Najam Haider, Assistant Professor of Religion at Barnard College at Columbia University, presented “What Geography and Maps Can Sound Like” as part of our Digital Islamic Law Lab series. Haider discusses his work on how historical mapping in early Shī’ī law and history could, with the right computational power, self-generate maps based on geographic designations of legal schools and colloquial language use. His work examines hajj pilgrimage manuals as an example of sources that can help reconstruct how Kūfa might have looked like. He claims that this will allow scholars to gain insight into how certain communities were organized, distributed geographically, and how they functioned. After looking at adjacent genres of scholarship, he correlates them with various sources to then piece together different data points to create a visual map that includes the locations of neighborhoods and mosques. Haider concludes that this type of digital mapping can allow researchers to create an idea of how society functioned as a whole, not only on a spatial level, but also on a more detailed level that can allow us to begin to understand linguistic registers and spatial distribution through textual excavation and linguistic archeology.
In “Statistical Approaches in Literature: An Application of Principle Component Analysis and Factor Analysis to Analyze the Different Arrangements About the Quran’s Suras” (Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, (2020)), Yanwen Wang, Javad Garjami, Milena Tsvetkova, Nguyen Hau Huu, and Kim-Hung Pho examine thirteen well-known arrangements of the chapters of the Qur’an using statistical R software. After a brief literature review, the authors highlight the arrangements that are analyzed in this study, which range form Ebn Nadim’s arrangement to Theodore Nöldeke’s arrangement to Al-Azhar’s. They then give an overview of their application of principle component analysis and factor analysis to these arrangements. The authors conclude that, based on this analysis, these thirteen arrangements can be categorized in two parts.