Encyclopedia of the Fourteenth Century A.H., Twentieth Century A.D.: A Reference for the Arabic Language and the Universal Sciences


This ten-volume encyclopedia is an effort to reconcile Islamic belief with the scientific and intellectual currents of the West early in the 20th century. Entirely the work of one man, Muhammad Farid Wajdi, or Wadjdi (1875−1954)‏, it is arranged in the same way as European reference works, i.e., alphabetically, with long essays on important topics. In each of these, the author argues that the Qurʼan and the prophetic traditions of Islam are predictive of or compatible with modern science and rational (but not materialistic) philosophies. The encyclopedia was intended as a comprehensive reference for students on the entirety of human knowledge and was approved for distribution to all Egyptian schools. A prolific and prolix apologist for Islam who served as editor of the journal of al-Azhar, Wajdi was among the prominent reformist Muslim thinkers of his time. These reformists questioned not only traditional analytical methodologies, but also European Orientalist approaches. In politics, they were nationalists, opposed to both European colonialism and Ottoman suzerainty. They also had disputes with each other. To give just one example, Wajdi took a more traditionalist line on issues relating to women than did the more liberal Qasim Amin (1863−1908). Wajdi came to be honored with the title “shaykh,” even though he had no academic degree or training at Islamic academies. That he as a layman rose to the editorship of al-Azhar’s influential journal signaled an important change in religious administration in Egypt. This transformation was also expressed in his friendships with the scholarly clergy of al-Azhar, one of whom, ʻAbd al-Halim Mahmud, became the rector of al-Azhar, the highest religious authority in the land. Muhammad Farid Wajdi is not to be confused with nationalist leader Muhammad Farid (1868−1919) of an earlier generation.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

Maṭbaʻat Dāʼirat Maʻārif al-Qarn al-ʻIshrīn, Cairo


Title in Original Language

دائرة معارف القرن الرابع عشر-العشرين: قاموس عام مطول للغه العربية والعلوم النقلية والعقلية والكونية

Type of Item

Physical Description

Volume 1: 800 pages; volume 2: 800 pages; volume 3: 800 pages; volume 4: 800 pages; volume 5: 800 pages; volume 6: 800 pages; volume 7: 960 pages; volume 8: 800 pages; volume 9: 800 pages; volume 10: 1059 pages


  • Volumes 1-3 published in 1923; volumes 4-8 published in 1924; volumes 9-10 published in 1925


  1. J.G.G. Jansen “Muhammad Farid Wadjdi,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1990).

Last updated: June 9, 2015