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My Current Research Activitiy

Since August 2006, I have carried out a philological and historical research of the Arabic text, Ithaf al-Dhaki, fully supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and hosted by Prof. Dr. Edwin Wieringa at the Department of Oriental Studies, University of Cologne, Germany.

In the beginning of the fellowship in August 2006, I have commenced the research activities by making an edition of the text. This edition has been based on one of the two copies of the manuscript belong to Dar al-Kutub Library, Cairo, Egypt; this version has been chosen for I assumed so far to be the best reading in contrast with another one. The total pages of this version are 74 pages with 23 lines per page.

The making an edition is one of the main stages, in a philological research in particular, to prepare an easy-readable text for the audiences. The draft of the edition has been completed in November 2006.

It is important to note that there are still many passages of the text, which could not been understood yet well, even though I have already compared it with another one of the Dar al-Kutub copy. Hence, I temporary left the passages, and will be finalized as soon as I find other ‘witnesses’ of the reading.

The next step, which I have carried out, is translating the text to put forward a text, which could be understood by more widely readers. This step requires a hard effort and needs a quite long time, due to the some technical Islamic mystical terms used frequently in the text, and could not be easily recognized. Because of that reason, the translation of some sections of the text has been postponed to be completed later. In this case, I have prioritized to understand the general meaning of the passages first. This rather arduous task has been accomplished in March last 2007.

To put the finishing touches of the edited text and the provisional translation, since the beginning of the fellowship, I have made an effort to collect all information regarding the copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscripts. This effort has performed well, due to a fully support of Prof. Wieringa as my academic Host, and thanks to all provided facilities of the Institute of Malaiologie, including the unlimited internet access.

At the beginning of my research, there were only four manuscript copies of the Ithaf al-Dhaki that I knew about: two copies in Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyya, Cairo, Egypt; one copy in Leiden University Library; and another one in the India Office Library, London. Before starting, I had already come in the possession of photocopies of the two Egyptian manuscripts.

At this time, however, there are totally seven copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki: 4 copies above, and one copy, respectively come from Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Al-Azhar University Library, and Malaiologie. The later copy has been purchased from a Dutch antiquarian Bookseller at the price of 695 Euro. Prof. Wieringa has decided to buy it in last January 2007, due to the significance of this manuscript.

Following the development of my research activities, there are still agendas which have to be carried out in the next phases. One of the most crucial ones is making comparison including all versions of the Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscripts to identify and removing errors from the text.

In this phase, I will examine each word of the text, and compare it with all versions of the manuscripts on the principle that "community of error implies community of origin". Hopefully this method could place all versions of the manuscript in a family tree, or stemma codicum descended from a single lost original text.

This phase is, actually, another one of the most important stages in a philological research to produce an edited text that the editor believe comes as close as possible to the archetype, or some other version of a text as it existed ---or was intended to exist--- in the past. Accordingly, this edited text will contain a critically-established text and an "apparatus" that presents the evidence that I considered, analysis of that evidence, and a record of rejected variants. The comparison is also intended to reconstruct a relationship among the surviving manuscripts.

Furthermore, another important stage, which should be carried out is writing an in-depth analysis, regarding both of the text and the context. This kind of analysis is so essential to present a comprehensive work, not only presenting an edited and annotated text, but also an explanation on the subject of the historical background of the text.

Actually, since the beginning of my research, I think that I just want to continue what Prof. Johns have commenced 25 years ago; Prof. Azra suggested me that the research on Ithaf al-Dhaki, which has been started by Prof. Johns, should be completed and published widely, for the work is so significant to trace the root of teachings of neo-Sufism, especially in the Malay Indonesian world. And, after completing the translation of the text on March last, I really realized that this work of al-Kurani is so important to publish entirely.

For this purpose, I am carrying out two research approaches: philological and historical one. with the first approach, I am comparing all versions of the text of Ithaf al-Dhaki, to make an annotated edition and to reconstruct a critically-established text, while with the second, I am writing an in-depth analysis of the social and historical context of the text.

Wish me luck...!

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