action is entirely permissible.


The Dawat-e Islami IT team has done something incredible in putting together their Fatawa Rizwiyya Sharif application. Unfortunately, this team seems to be an all Microsoft shop. We’ll make dua for them on that.

Meanwhile, there seems to have been a slight oversight in releasing the software. Insha’ Allah we can get them to devote a few minutes of tawajjuh to this and rebuild the executable they distribute.

The problem is this: the app depends on [something related to] the Jet DB Engine, which is not only deprecated, but does not run natively under 64 bit versions of Windows. This does not mean that the software cannot run under 64-bit OSes, but rather the OS needs to know to run it app as a 32-bit app. Unfortunately Visual Studio compiles apps by default as platform agnostic, and 64-bit users receive an error. IIRC the error is something like “Microsoft.Jet.OleDb.4.0 provider is not registered on the local machine.”

While we wait for a fixed version, there is a fix you can perform locally. To change the 32-bit execution flag, just run:

CoreFlags.exe FatawaeRazaviya.exe /32BIT+

(Determining the full path for each of these executables is left as an exercise for the reader.)

CoreFlags is a part of the .NET SDK. If this is not already installed, download the latest version of the installer. (You can use the “for Windows 7” version on Vista – and it will probably correspond to the version of .NET you have installed.) In the installer, you only need to check: Developer Tools > Windows Development Tools > .NET Development Tools.


After changing this one flag, the app will work beautifully, assuming you have taken the necessary language setup steps.

Allah reward Ala Hazrat رضی اللہ عنہ and Hazrat Maulana Ilyas Qadiri and all of those working for Dawat-e Islami, and especially the programmers and ulama who have taken part in this effort a thousand times for every click of every user, and 100,000 times for every time someone acts on a point learned from a work prepared or question answered using this software.

I’m not really a Windows or .NET person, so if I’ve made any mistake in my explanation, forgive me and correct me.

So the last post caught Habib Haddad of Yamli’s attention. Which brought his twitter feed to my attention. Which led me to this article from Flip Media. Which led me to realize that in addition to two other yamli competitors, Google already has their own ta3reeb. I still love yamli – and their search component is as great as the keyboard aspect. Still I’d love to spark some competition between them for inclusion of characters from other Arabic-based scripts and some of the presentation forms.

Now, about the competitors: Read the rest of this entry »

Yamli is an Arabic frontend to Google (I believe I’ve mentioned it before) which deserves to win all kinds of awards. (Click to skip over verbosity to the howto.) They use a Google suggest-like interface to convert phonetically typed words and phrases to Arabic script. It’s perfect for on the fly typing of short passages on machines where setting up an Arabic keyboard mapping or switching is just not worth it. It is very similar in operation to the Indic scripts gadget which has slowly propagated across Google’s properties, and was recently added to the Gmail editor. Read the rest of this entry »

Having done the post-for-my-own-reference thing yesterday, I felt a weird motivation to dig out the citations for two reference works I once fell in love with, but which I can never remember. I would probably be willing to buy a copy of either at anything approaching a price I could afford:

  1. H.F. Wustenfeld, Vergleichungs-Tabellen zur muslimischen und iranischen Zeitrechnung
  2. Gerhard Doerfer, Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung älterer neupersischer Geschichtsquellen, vor allem der Mongolen- und Timuridenzeit

The first is the most exhaustive reference for historical date equivalences when working with Islamicate calendars. I thought I’d provide a link to go with each of these. Here‘s Wustenfeld’s Wikipedia page. Quite a busy guy.

The second is just a really incredible work. It’s an etymological dictionary of all Mongolian (not sure if that’s the right precise English term) and Turkic loanwords in usage in the Persianate world. Particularly interesting entries for Urduphiles that I can remember off the top of my head include those for naukar, qorma, kheema, sanchak, sanjar, and of course urdu. (These spellings meant for familiarity, not for use in searching this book.)
Doerfer figures in this heated debate on a linguistics mailing list: (Now, that was exciting, wasn’t it.)

I thought about adding the etymology of korma to its Wikipedia page, and noticed there’s no real definition there. Now, I know a fair number of people in the West and vegetarians in India who think that korma has some intrinsic relationship with coconut, or more precisely, with copra, but that’s really not it. But sitting here, I can’t think of a definition (even, say, within a restricted Hydro sense.) I do remember my mother-in-law insisting that the [k|q]orma was the essential distinguisher between haleem and harees. Which is something to ponder if you had just started working up a definition based on the kormas you’ve eaten. I can’t quite recall the actual Turkic meaning, but I’m pretty sure that there would not be a perfect correspondence between that and the defining characteristics of the dishes with that name (cf. biryani.) (Can I take this moment to say that Wikipedia’s Indian food articles are not the best example of what collaborative reference work authoring can achieve? Or maybe they are, depending on the meaning of example. Anyway, I think there’s an article or two about this somewhere (maybe here,) but I really don’t think I’ve seen anything great on the topic.)

This would be a good time to point out to all of the Hyderabadis out there that sheer khorma is not a korma like the kormas we’ve been discussing. That’s the Persian khurma. That’s قرمه for the well-known savory dish, and خرما for the eid sweet. “Sheer khorma,” then, is “date milk.” Many seem to think of vermicelli as the make or break ingredient. In their minds it would be the butter and maghziat “qurma” which differentiates the quintiseential Hyderabadi eid treat – served warm – from the soggy noodles served by Pakistanis and North Indians. In our house, this leads to the great battle of the lazy: if you forget to soak the chauhare (dried dates) the night before is it best to make sheer khorma with rock hard dried dates, fresh dates (of which there’s usually an abundant supply left over, but which just kind of clump up nastily in liquids), or with no dates? Here you can see how linguistics can be brought into the service of politics. Forget Hindi and Urdu, Serbian and Croatian, it’s the etymology of this “khorma” which will make all the difference between having chewy but still delicious dates in a warm milk bath and having to choke down dairy noodle soup. Ugh.

(Aside: I’ve really got to stop typing dlsa instead of dsal in my address bar: I keep ending up here. Another aside: re. the dictionary entry, I would have assumed Sodom was a Mesopotamian city, but who would have guessed that entire phrases of modern Persian could be traced back to their language? Fascinating!)

The second khurma may also have a Turco-Mongolian background. Somebody check Doerfer for me. But, I’m gonna guess it’s cognate with khajur and its siblings.

To sort of tie these two things back together, and continue the original purpose of providing reference for myself and my pairs (don’t ask), this is a link to Wright’s Arabic grammar. Somewhere, sometime, I had a hard copy of that. I think it was eaten by the lost luggage monster which has claimed so many brave books. Either that or its cousin, the book post monster, who eats in 5 kg. portions.

If you’re using something like arabtex (or it’s Unicode-font-friendly offspring arabxetex), or anything in which special characters are used for some purpose, you may run into this problem. I’m posting it here for my own reference, and for the help of those who may resort to Google in times of frustration.

Arab(xe)tex uses underscores (_) and carats (^) – among other symbols – in the place of diacritics to encode Arabic characters in ASCII text. These are LaTeX control characters. Normally they would need to be escaped. The packages take care of this, so normally one doesn’t need to think about it. If you set up new commands, though, as aliases or to do more than one thing with your text, LaTeX all of a sudden sees them as unescaped control characters. (Even though you would think the text is being passed through the arabtex functions.)

When LaTeX sees control characters, it can think of only one thing – you must be trying to enter mathematical formulas, so it tells you:
! Missing $ inserted.
That is, it thought you just forgot to enter math mode. If you try to escape your special characters, it will compile, but you’ll get ھبر instead of خبر.

The rough and ready fix for this is with statements like this in the header of your file:

It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s before you define your commands or not.

Bill Poser pointed to a four month old piece about an Urdu newspaper in Madras:

The age of calligraphy died when British soldiers toppled the Mughal courts. It’s hard to remember that there was a time before the age of computers when penmanship was considered one of the highest art forms. Outside of a some particularly ornate wedding invitations and hand-written copies of the Koran there is little need for formally trained Urdu calligraphers. That is, except for one small ink-stained corner of Chennai where the world’s last hand written newspaper still churns out 20,000 broad sheets a day.

This is just flat-out wrong. Read the rest of this entry »