Arabic Manuscripts

Manuscripts Collections Overview

The Arewa House established in 1970, has a long history of work in the area of Arabic/Ajami manuscript preservation and has initiated many programs for the procurement and preservation of Arabic manuscripts. It has over 836 photostats and photographs of Arabic/Ajami manuscripts in the form of letters, jurisprudence, history and poetry. These were collected by Professor Abdullahi Smith its former Director from (1970-1984), as a pace setting project for more collections in Northern Nigeria’s repositories.

Until April 2009, the Centre had only about 207 Photocopied Manuscripts other than Correspondences and 527 Letters, which are not catalogued. As a matter of fact, Procurement of Arabic Manuscripts by the Center had also stopped since the early 1980s. However, as a result of intensive fieldwork, which resumed in 2009 in the Northern parts of Nigeria especially, in States like Adamawa, Plateau, Jigawa, Katsina and Bauchi States, the Center collected more than 3160 Original Manuscripts. Also, the Centre collected about 111 copies of what was popularly known as market copies Manuscripts. As noted earlier, until April 2009, Arewa House itself had only 3 handwritten Original manuscripts and 34 of the so called “Market Copies” out of 207 Manuscripts other than Correspondences. It is interesting to note that, the situation has now tremendously improved with new acquisitions made particularly from Adamawa (over 985 catalogue originals), Katsina (30 catalogued originals) Plateau (870 originals catalogued) and many more “Market Copies”. Currently, the Arewa House has gone far in its negotiation with the management of the National Museum and Monuments for the possibility of rescuing Jos Museum Arabic Manuscripts Collection to Arewa House as permanent loan to the Centre. Also, a lot of activities are currently going on in the same direction

Manuscripts Collections Donors

This collection consists of approximately 986 original manuscripts deposited in Arewa House. It is the personal collection of the late Modibbo Ahmadu Fofure of Yola (1889-1960).

The collection is one of the largest of its kind in Adamawa Emirate so far recovered. The many scholarly treasures it contains and the breadth and scope of the subjects they cover make this collection one of the most important storehouses of Islamic knowledge and Northern Nigeria documentary heritage. They bear various titles as they were inherited from their great grandfathers in the period between the 14th and 20th century AD.

The collection is unique for two reasons. First, it contains many important items such as the finest illuminations and calligraphy with a variety of scripts of the Holy Qur’an, calligraphic art works, and other high-quality copies of many important works. Secondly, the collection is diverse in terms of the subjects it covers.

These include copies of the Holy Qur’an, works of Qur’anic sciences, Hadiths (reports from the Prophet and the Imams), Tawheed or theology, Islamic law, prayers and sermons, mysticism, philosophy, ethics and politics, biographies, history, geographical works, Arabic and Fulfulde and Hausa grammar, lexicography and philology, poetry and prose, anthologies and other literary works, alchemy, astronomy, traditional medicine, traditional pharmacy and pharmacology, and most importantly a large body of correspondences on Mahdism, etc.

This is the second Arabic manuscript collection in Arewa House, Kaduna. It belonged to the late Sheikh Ahmad Arabi of Jos in Nigeria (1910-1973) Shiekh Ahmad Arabi was born in 1910 in Nafada in the present Gombe state. He pursued his elementary school in Dukku, after which he worked briefly as court scribe. Sheikh Arabi later moved to Jos. There, he continued his Arabic Education under his uncle, Alkalin Jos Mall Abubakar. He was appointed Arabic Teacher at Jos NA Elementary School. Arabi’s search for knowledge took him to the School for Arabic Studies Kano, after which he became a teacher there. He was called back by Jos Native Authority in 1950. In 1947 founded the Islamiyya School Jos. He was appointed as the Deputy Grand Khadi for the defunct Benue Plateau and North Eastern States, and Chairman of Benue Plateau State Pilgrim Welfare Board. He died in 1973 at the age of 63. He received MFR in 1968. (Yaya Arabi 2008 interview)

As far as the Arabic script is concerned, majority of them were written in Naskh script with some Kufic letters. This Naskh has some Maghrib style, especially the curative lettering and the placing of the dots for letters qaf and fa. Diacritical points were not omitted and orthographic color is different from that of the texts. Special reeds were used in writing those manuscripts. Even the later ones are not written with pens or fountain pens. This is still observed until now in many places in Northern Nigeria.( Musa S M 2008)

The collection consists of 156 copies of handwritten manuscripts, including 930 volumes of hadith and fiqh works, some dating from the eighteenth century.

The owner of this valuable collection is Nupe by tribe who travelled far and wide in Nigeria for the purpose of seeking knowledge and trade and he finally settled in a village to the North of Jos.

He has more than 770 copies of original Arabic and Ajami manuscripts written in the period between the 19th and 20th centuries. The subjects covered by the manuscripts include Islamic matters such as interpretation of the Qur’an, Sufism, Astrology, Poetry, Sociology and Political Economy.

The collection has more than 550 copies of Manuscripts acquired by Arewa House, in 2011 by during our survey activities

The collection is made up of about 30 copies of original manuscripts written in the period between 18th and 20th centuries. It belonged to Mallam Musa Ilyasu Dalhat in Katsina state of Nigeria.

The works covered subjects such as Sufism, and Islamic law and theology. The entire collection was purchased by Arewa House from Mallam Iliyasu Katsina in May 2009.

Arewa House Arabic/Ajami Manuscripts Catalogues

SN wdt_ID ID Number Manuscript Title Author Date Language Content Abstract
1 1 AAC/1 تحفة ا لحكام Abubakar bin Asim Qadi Garnada (d. 1426) Arabic On Islamic Jurisprudence. (Part)
2 2 AAC/2 قصيدة Anonymous Arabic Poem praise to Amir of Bauchi, seeking his permission for a visit.
3 3 AAC/3 قصيدة بحمد الله ربي Ahmad Abubakar Muhammad Jos. 5/1/1945 Arabic Poetry praising Prophet (S.A.W) in Arabic language.
4 4 AAC/4 كتاب أم البراهين Sheikh Abu Abdullahi, Muhammad bin Yusuf Assanusiy. d. 895H Arabic Muhammad bin Yusuf as-Sanusi
5 5 AAC/5 قال طرفة بن عبد ( شعر الجاهلية) Tarfata bn Abdi Sufyar bn Saeed bn Malik. Arabic Eloquence Arabic poems, poetry written by Ṭarafah ibn al-Abd, in full Ṭarafah ibn al-Abd ibn Sufyān ibn Mālik ibn Ḍubayah al-Bakrī ibn Wāil (flourished 6th century), Arab poet, author of the longest of the seven odes in the celebrated collection of pre-
6 6 AAC/6 فائدة ما جاء في بيان الفلك Sayyid Abdul Abbas Allenth Arabic Manuscripts On Astrology.
7 7 AAC/7 عقيدة الإيمان Anonymous Arabic Arabic poetry on Islamic Monotheism.
8 8 AAC\8 قصيدة عجبية لباد Imam Abu Ishaq Ibrahim bn Masudi Allubady Arabic An Islamic Commandments.
9 9 AAC\9 بسم ماهو جار و المجرور Usman bn Fodio Arabic Teaching Arabic Grammar.
10 10 AAC\10 أبكيت بلى داني سكيني Anonymous Arabic Arabic poetry, about Importance of Knowledge.