The impression most people in the West have of the Arabic world, and the wider Muslim world, is sometimes crazy, sometimes reasonable, but always provisional. It's unavoidable that people only have time, and mental space, to understand so much about a culture not their own. But in this case, there is an aspect of Arab history that even many Arabs don't know. They invented agriculture.
To be more accurate, they moved farming from a folkway to a science; and they did it in Europe, or at least codified it there, in Al-Anadalus, Muslim Spain. Now, with the Fil??a Texts Project, a group is using online collaboration to make these Andalucian writings on our common agricultural heritage accessible to everyone.
The introduction to the project outlines its aims and value:
"The purpose of the Fil??a Texts Project is to publicise and elucidate the written works collectively known as the Kutub al-Fil??a or 'Books of Husbandry' compiled by Arab, especially Andalusi, agronomists mainly between the 10th and 14th centuries. These systematic and detailed manuals of agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry have been sadly neglected and remain largely unknown in the Anglophone world - apart from some of the Yemeni works they have never been translated into English. They not only provide primary source material for the understanding of what has been called the 'Islamic Green Revolution' but constitute a rich body of knowledge concerning a traditional system of husbandry which is as valid today as it was a thousand years ago and has much relevance to future sustainable agriculture."
The texts come from 240 different manuscripts, in 40 cities, spread throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.
The project is collaborative and at its early stage. Many of the elements that make it up are present to encourage the continued presentation, translation and discussion of an important set of historical texts that have been largely neglected.
A Collaborative Translation Platform
The Fil??a Texts Project consists of the following functions:
- Digitized manuscript facsimiles
- Digitized, searchable and cross-referenced Fil??a texts
- An online collaborative translation platform to present and translate the texts into English
- Bibliographies and bibliographic maps
- Published articles
- Relevant links
The site has few documents currently available. By providing a platform and publication for both the original, English translations and articles on the texts those bending the project are hoping to make many more of them available. The site employs Lingotek, an online tool for collaborative translation work.
The project is run by the Golden Web Foundation, a U.K.-based "educational charity" devoted to pulling together widely distributed cultural objects and information into a central database and reexamining that cultural heritage in a more integrated fashion, using the Web and other communications technologies.