Important Research Projects

Rational Sciences in Islam

Centered at McGill University, the project to study the rational sciences in Islam will investigate the philosophical, scientific, and theological traditions of Islam in a holistic manner. Our primary goal is to increase our understanding of how Muslim scholars and the various publics making up Islamic societies explored the world through rational means, and the products and consequences of those explorations.

This complex project is made up of three components: the Islamic Scientific Manuscripts Initiative (ISMI), the Post-classical Islamic Philosophy Database Initiative (PIPDI), and Scientific Traditions in Islamic Societies (STIS) project.

We heartily invite you to visit the sites of these component projects and learn more about these exciting initiatives and our sponsors and partners.

Scientific Traditions in Islamic Societies (STIS):

This research program aims to transform the conventional view of pre-1800 Islamic intellectual history by providing concrete and verifiable evidence that a non-religious cosmology was integrated into the worldview of a substantial number of Muslim intellectuals and educated laypeople, and that this worldview found a place within both religious and secular institutions. It also aims to challenge our understanding of early modern European science by showing that a number of its salient features usually taken to prove European exceptionalism had, in fact, Islamic roots. To accomplish these goals, the program focuses on three main research themes: 1) the development of a secular, scientific cosmology that became integral to Islamic societies; 2) the transformation of Hellenistic astronomy within Islam that laid the foundation for modern science; and 3) the evolution of the relationship between an independent science and Abrahamic revelation that is one of the cornerstones of modernism.

The methodology will consist of the careful examination of previously unstudied but nevertheless key works in Islamic scientific cosmology and the use of an innovative, sophisticated database that will map the intellectual, institutional, religious, and social contexts of this tradition. This project and its database will provide the model and methodological basis for a larger international collaboration of the leading researchers and institutions in all fields of Islamic science.

Post-classical Islamic Philosophy Database Initiative (PIPDI)

The Post-classical Islamic Philosophy Database Initiative (PIPDI) will create the infrastructure that is needed for a systematic investigation of the vast but severely understudied corpus of Islamic philosophical texts dating from 1100-1900CE. These post-classical texts include original and exegetical works on logic (syllogistic and dialectic), philosophy of language, epistemology, ethics, metaphysics (ontology and theology), natural philosophy and cosmology, and philosophy of mind.

Islamic Scientific Manuscripts Initiative (ISMI)

This project aims to make available a vast array of information about the exact sciences in the premodern Islamic world. Through the internet, this material will be accessible without charge both to researchers and experts in the field and to the educated public worldwide. It will be an online database that contains the works of some 1,700 authors who span the entire Islamic world from Islamic Spain to India and the borders of China, beginning in the eighth century and continuing until the nineteenth. These works in astronomy, mathematics, physics, geography, mechanics, and related disciplines number in the thousands and are represented, conservatively speaking, by tens of thousands of manuscript copies spread throughout the world.