TYPE: Manuscript
COMPONENTS: The paper used on it is old and the cover is elephant skin.
ITEM ID: 5488
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Islamic Law Manuscript from Timbuktu

DATE
Notes: At least 19th century, perhaps older.

Manuscript about jurisprudence. This manuscript went through the Institut Ahmed Baba in Bamako Mali and it was approved there.

Timbuktu Manuscripts (or Tombouctou Manuscripts) is a blanket term for the large number of historically significant manuscripts that have been preserved for centuries in private households in Timbuktu, a city in northern Mali. The collections include manuscripts about art, medicine, philosophy, and science, as well as copies of the Quran. The number of manuscripts in the collections has been estimated as high as 700,000.

The manuscripts are written in Arabic and several African languages, in the Ajami script; this includes, but is not limited to, Fula, Songhay, Tamasheq, Bambara, and Soninke. The dates of the manuscripts range between the late 13th and the early 20th centuries (i.e., from the Islamisation of the Mali Empire until the decline of traditional education in French Sudan). Their subject matter ranges from scholarly works to short letters.

After the decline of the Mali Empire, the manuscripts were kept in the homes of Timbuktu locals, before research and digitization efforts began in the 20th and 21st century. Following the fall of Timbuktu in the Northern Mali conflict, many of the manuscripts were reported destroyed in January 2013, along with many other monuments of medieval Islamic culture in Timbuktu, by the Islamist rebels of Ansar Dine.

The Ahmed Baba Institute and a library, both containing thousands of manuscripts, were said to have been burnt as the Islamists retreated from Timbuktu.  Journalists, however, found that at least one of the libraries was largely undamaged, and that only a few small piles of ash were present, suggesting that at least some of the documents survived.

According to Marco Schöller, “The first text page starts with a text by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, a famous North African Maliki law scholar, so yes, it appears to be on Islamic law. Al-Qayrawani’s most famous text is “ar-Risala” (on Maliki law), but I can’t tell by memory whether this is the text reproduced here, at least in part.”