What is an Encyclopedia?
An encyclopedia is a concise and systematic work in a specific field of study, including a collection of articles written by experts and scholars in that subject and in the most authentic and technical form.
Today, encyclopedias are specialized and valid sources for researchers and scholars, and present the most significant output in certain subjects and in the research form. Hence, compiling encyclopedias in research centers – especially in Humanities and Islamic Sciences – play a notable role in developing and strengthening Islamic and Iranian thought and culture.
Considering the importance of such a mission, IICT began the project of "Encyclopedia Center" in 2000 and expanded it to "The Research Center of Islamic Encyclopedias" in 2008 in order to become the pioneer and to produce eternal and authentic works with scientific and technical standards.
The Research Center of Encyclopedias has the burden of national plan for "Religious Encyclopedias" on its shoulder and works in the framework of IICT major policies and goals to produce, program and manage Islamic encyclopedias.
The available encyclopedias in Iran cannot be categorized under specific definitions. Nevertheless, IICT has defined "encyclopedia" as "a vast work in alphabetical order or subject-based structure, written by a group of qualified scholars and experts according to a certain method and scientific and technical considerations, that presents systematic and detailed data in a specific or major subject.
IICT has defined seven qualifications for encyclopedias to be achieved:
1. The data being systematic and concise
2. The level being appropriate and scientific
3. The theories and attitudes being up-to-date
4. The claims being authentic and defendable and presenting adequate references
5. The articles being concise and short
6. The texts and style being standard
7. The form and context being prepared with technical foundations
Since encyclopedias with subject-based structures are more concise and avoid unnecessary data flow, IICT presents all encyclopedias in subject-based structure. We believe that the first aim for compiling an encyclopedia is to inform. However, it can present creativity in form and context. In other words, the researcher may collect and bring available theories and attitudes, but he can present a new analysis, critique or theory on the subject as well which is welcomed by IICT. Therefore, writing articles for encyclopedias of IICT are considered as highly valued works of research, and the innovative aspect of the work is totally highlighted. We emphasize on avoiding imitative and repetitive works and common analysis, performing creative works and new subjects, working on certain subjects, and paying attention to contemporary problems, and we know that these considerations make our works unique among all other encyclopedias.
The Major Plan of "Religious Encyclopedias"
The major plan of "Religious Encyclopedias" is a national plan beyond the missions and attitudes of certain organizations and with short term and long term goals as follow:
·Presenting creativity and developing solutions for social and religious problems
· Organizing, researching, and coordinating religious thoughts due to current issues and necessities
· Preparing suitable grounds for developed religious thoughts
· Developing national thought and culture through compilation of great works and resources
· Initiating the effort to develop group working in compilation of encyclopedias and researches to improve the quality of the works
This plan has been designed with consideration of priorities in subjects and resources in several steps. The first step was the encyclopedia of "Imam Ali (A.S.)" which was begun in 2001 and published in early 2003 (in less than 20 months). "Encyclopedia of Imam Ali (A.S.)" was the first experience of IICT in compilation of encyclopedias although there were lots of obstacles and problems. However, many scholars, experts, and scientific centers declared it has been a significant work of research. Numerous prizes and admirations that this encyclopedia has received prove its uniqueness and all these made it be published three times in four years. The six-thousand-page encyclopedia received the Prize "Islamic Republic of Iran Book of the Year", "Top Religious Research", "Hawzah Book of the Year", "Book of Velayat Year", etc.
Then, as the second step, we began compilation of two encyclopedias in 2003: Encyclopedia of Quranology and Encyclopedia of Fatima (A.S.). The Encyclopedia of Quranology comprises two parts, Inside Quran and Outside Quran; the former has been begun in 2003 and would be finished by 2010 and the latter in 2006 (as the third step of the major plan of religious encyclopedias).
In late 2007, the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution ordered the compilation of "Encyclopedia of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.)". The forthcoming plans include the second edition and the software version of "Encyclopedia of Imam Ali (A.S.)", and "the Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Religion".