UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
The following is a review printed in The Minaret Islamic Magazine about The Alim computer software for the study of Islam. The article was written by noted author Hakim Chishti.
More information about The Alim may be obtained from ISL Software Corporation, Dept. TH, 2037 Featherwood Street, Silver Spring, MD 20904- 6645. Telephone (800) 443-3636 or (713) 893-0805. To discuss licensing and quantity purchases, please contact Shahid N. Shah on CompuServe 72560,645 or by telephone/fax at (301) 622-3915.
Please keep in mind that this article was printed some time ago and some information such as pricing, version, or system requirements may be out of date.
OXFORD, New York. 'Alim is an Arabic word, mentioned many times in the Holy Qur'an, which means tone who has true knowledge.
In practical terms, to attain the status of being such a respected person of knowledge, requires a long and difficult course of study: memorization of the complete Qur'an, as well as thousands of Hadith, commentaries, biographical histories and a great deal more.
Virtually every Muslim alive feels a yearning to possess such comprehensive knowledge. Yet for most people, becoming an 'Alim remains a remote possibility.
The Muslim community in the English-speaking West suffers from a lack of access to such learned people. The result is that frequent misunderstandings arise, because someone may simply read an ayat or surah of the Qur'an, without knowing the specific context of the verse, and without considering the deep implications of the meaning.
And many children fail to receive proper Islamic education, because qualified teachers are not often available.
Non-Muslims have had an even more difficult time, because they lack access to authoritative Islamic sources, and often rely on inaccurate and outdated translations, even intentionally distorted materials. Until now.
The joint inspiration of Pakistanis Amir Jafri of Houston, Texas, and Shahid Shah of Washington, DC, The Alim is a computer program for IBM and compatible PCs (Macintosh, OS/2 and Unix versions are scheduled for release later this year), which, incredibly, contains all of the knowledge cited above, plus an array of search and study tools that are utterly astonishing.
The Alim ships with the original Arabic text, the Yusuf Ali and Pickthall translations, and the Yusuf Ali Commentary and the Maulana Maududi Surah information.
Also included are translations of 7,500 Hadith, an Islamic Subjects database covering a huge range of 12,500 topics, a comprehensive review of Islamic history, and complete biographies of dozens of pious Muslim personalities.
Also included is a Concordance of the entire Qur'an, which lists all words either alphabetically or by frequency of occurrence.
As if this weren't enough, a transliterated version of the Qur'an is also included, to help understand pronunciation of the Arabic.
The manual is elegantly written in superb English, on a par with the best commercial programs, and contains screen shots, diagrams, arrows, and pointers.
For those new to computers, or new to database programs of this type, there is a very complete tutorial. The authors also provide instruction on using a GUI or Graphical User Interface.
For those who don't know, the GUI feature means that instead of typing complex commands for each action you want to perform, you merely highlight a menu choice and press enter; or click the mouse on the choice you desire, and youFre there.
The program is very, very fast. Those who have used Windows, Macintosh, OS/2 or Unix will feel right at home with The Alim's pull-down menus, mouse support, dialog boxes and multiple overlapping windows.
You can have separate windows open for many books at the same time on the screen, and keep track of all references, including the Arabic verse original, all translations, commentaries, biographical data, and more.
But what is most amazing is that many of these texts are cross- referenced. In other words, if you select a reference in any one, all of the others instantly bring up the same reference. If you are looking at a specific ayat, for example, you merely click on the button C and the commentary for the ayat appears.
The Alim allows four different types of searches on every database: quick, wildcard, word series, and regular expressions with complete support for unlimited boolean connectors such as and, or, and not.
To assist you every step of the way, a comprehensive context-sensitive help facility is available for every command in the menu and all dialog boxes.
The first couple of times I did a search with several windows open, it literally made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
For one test, I opened from my personal library, all of the actual hardcover books contained in The Alim, and looked up the reference to honey. I found the verses in the Quran, then thumbed through a translation of Pickthall and Yusuf Ali, and also read the various commentaries. In sum, even though I am familiar with all of these books, it took me almost 15 minutes to locate and read this information. I did not write any of it down.
By contrast, in The Alim it required less than sixteen seconds to locate the same information, save the information to a file on my disk, and print a paper copy! The first few times you do this, it really does startle your mind and seems practically miraculous.
Then I searched simultaneously for seven different terms in the Bukhari Hadith. The Alim ripped through all of the 7,500 Sahih (pure) Hadiths and displayed the references found in less than fifteen seconds.
Even if you have even the smallest computer, searches can be run in the background, which means the computer will do the work off screen while you move on to additional work, an enormously useful and thoughtful feature.
The search editor remembers all of the terms you have used up to that point in the search in a special form called study guide. This allows you to create bookmarks for each reference found, and build a list of ayats, surahs, Hadith, biographical references, dates, definitions and much more into an integrated file of references, which can be saved to a file, printed, and even shared with other users.
If one were writing a term paper, or preparing a khutba, or simply seeking knowledge, The Alim is by far the most comprehensive and powerful tool for access to Islamic knowledge that has ever been created in the English language. It is a stunning achievement by any standard.
The Alim is a dramatic, fun, interactive tool that can be used by adults, teenagers and children alike. Results of your study sessions can be saved in unlimited Study Files, which later can be reviewed, printed, published, or used as the basis for tests and awards.
From the forgoing, you might expect to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for such an amazing tool. But the Alim is priced at an incredible $99.00, making it affordable for a very wide audience.
Any mosque, Islamic school, university, organization, library, religious leader, researcher, teacher, anyone interested in Islam for any reason and in any form will discover an immense reward in The Alim.
If you are a Muslim and own a computer or have access to one, it is no exaggeration to say that it is virtually an Islamic duty to obtain and use The Alim. Donate a copy to your local mosque or school. Give The Alim as a gift to your children who are students. Get a copy of this utterly astonishing program right now. You will not regret it.
System Requirements: IBM PC or compatible with 512K RAM memory. Hard drive required. Full installation occupies 13.5 megabytes. User may select options during installation according to available drive space. MS-DOS 3.01 or higher. Works with any graphics adapter, but EGA or better required to display Arabic script. For this review, the Alim was tested on a 486 33 mhz PC compatible computer.
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