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date: 21 April 2019

Islamic Historical Sources: Manuscripts and Online

Summary and Keywords

Of central interest here are the historical sources on Islam and Africa, the role and contributions of manuscripts to the narrative, and how the new cyber world has become a domain for those sources as instruments for the generation and utilization of knowledge. Africa came in contact with Islam right from the birth of the faith in the 7th century. Although Judeo-Christian, Late-Antique, and pre-Islamic materials provided the earliest historical sources on Islam and its people, the Qur’an, hadith (statements of the Prophet Muhammad), and the sira/maghāzī (biography/expeditions) were the first original sources on Islamic history on which later writings, including those from Africa, drew.

The manuscript tradition in Islam is as old as the faith itself; it was one of the earliest material sources on Islamic sciences, and in the case of Africa, it provided a treasure trove of materials. At the beginning of the 21st century, the approach to scholarship and utilization of manuscripts changed radically, as digitization, creation of online databases, interconnected portals and links to universal portals, catalogs of manuscripts and published materials, among other innovations, redefined the ways knowledge of Islamic history is generated, accessed, and utilized.

Keywords: Islamic history, (non)Islamic sources, African (re)sources, manuscript tradition, digital humanities, digitization, databases, online data/manuscript sites

[T]here is a rich Islamic history in Africa, and Islamic writers there were producing scholarly manuscripts while most of Europe was still stuck in the Middle Ages.

Elizabeth C. Blackwell

Materials from Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity, both of which predated Islam in Arabia, as well as pre-Islamic Arabian oral and/or written histories, provided the earliest sources on the history of Islam. Africa itself was a subject of history long before Islam, although it earned enhanced historical prominence through Islam. A History of Libya (i.e., Africa; a work now lost), based on Punic records, by the Berber King Juba II of Roman Mauritania (d. 23 ce), is an early example of the pre-Islamic narrative on Africa. A 7th-century Syriac manuscript by the Jacobite Thomas the Presbyter is said to be the first explicit reference to Muḥammad, hence Islam, in a non-Muslim source.1 The pre-Islamic people, genealogical narratives, and poetry also offered some historical insights into Islam’s early history. The manuscript as a medium and mode of recording the history of Islam and other cultural indices emerged in its crudest form as ceramics, flat stones, veins of palm leaves, animal skins, and later, papyri.2 These media were the foundational sources of Islamic history; namely, the Qur’ān, the ḥadīth (statements of the Prophet), and the sīra/maghāzī/futūḥ (biographical/war/conquests) literature were documented from the 1st ah/7th–8th ce, long before the advent of print.

Western and Middle Eastern contributions to the study of Islamic history have enjoyed extensive coverage, but its African component has been comparatively neglected. Admittedly, the African input initially derived from the Middle Eastern tradition, but the unique African contribution to the history of Islam and its peoples remained largely overlooked until very recently. With the evolution of digital technologies, Islamic manuscripts, as platforms for text production, information, and knowledge transmission, have found a place in the cyber world. The result has been the creation of a new study of Islamic history and civilization through online manuscripts, made accessible through institutional databases and websites.

Sources for Islamic History

Non-Islamic Sources and Studies

Navigating the terrain of historical sources in modern scholarship requires a multidisciplinary approach, or at least the use of certain insights from other fields. In essence, materials from archaeology, historical linguistics, physical anthropology, oral history, non-Islamic Arabic, and/or non-Arabic sources, together with trade and political documents, including those from national and private archives, are needed in exploring the sources of Islamic history. Syriac Christians were the first literate religious group to come in contact with Islam; hence, their writings have great source value for Islamic history. Michael Penn has reviewed over sixty Syriac writings belonging to the 7th–9th centuries with regard to their relevance to Islam and its history.3 The Arabia into which Islam was born was a predominantly oral society, and in so far as “non-literacy is fundamental to the functioning of a vibrant, purely tribal society,” of course little use was made of writing as a means of record.4 Hence, pre-Islamic Arabic oral poetry, narratives on tribal adventures and war encounters (Ayyām al-‘Arab), folk narratives (akhbār), and genealogical accounts became early sources for the history of Islam.

Western Efforts

Western approaches to the history of Islam have ranged from the critical to the speculative and from the objective to the polemical; and acceptance of these approaches has ranged from mild confidence to extreme skepticism and outright denial.5 Thomas Erpenius’s (1584–1624) Tārīkh al-Muslimīn (Historia Saracenica), the first printed work on Islamic history in Renaissance Europe, clearly reflects the dominant Western attitude to Islam and its history until that point in time.6 With regard to modern works on Islamic history, Fred M. Donner brilliantly analyzes the various Western perspectives on Islamic history writing from the late 19th century to date.7

Muslim Sources on History: Qur’ān, Hadīth, and Sīra

The Fihrist by Ibn al-Nadīm (d. 380 ah/990 ce) is a major bibliographical resource in the Arabic-Islamic tradition for classical research on Islamic history, as represented by works on the Qur’ān, the ḥadīth (statements/endorsements by the Prophet Muḥammad), and the sīra/maghāzī literature. These are the three principal sources of Islamic history.8 Fuat Sezgin has uniquely brought together the traditional Islamic and Western sources on Islamic history, at least until the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, as demonstrated in his magnum opus.9 The raison d’être for the revelation of particular verses or passages, technically known as asbāb al-nuzūl, became the first major source of Islamic history from the Qur’ān.10 Early authors on Qur’anic exegesis (tafsīr) from ‘Abdallah Ibn ‘Abbās (d. 68 ah/687 ce) onward gave detailed accounts of allusive and elliptical narratives and idioms,11 sometimes drawing on the Judeo-Christian narratives (Isrā’iliyyāt), a genre that already provided a source for Muslim authors in almost all subjects.12

The second source of Islamic history, the hadīths, are statements by the Prophet on all issues, religious and mundane. The hadīths are important, first, for explicating Qur’anic historical narratives and, second, for giving details on other allusive idioms or statements of historical value. The earliest form of documentary ḥadīth is the ṣaḥīfa, a sort of personal notebook; the Ṣaḥīfa (al-Ṣādiqa) by ‘Alī b. ‘Amr (d. 65 ah/684 ce) and another by ‘Abd al-Razzāq b. Hammām (d. 211 ah/827 ce) are outstanding examples. A more ordered type of the ḥadīth corpus which got codified in al-Ṣiḥāḥ al-Sittah (the six canonical ḥadīth collections) emerged during the Abbasid era.13 For the Shi‘ites, however, the so-called al-Kutub al-arba‘ (the Four Canonical books), at the top of which is Kitāb al-Kāfī by Muḥammad b. Ya‘qūb al-Kulaynī (d. 325 ah/937 ce), are the principally recognized ḥadīth collections for juridical and historical materials. Nevertheless, the 111-volume Biḥār al-anwār by Mulla Muḥammad Bāqir (d. 1110 ah/1698 ce) can be added as another Shi‘ite source on Islamic history.14

The sīra/maghāzī literature, which deals with the active life and military expeditions and conquests of the Prophet, is the third major source of Islamic history. Although the Kitāb al-Maghāzī by Muḥammad Ibn Isḥāq (d. 150 ah/767 ce) was meant to provide a narrative on the Prophet Muhammad, the author could not resist the emerging trend of his time, which was tilting toward a tradition of world history writing, or rather, the history of pre-Muhammadan eras in which Judeo-Christian material bearers had led the way. But it was Ibn Hishām’s (d. 213 ah/829 ce) recension of Ibn Isḥāq that became the standard source for the biography of the Prophet for later authors. Nevertheless, a similar title by Ma‘mar Ibn Rashīd (d. 153 ah/770 ce) on Prophet Muhammad’s military expeditions turned out to be a classic on the sīra.15 But it was the Kitāb al-Maghāzī by Muḥammad b. ‘Umar al-Wāqidī (d. 207 ah/823 ce) that became the first holistic work on the life and wars of the Prophet from the period following the hijra (migration) until his death.16 However, Muḥammad Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310 ah/923 ce) emerged as the greatest historian of Islam through his universal history, namely, al-Tārīkh.17 The Shi‘ites’ strong sense of theological and political persecution is discernible in their attitude toward mainstream Islamic historical sources and in their own original sectarian works of history and historiography. Shi‘ite intellectual exertions are often marked by their tendency to exclude or at least play down non-Shi‘ite materials. In addition to the Qur’ān, ḥadīth (as recognized by them) and early texts, such as Ibn Isḥāq’s, the Shi‘ites also draw on martyrdom literature, that is, the maqātil narratives on ‘Alī and his household, the ahl al-bayt. ( In any case, the classics from the Islamic mainland ultimately served as the models of historical writing for authors from other parts of the Islamic world, including Africa.

Africa: Source of Islamic History

In the entire narrative on Islamic history and source materials, the so-called marginal or peripheral regions of the Islamic world, specifically Africa south of the Sahara (Sudanic Africa), have not been fairly represented in premodern Western and Middle Eastern scholarship on Islam. North Africa, the Maghreb, has of course had a deep-rooted historical connection with the rest of the continent, inasmuch as it was the first region to have contact with Islam from the first century of the faith. John Hunwick gives some relevant information on published and unpublished sources on African history from the 9th to 16th century by North African authors under the Islamic dispensation and from the attested time of scholarly writing to date in Sudanic Africa.18 Nevertheless, with regard to its intellectual heritage, Sudanic Africa was disdained by Western writers and even by Muslim writers. For instance, during his tour of West Africa, the Moroccan Ibn Baṭṭūṭa (703–770 ah/1304–1369 ce) reportedly acquired some manuscripts in both Arabic and the African natal languages in the Arabic script but did not consider these materials worthy of mention in his travelogue.19 In other words, as long as the region was not considered to be a part of the Islamic world, the African historical past and intellectual heritage was not considered to be a real bequest of the Islamic world. Thus, it remained “unacknowledged and . . . the accomplishments of its key figures have in large part been obscured by a long history of misunderstandings, misconceptions and prejudices”20. Carl Brockelmann’s Geschichte der Arabischen Literatur and Fuat Sezgin’s complementary effort thereto, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, continued for a long time as the major bio-bibliographical reference work on authors from the Islamic world in which Sudanic African authors and works are all but ignored.21

Since that time, however, internal and external pieces of evidence from Africa have changed the narrative so that Sudanic Africa is now appreciated as a worthy and original source of Islamic history. For instance, Arabic epigraphs and inscriptions from Mali (1013 and 1076 ce) have been said to provide “early evidence for the history of Islam and of writing in West Africa.”22 Such materials continued to be seen as proofs of an enduring Islamic heritage in Sudanic Africa until the late 15th century.23 By the middle of the 20th century, however, it was realized that Sudanic Africa possessed an enormous intellectual capital in all Islamic sciences and subjects, including history, which had hitherto been approached from Eurocentric and Western perspectives.

Generally, two broad types of internal Arabic Islamic sources on African history have been identified: the literary and the archival. The literary refers to annals, chronicles, and biographies by scholars, whereas the archival includes court records, proclamations, legal documents, and political correspondence.24 More recently, however, other sources have been identified—for example, oral chronologies, migration narratives, commercial records, and pilgrimage travelogues.25 Another category may be “freedom narratives,” that is, writings by enslaved or freed Muslim slaves in the Americas and elsewhere from the middle of the 19th century.26 The fact that all these sources had been sidestepped, if not altogether discountenanced, in Brockelmann and Sezgin was the motivation for John Hunwick’s Arabic Literature of Africa (ALA) series, a project that has so far produced over 4000 pages in five volumes between 1993 and 2016 in the form of bio-bibliographical details on Sudanic African authors.27 The series is brilliant testimony to the depth and breadth of the Sudanic African intellectual heritage under the Islamic dispensation, as manifested in published and unpublished original and derivative works on all Islamic sciences, including history. The volume on the writings of East Africa and the Swahili world is still under preparation in the series by Rex S. O’Fahey and Anne K. Bang, and none is known to be in the pipeline in respect of South Africa. However, preliminary information on the contents of the volume on East Africa suggests that the area can equally boast of a deep-rooted Islamic cultural heritage, as long as it “is home to a literary tradition that is unique in Islamic Africa, namely, a highly developed literature in the Swahili [ajami], that is, the local language in the Arabic script.”28

The earliest extant Arabic and Kiswahili manuscripts go back only to the latter part of the 17th century, although Arabic had been a lingua franca of the Swahili world long before the 1490 Portuguese invasion of Africa, in consequence of which Arabic materials were found to be part of the items seized by the invaders. The 16th-century Portuguese historian Damião de Goes mentions several specific cases of correspondence in Arabic between the court in Portugal and the local kings.29 The Kilwa Chronicle (Kitāb Sulwa fī akhbār Kilwa), dated c. 1520 in its Arabic version, is perhaps the oldest extant East African and indeed Sudanic African Arabic historical writing. To this category may be added the Funj Chronicle (1504–1871), the only full-length Arabic account of the Nilotic Sudan;30 the two part account of the history of Bornu by Ahmad Ibn Furtuwa (written after 1576);31 and the Kano Chronicle, the 11th–19th-century account of Kano (Nigeria),32 to mention but a few of the earliest surviving historical writings from Africa south of the Sahara. However, a lot has happened in the East African (Swahili and Arabic) writings from the 17th century to the present (“Swahili in the African and Indian Ocean worlds to c. 1500” (in this ORE platform).33 In the last few decades, researchers have been accessing materials from private and public archives or repositories, and Arabic and Kiswahili writings by the locals have served as outstanding “direct sources for historical research.”34 (Indian and Chinese sources, especially on East Africa,35 remain largely unutilized, and Ottoman Turkish and perhaps Russian materials on Islamic Africa may offer more insights.)

The story about the South African Islamic intellectual heritage and scholarship is relatively more recent. Islam did not become a noticeable phenomenon in South Africa until the 17th century with the settlement of exiled Muslim activists and slaves from the Indian subcontinent and the Indonesian Archipelago by the Dutch colonists. Some of the new settlers, especially in Cape Town, included Imams and mystics. For example, Shaikh Yusuf, nominally regarded as the founder of Islam in South Africa, was exiled here in 1694.36 But it was not until the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries that native South African Muslim authors could boast of “original” writings, albeit, in Arabic-Afrikaans, that is, a creolized variety of Dutch in the Arabic script as introduced by the Ottoman scholar Abubakr Effendi (1835–1880).37 Interestingly, there was some affinity between the South African and the East African Islamic learning tradition, although the South African authorship culture essentially focused on rudimental theological, basic religious rites, and mysticism. The manuscript tradition of South Africa (excluding the extended Swahili area) confirms this notion; as yet, there is no evidence of indigenous scholarly works in the fashion seen in the other parts of Sudanic Africa.38

Hunwick’s effort as represented in the Arabic Literature of Africa (ALA) series significantly gives access to, or at least publicizes, original and derivative published and unpublished works by Sudanic Africans on Islamic history and other sciences or subjects. Those works represent the authentic African voices and subscriptions to the Islamic, and indeed world, history.39 According to Ousmane Kane, most of what we know about West Africa from the 11th to the 17th centuries comes from Arabic sources as afforded by African authors.40

Islamic History: The Sudanic African Input

Trans-Saharan links through trade, travels, and migration brought the Maghreb (North Africa) and Sudanic Africa together, a connection that was consequently enhanced by Islamic learning, the manuscript tradition, and the book culture. Archaeological findings, oral history, books, and travel accounts written by Africans remain the principal sources of Islamic history from the African segment of the Islamic commonwealth. Reference was made earlier to epigraphic and other inscriptions in West Africa from the 11th century and to Arabic manuscripts from the 14th century, as evidence of early Islamic writing culture and scholarship. The multivolume Ta’rīkh Ifrīqiyya wa l-Maghrib (History of Africa and the Maghreb) by Ibrāhīm b. al-Qāsim al-Kātib al-Qayrawānī (Ibn Rachich/Ibn Raqīq d. after 418 ah/1027 ce) is probably the oldest known historical narrative on Africa. It was certainly available to Leo Africanus (c. 1494–c. 1554), who spoke highly of the author as one who argued in support of the claim that “it has been 900 years since Africans use Arabic characters.”41 Geo-cosmographical works (récits de voyages), for example, Muḥammad al-Idrīs’s (d. 493–560 ah/1100–1165 ce) Nuzhat al-mushtāq and Ibn Baṭṭūṭa’s (703–770 ah/1304–69 ce) Tuḥfat al-nuẓẓār, are among the earliest sources in this regard. An abridged version of the Nuzhat, which was published in Rome in 1592, was one of the first Arabic works ever printed with a map of the River Senegal shown in it. A related effort in the genre, though by a Western author, was Olfert Dapper’s 1676 Dutch cartographic and historical report on Africa, his Naukeurige. It contains narratives on the religious and sociopolitical life of Africa, as well as an illustration of a 1590 Bible printed in Arabic, among other religious snippets on Sudanic Africa.42

The Jawāhir al-Ḥisān fī akhbār al-Sūdān by one Baba Guru b. al-Ḥājj Muḥammad (fl 16th century) is an early chronicle on the Western Sudan. Little or nothing is known about the author beyond the acknowledgment of his work as a source in the Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh, written in the mid-1650s by the Kati family.43 Al-Sa‘dī’s (b. 1594 d. after 1655) Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān is an authoritative chronicle of the history of Mali during the 15th and 16th centuries. John Hunwick’s 1999 edition and partial translation of it offers an enlightening insight into early African history from an Islamic source.44 A work entitled al-Sīra/al-Maqāma al-Kilwiyya by one Muḥammad b. Sa‘īd al-Qalhatī is said to have been written around 1161 ah/1748 ce.45

Perhaps the most significant Sudanic African contribution to Islamic history is to be found in, for example, the Swahili tendi epic. This is a kind of folk poetry that draws on episodes and events in Islamic history. The longest surviving exemplar is said to be a 45,000 quatrain that focuses on the last moments of the Prophet’s life.46 Genres similar to the Swahili tendi, in which the life and mission of the Prophet Muḥammad constitute the central theme, are to be found in Hausa, Fulfulde, Kanuri, Amazigh, Yoruba, Serere, Afrikaans, Wolof, and many other African literary traditions in which both the formal Arabic and ajami served as media of documentation.47 For example, al-Mukhtār Kunti’s (d. 1811 ce) panegyrics of the Prophet in formal Arabic, Nafḥ al-ṭīb, contains devotional prayers and historical episodes in the life of the Prophet. Mervyn Hiskett places the Hausa Prophetic panegyric (madihin Annabi/madahu) and biography (sīra) of the Prophet Muḥammad in verse or prose in the context of a wider Islamic literary and biographical tradition. Of course, Hausa vernacular sīra drew from the classics of Ibn Hishām, al-Wāqidī, and the verse work of the 14th-century ‘Abd al-Raḥīm b. Ḥusain al-‘Irāqi’s Naẓm al-durar fi l-maghāzī wa-l siyar.48 The earliest example Wakar sira (Song of the Biography of the Prophet) is to be attributed to ‘Abdullah dan Fodio (d. 1829). In any case, Hunwick’s listing of the major repositories of Arabic manuscripts in Africa provides more information on the Islamic sources of African history and intellectualism.49.

Islamic Historical Sources: Manuscripts and OnlineClick to view larger

Map 1. Major Islamic manuscript holding centers/cities in the World. Adapted with the permission of HSRC Press, from John Hunwick’s “The Arabic Literature of Africa Project,” in The Meanings of Timbuktu, ed. S. Jeppie and S. Diagne. Cape Town: HSRC, 2008, 303–320.

Ismail Jimoh also lists several other manuscript-holding centers in Nigeria, which are situated in Kano, Kaduna, Zaria, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Sokoto, and Jos, among other areas where such materials on Islamic history can be located.50

Although the Islamic scholarly tradition was a male-dominated enterprise, there was no lack of efficient women clerics and scholars, even from Islamic antiquity.51 The African tradition in scholarly writing on Islamic history, among other subjects, also indicates the presence of women scholar-authors, for example, from the 11th century in North Africa52 and from the late 18th century in West Africa. For instance, Nana Asma’u (1793–1864) is described as “the most prolific woman writer and influential lady to emerge in the Western Soudan in the nineteenth-century,”53 and several young Tajākanit women (South Morocco-Mali) of the 19th century were said to be efficient readers of the Maliki law manual, the Muwaṭṭa.”54 This shows that African women scholars were active contributors and participants in various aspects of Islamic sciences, including law and history.

Africa after Independence: New Sources of History

Palpable inadequacies in the methods and sources hitherto used in the narratives on Africa in the colonial era began to give way to a new wave with regard to the “decolonization” of African history. The Fontes Historiae Africanae (FHA; Sources for African History) was proposed in 1962 and adopted in 1964. According to this organization, the emphasis thenceforth would be on African sources, be they documentary or otherwise, for generating African history. The FHA established a number of series for critical editions and translations of written and oral African sources that were hitherto either inaccessible or unknown. The three main series established on the basis of the principal languages or language groups of the source materials are Arabic, Ethiopic languages, and African languages other than Ethiopic. Perhaps the most significant of all the FHA’s publications in this regard is Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History.55 It may be mentioned, too, that P. F. de Moraes Farias’s Medieval Arabic Inscriptions (2003) is one of the new series by the FHA, which started to be published under its UK committee in 1997.56

The FHA initiative found a similar movement in the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) which in 1964 also authorized the preparation and publication of a general history of Africa, drawn largely from the continent’s indigenous repertoires of documentary, oral, as well as multiple forms of African art.57 The UNESCO initiative generated an eight-volume series (1981–1993) on Africa in its entirety. The African Arabic manuscript heritage provided some input into this project. The UNESCO initiative was given a further boost by a conference held in 1967 at Timbuktu specifically intended to generate new knowledge of African history from Arabic sources (published and unpublished), as authored by natives and found in public and/or private repositories. In 1973, this informed the foundation of the Centre de Documentation et de Recherches Historiques Ahmad Baba (CEDRAB) in Mali. Although the Brill Series of African Sources for African History, which started in 2001, was not intended to serve as a platform to expose African sources on Islamic history, a few of the publications under the series have brilliantly demonstrated the African contribution to the narratives on Islamic history in regard to Sudanic Africa.

An important source on Islamic history about which little or nothing seems to have been done is on Sudanic Africans in the diaspora, especially in the Americas where ex-slaves and freed slaves are known to have engaged in some scholarly writings in both the formal Arabic and local West African languages from at least the first half of the 18th century. According to Thomas Parramore, African-born Muslim slaves in America were “beneficiaries of more years of formal education, more widely travelled and multilingual than their American masters, they engaged in domestic and foreign correspondence and penned memoirs and other compositions.”58 But those materials may well be awaiting further investigation.

Islamic Manuscript and Digitization

The Western ecclesiastical curia and scholars explored the Islamic intellectual heritage, including manuscripts, not only for polemical purposes but also for elaboration of biblical studies from as early as the 13th century (Centre for the History of Arabic Studies in Europe (CHASE)). Item collectors, diplomats, Arab and Western explorers and/or traders, missionaries, colonial officers, among others, who were in Sudanic Africa from the 15th century onward, acquired Islamic manuscripts or commissioned them for copying. According to Graziano Krätli, the latter practice occasionally generated entire new collections, as with the Fonds Gironcourt at the Institut de France in Paris, which consists of approximately 800 inscriptions and 150 manuscripts collected by Georges de Gironcourt in the course of his missions to the Niger Bend between 1908 and 1912.59

The founding of the International Council on Paleography in 1953 and the evolution of codicology under the strong influence of French intellectuals, particularly Charles Samaran and Denis Muzerelle, provoked some interest in the application of this new field to the study of Arabic manuscripts, as can be illustrated by François Déroche’s Islamic Codicology.60 The increasing global awareness about the vulnerability of manuscript and archival materials, together with the universal awakening to the need to realign and objectify universal and world histories in a postcolonial dispensation, created the environment and impulses for utilizing new media technologies and applying modern theories of media and literacy to the “rediscovered” Arabic manuscript phenomenon.61 The introduction of new technological facilities to preserve manuscripts, archival materials, and ephemerals started around this time with the emergence of microfiche, microfilm, and compact discs. Unfortunately, most of the African Islamic manuscripts that were preserved in microfilm and other pre-digitization media have gone almost extinct or are inaccessible.62 A particularly striking example is John Hunwick’s collection at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, from the early 1960s.

Within the last two decades or so, a new wave of engagement with the Islamic manuscripts and their physical particularities, especially by conservators and archivists, has emerged. Researchers who are interested in paper watermarks, book trade, the techniques of bookbinding—in short, the study of the materiality and technical aspects of books, or what Karen Scheper calls “book archaeology”—have developed a new rapprochement with the Islamic manuscript.63 In other words, this new engagement has generated a greater commitment to making the Islamic manuscript heritage benefit from the new dispensation of “history of the book,” in which new modes and media are now in operation.64 Cataloguing as a means of encapsulating the library holding in order to assist researchers and users, and indeed for establishing the authenticity of texts and their authors, had been done for a long time in Western scholarship, but it was not until the end of the first half of the last century that cataloguing of paper types, papyri, and pulps, the raw materials for manuscripts, attracted significant attention.

Major Manuscript Libraries

An enlightening overview of modern collections of Islamic manuscripts is provided by Evyn Kropf, namely, Islamic Manuscripts Collection. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria, Egypt) is a great library in Africa. Its Manuscript Museum contains the world’s largest collection of digital manuscripts of the Arabic-Islamic intellectual heritage (Bibliotheca Alexandrina). Al-Azhar, the oldest university in the world, also has significant manuscript holdings. In 2001, it initiated a program of digitizing and putting online about 42,000 manuscripts; unfortunately, this project was discontinued in 2006.65

According to a recent publication, more than 3 million manuscripts are estimated to be available in some 5000 libraries in about 100 countries, including Africa. These are thought to be in various states of conservation, cataloguing, and editing (Using Oriental Manuscripts for Research—SOAS University of London). An important early engagement with the West African manuscript heritage was the microfilming project of the Malian Islamic manuscripts by Yale University’s Sterling Library in 1956.66

The Islamic manuscript collections in the United Kingdom go back to the origins of Arabic scholarship there in the 16th–17th centuries. However, the African component of the British Library holding contains items going back only to the latter part of the 19th century, largely from Sudanic Africa. These items exhibit fascinating variations in style and script in the African manuscript tradition. (Arabic manuscripts—The British Library). The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) of the British Library has also sponsored a number of projects in East and West Africa, specifically from Ethiopia, Senegal, and Nigeria in regard to Islamic and ajami manuscripts.67

Charles Stewart’s Arabic Manuscript Management System (AMMS) is a bilingual online database that houses the catalogs and manuscript libraries of several West African centers, including those published by international organizations engaged in manuscript holdings.68 Also worthy of note is the Departement des Manuscrits Arabes et Ajami s de l´Université Abdou Moumouni in Niamey, Niger Republic. An important, if not the most important, manuscript enterprise in West Africa now is the Tombouctou Manuscript Project (TMP; founded in 2002). It has successfully assisted in the organization of public manuscript libraries in Timbuktu and Djenne (Mali), both of which centers hold some 50,326 manuscript items and has also supported over twenty-one private manuscript libraries, too. Its major publications, which are also available online, are The Meanings of Timbuktu (2008), now being translated into French, Arabic, and Japanese; Timbuktu: Script and Scholarship (2008); and From Istanbul to Timbuktu: Ink Routes (2009). These deal with several aspects of African Islamic scholarly and manuscript traditions, including discussions on notable male and female Islamic authors, Arabic literature of Africa, and African Arabic calligraphy, among other issues that have long remained in the periphery of the discursive tradition. The TMP projects also include edition and translation of manuscripts, for example, of fatāwā (legal responsa) works, and translation of key works, for instance, an English translation of the seminal bio-bibliographical work on Ahmad Baba al-Timbukti (963–1036 ah/1556–1627 ce), the most prolific and celebrated scholar of Timbuktu (ALA, 4, 17–31).69 In addition to training programs and digitization of manuscripts, the TMP is creating a network for African and non-African scholars of African ajami, following on the new realization that materials in African languages in the Arabic script are significant sources of new knowledge or media for reinterpreting or enhancing old and received assumptions in history writing (New Yoruba Ajami Material in Database—Blog—Tombouctou) (Tombouctou Manuscripts Project).70

Nigeria is an equally important intellectual center with a grand manuscript capital, as attested to by the second volume of John Hunwick’s ALA series. The rich legacy of the Sokoto scholarly tradition is demonstrable with the Fodiawa triumvirate, namely, Usman Dan Fodio (1754–1817), his brother ‘Abdullah (1766–1829), and son Muḥammad Bello (1781–1837). This has inspired an enduring interest in manuscripts in both the formal Arabic and local languages across Central Sudan. The manuscript legacy of the Fodiawa is the subject of Paul Naylor’s ongoing PhD project, Arabic sources for African history at the Birmingham University/the British Library. Naylor also blogs about some 4000 Arabic manuscripts by the River Niger as domiciled in Niamey, Niger Republic.

There are also several public and private manuscript repositories whose holdings are in varying degrees of precarious conditions.71 These include the Arewa House Centre for Documentation and Historical Research, Kaduna, Nigerian National Archives, Kaduna; Library of the Lugard Memorial Hall, Kaduna; Nigerian National Museums and Monuments, Jos; Centre for Arabic Documentation, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan; Kenneth Dike Library, University of Ibadan; Bayero University Library, Kano; Kano State History and Culture Bureau, Kano; Library of Aminu School of Islamic Legal Studies, Kano; Bornu College of Legal and Islamic Studies, Maiduguri; Centre for Trans-Saharan Studies, University of Maiduguri; Centre for Islamic Studies, Usumanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto; Sokoto State History Bureau, Sokoto; Waziri Junaidu Collection, Waziri’s House, Sokoto; Northern History Research Scheme, Department of History, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

A private manuscript holding establishment, the Sauvegarde et Valorisation des Manuscrits pour la Défense de la Culture Islamique (SAVAMA—DCI Safekeeping and Promotion of Manuscripts for the Defense of Islamic Culture), was founded in 1996 and is probably the largest private Arabic manuscript repository today in Mali. ALUKA, an online digital library of resources on Africa and for African academics, has helped digitize some of the major Islamic manuscripts in the collection of SAVAMA (World Heritage Sites on JSTOR—Aluka).

An important institution that has been heavily involved in improving this situation, not only for Islamic manuscripts but also for other non-European manuscript traditions, is the Centre for the Studies of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC; Manuscript Cultures in Asia and Africa). Its interdisciplinary, comparative, and multicultural approach in research and operation is reflected in many of its projects, for example, databases of manuscripts and publications. Its Comparative Manuscript Studies project is engaged in the production of the Encyclopaedia of Manuscript Cultures in Asia and Africa, (EMCAA, Encyclopedia of Manuscript Cultures in Asia and Africa) under the Studies in Manuscript Series (SMC) (COMSt, Universität Hamburg). Furthermore, some non-African universities and national libraries, projects, and organizations have established online platforms for printed books and manuscript holdings in Africa, aside from digitization of such materials. For instance, the Oriental Manuscript Resource (OMAR) of the University of Freiburg, Germany is an open database for some 2500 Arabic manuscripts, with full biographical metadata of authors, largely from Mauritania and neighboring locations (Oriental Manuscript Resource (OMAR): Welcome to OMAR).

Worthy of mention is a recent trans-Atlantic collaboration on online manuscript domiciliation between Yale and SOAS, namely, the Yale-SOAS Islamic Manuscript project (Yale-SOAS Islamic Manuscript Gallery (YS-IMG) Project) which have digital surrogates of important manuscripts from Africa and elsewhere as well as manuscript catalogs and language dictionaries. The Herskovits Library of Northwestern University (NWU) is rich primarily in Sudanic African manuscripts with four major collections. A 2005 published catalog of these manuscripts by John Hunwick is currently accessible online (Arabic Manuscripts from West Africa—Northwestern University). Moreover, NWU has in its repository some 16th-century maps of Africa. As stated elsewhere in this contribution, the majority of the items at NWU are on traditional, historical, and esoteric Islamic sciences.

A reasonably comprehensive map of Islamic manuscript-holding centers in Africa and libraries in Africa is also given by Hunwick.72 Boston University has a committed website for digitized West African Pulaar (Fulfulde), Wolof, and Hausa ajami materials. (African Ajami Library—OpenBU—Boston University). But for Fallou Ngom’s utilization of Wolof ajami for historical reconstruction of Ahmadu Bamba and the Murid mystical order,73 the use of this resource for history or historiography in other West African ajami traditions is hardly verifiable, as long as there is as yet no catalog of such materials.

The French National Library, the Bibliothѐque nationale de France (BnF), is particularly remarkable for hosting the library of ‘Umar b. Sa‘id al-Fūtī and family, which was forcibly removed from Segou to France in 1890. A comprehensive inventory of this cache appeared in 1985.74 This holding is aside from several Islamic manuscripts from colonial French West Africa. The BnF also has a digital library, the Gallica, which houses a number of Islamic manuscripts, too (BnF—Digital Libraries—Gallica). Princeton University, with some 11,000 volumes of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish manuscripts, has what is probably the largest collection of Islamic manuscripts in North America and one of the finest in the Western world, with a robust digitization program that is likely to benefit the African materials too (Islamic Manuscripts material in all divisions; Garrett Collection of Arabic Manuscripts).

The Al-Furqan Islamic Foundation is globally involved in the Islamic manuscript heritage, and its interest in the African component of this heritage is quite significant.75 All known African repositories of Islamic manuscripts and catalogs are listed in its first published five volumes.76 It has also published some other thirty-five different catalogs of private and national collections of Islamic manuscripts in various parts of the world, including those from Egypt, Algeria, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, Mali, and Nigeria. Perhaps the most scholarly publication under the auspices of Al-Furqan in regard to Africa is Ahmed Binebine’s 2013 survey of the roles of libraries and centers of learning in the history and preservation of Arabic Islamic manuscripts and manuscripts in local African languages in North and Sudanic Africa.77 Its Digital Library Portal houses the manuscript collections in the various public and private libraries/centers of the world, including Africa (Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation).

A University of Michigan link provides some information about a platform for collaborative and online collections of digitized Islamic manuscripts from Africa and other parts of the world (Collaboration in Cataloging: Islamic Manuscripts at Michigan). A reasonably comprehensive list of online collections of digitized Islamic manuscripts across the world is also available under the (Islamic Manuscript Studies—Research Guides—University of Michigan). MELCom International also has a site showing a number of manuscript digitization projects throughout the world that are executed through international cooperation or individual efforts. The Library of Congress Digital Library also hosts a number of Islamic manuscripts from Africa, some of which are on Islamic history (World Digital Library Home). Perhaps the most comprehensive Arab facility that offers a platform for Islamic manuscripts in Asia, the Middle East, and other parts of the world is the Jāmi‘ al-Makhṭūṭāt al- Islāmiyya.

The Shi‘ite manuscript world is unique for the little or minimal attention it has so far attracted. Although we do not have any information about its digitization program, the library of the Twelver branch of Shi‘ism has online books and catalogs of Ismaili, Fatimid, and Khojki (Sindhi Ismaili liturgical script) manuscripts. This is in addition to a large database for other materials on Isma‘ilism, which are equally available online (Ismaili Library). Nevertheless, a scion of the Shi‘ite tradition with a remarkable digitization program is the Zaidis of Yemen, in respect of whose manuscript tradition Sabine Schmidtke has been doing some wonderful work (The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition: A Digital Portal)78.

Africa and Challenges of the “Digital Turn”

The African connection to Digital Humanities in regard to the manuscript culture and online sources and resources on Islamic history and intellectualism in general is quite remarkable. It must be admitted, however, that the process of getting manuscripts, archival materials, and published books online is far from being well established in Islamic and African studies in Africa.79 This obviously affects the digitization initiatives in Arabic scripted manuscripts and indeed in getting them online. Admittedly, a wide gulf exists between the African and Euro-Asian “knowledge fair,” not only in regard to manuscripts and printed works as sources of Islamic history, but also in the digital world in regard to the facilities and processes associated with e-resources. The experience of Egypt, the largest repository of Islamic manuscript in Africa, may be presented as an example. Technical and administrative problems confronting digitization in Egypt are highlighted. Finance and administrative bottlenecks are yet other challenges and, of course, as is political interference. According to Walid Ghali, some curators, out of religious or cultural circumspection, fear that digitization could result in forgery of codices, especially by non-Muslims intent on distorting the image of Islam and its heritage.80

The Islamic Manuscript Association (TIMA) has been involved in enhancing African prospects in the manuscript story by promoting new techniques and breakthroughs in Islamic codicology and paleography. Its Journal of Islamic Manuscripts (founded in 2010) has provided an avenue for Africanists and Islamicists who are working with the manuscript tradition in Africa. In spite of all this activity, much still remains to be done, especially in the area of cataloging. A complete inventory of manuscripts on Islamic history in Arabic or Arabic scripted languages of Africa could serve as a basis for digital catalogs with searchable interface across bibliographical projects worldwide; something that could follow in the tradition of the Universal Short Title Catalogue or the Fihrist, the British union catalog. This is an area in which the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the International Union of Academies (IUA Union Académique Internationale), the Middle East Libraries Committee (Melcom International | European Association of Middle East Librarians), the Tombouctou Manuscript Project (TMP), and the Middle East Librarian Association (MELA, Middle East Librarians Association), among others, could assist. Although digital surrogates could be useful, they would not offer detailed profiles of manuscripts and could never serve as an alternative to catalogs.81

Primary Sources

Arabic Literature of Africa (ALA). Edited by John O. Hinwick et al., 5 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1993–2016.Find this resource:

Binebine, Ahmed Chouqui. The Arabic Manuscripts in North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. London: Al-Furqan, 2013.Find this resource:

Brigaglia, Andrea, and Mauro Nobili, eds. The Arts and Crafts of Literacy: Islamic Manuscript Cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa. Berlin: DeGruyter, 2017.Find this resource:

Farias, Paulo F. de Morias. Arabic Medieval Inscriptions: Epigraphy, Chronicles, and Songhay-Tuareg History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

The General History of Africa. Studies and Documents. Paris: UNESCO, 1978.Find this resource:

Haron, Muhammed. “The Experience of the Muslims in South Africa” (forthcoming in Springer Text 2018).Find this resource:

Hopkins, J. F. P., and N. Levtzion, ed. and trans. Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980.Find this resource:

Hunwick, John, et al., eds. Arabic Literature of Africa. 5 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1993–2016.Find this resource:

Hunwick, John. “Arabic Sources for African History.” In Writing African History. Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora. Edited by John Edward Philips, 216–253. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Hunwick, John. Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sa’di’s [d. after 1655] Ta’rikh al-Sūdān down to 1613 and Other Contemporary Documents. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999.Find this resource:

Jeppie, Shamil and Souleyman B. Diagne. The Meanings of Timbuktu. Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Kropf, Evyn C. “Will That Surrogate Do?: Reflections on Material Manuscript Literacy in the Digital Environment from Islamic Manuscripts at the University of Michigan Library?” Manuscript Studies 1, no. 1 (2017): 3–21.Find this resource:

Leo Africanus. The History and Description of Africa. Vol. 1. Edited by Robert Brown. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Limb, Peter. “Islamic Africa: A Select, Annotated Webography.” Islamic Africa 5, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 91–102.Find this resource:

Sanni, Amidu. “The West African Manuscript Heritage: Challenges of the Digital Revolution in a Research Economy.” African Studies in a Digital Age. The Disconnects? Edited by Terry Barringer and Marion Wallace, 128–147. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.Find this resource:

Sezgin, Fuat. Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums. Vol. 1, Qur’ānwissenschaften, ḥadīt, Geschichte, Fiqh, Dogmatik, Mystik bis ca. 430. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1967.Find this resource:

Wise, Christopher, Abu Taleb, Hala, eds. and trans. The Timbuktu Chronicles, 1493–1599: Al Hajj Mahmud Kati’s Ta’rīkh al-fattāsh. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Further Reading

Akhtar, Iqbal. The Khoja of Tanzania: Discontinuities of a Postcolonial Religious Identity. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.Find this resource:

Al-Tūnisī, Muḥammad ‘Umar. Muhammad al-Tunisi in Darfur: An Account of the Sultanate and Its People. Edited and translated by Humphrey Davies. 2 vols. New York: New York University, 2018.Find this resource:

Anthony, Sean W., ed. and trans. The Expeditions: An Early Biography of Muhammad. New York: New York University Press, 2014Find this resource:

Boleswa Journal of Theology, Religion and Philosophy (BJTRP). 4, no. 1 (December 2012), Special Focus Issue: Muslims in S. Africa, Editorial: “South Africa’s Muslim Communities and (African) Scholarship,” 1–16.Find this resource:

Chapman, Stephen. “The Harvard University Library Islamic Heritage Project: Challenges in Managing Large-Scale Digitization of Islamic Manuscripts.” Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 1 (2010): 18–30.Find this resource:

Goldberg, David Theo, and Patrik Svensson, eds. Between Humanities and the Digital. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Intellectual History of the Islamicate World 4, no. 1–2 (2016): Special Issue: Histories of Books in the Islamicate World Part 1; 5, nos. 1–2 (2017): Special Issue Histories of Books in the Islamicate World, Part 2.Find this resource:

Jappie, Saarah. “From Madrasah to Museum; A Biography of the Islamic Manuscripts of Cape Town.” MA thesis, University of Cape Town, 2011.Find this resource:

Jimoh, Ismail A. An Annotated Catalogue of Islamic Manuscripts at the University of Ibadan (forthcoming).Find this resource:

Levtzion, Nehemia, and Randall L. Pouwels, eds. The History of Islam in Africa, Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

Mashita, Hiroyuki, ed. The Muslim World 1100–1700: Early Sources on Middle East History, Geography and Travel, 8 vols. London: Routledge 2007.Find this resource:

Motzki, Harald. Reconstruction of a Source of Ibn Ishaq’s Life of the Prophet and Early Qur’an Exegesis. A Study of Early Ibn ‘Abbas Traditions. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2017.Find this resource:

Ngom, F., and Kurfi, M., eds. “Special Issue on ‘Ajamization of Islam in Africa.’” Islamic Africa 8, no. 1–2 (2017).Find this resource:

Schmidtke, Sabine. “The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition. Preserving, Studying, and Democratizing Access to the World Heritage of Islamic Manuscripts.” Historical Studies of Institute for Advanced Studies, 2017, 11 pp.Find this resource:

Schmidtke, Sabine. “The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition: Virtual Repatriation of Cultural Heritage.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 50, no. 1 (2018), 124–128.Find this resource:

Schrijver, Paul. Bibliography on Islam in Contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa. Leiden, The Netherlands: African Studies Centre, 2006. Available online at this resource:

Sharawy, Helmi, ed. Turāth makhṭūṭāt al-lughat al-Afrīqiyya bi l-ḥarf al-‘Arabī (‘Ajami); [The Heritage of African Languages Manuscripts in Arabic letters (Ajami)]. 2 vols. Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organization for the Afro Arab Cultural Institute Bamako, 2005, 2017.Find this resource:

The New Cambridge History of Islam. 6-volume set. Cambridge Histories Online. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Thomann, Johannes. “The Arabic Papyrology Database.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 30, Suppl. 1 (2015): 185–186.Find this resource:

Versteegh, Kees. “Islamic Learning in Arabic-Afrikaans between Malay Model and Ottoman Reform.” Wacana 16, no. 2 (2015): 284–303.Find this resource:

Wise, Christopher, ed. and trans. Archive of the Umarian Tijaniyya. Washington, DC: Sahel Nomad, 2017.Find this resource:


(1.) Robert G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw it. A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam (Princeton, NJ: Darwin Press, 1997), 120.

(2.) Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān, 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001–2006), 1/278–286, s.v. “Calligraphy” (henceforth EQ).

(3.) Michael Philip Penn, Envisioning Islam: Syriac Christians and the Early Muslim World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 51.

(4.) M. C. A. Macdonald, “Literacy in an Oral Environment,” in Writing and Ancient Near Eastern Society. Papers in Honour of Alan R. Millard, ed. Piotr Bienkowski et al., 45–113, New York: T & T Clark, 2006, at 48.

(5.) See Fred M. Donner, Narratives of Islamic Origins: The Beginnings of Islamic Historical Writing (Princeton, NJ: Darwin Press, 1998).

(6.) G. J. Toomer, Eastern Wisedome and Learning: The Study of Arabic in Seventeenth Century England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 46.

(8.) Muḥammad b. Isḥāq [Ibn] al-Nadīm, The Fihrist of al-Nadīm, ed. and trans. Bayard Dodge, 2 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970).

(9.) Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, 1 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1967).

(10.) EQ 2/376–379, s. v. “Hadīth and the Qur’ān.”

(11.) Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, 1, 29–37.

(12.) EQ 5/300–311, s.v. “Torah,” at 307.

(13.) Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums 1, 90–233. On al-Bukhārī, see Sezgin, 115–134.

(14.) EQ 2/396). On ḥadīth as a source of Islamic history, visit Thesaurus Islamic Foundation (شبكة إحسان - رابطة الشبكة العالمية لدراسة الحديث إحسان‎).

(15.) W. Anthony, ed. and trans., The Expeditions: An Early Biography of Muhammad (New York: New York University Press, 2014).

(16.) See Rizwi Faizer, The Life of Muhammad: Al-Waqidi’s Kitāb al-Maghāzī (London: Routledge, 2011).

(17.) See Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums 1, 323–328. For more on works on Islamic history, see “Major Arabic Sources for the Study of History and Biography | Islamic.”

(18.) John Hunwick, “Arabic Sources for African History,” in Writing African History. Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora, ed. John Edward Philips (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005), 216–253.

(19.) Helmi Sharawy, Al-Thaqāfa wa l-Muthaqqafūn fī Afrīqiya [Culture and the Intellectuals in Africa] (Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organization, 2017), 152.

(20.) Gus Casely-Hayford, Janet Top Fargion, and Marion Wallace, eds., West Africa. Word, Symbol, Song (London: The British Library, 2015), 11.

(21.) Brockelmann’s Geschichte der Arabischen Literatur (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1937–1942) is now available in a 6-volume set and on BrillOnline. An English version with tremendous improvements on the German original is also available. See also Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, 1.

(22.) Paulo F. de Morias Farias, “The Oldest Extant Writing of West Africa: Medieval Epigraphs from Issuk, Saney, and Egef-n-Tawaqqast (Mali),” Journal des Africanistes 60, no. 2 (1990): 65–113 (at 67).

(23.) John Hunwick, West Africa, Islam, and the Arab World: Studies in Honor of Basil Davidson (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2006), 55.

(24.) John Hunwick, “Arabic Sources.”

(25.) Ghislaine Lydon, On Trans-Saharan Trails (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 14–45.

(26.) See Allan D. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook (New York: Garland, 1984); P. E. Lovejoy, “‘Freedom Narratives’ of Transatlantic Slavery,” Slavery and Abolition 32, no. 1 (2011): 91–107; Sylviane Diouf, Savants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, 15th Anniversary ed. (New York: New York University Press, 2013); Jeff Fynn-Paul and Damian Alan Pargas (Eds.), Slaving Zones Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2018), “Introduction,” 1–19 (J. Fynn-Paul).

(27.) See review of Volume 5 in Journal of Islamic Studies 28, no. 1 (2017): 103–106.

(28.) Rex Sean O’Fahey, “Arabic Literature in the Eastern Half of Africa,” in The Meanings of Timbuktu, ed. S. Jeppie and S. B. Diagne (Cape Town, South Africa: HSRC Press, 2008), 334.

(29.) Liazzat J. K Bonate, “Islam and Literacy in Northern Mozambique: Historical Records on the Secular Uses of the Arabic Script,” Islamic Africa 7 (2016): 60–80.

(30.) See P. M. Holt. The Sudan of the Three Niles: The Funj Chronicle, 910–1288/1504–1871 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999).

(31.) Hunwick, “Arabic Sources,” 230.

(32.) Hunwick, “Arabic Sources,” 233. For more on published and unpublished chronicles in Central Sudan, see John O. Hunwick et al., eds., Arabic Literature of Africa, 2 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1995), 560–595.

(33.) Adrien Delmas “Writing in Africa: The Kilwa Chronicle and other Sixteenth-Century Portuguese Testimonies,” in The Arts and Crafts of Literacy: Islamic Manuscript Cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa, eds. Andrea Brigaglia and Mauro Nobili (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2017), 181–205; cf. John Hunwick, Arabic Literature of Africa: Project and Publication, NWU PAS Working Paper Series ISITA 2005, 49 pp (at 34).

(34.) Anne K, Bang, “Textual Sources on an African Islamic Past: Arabic Material in Zanzibar’s National Archive,” in The Meanings of Timbuktu, eds. S. Jeppie and S. B. Diagne (Cape Town, South Africa: HSRC Press, 2008), 349.

(35.) Daniel McCall, in John E. Philips, ed., Writing African History: Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005), “Introduction,” 1–21 (at 3).

(36.) Charlotte A. Quinn and Frederick Quinn, Pride, Faith, and Fear. Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 128.

(37.) Achmat Davids, “Abu Bakr Effendi: His Creation of the Afrikaans Letter e in the Arabic Script,” South African Journal of Linguistics 9, no. 1 (1991): 1–18.

(38.) For more details, see Kees Versteegh, “Islamic Learning in Arabic-Afrikaans between Malay Model and Ottoman Reform,” Wacana 16, no. 2 (2015): 284–303; and Muhammed Haron The Experience of the Muslims in South Africa (forthcoming in Springer Text 2018).

(39.) John O. Hunwick, “The Arabic Literature of Africa Project,” in The Meanings of Timbuktu, eds. S. Jeppie and S. B. Diagne (Cape Town, South Africa: HSRC Press, 2008), 303–319.

(40.) Ousmane Kane, “Arabic Sources and the Search for a New Historiography in Ibadan in the 1960s,” Africa 86 (2016): 344–346; and Mauro Nobili, “Introduction: African History and Islamic Manuscript Cultures,” 1–25, in The Arts and Crafts of Literacy: Islamic Manuscript Cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa, eds. Andrea Brigaglia and Mauro Nobili (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2017). Erin Pettigrew, “Working with African Arabic Script Manuscripts: A Workshop Report,” Islamic Africa 9 (2018): 107–111.

(41.) The History and Description of Africa, Vol. 1, ed. Robert Brown (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 139 e-edition, [1896].

(42.) Amsterdam, Jacob van Meurs, 1676. 2 parts in 1 volume.

(43.) Christopher Wise and Hala Abu Taleb, eds. and trans., The Timbuktu Chronicles, 1493–1599: Al Hajj Mahmud Kati’s Ta’rīkh al-fattāsh (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2011).

(44.) Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sa’di’s [d. after 1655] Ta’rikh al-Sūdān down to 1613 and other Contemporary Documents (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999).

(46.) O’Fahey, The Meanings of Timbuktu, 335.

(47.) See Helmi Sharawy, ed., Turāth makhṭūṭāt al-lughat al-Afrīqiyya bi l-ḥarf al-‘Arabī (‘Ajami); [The Heritage of African Languages Manuscripts in Arabic letters (Ajami)], 2 vols. (Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organization for the Afro Arab Cultural Institute Bamako, 2017); Al-Thaqāfa wa l-Muthaqqafūn fī Afrīqiya. For more on ajami, see West African Manuscripts in Arabic and African Languages and Digital Preservation in this ORE platform; Moulaye Hasane, “Ajami in Africa: The Use of Arabic Script in the Transcription of African Languages,” The Meanings of Timbuktu, 109–129. For a dedicated and recent study on Ajami, see Fallou Ngom and Mustapha Kurfi, eds., “Special Issue on ‘Ajamization of Islam in Africa,’” Islamic Africa 8, no. 1–2 (2017).

(48.) Mervyn Hiskett, A History of Hausa Islamic Verse (London: SOAS, 1975), 43–63; Graham Furniss, Poetry, Prose and Popular Culture in Hausa (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), 197–198.

(50.) Ismail A. Jimoh, Arabic Manuscripts of Ibadan Scholars (Unpublished 1994 monograph); Nigeria’s Intellectual Heritage. Proceedings of an International Conference on Preserving Nigeria’s Scholarly and Literary Traditions and Arabic/Ajami Manuscript Heritage, March 7, 2007 (Kaduna, Nigeria: Arewa House, 2009).

(51.) Asma Sayyed, Women and the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

(52.) Sumayya Ahmed, “Learned Women: Three Generations of Female Islamic Scholarship in Morocco,” Journal of North African Studies 21, no. 3 (2016): 470–484.

(53.) Jean Boyd and Beverly Mack, Educating Muslim Women: The West African Legacy of Nana Asma’u 1793–1864 (Oxford: Interface Publications, 2013), 173.

(54.) Ghislaine Lydon, On Trans-Saharan Trails (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 282. (Cf. Britta Frede and Joseph Hill, eds., “Engendering Islamic Knowledge and Authority in West Africa: An Introduction,” Islamic Africa 5, no. 2 (2014): 131–165.

(55.) Translated and edited by J. F. P. Hopkins and N. Levtzion (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980).

(56.) Quoted in Hunwick, “Arabic Sources,” 228.

(57.) The General History of Africa: Studies and Documents (Paris: UNESCO, 1978); Maxim Romanov, “A Digital Humanities for Premodern Islamic History,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 50, no. 1 (2018), 129–134.

(58.) Thomas C. Parramore, “Muslim Slave Aristocrats in North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review 70, no. 2 (2000): 127–150 (at 127).

(59.) Graziano Krätli, “Between Quandary and Squander: A Brief and Biased Inquiry into the Preservation of West African Arabic Manuscripts: The State of the Discipline,” Book History 19 (2016): 399–431 (at 401); See also, Columba Stewart, “Giving Voice to Ancient Texts: Manuscript Scholarship in the Digital Era,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 50, no. 1 (2018), 119–123.

(60.) François Déroche, Islamic Codicology: An Introduction to the Study of Manuscripts in Arabic Script (London: Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, 2006).

(61.) Amidu Sanni, “The West African Manuscript Heritage: Challenges of the Digital Revolution in a Research Economy,” African Studies in a Digital Age: The Disconnects? eds. Terry Barringer and Marion Wallace (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014), 128–147.

(62.) See Amidu Sanni, “The West African Manuscript Heritage”; “Al-Kanz al-muhaddad bi l-inqirāḍ: al-makhṭūṭāt al-‘Arabiyya fī Naijiriyā bayna taqallubāt wa taṭallu‘āt wa taḥaddiyyāt” (The Nigerian Arabic Manuscript Heritage: Challenges and Options Facing an Endangered Species), Journal of the Nigerian Association of Teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies 12 (September 2009): 69–103.

(63.) Karin Scheper, The Technique of Islamic Bookbinding: Methods, Materials, and Regional Varieties (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015), Introduction, 1–11 (at 1).

(64.) See Antonella Ghersetti, “The Book in Fact and Fiction in Pre-Modern Arabic Literature,” Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 12 (2012): 1–15.

(65.) Walid Ghali, “The Stage of Manuscript Digitization Projects in Some Egyptian Libraries and Their Challenges,” in Library and Information Science in the Middle East and North Africa, Amanda B. Click, John D. Martin III, Sumayya Ahmed, and Jacob Hill, eds. (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2015), 301–312.

(66.) Leon Nemoy, Arabic Manuscripts in the Yale University Library (New Haven, CT: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1956).

(67.) See Maja Kominko, ed., From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme (Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2015); Matthew Thomas, Miller, Maxim G. Romanov, and Sarah G. Stewart, “Digitizing the Textual Heritage of the Premodern Islamicate World: Principles and Plans,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 50, no. 1 (2018), 103–109.

(68.) Marion Wallace, West Africa’s Little-Known ManuscriptsAsian and African Studies Blogs, British Library.

(69.) Susana Molins-Literas is currently preparing an English translation of Mahmoud Zouber, Ahmad Baba de Toumbouctou 1556–1627: sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris: Maisonneuvre, 1977).

(70.) See Y. Y. Ibrahim, I. M. Jumare, M. Hamman, and S. Bala, eds., Arabic/Ajami Manuscripts: Resource for the Development of New Knowledge in Nigeria (Kaduna, Nigeria: Arewa House, 2010); see also G. Krätli, “Between Quandary and Squander: A Brief and Biased Inquiry into the Preservation of West African Arabic Manuscripts. The State of the Discipline,” Book History 19 (2016): 399–431.

(71.) See Amidu Sanni, “The West African Manuscript Heritage”. See also the several studies by Michaelle Biddle: for example, “Saving Nigeria’s Islamic Manuscript Heritage (2008).

(73.) Fallou Ngom, Muslims beyond the Arab World. The Odyssey of ‘ajami and the Murīdiyya (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

(74.) N. Ghali, M. Nahibou, and L. Brenner, Inventaire de la Bibliotheque Umarianne de Segou Catalogue (Paris: CNRS Editions, 1985). Cf. Christopher Wise, ed. and trans, Archive of the Umarian Tijaniyya (Washington DC: Sahel Nomad, 2017).

(75.) A recent publication under its auspices is Bashar Awwad Marouf’s Perspectives on the Methodology of Critical Editing of Arabic Manuscripts (London: Al-Furqan, 2016).

(76.) Geoffrey Roper, ed., World Survey of Islamic Manuscripts, 5 vols. (London: Al-Furqan, 1991–1994).

(77.) Ahmed Chouqui Binebine, The Arabic Manuscripts in North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa (London: Al-Furqan, 2013).

(78.) Sabine Schmidtke, “The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition. Preserving, Studying, and Democratizing Access to the World Heritage of Islamic Manuscripts” (Historical Studies of Institute for Advanced Studies, 2017), 11.

(79.) Dagmar Riedel, “Of Making Many Copies There Is No End: The Digitization of Manuscripts and Printed Books in Arabic Script,” in The Digital Humanities and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, ed. Elias Muhanna (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2016), 65–91 (at 68). Johannes Pedersen’s Den Arabiske Bog (in Danish), remains a classic on writings before Islam For the “ephebe” discipline of “History of Book” see Johannes Pedersen, The Arabic Book, translated by Geoffrey French, edited with an introduction by Robert Hillenbrand (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984).

(80.) Walid Ghali, “The Stage of Manuscript Digitization Projects in Some Egyptian Libraries and Their Challenges,” in Library and Information Science in the Middle East and North Africa, eds. Amanda B. Click et al. (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2015), 301–312.

(81.) Evyn C. Kropf, “Will That Surrogate Do?: Reflections on Material Manuscript Literacy in the Digital Environment from Islamic Manuscripts at the University of Michigan Library?” Manuscript Studies 1, no. 1 (2017): 3–21;How Digitization Has Changed the Cataloging of Islamic Books,” Islamic Books: A Research Blog about Manuscripts, Printed Books, and Ephemera in Arabic Script.