Dear Kais,

System type (1) sounds interesting and I'll be glad to help in collecting 
fact-based questions and answers that are backed with verse(s) as long as it's 
not related to Fatwa, agreeing with Abdul-Baqi and Wajdi regarding factoid 
questions and selecting simple questions from the proposed websites.

Regarding what Eric said:
As Kais said a QA system that can do what a concordance cannot is the prefer 
objective, providing a simple answer backed by a Qur'anic verse is a great idea 
to start with.

Finding relationship between verses is something that needs to be focused on, 
and it could be trained according to the answers provided from the training set 
you are planning to use. Therefore, if we have a question answered by 2 to 3 
verses these verses could be considered highly related, which could help in 
answering other related questions.

Best regards,
Mahmoud EL-Haj

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.
University of Essex.
Colchester CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom.
//EASC Corpus:

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Kais Dukes
Sent: Sunday, February 28, 2010 10:48 AM
Subject: Re: Advice Required - Dialog System for the Quran


This discussion thread is getting quite interesting indeed. What do
you all think of START - the natural language question answering

I think it's pretty good for simple facts, especially as it usually
cites the original source resource for each answer. With regards to a
Quranic QA system, I think that so far the general consensus on this
mailing list is that there could be two types of system:

(1) A very basic fact system, which can answer simple questions from
knowledge in the Quran, backed by Quranic verses.

(2) A much more advanced system, which combines the Hadith, Quran, and
other parts of the Islamic faith to give fatwa-style answers using
advanced inference and automated deduction.

Well, we have to start somewhere ... so I'm keen to focus on system
(1). The question for me is, would a simple fact system still be
useful, without advanced inference? From a practical perspective, I
believe that it would be, although of course not as useful as system
(2). A very-simple QA system might be useful for students, younger web
users, and the general public who might be interested in simple
questions about Islam. Probably not so useful for those already
familiar with the Quran and the religion in more detail and are after
finer clarification. From an Academic perspective, system (1) is also
very useful because:

- It might be one of the first few attempts at a Quran QA-system
(would give a baseline for future research in this area).
- It would be interesting to know how the genre of the Quran affects
QA in general, i.e. is there anything special about this domain? Is QA
for the Quran the same or any different from general QA?
- Given that the Quran is highly studied (and now also highly
annotated linguistically) does this extra information help beyond
basic keyword search?
- This simple system is probably a step in the right direction for a
more advanced system (2)

Based on recent discussion, I would suggest that a good starting point
would be a simple QA fact system. Note that "simple" here refers to
the system from a user's perspective. From the perspective of those
designing and building such a system, things which look "simple" to a
user can be very hard indeed in the field of AI :-), if not sometimes
nearly impossible!

Would anybody be interested in helping to compile a list of basic fact
questions about the Quran, backed by specific verses? Here are some
simple fact-based questions that come to mind:

- Who is Allah?
- Who was Muhammad?
- What is Islam?
- Which prophets are mentioned in the Quran?
- Is Solomon mentioned in the Quran?
- What does the Quran say about Jesus?
- List the religions mentioned in the Quran.

(Inspired by

The good thing is that once we get a basic system up online, we can
start to monitor the system's log files to see which questions are
most frequently asked (we would expect a Zipfian distribution) and we
can later tune the system to give good responses to the most common
questions. Hopefully each of these questions could be answered via an
extract of a relevant verse from the Quran (within reason). Ideally, I
would like to compile a list of hundreds (or even possibly thousands)
of questions with simple answers from verses of the Quran.

After that, there could be lots of other possibilities. Given a large
list of question and answers, this could be the final knowledge base,
and we map new questions to existing answers. Otherwise, given a large
list, there may be a reasonable way to think about automating the
process of question/answer extraction to a reasonable level of
accuracy - so that future compilation of the knowledge base might be a
case of manual verification of automated suggestions.

I'm looking forward to any suggestions on the first stage of this new
project: constructing a large list of simple questions and answers
relating to verses of the Quran.

Kind Regards,

-- Kais

> On Sun, Feb 28, 2010 at 8:36 AM, Abdul-Baqi Sharaf 
> <> wrote:
> Dear All;
> I was following this thread with interest. Actually I am not very much
> optimistic about trusted automated QA system on the Qur'an or Islam that
> would assume the position of a Qur'anic scholar. However, a simple factoid
> questions to someone who does not know much facts about Qur'an/Islam can be
> produced.
> I think automated QA is the greatest challenge for artificial intelligence
> and Alan Turing's challenge still remains a challenge for computational
> community. Shaping this challenge for the quranic context would mean, that
> when a user asks a quranic questions he/she would not be able to tell who is
> answering him/her from behind the screen: a qur'anic scholar or an automated
> dialogue system :-) so, seconding El-Haj I also think any system should not
> assume the position of a Mufti.
> Once I gathered few questions from tafsir section of and it
> seemed to me that majority of these questions are geared towards general
> Muslims who has fair knowledge about the Qur'an but wants clarification on
> apparent contradictions or confusion about two verses. I would imagine that
> some good progress could be achieved if the Qur'anic is annotated with much
> more extra-linguistic tags including information taken from books of tafsir,
> hadith, fiqh, etc and then sophisticated inference rules are applied, but
> then again any answer should be first checked by a Qur'anic scholar before
> passing to the user which then defeats the purpose of a dialogue system
> which assumes instant answers.
> However, I think computational linguistics and text mining can be of great
> help to a qur'anic scholar who can filter any automated output and accept
> the ones that is correct.
> Having said that, I am not discouraging this idea of a dialogue system, but
> rather requesting to define the project properly in terms of the type of
> questions this system will attempt to answer instantly.
> I will be interested in collecting a set of factoid question-answers if this
> projects goes forward.
> best wishes,
> Abdul-Baquee
> On Sun, Feb 28, 2010 at 3:56 AM, El-Haj, Mahmoud <> wrote:
>> Dear All,
>> Very impressive indeed.
>> I just have the following questions, concerns and suggestions regarding
>> the Quranic Question Answering System.
>> Building a Quranic Question Answering system is great but you need to
>> focus on what type of questions are you going to ask!
>> Is it questions on Belief, juristic, transactions, ...etc.
>> Trustworthy Resources! What does it exactly mean? Are you intending to
>> just copy/paste questions and answers from different websites? Which sounds
>> retrieving process only.
>> What I mean is training a Quranic QA system with Quranic resources is
>> different from training a general QA system using a training data, as the
>> domain is huge and the testing data is different from the training one.
>> What Wajdi said about taking all the data from the website he mentioned
>> and filtering the text in the answer keeping just the Quran verses sounds
>> same as having the website on different host. The training here is a matter
>> of matching, as you are only matching users' questions to even the questions
>> in this website or the answers as an expanding process.
>> Providing FATWA answers should be Expert in a way to desist the user from
>> asking a Sheikh (Mofti). And we know that most of the questions are being
>> answered based on the Prophet's (Peace Be upon Him) Hadith and behaviours.
>> Where other factors play a big role also, such as the situation, place, age,
>> and gender. A QA system in the way of collecting Correct FATWAS is far away
>> from Quran QAs, as I can't find the benefit of having the Quran as a source
>> (I mean in the system), how is the Quran going to be used to answer such
>> kind of questions?
>> As you said you want an intelligent expert question-answering system.
>> I suggest that the Quranic QA system should be (as a starting phase) for
>> answering simple questions as Kais said but questions other than Fatwas
>> For example (simple questions such as frequencies and quantities), a bit
>> advanced questions that requires text analysis and maybe anaphoric
>> resolution.
>> e.g.
>> Q: What kind of birds was Sulaiman (Peace Be upon Him) talking to in
>> An-Naml Chapter?
>> A: Hoopoe
>> Source: "And he took attendance of the birds and said, "Why do I not see
>> the hoopoe - or is he among the absent?" --> [An-Naml, 20].
>> Finally, I could imagine one of the following scenarios:
>> 1- An IR system that treats the question as a query and then retrieves
>> verses that "may" contain the answer in a ranked order.
>> 2- An intelligent QA system that provides non-Quranic answers and
>> strengthen that by verse(s).
>> I would be really fascinated by Quranic QA system that can answers
>> questions as the one mentioned above.
>> Thanks for your time and please correct me if there is something wrong.
>> Best wishes,
>> Mahmoud EL-Haj
>> School Computer Science and Electronic Engineering
>> Essex University, Wivenhoe Park,
>> Colchester CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom.
>> //EASC Corpus:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From:
>> [] On Behalf Of Kais Dukes
>> Sent: Saturday, February 27, 2010 6:46 PM
>> To:
>> Subject: Advice Required - Dialog System for the Quran
>> Hello Members of the Computational Quran Mailing List,
>> Current research in the Quranic Arabic Corpus project involves:
>> - Morphological annotation
>> - Syntactic annotation
>> - Ontology of Quranic Concepts (towards a semantic representation of the
>> Quran)
>> As well as extending the morphological and syntactic annotation of the
>> Quran, I am keen to start thinking about a later stage of this
>> research. The final (long-term) aim of this project is to build an
>> intelligent expert question-answering system. An example might be:
>> ==========================
>> Question:
>> How long should I breastfeed my child for?
>> Answer:
>> "Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever
>> wishes to complete the nursing [period]."
>> - Source: The Holy Quran, verse (2:233).
>> ==========================
>> Such a system would allow general website users to ask simple
>> questions, and get back answers based on facts contained in verses of
>> the Quran. As a first step to constructing such a system, I am keen to
>> get hold of a large list of questions (and hopefully answers) backed
>> by verses of the Quran. I would like to ask the members of this
>> mailing list advice on building together a list of sample questions
>> (e.g. several hundred or several thousand questions that people might
>> commonly ask). Does anybody have any suggestions for online (or other
>> resources) for Islamic questions and answers, hopefully with all the
>> answers directly as verses of the Quran?
>> It would also be great to hear ideas on how a powerful dialog system
>> of the Quran might approach - or even any ideas about dialog systems
>> in general.
>> Looking forward to any responses. Please feel free to reply directly
>> to the mailing list (just hit reply all).
>> Kind Regards,
>> - Kais Dukes
>> Language Research Group
>> School of Computing
>> University of Leeds
>> - The Quranic Arabic Corpus
>> - Computational Quranic Arabic discussion list

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