Beyond Timbuktu: Preserving the Manuscripts of Djenné, Mali

A display at the British Library will chart and celebrate a remarkable project to preserve and digitize Malian manuscripts from Djenné.

Timbuktu hit the headlines in 2013 when local people rallied together to save their manuscripts from militants, who were occupying the city. Djenné, a World Heritage Site, founded in the eighth century, often described as Timbuktu’s “twin city”, was spared the occupation, but its documentary heritage remained vulnerable.  Thanks to the Endangered Archives Programme, these valuable manuscripts are in the process of being digitized and thus preserved for posterity. Established in 2004, the Programme aims to contribute to the preservation of archival material in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration world-wide. It is administered by the British Library and has been generously funded by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

In 2009, a pilot project discovered nearly 3,000 manuscripts held in 13 family collections. However, it quickly became clear that often only a small proportion of the collections were being shown to the team and it was subsequently estimated there were at least 10,000 manuscripts of interest in Djenné and the surrounding area. The overwhelming majority of the material was copied in Djenné on paper using Sudani Arabic script. Some manuscripts are written in local languages using Arabic script. Most of the manuscripts date from between 1700 – 1900, although the oldest dates from the thirteenth century. The condition of the documents varied enormously, with those held by libraries generally being in better condition, although sufficient measures needed to be introduced regarding their safekeeping in acid-free boxes. Manuscripts that had been held privately had often deteriorated considerably, due to damage from termites and water.

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Some of the manuscripts that have been preserved and digitised as part of the project, photograph reproduced courtesy of the British Library.

Concurrent with the digitisation process, courses and study days on various aspects of manuscript and library science were held for the benefit of manuscript owners and to raise awareness of the manuscripts’ cultural value. A reading room for the digitised collection was established, and a website created to host the collection. Since the pilot project, Djenné Manuscript Library has gradually become the custodian of over 100 families’ collections and the library has become the cultural centre of the town. In recent years, the Arabic manuscripts of Mali have helped to change the perception of sub-Saharan West Africa as an area without a written past. These manuscripts belong to the cultural heritage of the world and it is thus a duty to attempt to preserve them.

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A page from qur’ān EAP488/1/8/1 (undated), which appears in the display, reproduced courtesy of the British Library.

The manuscripts from the first stage of the project are now available online . To-date, 187 qur’āns have been digitized and are also available online, representing an invaluable resource for research and teaching.

The display is FREE runs from 28th September 2018 – 6th January 2019.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

 

RSVP to IQSA Denver Receptions!

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It’s hard to believe that we are just two months away from the sixth Annual Meeting of the International Qur’anic Studies Association taking place in Denver, CO from November 16-20, 2018. We are looking forward to another exciting meeting of scholars and friends! Please read the reminders below carefully in preparation for November’s events.

  • IQSA sessions begin one day before the SBL/AAR schedule on Friday November 16th. Please book your travel and accommodation plans accordingly. This year’s opening session will be followed by the General Reception at 6:30pm (Location TBA). Please RSVP at THIS LINK.
    Note – this year’s meeting will not include a Presidential Address/Keynote
  • On Saturday November 17th, graduate students and early career scholars should attend the Graduate Student Reception, 11:30am-1:00pm, where they will enjoy lunch with leading scholars in the field and share their own research. Please RSVP at THIS LINK or by emailing contact@iqsaweb.org.
  • On Sunday November 18th, all IQSA members are encouraged to attend the 2018 IQSA Business Meeting from 11:30am-12:30pm. See schedule for details.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, Standing Committees and our partners we would like to express our deepest gratitude to all friends of IQSA, and we look forward to seeing you in Denver!

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

Workshop: The Senses in the Qur’an and in Early Islam | 26 October 2018, Utrech

The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Utrecht University, in collaboration with the SENSIS project, will host a workshop on the Quran’s and early Muslims’ conceptualization of the senses and sense perception. The workshop’s aim is two-fold: first, to unearth the roots of the qur’anic/early Islamic sensorium in Late Antique culture, and secondly, to examine the processes of sensory disambiguation of “Muslim” identity as distinct from other identities (Christian, Zoroastrian, etc.) in the formation of Islam. Sources considered include the Qur’an, sīra and Hadith (both Sunni and Shiʿi), as well as texts from the surrounding literary cultures, and potentially non-textual evidence. Prior to the meeting, but no later than 18 October, participants will circulate one or several short texts (in the format of a handout) for close reading in the workshop. Each paper will be 40 minutes long, and include a paper presentation (20 minutes); Q&A (10 min.); a.nd a joint reading and discussion of texts led by the presenter (10 min).

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Utrecht in the heart of the Netherlands

Programme

Location: Janskerkhof 13, 3512 BL Utrecht, room 0.06

Panel 1: Scriptural bases

9:00-9:40: Nora Schmid (Berlin), “Sense perception and the formation of ascetic knowledge in the Meccan surahs of the Qur’an”

9:40-10:20: Thomas Hoffmann (Copenhagen): “The Weltinnenraum of the Qur’an: Towards a visceral phenomenology”

10:20-11:00: Christian Lange (Utrecht): “Sensation in the canonical Sunni hadith corpus”

11:00-11:30: COFFEE BREAK

Panel 2: Sensations in early Islamic thought and sensory practices

11:30-12:10: Adam Bursi (Utrecht), “The old women of Quraysh did that: Touch and its contestations in early Islamic pilgrimage rituals”

12:10-12:50: Maroussia Bednarkiewicz (Oxford): “Diversity in the acoustic space: From the birth of the ādhān to the disappearance of the nāqūs

12:50-14:00: LUNCH

14:00-14:40: Youshaa Patel (Lafayette College): “Looking different: Some hadith traditions against imitation”

Panel 3: Sensory alterities

14:40-15:20: Eyad Abuali (Utrecht): “Voices and Visions in Early Sufi Qur’an commentaries”

15:20-15:50: COFFEE BREAK

15:50-16:30: Arash Ghajarjazi (Utrecht): “The senses in Nahj al-balāgha

16:30-17:10: Mary Thurlkill (University of Mississippi): “Muhammad’s sweet sweat:  Modeling ritual purity in early Islam”

17:10-17:30: Concluding session

18:30-: DINNER (for speakers and invited guests)

No registration is required for participation, but those interested in attending are kindly requested to contact the event’s co-organizer Dr. Adam Bursi at: a.c.bursi@uu.nl

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

Review of Qur’anic Research, Vol. 4 no. 9 (2018)

In the latest installment of the Review of Qur’anic Research (Vol. 4, no.9), Johanna Pink (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg) reviews  Kristian Petersen’s Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, & Language in the Han Kitab (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).

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In her review, Pink writes… “Some readers of the Review of Qurʾanic Research might wonder whether a book on Islam in China is worth their attention. It most definitely is, especially if their interest transcends the Qurʾānic text itself and extends to Muslims’ engagement with their sacred scripture. As the author of Interpreting Islam in China, Kristian Petersen, rightfully criticizes, “much of Western scholarship has associated Islam very closely, and at times even exclusively, with Arab Muslims in the Middle East—often establishing essentialized orientations of the center and the periphery” (3)… It is therefore highly advisable especially for scholars who have no expertise on Islam in China to take his book seriously as a contribution to our understanding of how the Qurʾān was read and interpreted by Muslims throughout history, across space and language divides…”

Want to read more? For full access to the Review of Qur’anic Research (RQR), members can log in HERE. Not an IQSA member? Join today to enjoy RQR and additional member benefits!

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

Call for Papers: The Eighth North American Syriac Symposium

The Eighth North American Syriac Symposium

Brown University | Providence, RI

June 16-19, 2019

The Eighth North American Syriac Symposium will convene at Brown University on June 16-19, 2019. Held every four years since 1991, the North American Syriac Symposium brings together scholars and students for exchange and discussion on a wide variety of topics related to the language, literature, and cultural history of Syriac Christianity, extending chronologically from the first centuries CE to the present day and geographically from Syriac Christianity’s homeland in the Middle East to South India, China, and the worldwide diaspora.

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Image Source: https://www.brown.edu/academics/religious-studies/

We invite paper proposals for the 2019 Brown Syriac Symposium on the theme of…

Syriac Worlds: Interactions, Exchanges, Contributions.

Throughout its long history, Syriac Christianity has flourished in the midst of other languages, religions, cultures, and societies. However turbulent its circumstances, Syriac has enabled distinctive articulations and cultural expressions for its speakers. Moreover, not only have there been constant interactions, but Syriac has been an active medium of exchange. Contributions, borrowings, adaptations, and innovations have characterized the literary, material, philological, and cultural productions of Syriac speakers from the start. This Symposium welcomes proposals for scholarly papers on all topics that address Syriac in any of its historical time periods, within this broad theme.

Proposals may be submitted either for individual papers or as part of a proposed panel. Individual presentations must be limited to 20 minutes, plus 5 minutes of discussion time. Please submit contact information for the presenter(s) and an abstract of 250-350 words. Those wishing to propose a panel of 3 or 4 papers (4 papers maximum) on a specific theme must submit a separate abstract for each presentation, a title for the panel, and full contact information for all presenters and the session moderator.

All proposals should be submitted electronically to nasyriacsymposium@gmail.com on or before January 2, 2019. Notification of acceptances of paper and panel proposals will be made in early February, with a view to publishing the program in early March.

In addition to papers and panels, the symposium will feature keynote lectures by:

  • Liv Ingebord Lied, MF Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo
  • Kathleen McVey, Princeton Theological Seminary (emerita)
  • Ellen Muehlberger, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
  • Michael Penn, Stanford University
  • Columba Stewart, St. John’s University David G. K. Taylor, Oxford University

Additional information for the Symposium can be found at the following website which will be updated regularly: https://www.brown.edu/academics/religious-studies/events- 0/syriac-symposium.

If you have any questions, please contact us at: nasyriacsymposium@gmail.com.

We look forward to welcoming you to Brown University in the summer of 2019!

Best wishes,

Susan Ashbrook Harvey
on behalf of the local steering committee:

 

Local Steering Committee:
Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Brown University (Chair)
Sargon Donabed, Roger Williams University
Jae Hee Han, Brown University
Sandra Keating, Providence College
Nancy Khalek, Brown University
Ute Possekel, Harvard Divinity School

 

*Content courtesy of Susan Ashbrook Harvey (Director, Program in Early Cultures Interim Chair, Dept. of Religious Studies | Brown University)

European Association of Biblical Studies Annual Meeting and Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting July 30 – August 3, 2018 | Helsinki, Finland

The University of Helsinki hosted the European Association of Biblical Studies’ annual meeting, which this year was held together with the Society of Biblical Literature’s international meeting, from July 30 – August 3, 2018.

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View from Helsinki Harbour of the Cathedral

Delegates were welcomed to the conference by Outi Lehtipuu, chair of the local organizing committee, John F. Kutsko, SBL’s executive director and Dominika Kurek-Chomycz, EABS’ executive officer, in the historic surroundings of the University’s Great Hall. This was followed by a reception at the City Hall, hosted by the major of Helsinki.

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Delegates were treated to a concert in the Rock Church, one of Helsinki’s most popular attractions (Photograph courtesy of SBL)

The conference included a wide range of papers on qur’ānic studies:

Sayed-Hassan Akhlaq (Boston) “The Inspirational Aspect of the Idea of “Tahrif” for Interreligious Dialogue” and “The Biblical and Qur’ānic Image of Moses and Jesus”

George Archer (Iowa State) “Ephrem’s 27thHymn on the Nativity in the Qur’anic Landscape”

Rachel Claire Dryden (Cambridge) “How al-Shayṭān got his Name: The Arabic Recensions of the Narratives from the Syriac Cave of Treasures”

Alyssa Gabbay (North Carolina) “Jesus, Son of Mary: Lineage and Descent in the Bible and the Qur’ān”

Abdulla Galadari (Khalifa University) “The Qur’ān: Authorship between Muhammad and the Divine”

Ghilène Hazem (Paris-Nanterre) “Avoiding Embarrassing Meanings: Ambiguous Qur’ānic Verses, Corrected Scribal Errors and Biblical/Apocryphal Intertexts”

Bert Jacobs (KU Leuven) “Reading the Gospel in a Muslim Context: Dionysius Bar Salibi’s (Re)Interpretation of Jesus’ Difficult Words and Deeds”

Ilkka Lindstedt and Nina Nikki (Helsinki) “Abraham as an Identity Sign in Paul and the Qur’ān”

Jusuf Salih (Dayton) “Mustafa Sabri Efendi’s Views on the Resurrection of Jesus”

Mohammad Ghandehari (Tehran) “Clarifying the Divine Teachings for Thee”: The Qur’ān’s Self-Identified Role in Clarifying the Bible”

Kate Tinson (Cardiff) “Moses and His Leprosy: Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic Texts and the Qur’ān”

The conference provided an important forum for scholars of the Qur’ān to interact with biblical scholars as well as being a key meeting point for the field in 2018, when there is no IQSA international meeting. Many thanks to the local organizing committees and the staff and graduate helpers at the University of Helsinki for such a warm welcome to a beautiful city and for an extremely well-organised conference – kiitos!

EABS’ next Annual Meeting will be held from August 11 – 14, 2019 in Warsaw, Poland.

SBL’s next International Meeting will be held from July 23 – 26, 2019 in Bangalore, India, which will coincide with IQSA’s biannual International Meeting.

The calls for papers for the above will be announced in due course.

 

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

Summer School in Oriental Languages: July 5 – 14, Venice, Italy

The third Summer School in Oriental Languages, organized by the University of Lausanne, took place at Venice International University, on the island of San Sèrvolo, from July 4 – 14. This year, 33 participants from more than a dozen universities in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK and the USA attended courses on a range of Ancient, Late Antique and Modern Oriental Languages such as Arabic, Coptic, Ge’ez, Hebrew, Syriac and Sumerian. A number of minor courses in Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions, Semitic lexicology and non-alphabetic languages were also offered in addition to the main language courses.

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Venice International University offers a fanastic location for studying on the Venetian island of San Sèrvolo.

Participants on the summer school were also able to visit the monastery of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, which is based on the island next to San Sèrvolo, and has been home to the Armenian Mekhitarist community since 1717.

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Amongst its collection of paintings and objects d’art, the monastery’s library houses a number of manuscripts and books, including some Islamic/qur’ānic ones.

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An 8th century Qur’ān fragment in kufic script. Reproduced courtesy of San Lazzaro degli Armeni.

The summer school represents a rare opportunity to study some of the languages that relate to the broader field of qur’ānic/Islamic studies. Thanks to Professor David Hamidovic (Lausanne), for this initiative and also to the administrative coordinator in Lausanne, Salomé Evard and her team. Applications for next year’s summer school will open in Spring of 2019 and IQSA will endeavour to keep you updated.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.