“I see the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after 50 years, as a wellspring of radiance for humanity.” –King Faisal bin Abdulaziz
This was the statement that guided the daughters and sons of the late-King Faisal when they decided to establish the King Faisal Foundation in 1976. A few years later, in 1983, and to continue their late father’s legacy and make his vision a reality, the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies was born as the best means for preserving Arab and Islamic intellectual heritage and transmitting knowledge from the Muslim world through a center for research and Islamic studies. Thus, the King Faisal Foundation endeavored to collaborate with experts – both local and abroad, to begin the project in Riyadh. Locally, the King Faisal Foundation concluded an agreement with the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) in Riyadh to conduct a two-phase project, through which the organizational structure of the new center was laid out. Next, on 14 December 1983, a collaboration was concluded between HRH Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, Director-Director of the King Faisal Foundation, and the then Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow of Senegal, entrusting UNESCO with the training of staff at the newly-founded King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.
During its first years, the Center grew its library, and honed its in-house expertise in the preservation of books and manuscripts from across the Arab and Islamic worlds. Agreements were concluded with a number of renowned international libraries, such as the British Museum Library, the French National Museum of Natural History, and the U.S. Library of Congress. Importantly, in 1998, the Center extended its expertise in assisting in the re-opening of what would become the National Library of Uzbekistan, as well as aiding and coordinating the renovation and opening of the Imam Al-Bukhari Mausoleum Complex in Samarkand, obtaining priceless manuscripts from that early center of Islamic learning.
In 1999, the Center began to expand its activities from librarianship and preservation, to collecting and publishing contemporary works with its library having gradually amassed a sizeable collection of graduate and doctoral thesis over the years. In the same year, the Arabic-language Journal of Linguistic Studies was launched, marking the beginning for the Center’s evolving role from merely a library preserving knowledge, to a publisher. In 2004, the Journal of Islam and the Modern World was created, which featured works by resident researchers at the Center for the first time.
Gradually, the Center and its library, manuscript collection and publications became known to academic and research institutions from other countries. The Visiting Fellows Program was also established in 1999 to help facilitate the research projects of doctoral students, professors and researchers from around the Kingdom as well as across the world.
With its expanding role in scholarly research, backed by a well-established library and manuscript preservation department, in 2013 the Center shifted its primary focus from simply preserving scholarly work, to producing it. The research division was formed into the Research Department. In 2013, Masarat, an anonymous bimonthly report was launched, as well as Qira’at, which focuses on cultural, literary, and anthropological articles; and Dirasat, which features monthly, in-depth analysis related to current political and strategic issues.
Since its founding over 30 years ago, the Center has achieved many goals. However, our aspirations remain greater yet. In an era where divisiveness is on the rise, the Center stands out as a beacon of tolerance and learning, promoting intercultural understanding not just through words, but, in the tradition of our namesake, through the promotion of the transmission of knowledge.
King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies