The Encyclopaedia of Islam (EI) is a reference book that focuses on the academic study of Islam. It is published by Brill and provides information on various aspects of Islam and the Islamic world. It is considered to be the standard reference work in the field of Islamic studies. The first edition was published in 1913–1938, the second in 1954–2005, and the third was begun in 2007.
According to Brill, the EI includes "articles on distinguished Muslims of every age and land, on tribes and dynasties, on the crafts and sciences, on political and religious institutions, on the geography, ethnography, flora and fauna of the various countries and on the history, topography and monuments of the major towns and cities. In its geographical and historical scope it encompasses the old Arabo-Islamic empire, the Islamic countries of Iran, Central Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Indonesia, the Ottoman Empire and all other Islamic countries".
EI is considered to be the standard reference work in the field of Islamic studies. Each article was written by a recognized specialist on the relevant topic. However, unsurprisingly for a work spanning 40 years until completion, not every one of them reflects recent research.
The most important, authoritative reference work in English on Islam and Islamic subjects. Includes long, signed articles, with bibliographies. Special emphasis is given in this (EI2) edition to economic and social topics, but it remains the standard encyclopedic reference on the Islamic religion in English.
The most important and comprehensive reference tool for Islamic studies is the Encyclopaedia of Islam, an immense effort to deal with every aspect of Islamic civilization, conceived in the widest sense, from its origins down to the present day... EI is no anonymous digest of received wisdom. Most of the articles are signed, and while some are hardly more than dictionary entries, others are true research pieces – in many cases the best available treatment of their subject.
This reference work is of fundamental importance on topics dealing with the geography, ethnography and biography of Muslim peoples.
The first edition (EI1) was modeled on the Pauly-Wissowa Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft. EI1 was created under the aegis of the International Union of Academies, and coordinated by Leiden University. It was published by Brill in four volumes plus supplement from 1913 to 1938 in English, German, and French editions.
An abridged version was published in 1953 as the Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam (SEI), covering mainly law and religion. Excerpts of the SEI have been translated and published in Turkish, Arabic, and Urdu.
The second edition of Encyclopaedia of Islam (EI2) was begun in 1954 and completed in 2005 (several indexes to be published until 2007); it is published by the Dutch academic publisher Brill and is available in English and French. Since 1999, (EI2) has been available in electronic form, in both CD-ROM and web-accessible versions. Besides a great expansion in content, the second edition of EI differs from the first mainly in incorporating the work of scholars of Muslim and Middle Eastern background among its many hundreds of contributors:
EI1 and SEI were produced almost entirely by European scholars, and they represent a specifically European interpretation of Islamic civilization. The point is not that this interpretation is "wrong", but that the questions addressed in these volumes often differ sharply from those which Muslims have traditionally asked about themselves. EI2 is a somewhat different matter. It began in much the same way as its predecessor, but a growing proportion of the articles now come from scholars of Muslim background. The persons do not represent the traditional learning of Qom and al-Azhar, to be sure; they have been trained in Western-style universities, and they share the methodology if not always the cultural values and attitudes of their Western colleagues. Even so, the change in tone is perceptible and significant.
Publication of the Third Edition of EI (EI3) started in 2007. It is available online, printed "Parts" appearing four times per year. The editorial team consists of twenty 'Sectional Editors' and five 'Executive Editors' (i.e. editors-in-chief). The Executive Editors are Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer (Free University, Berlin), Everett Rowson (New York University), John Nawas (Catholic University of Leuven), and Denis Matringe (EHESS, CNRS). The scope of EI3 includes comprehensive coverage of Islam in the twentieth century; expansion of geographical focus to include all areas where Islam has been or is a prominent or dominant aspect of society; attention to Muslim minorities all over the world; and full attention to social science as well as humanistic perspectives.
Main article: Urdu Daira Maarif Islamiya
It was translated into urdu in 23 volumes named Urdu Daira Maarif Islamiya, published by University of the Punjab.
Historian Richard Eaton criticised the Encyclopaedia of Islam in the book India's Islamic Traditions, 711-1750, published in 2003. He writes that in attempting to describe and define Islam, the project subscribes to the Orientalist, monolithic notion that Islam is a "bounded, self-contained entity".
It is the standard international reference for all fields of 'Islam' (Es ist das internationale Standardwerk für alle Bereiche 'des Islams'. Martin Greskowiak, Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, 1990).