By Vijaya Cherian
Al-Azhar portal, initiated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, will give people access to some of the world's oldest Islamic manuscripts online.
Phase one of Al-Azhar Online, an ambitious $5 million project, funded by General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and UAE defence minister, is scheduled to go online in April. The Al Azhar portal (www.alazharonline.org), which is a part of the project, will be available only in Cairo initially. It aims to give people access to some of the world's oldest Islamic manuscripts and also cover other topics of interest to Muslims such as Fatwa, Fiqh and Islamic civilisation. The project was conceptualised by Sheikh Mohammed after a visit to Al Azhar, Egypt in April 2000. "It is a pioneering project realised through the vision of one man," commented Jamal Khaflan Al Howairib, managing director of www.sheikhmohammed.co.ae, which will supervise the project. Included in the scope of the project is the digital conversion of over 42,000 manuscripts — 9,000 of which are the only existing copies in the world — dating back approximately 1,400 years; the Al Azhar portal and a network connecting ten of its main institutions in Cairo. The project is estimated to take three years to complete.