October 17, 2014

A Journey through the Atmosphere on an Airship

Al-riḥla al-jawwīya fī al-markaba al-hawā'iya (A journey through the atmosphere on an airship) is an Arabic translation by Yusuf Ilyan Sarkis (1856−1932 or 1933) of Cinq Semaines en Ballon (Five weeks in a balloon), a novel by the French author Jules Verne originally published in 1863. Shown here is a second edition of this work, produced by the Jesuit print shop in Beirut in 1884 (the first edition having been published in 1875). The novel tells the story of an explorer, Dr. Samuel Ferguson, who, accompanied by a servant and a friend, sets out to cross the continent of Africa in a hydrogen-filled balloon. One of the objectives is to find the source of the Nile. In Sarkis's translation, the initial chapters of the work are compressed, and the entire work consists of 42 chapters, as opposed to the original 44 chapters. Born in Damascus, Sarkis was one of the foremost Arab authors and editors of his era. He lived for a time in Istanbul but spent most of his adult life in Cairo. He was active as a publisher, bookseller, and man of letters, and he did some research on antiquities generally, but particularly on numismatics. He is best known for his Muʻjam al-maṭbūʻāt al-ʻArabīya wa al-muʻarraba (Encylopaedic dictionary of Arabic bibliography), published in 1928. He died in Cairo.

Yearbook for 1887

This volume is a yearbook for 1887, treating political events in Egypt for that year, covering activities in various ministries and governmental offices. The work is divided into 12 sections, with each devoted to a month. In the entry for January, for example, we read of the arrival in the port of Alexandria of the crown prince of Italy, the future King Victor Emmanuel III, and the state functions that were held in his honor. In the section devoted to April, we read the obituary of Muḥammad Sharif Pasha, the fourth prime minister of Egypt. The book was published by Maṭbaʻat al-qāhira al-ḥurra in 1887. The author of the yearbook, Yūsuf Ibn-Hammām Āṣāf (1859−1938), is best known for his history of the Ottomans, Tārīkh salāṭīn Banī ʻUthmān min awwal nashʼatihim ḥattā al-ān (History of the Ottoman sultans: From their origin to the present day). Āṣāf was born in Lebanon. He settled in Egypt and founded a publishing house, al-ʻUmūmīya, in Cairo in 1888.

The Compendium of Faith

Muḥammad ibn Jaʻfar al-Izkiwī was a leading Muslim scholar who lived in about 900. His name, al-Izkiwī, suggests that he came from Izkī, one of the oldest cities and centers of learning in the interior of Oman. Jāmiʻ al-adyān (The compendium of faith), sometimes referred to simply as al-Jāmiʻ (The compendium) or Jāmiʻ Ibn Jaʻfar (Ibn Jaʻfar’s compendium), is his best-known work. Shown here is an 18th-century manuscript containing the first part of Jāmiʻ al-adyān. As the title suggests, the book summarizes a wide range of topics in Islamic jurisprudence from an Ibadite (also seen as Ibadhite and Ibadi) perspective. Ibadism is an Islamic denomination that traces its roots to the seventh century, at the time of the Sunni−Shiite schism. It is named after Abdullāh ibn Ibāḍ, one of the founding scholars of the doctrine. Today’s adherents of Ibadism are found primarily in Oman, in addition to other communities in North and East Africa. This work discusses topics pertaining to the five pillars of Islam, including the five daily prayers, the fasting at Ramadan, and almsgiving. It includes many edicts that are related to these topics. The manuscript, in a good condition despite some water damage on the margins, was paid for by a bequest of Sheikh ʿUmar ibn Saʿīd al-Bahlawī. It was copied by Saʿīd ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿUdai al-ʿAbrī in 1156 AH (1743). In addition to catchwords, the margins include corrections, elaborations, and paraphrasing of the main text. The book is divided into more than 80 bāb (chapters), which are in turn divided into opinions and masāʼil (issues). Interesting additions include a listing of the currencies used in Oman at the time.

Commentary on “Madārij al-Kamāl”

ʻAbd Allāh ibn Ḥumayyid al-Sālimī (circa 1869–circa 1914) was a leading Omani Ibadite (also seen as Ibadhite and Ibadi) scholar and poet, who was born in the town of Al-Ḥoqain in the Rustāq region of the interior of Oman. Ibadism is an Islamic denomination that traces its roots to the seventh century, at the time of the Sunni−Shiite schism. It is named after Abdullāh ibn Ibāḍ, one of the founding scholars of the doctrine. Today’s adherents of Ibadism are found primarily in Oman, in addition to other communities in North and East Africa. Al-Sālimī first studied Islamic jurisprudence under the scholars of his area, before he traveled to the eastern region to broaden his knowledge by becoming a student of the renowned Sheikh Ṣālih ibn ʻAlī al-Ḥārithī (circa 1834−circa 1896). Despite his relatively short life, al-Sālimī wrote numerous books on a range of issues, including Islamic doctrine and jurisprudence, kalām (cosmological argument), comparative religion, Arabic grammar, ʻarūḍ (Arabic poetic meters), and history. This manuscript copy is the first part of a commentary titled Maʻārij al-āmāl (The ascendance of hope), in which al-Sālimī explains some of the concepts in his earlier versified treatise Madārij al-kamāl (The ladders of perfection), which itself is a commentary on Mukhtaṣar al-khiṣāl (The summary of traits) by Ibadite Yemeni scholar Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm ibn Sulaymān al-Ḥaḍramī ibn Qays (died 1082). The supercommentary deals with several topics in Islamic jurisprudence from an Ibadite perspective. This volume focuses on the rites of purification and ablution as part of the jurisprudence of salāt (prayers). The commentary is divided into many kalām topics that are in turn subdivided into masāʼil (issues) in the form of questions and answers. The manuscript, in black ink with frequent section rubrication, has no colophon information but is in good condition. No scribe name or date of production is given.

The Most Truthful Method of Distinguishing the Ibadites from the Kharijites and The Gift from Heaven on the Judgment of Shedding Blood

Sālim ibn Ḥammūd ibn Shāmis al-Siyābī (1908−93) was an Omani scholar, poet, historian, and judge. He was born in Ghāla, in the state of Bawshār in eastern Oman. A self-taught scholar, al-Siyābī memorized the Qur’an at age seven and went on to study Arabic language classics, including Ibn Malik’s Alfiyah, a 1,000-line poem about Arabic grammar rules. Al-Siyābī was also a prolific writer, and was the author of as many as 84 works, according to Sultān ibn Mubārak al-Shaybānī, who categorized al-Siyābī’s body of work into prose and treatises, poetry and versified writings, and research and correspondence. This manuscript was copied by Yūsuf ibn Sāʿid al-Zakwānī in 1386 AH (1966). It is in black ink with rubrication only of the headings, and comprises two works by al-Siyābī. The first part is a treatise defending Ibadism against the slander of other Muslim scholars. The second part of the manuscript, entitled wahb al-samā fī aḥkām al-dimā (The gift from heaven on the judgment of shedding blood), is mostly in verse, and deals with the jurisprudence of bodily injuries. It is divided into groups of a few lines, each rendering the judgment regarding injury of a particular body part. In the first work, Aṣdaq almanāhij fī tamyīz al-ibāḍiyya min al-khawārij (The most truthful method of distinguishing the Ibadites from the Kharijites), al-Siyābī laments the prejudices other scholars hold against the Ibadites, arguing in a question-and-answer fashion that the Ibadites are Sunnis, not Kharijites. He states in the introduction that he wrote the treatise after reading “tens by tens of Muslim doctrinal books,” in which “some of the scholars … are outraged … because they espouse the opinion that [the Ibadites] killed ʻAlī after having killed ʻUthmān.” The reference here is to the fourth and third caliphs of Islam, whose reigns (644−61) marked the split of the Muslim community into Sunnis and Shiʻa. The khawārij, or Kharijites, were historically followers of ʻAlī, but they declared him unfit as a caliph because they believed that he compromised his legitimacy by agreeing to arbitration during the conflict that pitted him against ʻUthmān’s supporter Mu'āwiyah. By rebelling against both Muslim camps and later declaring the Muslim majority rule illegitimate, these rebels came to be known as khawārij, or “the rogue ones.” A later schism within the Kharijites over what means to use to bring about legitimate political change resulted in the emergence of the Ibadites.  Today’s adherents of Ibadism are found primarily in Oman, in addition to other communities in North and East Africa.

The Facilitator of Utility on Medicine and Wisdom

This manuscript copy is a 15th-century work by a Yemeni author, Ibrāhīm ibn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Abū Bakr al-Azraq, or Azraqī. It is a book of remedies dealing with medicinal uses of seeds, grains, and other foods and their nutritional value. The material is based in part on two earlier works: Shifā’ al-ajsām (The curing of bodies) by Muḥammad ibn Abū al-Ghayth al-Kamarānī, and Kitāb al-raḥmah (The book of mercy) by Ṣubunrī. Included at the end is yet another work, Burʼ al-sāʻah (Speedy recovery), a short treatise by the renowned Persian polymath Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakarīyā al-Rāzī (also known by Latinized versions of his name, Rhazes or Rasis, circa 865−925). In the introduction, al-Azraq writes: "In the words of the Prophet . . . there are two classes [of persons] that people will always need, doctors for their bodies and the ulamā for their religion." Al-Azraq further drew on additional works, namely Laqṭ al-manāfi’ (The picker of benefits) by al-Jawzī (circa 1116−1201) and Al-tadhkirah (The reminder) by al-Suwaydī (circa 1203−91). He arranged the book so that he would cite Ṣubunrī first, followed by al-Kamarānī and then his own commentary. An addendum at the end provides a glossary defining the seeds, foods and other substances mentioned in the book. Al-Azraq claims he included in his work only the medicinal foods that were known and available to his fellow Yemenis at that time, a claim that could have interesting research implications if proven. According to a note at the end of the main work, this manuscript was copied for a scholar friend by the name of Abdullāh ibn Muḥammad ibn Jumuʻa al-Būsa’īdī, on Rabia al-Akhar 20, 1200 AH (February 19, 1786). The Facilitator of Utility is listed in the bibliographic encyclopedia of Kātip Çelebi (1609−57), but despite this and the appearance of several modern printings, little is known about al-Azraq.