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Prof. Anthony H. Johns: My Impression

Since last January 2007, I have made a contact with one of the prominent scholars, especially on classical Malay Islam, Prof. Anthony H Johns; I have read his various writings since commencing a research on Abdurrauf Ali al-Jawi’s work, Tanbih al-Mashi; Prof. Azyumardi Azra, my senior supervisor, often suggests me to take benefit from his articles.

It’s my pleasure to communicate directly with him right now; he is really a very humble and helpful guy.

I have introduced my self as a staff at the Islamic State University (UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta, and currently research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung at the Department of Oriental Studies, University of Cologne, Germany, under hosting of Prof. Edwin Wieringa. He said that he has many warm memories of visits to and hospitality at UIN Jakarta.

The initial purpose of my contact is to ask something relating to Ithaf al-Dhaki, an Arabic manuscript by a Kurdish scholar, Ibrahim al-Kurani, which become the main source of my current research. It’s indicated from his articles that he has ever made a translation of the text, which doesn’t get published yet.

Unfortunately, he said that it’s not easy to excavate his notes on Ithaf al-Dhaki after leaving it for several years, although he is still trying to find it for me. He looks so love to al-Kurani, even he likes to refer to him as 'Shaikh Kita' (Shaikhuna), he likes his aphorism, that it is better to find a point between two conflicting views, than to choose one of the or the other.

Besides, another important thing I got from Prof. Johns is information about the existence of Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscript in the Al-Azhar Mosque Library. Compared to other copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki, this manuscript is the best one, which, according to him, has a connection (isnad) that might take it back to the author himself.

Based on this information, I’ve made a contact to my colleague, Dr. Nursamad, in Cairo, who, afterwards, asks his brother. Muhammad Amin Samad, M.A., to track the manuscript in the Al-Azhar Mosque Libray. However, it appeared that this Library has closed, all books and manuscripts of Grand Shaikh preserved there has been moved to the Al-Azhar University Library. Fortunately, thanks of their hard efforts to find the manuscript, Pak Amin Samad and his colleague, Muhammad Amry Aziz, find the manuscript registered in the Library. And the most important thing is that we are allowed to have a copy of it.

I have told this wonderful news to Prof. Johns, and of course also to my Professor, Edwin Wieringa, who always gives me fully support to conduct this research. They are very happy, now I am looking forward to receive the copy of the manuscript, which Pak Amin will send it soon. Hopefully it is not long days…

In the last email of Prof. Johns, we talk about anything relates to the Malay manuscript: the significance of the digitalization of manuscripts, the major scheme for photocopying Arabic manuscripts by the Arab League, which he ever heard at least twenty years ago, the badly tradition in society to take manuscripts from one collection to be put into another, which causes disappearing of the manuscripts, and others, and others.

At that time, Prof. Johns has also promised to let me read his draft article of his preliminary study of Jawhar al-Haqa’iq by Shams al-Din al-Sumatra’i; it’s wonderful, he is still productive in his retired age, I have to learn more from him…. Thanks, Prof…!

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