Devising a Classification Scheme for Islam: Opinions of LIS and Islamic Studies Scholars
Classification plays a significant role in the organization, physical arrangement, access and retrieval of the library materials. Different standard classification systems, e.g., Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), Library of Congress Classification (LCC) and Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) have been developed for this purpose. Most of these systems have been developed by western authors. The authors were of such a background that they furnished sufficient provisions to the fields of western knowledge, but these schemes lack the adequate room for eastern / oriental fields of knowledge, languages and literature. The libraries that have the reasonable amount of collection on Islam and its related disciplines are facing problem to classify and arrange the materials in such a way that could help and support the library users effectively and efficiently. The reason to this problem is unavailability of suitable classification system, which may cover all the aspects of Islamic literature comprehensively. For example, Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), which is widely used system in the libraries throughout the world (Chan, 1981), provided only one notation out of one thousand for Islam, i.e., 297. On the other hand, this fact can not be denied that literature is being produced very extensively on Islam and its different aspects. Moreover, many new disciplines and topics are emerging in the body of knowledge of Islamic studies. This has created a substantial problem of classification for the libraries that have built the collections on Islam at length. Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah Library of Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, Islamabad, with a collection of 160,000 volumes on Islam is one of the representatives of such libraries in Pakistan (Idrees, 2007). Another example of such a library with similar case is that of Indian Institute of Islamic Studies, New Delhi, (IIIS, 1974, p. ii). The real status and understanding of this problem was to be established through this study. Two types of population segments were selected to collect data from, along side the review of related literature. One segment was the scholars of Library and Information Science (LIS), who had a relationship with area of library classification as a teacher or author and thus being abreast with the problem area. The other segment consisted of the scholars of Islamic studies as they were the real, ample and sensitive users of such collections. Both of these segments have been selected and interviewed to know the nature and level of the problems and potential solution to these problems. A point was to be found where the real development in this regard could be started from. This was also aimed to know whether there is a real and genuine need and scope for the development of a comprehensive classification system for materials on Islam or amendments and expansions in existing standard classification systems should be made. The LIS professionals have the basic role to develop such a system, if really needed, but, they can not do this with optimal enumeration and hierarchy without the guidance and support of Islamic studies scholars. This has also been revealed by this study whether the Islamic studies scholars would render such a support and guidance to LIS people if they take an initiative to develop a comprehensive classification system for materials on Islam.
This study was designed to achieve the following objectives:
Literature relevant to the problem was collected and reviewed so that the better understanding of the problem could be developed and areas of exploration be found prior to field study. The phenomenon was of social nature and there were not much quantifiable variables involved in this study. The problem was also related to exploration of subjective aspects of human experience. People perception of the potential solution of the problem was also to be found. Therefore, it was considered that the qualitative methodology would be a better option for this study rather than the quantitative methods as indicated by Powell and Connaway (2004, p. 59). Interviewing technique for data collection was selected, keeping in view its benefits and suitability, i.e., 1) immediacy, 2) mutual exploration, 3) investigation of causation, 4) personal contact and 5) speed. There could be three options of interviewing: 1) structured, 2) semi structured and 3) non-structured (Gorman & Clayton, 2005, pp. 125-142). Semi structured interviewing was selected. A structure of interview was prepared, but was not strictly followed. New ideas or concepts evolved during the interviews were also incorporated. Wording of questions was as per environment and circumstances. A sample of 10 LIS and 10 Islamic studies scholars from major cities of Pakistan was selected to make the sample representative of the population. A blend of purposive and convenient sampling technique was used. Practically nine (90%) LIS and all the 10 (100%) Islamic studies scholars' interview could be conducted.
Review of Literature
This section presents a concise review of all the possibly available printed and non printed literature on the problem in hand. The Muslims have been fond of and attracted towards establishing libraries since early periods of their history, even before the invention of printing press when preparation of multiple copies was not an easy job. The library of Al-Sahib Ibn Ibad during the 4th century of alhijrah, had a collection of 6,200 books, of which catalog was compiled in 10 volumes. Al-Aziz Fatimid had a collection of 1.6 million books in his library (Dohaish, 1986). The establishment of world fame Darulhikma library during the Abbasid era, Khazainulqusoor during Fatimid period with a collection of 1.6 million books and Hakam II's library with a collection of 400,000 books in Spain are remarkable examples. This trend of public and many private libraries can be seen throughout the Muslim history (Siddiqui, 1986, p. 36).
Currently, a huge amount of publishing and emergence of new topics in Islamic studies have been evidenced. When a search on the books on Islam was made from an online bookseller, Amazon (2008), the following data were appeared as a result:
Brill (2008), one of the renowned publishers based in Leiden, Netherlands is currently publishing 20 journals on Islamic studies. They have published 39 book series, 219 reference works, including world fame Encyclopaedias of Islam & Quran, 19 e-publications and 37 yearbooks on Islam. Currently available 406 out of 920 titles on Islam have been published after 2001. This is noteworthy that all Brill publications are thought to be research oriented. A search on the books available on Islam at Barnes & Noble (2008), also an online bookseller, came with a result of 12,212 titles. Many publishers and booksellers in the Arab and other Muslim countries' wide ranging publications on Islam are otherwise. These data show that there is an extensive demand and supply of books on Islam.
According to Riazuddin (1993), Qaisar (1974), Khurshid (1977), Usmani (1982), Ibrahim, (1981 & 82), Rizwi, (1975 & 1996) and Khan (2004), the devisers of standard and internationally known library classification systems were from western or non Muslim countries. They were of such background that they had either or both of two limitations. First, very limited awareness of the depth, variety and wide range of Islamic disciplines and literature being published on Islam. Second, they had some sort of bias. Therefore, they provided very limited space for Islam and organization or hierarchy of notations is also not proper. Example of DDC has been quoted where a wide space has been allocated to Christianity and a very limited space has been designated to Islam and other religions of the world.
In response to the shortcomings of standard classification systems, many efforts have been made to solve the problem. These efforts are of three types. Some folks have made expansions in the given notation for Islam in DDC, i.e., 297. Expansions made by Shafi (1962), Hassan (1973), Shaukat (1970), Qaisar (1974), Ibrahim, (1981 & 1982), Riazuddin (2002), Eraqi (1985), TEBROC (1971) and Khan (2004) are examples of this type of work. Efforts were also made to get some of these expansions incorporated in DDC, but they could not be successful. Some others amended the original organization of DDC's class of religion and they used the notations for Islam, which were originally allocated to Christianity. Dr. Shaniti of Egypt (1960), King Abdul Aziz University of Saudi Arabia (1977), Gondal, (n.d.) and Sabzwari (2007) from Pakistan used 210-260 and Quaid-e-Azam Library from Pakistan (n.d.) used 220-280 classes for this purpose. Indian Institute of Islamic Studies (1974) made same type of amendments in UDC. The third type of works is that, which were done independently and they resulted either in the form of a classification system, i.e., Labhu Ram (n.d.), McGill University (1979, as quoted by Gacek, 2008), Islamic Research Institute (n.d.), Rehman, Nizami and Shaikh (2003), or provided a framework for the development of a system as Sardar (1979).
Some authors have mentioned the problem and shortcomings of the standard systems with some analysis and comparison and have indicated for the further work at some good level in this regard. These authors are Chishti (1978, pp. 510-555), Bajwa (1969), Hina Khan, (1999), Usmani (1982) and Sabzwari (1982).
Dickinson (1916, pp. 29-35), Khurshid (1980), Elazar (2000), Broughton (2000), Sabzwari (1981), Morgan, (1996), Ibrahim (1982), Khan (1963, pp.107-108), Rehman, Nizami and Shaikh (2003) and DDC editor-in-chief Mitchell (2005) have criticized the standard classification for their emphasis on Christianity and inconvenience to classify the materials on Islam and other religions.
Results and Discussion
Library and Information Science Scholars' Data
Ten scholars from different parts of Pakistan were selected in the sample, using a blend of purposive and convenient sampling technique. Interviews of nine scholars could successfully be conducted. One of the scholars had left the country and settled in Canada. Efforts were made to get his contact information, but could not succeed. The participants were contacted prior to interviews through emails and telephone. The recording of interviews was made on audio tape recorder.
The five of nine (56%) participants were working professionals while the four (44%) were retired persons. Five scholars were master degree holders in library and information science while four were PhDs. All the scholars were serving or had served in public sector organizations. Only one of them was currently serving in private sector. Seven (78%) scholars were working or had worked as faculty of library and information science, while two (22%) were librarians by profession. One of the scholars had served as faculty and librarian at top levels and was then serving as an editor of a journal.
Standard Classification Systems and their Suitability
When the scholars were asked whether standard classification systems were serving the purpose of classification adequately or not, where libraries had rich collections on Islam, all the nine scholars (100%) replied negatively. Only one scholar mentioned that DDC had recently worked on this issue in its latest edition, still it did not serve the purpose, where there were extensive collections on Islam.
Shortcomings in Standard Classification Systems
When the scholars were asked about the shortcomings of standard classification systems, the following were mentioned, which have also been presented in table 1. Seven scholars said that there was no proper place and accommodation for Islam in standard classification systems. Two of the scholars mentioned lengthy notation as a result of less placement for Islam in the systems. One participant mentioned improper enumeration of Islamic topics in standard classification systems. Biasness against Islam was also mentioned by one scholar. One scholar also mentioned that emerging Islamic topics were not incorporated in these systems.
Table 1. Shortcomings in Standard Classification Systems
Solution to Problems of Classification of Islamic Materials
The scholars were asked about the s olution of problems regarding c lassification of Islamic materials. Six (67%) scholar were in favor of devising a new and comprehensive classification scheme for Islam. One of these six supposed that ideal situation was to devise a new and comprehensive classification scheme for Islam, but he doubted the capability of Pakistani professionals to accomplish this work successfully. Therefore, in prevailing circumstances, he recommended amendments and expansions in any of standard classification systems. Three (33%) suggested that we should make amendments and expansions in standard classification systems. The scholars' opinions have been shown in figure 1.
Figure 1. LIS scholars' opinion for devising a scheme for Islam
Amendments in Standard Classification S ystems
The scholars who recommended amendments and expansions in standard classification systems were asked whether expansions should be made within originally allocated portion in schemes or some other portions, where more space has been allocated, e.g., classes and notations specified for Christianity could be alternatively used for Islam. The response was as follows: three (75%) were of opinion to use alternative class numbers and one (25%) was in favor of using the originally allocated notation and making expanded numeration within this notation, e.g., 297 in DDC.
Who should work?
The participants were asked who should take an initiative to work on devising the amendments and expansions in the standard classification systems. All the four (100%) were of the opinion that some committee or group should be formed to work on this issue. There were three opinions to carryout this work: First, professional organizations and National Library of Pakistan should take the responsibility; Second, the work should be done under umbrella of OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference); Third, there should be a group of professionals from different Muslim countries, who should work and build a pressure on DDC editorial committee for the incorporation of required expansions in DDC. One scholar also added that Organization of Muslim Librarians should also be involved in this process. None of the participants preferred an individual to carry out this project.
Incorporation of Amendments and Expansions in DDC
A question was asked whether sufficient expansions could be successfully incorporated in the standard classification systems. Two scholars responded this question. One was of opinion that they wouldn't include such a work in systems as efforts were made and failed in past, but we shouldn't worry about it rather we should publish and use these expansions at our own. The other scholars thought that it could be done if we get support from big names and influential personalities of the field from different countries.
An Independent and Comprehensive Scheme for Islam
Majority of the scholars' was in favor of independent and comprehensive classification scheme for collections on Islam, so, they were asked some questions, which are being analyzed in this section.
Variety, Depth and Capacity of Literature being Produced on Islam: Is there a Real Need for a Comprehensive Classification Scheme for Islam?
The question was asked whether there was such a variety, depth and capacity in Islamic topics and the literature was being published in such a volume that an independent classification scheme was a realistic need of the time. Seven scholars responded this question, which was 78% of the sample, while one said that this question should be asked by Islamic studies scholars. Out of these seven, six (86%) were of the view that there was a real need for such a scheme. Interestingly, one participant, who previously voted for expansions in standard classification systems, stated that the volume of publishing and variety in Islamic topics demand for an independent and comprehensive system of classification. One participant said that the idea was wonderful, but according to him, working on it in Pakistani environment was not practically and technically viable.
Technical Possibility of an Independent and Comprehensive Classification Scheme for Islam
The scholars were asked whether development of a comprehensive classification scheme for Islam was technically possible or not. All the seven scholars (100%), who responded this question, were of the view that the scheme could be devised as the framework of different classification systems was already there to take guidance from.
Availability of Guiding Literature for an Independent and Comprehensive Classification Scheme for Islam
The scholars were asked about the availability of guiding literature for developing an independent and comprehensive classification scheme for Islam. All the seven (100%) responded that the literature was available. Some of the scholars indicated that the literature was available in the following forms:
Who Should Work?
The participants were asked who should take an initiative to work on devising an independent and comprehensive classification scheme for Islam. The six out of seven (86%) were of the opinion that some committee or group should be formed to devise such a scheme. One participant said that an individual should come ahead and start work on this project. He quoted Dewey who started the work alone and now a huge institution was carrying his work on. There were three opinions on how to get this work done practically. First, professional organizations and National Library of Pakistan should take the responsibility of forming a committee. One participant mentioned that an editorial board, same as of DDC should be constituted to start this work and then carrying it on in the long run. Another participant denoted that the library schools had an important and leading role in this work, which they should play.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Individual Work & Committee Work
When the participants were asked about advantages and disadvantages of an individual working on a classification scheme, compared with a committee working on the same, following were the responses of the participants:
Advantages of Individual Work
One participant mentioned that an individual could start this type of work in a better way and the successors could carry it on. Another participant quoted that behind the great works of history, there was one individual who initiated the primary work; Dewey, being best example for that.
Disadvantages of Individual Work
Participants mentioned that an individual's thinking and approach had limitations and could not be comprehensive. Two participants mentioned that in case of an individual's work, others would not agree; so, this work would deprive a wide acceptance from the profession and professionals. One participant mentioned that the nature of this work was of a long duration, for which an individual could not work till its completion efficiently.
Advantages of Committee Work
According to the participants a work done by committee could have a collective wisdom and would cover all the aspects comprehensively. According to one participant a committee's work would be widely accepted by all libraries.
Disadvantages of Committee Work
According to one participant coordination among the members of committee was a difficult task in our environment.
Implementation of an Independent C lassification Scheme on Islam
The sampled population was asked, i f a new, independent and comprehensive classification scheme for Islam was developed, how it could be implemented practically in the presence of materials in the library on topics other than Islam. The response from three of six (50%) was that it could be done without any problem as a number of libraries had already experienced multiple schemes. One point was mentioned that where there were a big collection, already classified, and services being provided to users, it was very difficult to reclassify. Another opinion was that the new books should be classified under this new scheme, while the previous ones may remain according to previous classification and be reclassified on later stage, subject to availability of resources. One of the participant s was of view that this scheme may be published and sent to the librarians, who may do the homework prior, and then apply it.
Structure of the Scheme
The participants were asked about the structure of the proposed new and comprehensive scheme for Islam, whether it should be enumerative or faceted. A majority of respondents (four of five, 80%) suggested an enumerative scheme. Only one was of the view that the scheme should be faceted. The opinion of LIS scholars regarding the structure of proposed classification scheme for Islam has been displayed in figure 2.
Figure 2. LIS scholars' opinion for structure of the scheme
A Higher Study Topic
The participants were asked a question about their views in case of some student taking this topic as the higher study research, reviewing all the previous works and devising a comprehensive classification scheme for Islam. Eight participants responded this question. Seven participants (88%) responded the question positively. Only one participant disagreed, adding that it would limit the work. He was of the view that such a research work should be of universal nature, coverage and acceptance. The opinion of LIS scholars regarding the development of a classification scheme for Islam as an output of a higher study research has been displayed in figure 3.
Figure 3. LIS scholars' opinion regarding development of a scheme for Islam as a higher study research.
General Observations of LIS Scholars about the Project
The participants were asked to add any thing important regarding the issue. The following comments were added by different respondents:
The research on devising a classification scheme for Islam can be conducted optimally with the help and guidance of Islamic studies scholars.
There are two options; one is of career building, the other is protection of national heritage. Spending life on development of a standard classification system for Islam is relevant to the second option. One should opt either of these.
Committee meetings for development of a standard classification system for Islam should be conducted on quarterly basis, devised scheme should be published in a newsletter, it should be distributed to all Pakistani practitioners and should be finalized after their feedback.
A long time of 60 years has gone past and we are depriving of an agreed standard classification system, which may fulfill our indigenous needs. At this stage, the seniors should come forward and play their required role in resolving the problem.
Islamic Studies Scholars' Data
This section presents the analysis of data collected from the scholars of Islamic studies. The Islamic studies scholars were included in the study because they are: 1) the users of such libraries that have rich collections on Islam. 2) They can guide from various aspects like the variety and depth in Islamic studies topics, emergence of new disciplines, the volume of literature being published on Islam currently and the future publishing trend of this literature.
General information includes the basic information of the Islamic studies scholars, their education, age, profession and service. A sample of ten scholars from different parts of Pakistan was selected and interviewed in this study. Eight scholars (80%) were working and two (20%) were retired persons. Nine scholars (90%) were PhDs, while one was master degree holder. Nine scholars (90%) were serving or had served in public sector. Only one (10%) was serving in private sector. Seven scholars (70%) were working or had worked as faculty, while three (30%) were working or had worked on administrative / research positions.
Personal Library & Collection of Scholars
All the ten scholars (100%) were having their personal libraries. The scholars had different size of collections in their personal libraries, ranging from 500 to 100,000 books, journals, audio videos and other materials. The summary of the collections of scholars has been shown in table 3. Five scholars' data regarding the ratio of collection on Islam and other topics could be found. Two out five had 100% of their collections on Islam. Three had 70% of their collections on Islam. It has been shown in figure 4.
Table 3. Collections in personal libraries of Islamic Studies Scholars
Figure 4. Islamic Studies Scholars' Collection Ratio
Personal Library Classification
The scholars were asked about their personal library classification. Nine responded this question. Seven out of nine (78%) said that they had classified their libraries according to main subjects, but no library classification system had been followed. One (11%) said that the collection had been classified according to languages, then subjects and then the works of special authors. One of the scholars (11%) said his library had not been classified in any way.
Scholar's Experience of Libraries other than Personal Library
This section presents the data of scholars' personal experiences of libraries.
Scholars' Frequency of Library Visits
When the scholars were asked about their visits of libraries, six of them responded this question. Four (67%) said that there was no definite and permanent routine in this regard. It depended upon their needs. Some times they used to visit on daily basis and some times once during a month. Two out of six (33%) said they were visiting the library on daily basis.
Which Library Scholars Visit Frequently
Six (60%) scholars were visiting multiple libraries of multiple cities. Two (20%) normally visited their departmental and central library of the university. One of them (10%) normally visited the departmental and central library of the university along with the personal libraries of other scholars. One scholar (10%) frequently visited the departmental library.
Purpose of Library Visit
The scholars were asked about the purpose of their library visits. The following purposes, presented in table 5 were stated.
Table 5. Purpose of Islamic Studies Scholars' Library Visit.
Adequacy and Suitability of Organization of Library Materials
A question was asked from the participants if they find the organization of library materials adequate for themselves and for new library users to locate required materials from their visited libraries. Six out of seven (86%) respondents showed their dissatisfaction in this respect, mentioning no uniformity of classification systems, resulting different locations of same type of materials in different libraries. One (14%) said with meager interest, it was ok.
Frequency of Literature Being Produced on Islam
When the scholars were asked about the frequency of literature being produced on different Islamic topics, the response from six (60%) was that the frequency was very high and it was very difficult to estimate exactly. Three (30%) said that in Arabic and English, the frequency was very high, while in Urdu, it was not that much. One (10%) of the respondents said the frequency was unmatched and unparalleled. One of the first six was also of the view that in Urdu, literature on popular Islamic topics was being produced in a very high frequency, while in English the literature of research nature was more evident. This literature was being produced by both Muslims and Orientalists.
Emergence of new Disciplines in Islamic Studies
The participants were asked whether the new topics were emerging in the body of knowledge of Islamic studies. Five out of nine (56%) were of the view that emergence of new topics and disciplines in the body of knowledge of Islamic studies was very numerous. Three (33%) simply said yes the new topics were emerging in the body of knowledge of Islamic studies. One (11%) said, yes the topics were emerging, but, how many? This was difficult to answer.
Future Publishing Trend of Literature on Islam
When the participants were asked about the future trend of literature publishing and the emergence of new disciplines in the body of knowledge of Islamic studies, nine (90%) said it would be increased in the coming time. One out of ten (10%) said, it would be ok.
Depth, Variety and Expansion in Islamic Disciplines
In response to the question relating the depth, variety and expansion in subjects, topics and disciplines of Islamic studies, six (60%) said that there was too much variety and depth in Islamic topics. An example of the disciplines of Hadith knowledge (sayings & deeds of Prophet Muhammad) and its terminology was quoted, which exceeds from 200. Another example of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) was quoted, of which sub disciplines were also in hundreds. A scholar quoted that there were thousands of authors, religious works of whom were being researched since centuries and still there were many aspects that needed more research. Two (20%) said that there was not much variety in the sources available in Pakistan, but in other countries, there was enormous expansion and variety. One of the participants (10%), less enthusiastically mentioned of much the variety and depth. Another participant, (10%) indifferently said it was ok.
Comprehensive Library Classification System for Islam
The participants were asked about development and implementation of an independent and comprehensive library classification system for Islam in the libraries which had rich collections on Islam. All the ten (100%) respondents agreed with the statement and adjudged the need for such a system. Three (30%) said it was extremely required. One of the participants advised that this practice should be done under the umbrella of HEC (Higher Education Commission, Pakistan ). The scholar added that Islamic studies scholars and library professionals should join their hands to develop such a system and its implementation in libraries should also be enforced and ensured, for which HEC authority can be used.
Verification and Validation of Library Classification System for Islam
The question was asked, if a comprehensive library classification system for Islam was developed, would the scholars of Islamic Studies verify and validate it. Nine out of 10 (90%) replied yes with conviction, while one (10%) said it would depend on availability of facilities and time.
The review of literature and data collected from the scholars of LIS and Islamic studies on the topic shows that there is a dissatisfaction regarding the classification of Islamic literature. The problem exists not only in the Indian subcontinent and Muslim countries, but also in western countries, for which the example of Smith classification in McGill University can be quoted. The scholars think that the standard classification systems do not fulfil the classification needs and objectives adequately. The users of the Islamic collections get confused when visiting different libraries and finding different systems every where that place same materials at different locations. The scholars think that the Islamic topics have a wide variety and depth, new disciplines are emerging in the body of Islamic knowledge, literature is being published at length and it will increase even more in future. Different options to resolve the problem in hand are as follows: a) amendments and expansions in standard classification schemes, b) devising an independent and comprehensive scheme for Islam, c) reviewing indigenous systems extensively and developing one system based on all of them. Majority of the respondents prefer to develop a comprehensive classification system for Islam. This has been agreed that developing a comprehensive classification scheme for Islam is technically possible and guiding literature for the development of such a scheme is also available. Almost all the participants appreciated the idea to select the classification of Islamic materials as a research problem in the higher studies and develop a comprehensive scheme for Islam. A coordination and collaboration among library schools, professional organizations, national library and scholars of Islamic studies is required for development of a classification system for Islam. This is very positive and encouraging that if some effort for the development of such a classification scheme is made, the scholars of Islamic studies would be supportive in this process. Majority of LIS scholars suggests that the new scheme for Islam should be enumerative. There can be three steps to resolve the problem; first, development of a comprehensive classification scheme for Islam as an outcome of higher study research, second, consensus be developed presenting this scheme in a national or international conference and third step, it can be presented to OIC to make it accepted in the Muslim world.
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