Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation was established initially with the aim to document and preserve the Islamic written heritage, principally through its work in surveying, imaging, cataloguing, editing, studying and publishing Islamic manuscripts. But, with time, its scope of activity has expanded, and it has become a Foundation, consisting of three centres:
1. The Centre for the Study of Islamic Manuscripts (Manuscript Centre)
The Manuscript Centre within Al-Furqan was established in 1988, aiming to preserve and study the Islamic manuscripts, which constitute a particularly important part of Islamic heritage.
The Foundation has as its aim, the documentation and preservation of the Islamic written heritage. It is pursuing this aim principally through its work in surveying, cataloguing, editing and publishing Islamic manuscripts.
Islamic manuscripts are estimated to number three million, covering subjects as diverse as the Quran, Prophetic traditions, jurisprudence, logic and philosophy, as well as mathematics, botany, biology, poetry, literature, art, crafts, etc.
Nowadays, these manuscripts are not the exclusive preserve of Arab and other Muslim countries, or even of countries with large Muslim minorities. Manuscripts are found extensively in Europe, the Americas, Japan, Australia and Africa. There is hardly a country that does not possess some manuscripts produced under the aegis of the Muslim civilisation.
This large and important resource is, tragically, in great danger of being damaged or even lost forever, due to political conflicts, social upheavals or merely natural causes. Whenever and wherever there is a lack of resources essential for its maintenance and preservation, this heritage is in danger.
The Manuscript Centre within Al-Furqan is committed to mobilising all available expertise to preserve these manuscripts and to restore their content to the cultural mainstream.
2. The Centre for the Encyclopedia of Makkah and Madinah (Mawsoa Centre)
The Centre for the Encyclopedia of Makkah and Madinah owes its existence to two people, the late Sheikh Hamad al-Jasser and Dr Abbas Saleh Tashkandy, former Head Librarian at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.
In 1991, the late Sheikh Hamad al-Jasser, a member of Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, gave a keynote speech at the Foundation’s launch, in which he presented some of the most valuable manuscripts of Makkah and Madinah and urged the Foundation to undertake the task of producing an encyclopaedia of the two great cities. Dr Abbas Saleh Tashkandi was the first with whom HE Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani - the Chairman and Founder of Al-Furqan - raised the idea in 1978.
After a series of intensive meetings with consultants and academic councils, in Istanbul, Madinah and various other places inside and outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, spanning a period of four years, work started on the encyclopaedia.
The first meeting of the Encyclopaedia's Council of Consultants was held in Jeddah on 4 November 1994, under the chairmanship of Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani.
3. The Centre for the Study of the Philosophy of Islamic Law (Maqasid Centre)
The Centre for the Study of the Philosophy of Islamic Law was established in the year 2005, under the umbrella of Al-Furqan.
The mission of the Centre is summarised in the revitalisation of the knowledge of al-maqasid (objectives, purposes), in order to develop the process of ijtihad (free reasoning) and the renewal of Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence), its fundamental theory (usul), and Islamic thought in general. The Centre also aims to broaden the horizons of knowledge for students of Islamic studies everywhere.
His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani
Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani was born in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on 30th June 1930. He is a lawyer by profession, with Master's degrees from New York University School of Law and Harvard Law School, whilst also having a doctorate from the University of Exeter. Before that, he studied at the University of Cairo and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Law in 1951.
He was Saudi Arabia's Minister of Oil (Petroleum) and Mineral Resources from 1962 until 1986, first Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and is regarded as the architect of a number of the Kingdom’s modern laws and regulations. In 1990, he founded the Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), an energy market analysis group in London. His other areas of interest include Islamic Law, and the written heritage of the Muslim world.
Inspired by his father and grandfather, both of whom were highly respected Islamic scholars and judges, Sheikh Yamani planned to become a teacher but, on leaving University, he took a job at the Ministry of Finance in Makkah, whilst also teaching Islamic law. Soon after, the Saudi government sent him to New York University's Comparative Law Institute for non-American lawyers at NYU Law School and in 1955 he received a Master's degree in Comparative Jurisprudence.
Sheikh Yamani spent the next year at Harvard Law School earning his second Master's degree in 1956 and then returned to the Ministry of Finance, joining the new Department of Zakat and Income Tax. The same year Sheikh Yamani founded the first law firm in Jeddah, bearing his name. This was subsequently expanded, to include branches in Riyadh and Bahrain. One of his activities in his early professional career was to write articles in Saudi papers. These arose interest in various circles. His later writings included many papers and contributions to a wide variety of conferences. These contributions covered several areas such as oil, geopolitics, Islamic law and history.
Among his publications are the following: a book on the status of women in Islam, entitled “Woman in Islam”, which appeared in Arabic in 2004, then in English in 2005., and was later translated into Bosnian and several other languages; and a book on the historical study of the location, building, and architecture of the marital house of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), titled “The House of Khadeejah Bint Khuwaylid (may Allah be pleased with her) in Makkah al-Mukarramah: A Historical Study of its Location, Building, and Architecture”, which was published in Arabic in 2013, then in English in 2014.
In 1988 Sheikh Yamani established The Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation through The Yamani Cultural and Charitable Foundation, which endeavours to preserve and publish historically important Islamic works.