Opening of Islamic Reading Room at Gladstone's Library

Gladstone's Library opened its new Islamic Reading Room on Saturday 8 October. The Islamic Reading Room which has been named the 'House of Wisdom was opened by Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University.

Professor Ramadan is a renowned writer and spokesperson on Islamic issues. His books include ‘What I Believe’ and ‘Radical Reform, Islamic Ethics and Liberation’. He supports the study and re-interpretation of Islamic texts and throughout his work emphasises the diverse nature of Western Muslims.

The ‘House of Wisdom’ will be the base of the Islamic Faith and Culture project at Gladstone’s Library which has been established to address one of the key social issues of contemporary society - the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. The project aims to promote understanding of the contributions of Islam as a faith and Muslims as rich and vital communities of the modern world by providing a space for mutual learning and engagement.

The new Reading Room is named after one of the greatest and most influential libraries of the Islamic 'Golden Age', the Bayt al-Hikma of 9th century Baghdad, and covers a range of theological and social science areas of Islamic Studies. “We hope this will be a valuable resource both to scholars in the field and for those wishing to find out more about Islam and Muslim communities in the modern world” said Peter Francis, Warden at Gladstone’s Library. “We have worked closely with Muslim communities in North Wales to make sure the resource is locally relevant and helps to promote inter-community understanding and unity in the area.”

The decision to develop an Islamic Reading Room at Gladstone’s Library emerged from uniting two projects in which the Library was involved. The first was the ‘Challenges for the Future’ project, an interfaith project coordinated by the Church in Wales, the Muslim Council of Wales, Welsh Centre for International Affairs and the Library which seeks ways of translating interfaith dialogue into real community engagement. The second was the ‘Gladstone 200 Campaign’ launched by the Library in 2009 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Gladstone’s birth. The aim of this campaign was to reinvigorate the legacy of Gladstonian liberalism by envisioning how its principles might be applied in the 21st century.

“The proposal to build an Islamic Reading room was a creative response to both these calls” explained Peter. “As one of the key issues facing modern multicultural society and the international political order, relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims would certainly have been amongst Gladstone’s central concerns; and, within the context of his pragmatic politics and humanitarian principles, it is likely that interfaith understanding and dialogue would have been at the core of his approach.”

All the collections at Gladstone's Library's, including the contents of the House of Wisdom, are searchable online using the Library’s Heritage database, available on its website. As the collection develops, the Library will also be providing a range of subject area bibliographies and links to digital resources.

With initial holdings totalling around 900 titles, the collection represents a broad range of themes within Islamic Studies while still offering the foundational texts and essential reference resources that visiting scholars would expect. The longer-term intent is that the collection evolves and expands according to the needs of its users.

The Library also runs a programme of Islamic themed events throughout the year. The next course takes places between 14 and 16th October and is entitled ‘Digging Deeper into Understanding Islam’ which will focus on some of the key issues facing Muslims in the modern world.

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