Explore Worldwide Islamic Documentary Heritage

Discover Islamic heritage through literature, sciences, manuscripts from important literary centers, Indian and Persian miniatures, and Islamic-Malay culture.

By UNESCO Memory of the World

Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute Manuscripts, page 48 (19th - 20th centuries) by Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI)UNESCO Memory of the World

Islamic Documentary Heritage

Islamic documentary heritage represents the inheritance of Islamic culture and historic memory transmitted through generations. It plays a fundamental role in defining and documenting Islamic identities and achievements in varied spheres (literacy, literature, politics, sciences, etc.) around the world.

Al-Masaalik Wa Al-Mamaalik. Book page 3 (10th century) by Mohammad Farsi IstakhriUNESCO Memory of the World

Al-Masaalik Wa Al-Mamaalik

Al-Masaalik Wa Al-Mamaalik, written in Arabic by Mohammad Farsi Istakhri, is a book that presents an accurate description of the socio-economic, cultural, and political conditions of Islamic lands – from India to Africa – supplemented by maps.

The Persian Sea (10th century) by Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm b. Muḥammad al-Fārisī al-Karkhī al-Iṣṭakhrī; Copyist: unknownUNESCO Memory of the World

Istakhri describes the countries he travelled to, including Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Zanzibar, and documents information that was not widely known at the time. It’s one of the most important geographical books from the 10th century CE.

Inscribed stone of Terengganu (side B) (10th - 11th centuries)UNESCO Memory of the World

Batu Bersurat Terengganu

Batu Bersurat Terengganu, also known as the Inscribed Stone of Terengganu, in Terengganu, Malaysia constitutes the earliest evidence of Jawi writing (based on Arabic alphabets) in the Malaya Muslim world of Southeast Asia. 

The 4 Sides of the Inscribed Stone of Terengganu (10th - 11th centuries)UNESCO Memory of the World

With the advent of Islam in the Southeast Asian region, in the 10th or 11th centuries, a life based on the teachings of Al-Quran and Hadith became widespread in Southeast Asia. Together, with the use of the Jawi script, as seen in the Terengganu Stone, it heralded a new age of literacy.

Ibn Sina. Book page 13 (11th century) by Abu Ali al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn al-Hassan Ibn al-Ali Ibn SinaUNESCO Memory of the World

Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

Persian Ibn Sina (980-1038), often known as Avicenna, is considered by European medical historians to be one of the most renowned scientists of Islam. He also offered contributions to other fields such as psychology, geology, mathematics, chemistry,  astronomy, and logic.

Ibn Sina. Book page 8 (11th century) by Abu Ali al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn al-Hassan Ibn al-Ali Ibn SinaUNESCO Memory of the World

Avicenna is one of the most famous people of all time. His work is invaluable, its significance transcends the boundaries of time and culture, and are still widely used by Turkish and foreign scholars. His portrait is hung in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Paris.

Gazi Husrev-Beg Library illuminated manuscript, page 11 (12th - 15th cenuries)UNESCO Memory of the World

Gazi Husrev-Beg Library

The manuscript collection of the Gazi Husrev-Beg Library in Bosnia and Herzegovina covers various fields originating in different parts of the Islamic world. Especially in important centers of learning such as Mecca, Medina, Cairo, Baghdad, and Istanbul. The oldest preserved manuscript was copied in 1105.

Gazi Husrev-Beg Library illuminated manuscript, page 10 (12th - 15th cenuries)UNESCO Memory of the World

The collection, often distinguished by outstanding calligraphy and decoration, is the most valuable Islamic manuscript collections in the Balkans area, as similar ones had been mostly been destroyed during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995).

Diwan Lughat al-Turk, book page 2 (11th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Compendium of the Turkic Dialects

The Compendium of the Turkic Dialects, also known as Diwan Lughat al-Turk, is the richest source for the language and ethnography of the Turks in the 11th century during a period when they were becoming the dominant military and political force in the Muslim world. 

Diwan Lughat al-Turk, map (11th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

The Compendium is a remarkable document of Islamic civilization in the areas of grammar and lexicography, and ethnography and cartography - due to its inclusion of a celebrated world map (mappa mundi ) showing the distribution of the Turkic peoples at that time. It’s a cultural treasure for the Turks, Uzbeks, Uygurs, and other Turkic and Iranian people of Central Asia.

Al-Qaraouiyyine Library (Bibliothèque al-Qaraouiyyine), Book 3 (14th century) by Ibn Khaldun [Waliy eddine Abderrahmane Ibn Abu Zayd Ibn Muhammad al-Hassan ibn Jabir ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Khalid ibn Abderrahman (Khaldoune) al-HadramiUNESCO Memory of the World

Kitab al-ibar, wa diwan al-mobtadae wa al-khabar

Kitab al-ibar, wa diwan al-mobtadae wa al-khabar, also known as the History of Ibn Khaldun, by Arab sociologist and historian Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), is a fifth volume of a treaty.

Quaraouiyyine Mosque (Mosquée Quaraouiyyine), view 1 (14th century) by Ibn Khaldun [Waliy eddine Abderrahmane Ibn Abu Zayd Ibn Muhammad al-Hassan ibn Jabir ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Khalid ibn Abderrahman (Khaldoune) al-HadramiUNESCO Memory of the World

The treaty is held at Quaraouiyyine Mosque in Morocco and covers: social and political history, the emergence of the constitution, and the decline of states. It’s considered as a pioneering work in sociology, history, and political philosophy for Arab Muslim countries in particular.

Quaraouiyyine Mosque, Mosque and University Karaouiyn, Fes, Morocco

Book of Travels, book cover (17th century) by Evliya ÇelebiUNESCO Memory of the World

Evliya Celebi's Book of Travels

Evliya Çelebi's Book of Travels, also known as Seyahatname, is the longest and fullest travel account in Islamic literature. It’s an extensive description of the Ottoman Empire and its hinterlands, and an account of the author's peregrinations over roughly 40 years (1640-1680).

Book of Travels, book page 3 (17th century) by Evliya ÇelebiUNESCO Memory of the World

Seyahatname provides an insight into Ottoman perceptions of the world, not only in obvious areas like geography, topography, administration, urban institutions, and social and economic systems but also in such domains as religion, folklore, dream interpretation, and conceptions of self.

Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals) (17th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Malay Annals

The Malay Annals, also known as Sejarah Melayu, is a literary work that conveys a historical narration of the origins, evolution, and demise of a great Malay maritime empire; including its cosmopolitan population of merchants from India, China, Arabia, Portugal, etc.

The Malay Annals relate to the transformation of the Malay Archipelago from a Hindu-Malay matrix to an Islamic-Malay culture. They’re the only available account of the history of the Malay Sultanate in the 15th and early 16th centuries. It’s one of the finest works in the Malay language. 

A Page of Birds. St. Petersburg Muraqqa (17th - 18th centuries) by Nadir Shah, Ustād Manṣūr, Nādir al-‘Aṣr, Muḥammad BāqirUNESCO Memory of the World

St. Petersburg Muraqqa

The St. Petersburg Muraqqa is an album of Indian and Persian miniatures by artists from the Mughal and Deccan schools of India and the Isfahan school of Iran. Its topics include: scenes of court life, hunt and battle, royal portraits, images of saints, and species of flora and fauna.

Each leaf of the miniatures of the St. Petersburg Muraqqa  includes Persian calligraphy by master of nastaliq style Mir Iamd al-Hasani of Qazvin (1554-1615). The album was assembled from works looted by Nadir Shah during his invasion in India in 1739. It represents a unique collection of art from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute Manuscripts, page 39 (19th - 20th centuries) by Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI)UNESCO Memory of the World

Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute

Mathematics, medicine, and astronomy were core disciplines of Islamic science during the Ottoman Empire (1285- 1923), with many works written in Turkish, Arabic, and Persian. The manuscript collection from this Institute specializes in math, astronomy, and astrology.

Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute Manuscripts, page 45 (19th - 20th centuries) by Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI)UNESCO Memory of the World

The works on astronomy and astrology at the Kandilli Institute are crucial for scholars and experts in subjects relating to the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic world, and for Western scholars in this field.

Sultan of Kedah, correspondence page 1 (19th - 20th centuries) by Sultan of KedahUNESCO Memory of the World

Correspondence of the Late Sultan of Kedah

The Correspondence of the Late Sultan of Kedah (1882-1943) constitutes the only available evidence of the Malay Sultanate prior to the advent of western-style colonialism. 

Sultan of Kedah, book (19th - 20th centuries) by Sultan of KedahUNESCO Memory of the World

The Kedah Correspondence shows the waning influence of the Palace in the 19th and 20th centuries and the precarious life of a State in transition that is no longer able to control its destiny due to the need to submit to foreign powers far superior in might. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
UNESCO Memory of the World
UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme is an international initiative launched to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity against collective amnesia, neglect, the ravages of time and climatic conditions, and willful and deliberate destruction.
View theme
Google apps