Network Analysis in Middle Eastern History

scholarnet_core25_treeview1 closeness_centrality_distribution

Two years ago, in a history class, I learned about Hadith transmission — a medieval middle eastern bookkeeping method of transmitting the words of scholars to their disciples. There are documented data in thousands of ancient Arabic texts that list such transmission lines. These are very important information for today’s history scholars as they try to determine the validity of transmission lines.

Nowadays the Arabic Studies scholars, whose focus is on ancient texts, try to come up with systematic methods to study these transmission lines. There are usually many transmission lines even for one Hadith, due to the increasing number of students for each generation of teachers. There are political and historical reasons (e.g. wars in particular centuries) that constricted the degree of particular nodes in this network. Coming up with a method to assess the reliability of different paths in such a network is tricky.

I proposed the use of Social Network Analysis techniques to infer (possibly) hidden relationships in this network. I also designed a few heuristics that could potentially help the current scholars to establish a quantitative reliability measure for different transmission lines of the same Hadith. This work is done in collaboration with Dr. Mairaj Syed (UC Davis, Islamic Studies department).

I have mined through several ancient text websites to create a disciple network. The network currently contains ~25000 scholars and ~57000 links between them. We have found some interesting insights from this dataset by applying some of the designed metrics so far. This is an ongoing project that will likely bring some new computational methods to the historians who study Hadiths.

Resources:

The “scholarnet” data will be published online by the end of this year, along with our current analysis.

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