God has favoured the Muslims by His promise to eternally preserve the Book of Islam. ‘We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and we will assuredly guard it (from corruption)’ (15:9). And it was He who prepared learned men among the Muslims since the time of the Prophet, the blessing of God be upon him, who carried the message of His laws and His commandments and all the tenets of His religion, as they interpreted them from His Holy Book, and as they received them from the Prophet, and transmitted the message faithfully to those whom they deemed worthy of receiving it. And so the message was passed from one age to the next until today.
Men of learning have, since the early days of editing and publication, devoted their attention to the religious aspect of our Islamic heritage; they have worked on clarifying and elucidating all the important sources of tafsīr, ḥadīth, fiqh, and the sharīʾah, and published editions of these works. It can safely be said, therefore, that the part of our heritage which God has ordained to carry and transmit our religion has been preserved and is readily accessible to all.
Another type of manuscript closely related to the religious heritage is that which deals with the history of the Islamic nation in its religious aspects, for example, works which aim at specifying the exact geographical locations of the events of the Revelation or of the Prophet’s military expeditions, some of which, like Badr and Ḥunayn, have been mentioned in the Qurʾān, or the characteristics of the two holy cities, such as the locations for the rites of the pilgrimage. or the famous mosques of the Prophet All these are places which have to be known if certain religious texts are to be understood, and these areas are covered in a large body of manuscripts of which very little has been published.
Some Arab countries who have interest in this aspect of our heritage have made efforts in this direction. ln Egypt the most important works relating to Egyptian history have been published, together with various works of general historical and literary interest that cover the whole Islamic region. The Academy of Arab Sciences in Damascus and Academy of Sciences in Iraq have declared in their charters that one of their aims is ‘the revival of the Arab and Islamic heritage in sciences, letters and arts’. They have published the most important works which deal with Syria and Iraq, and they have not restricted themselves to these works but have published or sponsored the editing of various other works of the Arab heritage.
The Yemen also, even though it is economically less strong, has lavished care upon this aspect of the heritage; care which has borne fruit in the tens of works that have lately been brought out, either edited or in facsimile.
We come now to that region which God has so blessed by making it the birth-place of His Prophet, and by placing with its people the responsibility of bearing the message of that noble Prophet — the message of knowledge and justice and reform — and conveying it to the that region of the two holy cities, unique in this world, cities which are dear to the heart, which are the coveted destination of those who seek mercy and forgiveness, and towards which all who pray turn their faces. It is no surprise that all which pertains to their history occupies a special place in the hearts of all Muslims.
The Saudi state has been active in the publication of the Islamic heritage in general since King ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz unified the land in 1343/1924. ln later times universities were established, and it is to noted that King Fahd b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz has always extended his care and patronage to these universities. We now have good graduates working in various fields, among them the field of the Islamic heritage.
The University of Umm al-Qurā, in particular, should mentioned for having started the publication of a number of works dealing with the history of Makkah such as the works of Al Fahd b. ʿUmar b. Muḥammad b. Muḥammad (812/1409-885/1480) including Itḥāf al- Warā bi-Akhbār Umm al-Qurā in four volumes and Ghāyat al-Marām bi-Akhbār Salṭanat al-Balad al-Ḥarām by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. ʿUmar b. Muḥammad b. Fahd, of which two volumes have been published.
Some of the scholars and notables of Makkah bave made valuable contributions in this regard. The senior scholar in our time is probably Shaykh ʿAbd al-Sattār b. ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Dahlawī (1286/1869-1355/1936) who collected what he could of works relating to The history of Makkah in a substantial private library which was given, upon his death, to the library of the Ḥaram in Makkah.
Shaykh Muḥammad Surūr al-Sabbān (1316/1898-1392/1972) made possible the publication of some works, notably Al-ʿlqd al-Thamῑn fῑ Tārῑkh al-Balad al-Amῑn by Taqῑ al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Fāsī (775/1373-832/1429) and the two volumes of Shifāʾ al-Gharām bi-Akhbār al-Balad al-Ḥarām by the same author. Earlier, he was behind the publication of Rushdī Malḥasʾs edition of al-Azraqiʾs Akhbār Makkah, a book which, along with al-Fākihīʾs Akhbār Makkah, is regarded as the oldest and most important of the histories of the city. The authors, both men of third century, chronicled the history of Makkah from the Jāhiliyyah until their own time. What still exists of al-Fākihiʾs book (estimated at about half the original) was rigorously edited by Shaykh ʿAbd al-Laṭīf b. ʿAbd Allāh b. Duhaysh and was published.
It is to be noted that it was a western scholar who first published one of the most important works on Makkah: more than two hundred years ago, the German orientalist Ferdinand Wustenfeld published a compendium in a number of volumes containing histories of Makkah by-al-Azraqī, al-Fākihī, al-Fāsī, Ibn Ẓahīrah, and al-Quṭbī.
And in the same vein, when a photocopy of al-Fākihī’s book came into my hands before it was published in 1379/1959, I published a description of it in Al-ʾArab.1 I then noticed that the author had reproduced the inscription on the tomb of Abraham, and had tried to decode it with the help of scholars of his time. Wishing to verify his findings, I published a picture of the inscription and a query in Al-ʾArab.2 I sent copies of the magazine to a number of the authorities in charge of antiquities in our countries, but I had not a single reply. I was then surprised to receive a copy of an article, ‘Maqām Ibrāhīm: A Stone with an Inscription’, by the orientalist M. J. Kister dealing with this inscription and supporting part of al-Fākihīʾs reading of it.3
To return however to our topic, Shaykh ʿAbbās Yūsuf Qaṭṭān published works relating to Al-Ḥāfiẓ Aḥmad b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ṭabarī al-Makkīʾs Al- Qirā li-Qāṣid Umm al-Qurā. A distinguishing feature of this book is that its author, being a ḥadīth scholar, collected in it what he could of the Prophet’s traditions relating to Makkah: its ritual places, affairs of the pilgrimage, and so forth. Some notables of Makkah published Al-Iʿlām bi-Aʿlām Bayt Allāh al-Ḥarām in both the full version by Quṭb al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al- Nahrawālī al-Makkī (917/1511-990/1582) and the abridged version by his nephew ʿAbd al-Karīm b. Ḥabīb Allāh al-Nahrawālī (961/1553-1014/1605). Other works too have been published. But, with the exception of al-Azraqī and al-Fākihī, the manner in which works have been published do not allow the scholar to full use of them. They are for example mostly published without indices.
Because of her special status in the hearts of Muslims in general, and because many of her sons have been scholars interested in her history, Makkah has been the subject also of a good number of works of secular history. There have been families in Makkah devoted to scholarship and learning, who have passed what they learned down through the generations. The most famous of these families are the Ᾱl al-Ṭabarī, of which Muḥibb al. Dīn, the author of al-Qirā (mentioned above), was one of the earliest. ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Yaḥyā al-Ṭabarī (976/1569—1033/1624) was the author of Nashʾat al-Sulāfah fī Munshaʾāt al-Khilāfah, of which he devoted the last part to the rulers of Makkah from the Sharīf Qatādah b. Idrīs in the year 596/1202 to Ḥasan b. Abū Nusayʾin 1009/1601. In an addendum he provided a biography of Abū Ṭālib b. Ḥasan b. Abū Nusayʾ (d. 1012/1603-4). There was also ʿAlī b. ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Yaḥyā al-Ṭabarī (d. 1070/1659-60) who wrote al-Uraj al-Miskī fī al-Tārīkh al-Makkī and Tuḥfat al-Kirām bi-Akhbār ʿImārat al-Saqf wa-al-Bāb li-Bayt Allāh al- Harām, and Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Ṭabarī (1100/1689—1173/1760), who surveyed the histories of the rulers of Makkah from the seventh/fifteenth century to 1141/1728 in his Itḥāf Fuḍalāʾ al-Zamān bi-Tārīkh Wilāyat Banī al-Ḥasan, a work which remains in manuscript, along with other works of the Ṭabarīs.
The family of Āl-Fahd has produced scholars of renown in the field of ḥadīth, who have followed in the footsteps of their great ancestor, the chronicler of Makkah, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Fāsī al-Makkī, and turned their attention to the history of their city. Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Fahd (787/1385—871/1466) Taqī al-Dīn, a famous scholar who wrote on ḥadīth and on the men who transmitted the traditions, wrote also Bushrā al-Warā fī- mā warada fī Ḥirāʾ, Al-Ibānah fī-mā warada fī al-Jiʾrānah, and Iqtiṭāf al- Nawr mimmā warada fi Thawr, which were all to do with Makkah. As for ʿUmar b. Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Fahd (812/1409—885/1480) Najm al- Dīn, who wrote the previously mentioned Ithāf a-warā bi-Akhbār Umm al- Qurā; he also wrote Al-Durr al-Kamīn bi-Dhayl al-ʾlqd al-thamīn, Muʾjam al-Shuyūkh (a collection of biographies of Makkan men and women of learning in the ninth century hijrī), Al-Tabyīn fī Tarājim al-Ṭabariyīn, Tadhkirat al-Nāsī bi-Awlād ʿAbd Allāh al-Fāsī, and Al-Sirr al-Ẓuhayrī bi- Awlād Aḥmad al-Nuwayrī ـ the last three of which are histories of distinguished Makkan families.
ʿAbd al-ʾAzīz b. ʿUmar b. Muḥammad b. Fahd (850/1447-921/1515) ʿIzz al-Dīn, wrote biographies of Makkan scholars in such works as Bulūgh al- Qirā bi-Dhayl Itḥāf al-Warā and Ghāyat al-Marām bi-Akhbār Saltanat Balad al-Ḥarām, and among the works of ʿAbd al- ʿAzīz b. ʿUmar b. Muḥammad b. Fahd (891/1485-954/1547) Jār Allāh are AI-Itiʾāẓ bī.mā warada fī Sūq ʿUkāẓ, Al-Tuḥfah al-Laṭīfah fī Bināʾ al.Masjid al-Ḥarām wa al-Kaʾbah al-Sharīfah, Tutḥfat al-Laṭāʾif fī Faḍl al-Ḥabr Ibn ʿAbbās wa-Wajj wa-aI-Ṭāʾif, Ḥusn al-Qirā fī Dhikr Awdiyat Umm al-Qurā, and an addendum to his father ʿAbd al-ʿAzīzʾs book Bulūgh al-Qirā which was used as a source by al-Jazīrī in his Al-Durar al-Farāʾīd al-Munaẓẓamah fi Akhbār al- Ḥajj wa-Ṭarīq Makkah al-Mukarramah in his description of the events of the years 923/1517 and 945/1538. He also wrote Al-Silāḥ wa-al-ʾUddah fī Faḍāʾil Bandarat Juddah and Nashr al-Laṭāʾif fī Quṭr al-Ṭāʾif.
After the last of the Āl-Fahd in the tenth century hijrī, the links of the chain of history continue with the works of al-Quṭbī, Ibn Ẓahīrah, Āl al- Ṭabarī, al-Asadī, al- ʿlsāmī, al-Sinjārī, Ibn ʿAbd al-Shakūr, al-Ṣabbāgh, Dahlān, al-Shībī, al-Ghāzī and al-Sibāʾī,4 and others whom I will not mention. These were all great men and their work was of value and importance; we should however take cognizance of the fact that all their work represents additions to, and completions of, the work of the greatest historian of Makkah, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Fāsī al-Makkī (775/1373-832/1429). He expended great efforts in research and investigation and built up a treasury of learning which contained the essence of what he had read in the works of his predecessors across seven centuries, from al-Azraqī (the first known historian of Makkah) to the historians of the opening years of the ninth century hijrī. But he was not merely a compiler of information, for he edited and arranged all that he collected, and to it he added the results of his own research. He travelled and saw for himself the places, the buildings, and the inscriptions. He compared what he saw for himself against what he found written in his sources. He paced and measured the distances in the holy places to learn in that manner the tuth about the sacred rituals, and he wrote down what he learned in stages, the last of which were his two great works, Shifāʾ al-Gharām and al-ʾlqd al- Thamīn. His other writings are still in manuscript form.5
We leave Makkah here and turn to Madīnah. Scholars have, of course, been interested in this city since the early days, and the first who wrote about it was Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan b. Zabālah, who according to al-Sayyid al- Samhūdī in Wafāʾ al-Wafāʾ, wrote his book in the year 199/814-15. It was used as a source by two historians of Madīnah: al-Zubayr b. Bakkār (1721778 or 779-256/870) and Yaḥya b. al-Ḥasan al-Ḥusaynī al-Madanī (214/829 or 830-277/890 or 891). Al-Samhūdī had access to the books of Ibn Zabālah and Yaḥyā he also made use of the writings of Al-Zubayr on the agate of Madīnah and other matters.
Probably the oldest book that we know of on the history of Madīnah is Akhbār al-Madīnah by ʿUmar b. Shabbah al-Numayrī (173/789-262//876), of which the surviving portion has been published by al-Sayyid Ḥabīb Maḥmūd Aḥmad in an unedited version.6
Ibn al-Najjār, al-Maṭarī, Ibn ʿAsākir, Ibn Farḥūn, al-Aqshihrī, al- Marāghī, al-Fīrūzābādī, and al-Murjānī,7 and before them Ibn Zabālah, al- Sayyid Yaḥyā b. al-Ḥasan al-Ḥusaynī, and Ibn Shabbah and others have all written on Madīnah and some of their works have been published. But the greatest of all the historians of Madīnah, al-Sayyid ʿAlī b. ʿAbd Allāh al- Samhūdī (844/1440-911/1506) summarized their works, and added to them from his vast knowledge in various fields, and set himself the task of writing down the history of this holy city - a task which occupied many years of his life. But despite the misfortunes that befell him, the most serious of which was the destruction by fire of his library and in it his earliest and most complete work, he persisted in his aim, and attained in it a degree of excellence unmatched by his predecessors, one which remains probably unmatched by those who came after him. For he saw things that are no longer there, and recorded facts from sources which have slipped into obscurity, and if he had not done so then students of the history of the city would have lost many of their sources.
Although the fire in al-Masjid al-Nabawī in 886/1481 destroyed all his books, and among them Iqtidāʾ al-Wafāʾ bi-Akhbār Dār al-Muṣṭafā, which appears to have been his most complete work, still much has remained of his great learning in the two abridgements of that book: Wafāʾ al-Wafāʾ bi- Akhbār Dār al-Muṣṭafā and Khulāṣat al- Wafāʾ bi-Akhbār Dār al-Mustafā. He also has a work entitled Al-Wafāʾ bi-mā Yajiba li-Ḥaḍrat al-Muṣṭafā on a related topic.8
This article was published in the following book:
The Significance of Islamic Manuscripts: Proceedings of the inaugural conference of Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 30th November_ 1st December 1991_ English version, 1992, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, UK, pp .107-114.
Please note that some of the images used in this online version of this article might not be part of the published version of this article within the respective book