Oral traditions have long served as vehicles of education in Muslim societies, tracing their origins back to the revelation of Quran itself.
Over time and geography, the purpose, form, and style of these traditions have found diverse expressions
accommodating local customs and contexts. At times these expressions have taken melodic forms leveraging
the power of poetry and music to bring faith, knowledge, devotion and worship into ecstatic harmony. An exemplar of such melodic expressions is the devotional literature of
the Ismaili Muslim community.
The word ginān, a derivative of the Sanskrit term jnan, means knowledge or gnosis. In the context of the Ismaili community, the term is used for the community's collection of religious hymns. Gināns were originally composed and recited by the early preachers of the Ismaili faith to spread their message to the people of Indian subcontinent. There are about one thousand individual hymns within the ginānic collection that vary considerably in length, language and composition.
The purpose of GIST is to make gināns available to researchers and community in order to facilitate much-needed bibliographic and scholarly attention to this hidden corpus of ethnocultural knowledge. GIST is part of a research study being led by Karim Tharani, Information Technology Librarian at the University of Saskatchewan Library, in consultation with Dr. Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Harvard University.
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