I came across a forward of a sample Book on Ma Fatema which will make an intersting reading.
How non muslims are contributing to the correct and better understanding of Ahlul Bait ( SA) thus helping to remove misconception rampant on account of Sunni bias accounts available readily to those who are interested in Islamic studies.
The acknowledgement read shows how Islamic studies are conducted at Vatican.
Coming across such texts broadens your views and appreciation of the service of others who practice other faiths.
Just recently in the on going court case, Professor S.M. Stern a Jewish Hungarian Orientalist article on the Kitab Al Hidaayah al Amirriyah written by our 20th Imam A’amir (SA) was cited before Justice Gautam Patel by Dawat senior councellor Fredun Di Vitre in the court hearing on 31st Jan 2023. ( Ref: News Report)
If one is to read the glorious history of the Fatimids, one can come across many Christians and Jews who contributed and rose to high positions in the Fatimid Courts. Amongst all the Muslim Ummahs our Fatimid Imams ( SA) were most tolerant towards other religions, and this contributed towards Fatimid Golden Era in Academics, Science, Art & Architecture.
Forward of the Book
It was in the course of researching the martyrdom of al-Husayn that I happened across the vague and shadowy figure of Fâtima, his mother.
Aside from a few pamphlets from Iran, and a selection of articles in Islamic periodicals, I could find almost nothing substantial written about this last-surviving daughter of Muhammad and wife of ‛Alî b. Abî Tâlib, Muhammad’s cousin and early companion. At first glance, the Arabic texts of Sunnî Islam contained only passing references to her life and death, and few of these were particularly flattering. But when I began to examine some of the Shî‛a texts, two things became patently clear: the first was that the Fâtima presented by the scholars and writers of Shî‛a Islam was significantly dissimilar to the indistinct figure of their Sunnî coun- terparts.
The second was the remarkable similarities between the Fâtima of Shî‛a Islam and the Mary of Catholicism. I wondered how such vast Sunnî-Shî‛a discrepancies could be reconciled, and whether a comparative study of Mary and Fâtima would yield any clue to the immense power these two women hold for their adher- ents.
So it was that I abandoned al-Husayn – at least temporarily – and spent the next three years unearthing Fâtima from the Sunnî and Shî‛a texts in the hope of giving her a more prominent place on the stage of Islamic history. This book is the result.
Unless otherwise stated, all translations of the Arabic texts are my own. Except when quoting from other works, all dates are given according to the Islamic calendar (hijra), followed by a back- slash and the Gregorian equivalent.
Christopher Clohessy July 2009
For eight exceptionally happy years I was a student and then a lecturer at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) in Rome, staffed by the Missionaries of Africa.
This work is dedicated with immense gratitude to the these men who, during those years, formed all my vision of Islam.
An intersting episode narrated by Olly Ben showing how old sacred Manuscripts are saved and restored.
My observation on reading the episode.
A lesson : A gem.of a book in hands of ignorant results in treasure bring lost. It is for this very reason that our Duat Kirams have jealously been guarding the khizana and allowing access to only those who are knowledgeable in Uloom.
A few years back, a student of the Alawi Mazoon Saheb brought in a manuscript leaf of a rare sahifa work to the majlis. The Alawi Mazoon Saheb, intrigued by this mysterious folio, asked him if he had more leaves, but the boy said no.
After the majlis ended, the Mazoon Saheb accompanied the boy to his family manzil where they discovered an entire manuscript scattered in a mouldy bathroom cupboard. Due to the humidity of the bathroom, the folios were in a very bad condition, for the house owner had left them there for generations, not realising their value.
With the permission of the owner, the leaves were taken to the royal haveli where ‘ample time was put in restoring it to its former glory’. It took the Alawi Mazoon Saheb, the Mukasir Saheb and the Mazoon Saheb’s wife three years to re-arrange all the leaves according to the catchwords that were mentioned in the margins (the work, like most manuscripts, was neither paginated nor foliated). According to the Mazoon Saheb, the most difficult task was to identify the title of the work, since the title page and colophon were missing. After comparing the leaves to several other manuscript copies, the Arabic words ‘ʿalā kulluhā ’, which were written on the first surviving folio, were an important clue that revealed the title in the end.
After solving this codicological riddle, the Mazoon Saheb was able to copy the title page and the other missing pages and complete the manuscript.
To ensure that the work would never be lost again, the Mazoon Saheb prepared another ‘fresh’ exemplar by hand. Thus a lost treasure was saved.
SURPRISE ! SURPRISE !
The Alawi Mazoon saheb when he was 19 years was sent by his father the Alawi Dai to study Arabic in Mumbai University and there surprise of surprise in his words
The Mazoon Saheb told me that he lived on only a few rupees a day. Because the curriculum of Islamic Studies did not cover any Isma’ili topics, the Mazoon Saheb also received training in secret from a Dawoodi ʿamil in Mumbai who was willing to introduce him to ʿilm al-haqa’iq in exchange for a small tuition fee. It was during his Mumbai years that the Mazoon Saheb composed a list of Isma’ili works and secondary literature that one day he wished to acquire for the khizana of his father.
In addition, a very large number of manuscripts reached Badri Mohallah via the Mazoon Saheb’s Dawoodi teacher from Mumbai, which is a story in itself.
Another finding narrated in the book is about Manuscripts, even when copied at the Jamea tus Sayfiyya, however, tend to surface in unexpected places.
Recently I stumbled upon several Arabic Jamea tus Sayfiyya manuscript copies, transcribed in the 1980s by different pupils in Surat, that were for sale on eBay India by a seller from Gujarat.
Concluding Notes :
The significance of Bohra Scribal Tradition
The following verse is found in the end of many Manuscripts.
The writing on the paper continues to glitter for long, while its scribe is rotting in the dust.
However, in Bohra manuscript culture, this scribal verse has an additional, deeper meaning as it refers to the evanescent character of the Tayyibi-Fatimid tradition. This tradition will carry on, despite the demise of empires, the seclusion of Imams, the inevitable mortality of the Dais, or even the material demise of the khizana and its manuscripts. The katib will rot in his grave, and even his makhtutat will turn to dust at some point in their material life, yet the essence of ʿilm al-batin, the scribal verse seems to indicate, will never get lost and will continue to shine.
Olly Ben writes in her Book :
My original plan of going to the archives for two weeks, however, turned into an intense ethnographic experience of four months, which fundamentally changed the way I understood books, people and the encounter between them. It also changed the character of this study: the archive became a treasury of books, inhabited by real scribes, readers and custodians whom one usually only gets to know in the colophons and marginalia of manuscripts.
Some of the Alawi Bhai Sahebs felt that their community and history had never received the scholarly attention it deserved, being one of the smaller Bohra communities (only 8000 followers, majority living in Badri Mohalla Baroda ) and they were therefore looking for what they called a court historian who would record their past.
The Bohras may trace themselves and their books to Fatimid Cairo spiritually, but it is in Yemen that the Bohra clerical genealogy of Dais and Tayyibi Isma’ili teachings crystallised. It was also from Yemen that Fatimid missionaries and later Tayyibi Yemeni Dais set foot on the Indian subcontinent, known as the Jazīrat al-Hind.
Shukran for reading. Dua ni iltemas