Improving Wikipedia’s Islamic art and architecture coverage

The Book of Curiosities is an 11th century book of maps, star charts, and historical information believed to have been created in Egypt during the Fatimid Caliphate. It includes a rectangular map of the world that represents the oldest surviving map to use a graphic scale. Scans from the copy of the book in the possession of the Bodleian Libraries were uploaded to Wikimedia Commons in 2014, but no article about the book itself existed until a student in Alexander Brey’s Islamic Arts of the Book class created one this Spring. Another student in the class filled an important gap in the Seljuk Empire article by adding sections documenting their impact on architecture, ceramics, and books, especially in Iran and Anatolia, while another rewrote Wikipedia’s article on Farrukh Beg, a Persian miniature artist who produced important works in Safavid Iran and Mughal India. Other contributions from this class included a new article on Moroccan manuscripts and major expansions to the articles on artists Abu’l-Hasan and Sani al Mulk.

The Vali-e-Asr Mosque is a new mosque in Tehran which was completed in 2018. The architects who designed the building chose to integrate it into its surroundings, but lack of traditional features like domes and minarets drew criticism from conservatives resulting in the passage of a law in Iran which banned the construction of new mosques without these features. An article about the Vali-e-Asr Mosque was created by a student in Sylvia Wu’s Mosques in the Islamic World

The Islamic world played a key role in the development of the arts and architecture, serving as both a hub of innovation and in the integration and transmission of ideas between China, India, Africa, and Europe. The Great Mosque of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province combines a predominantly Chinese architectural style with Islamic function as does the Phoenix Mosque in Hangzhou. Major expansions of both of these articles by students in this class included substantial additions to both the history and architecture sections.

The Qutb Minar, a 13th century minaret in Delhi and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The building was constructed in part from spolia obtained from destroyed Hindu and Jain temples by Hindu craftsmen and laborers overseen by Muslim architects, and reflects a fusion of Islamic and South Asian architectural traditions. A student editor expanded Wikipedia’s article about the minaret to include information about its history, construction, and architectural significance.

The minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq is inspired by ancient Mesopotamian ziggurats, while the Great Mosque of Banten in Indonesia includes Mughal, Javanese, and Dutch architectural influences. Thanks to student editors in this class, the Wikipedia articles about these important buildings reflect this information.

The class also focussed on other important South Asian mosques including the Jama Mosque in Jaunpur, the Jama Mosque in Ahmedabad, and the Kusumba Mosque in Bangladesh. Other articles expanded by students in the class included the Great Mosque of Diyarbakır and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque in Istanbul, and the Great Mosque of Herat in Afghanistan.

The work of these classes highlight the fact need for expansion in Wikipedia’s coverage of Islamic art and architecture, even among some of the world’s most historically significant mosques.

Image credit: DidierTais, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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