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Further Research on Ithaf al-Dhaki Manuscript: A Philological and Codicological Perspective

Paper presented at the 30th German Congress of Oriental Studies (Deutscher Orientalistentag) in Freiburg, 24-28 September 2007.

More than 25 years ago, Prof. (emeritus) A. H. Johns, at the Australian National University, one of the most prominent scholars on Islam in Southeast Asia carried out an edition research on Arabic Sufi treatise entitled Ithaf al-Dhaki bi Sharh al-Tuhfah al-Mursalah ila al-Nabi (A Presentation to the Discerning in Explanation of the Gift Addressed to the Spirit of the Prophet) by Ibrahim al-Kurani. A little part of his research has been included in his article entitled “Friends in Grace: Ibrahim al-Kurani and ‘Abd al-Rauf al-Singkeli”, included in the Book, Spectrum: Essays presented to Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana, 1978: 469-485, edited by S. Udin.

At that time, Johns based his research on four copies of the manuscript found in three libraries, namely: Al-Azhar Mosque Library, Dar al-Kutub Library (two copies), and the India Office Library. Unfortunately, his edition did not complete, and the entire result never reaches us. Thanks God, in January 2007 last, Johns has sent me his draft of edition and translation of Ithaf al-Dhaki he made, and totally support me to complete this research of al-Kurani’s important work.

With a different perspective, in 1992 Azyumardi Azra included Ithaf al-Dhaki as one of his main sources to do reconstruction of the intellectual networks of Muslim scholars in Haramayn (Mecca and Medina) and those in the Malay world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Azra did not try to make an edition, rather emphasized that Ithaf al-Dhaki is the most important and influential work of al-Kurani, regarding the development of neo-Sufism in the Malay world. It’s Azra who gave me the two copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscript belong to the Dar al-Kutub Library collection in the very beginning of this research.

Another analysis has been made by Basheer M. Nafi in his long article about Tasawwuf and Reform in Pre-Modern Islamic Culture (2002). Nafi stated that Ithaf al-Dhaki is more than a commentary work, since al-Kurani’s independent introduction covered about two thirds of this treatise.

The results of all previous research suggested that Ithaf al-Dhaki is a very well-known work in various Islamic countries, and recognized as one of the most significant sources regarding the interpretation of Ibn Arabi’s mystical doctrine of the unity of God or wahdat al-wujud.

Then, in order to prepare a publication of the whole conception about this important work, since August 2006 last, thanks to Prof. Wieringa who invited me to do research in his Institute in Cologne University, and to The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the two periods of Fellowship I receive, I have commenced a further research on Ithaf al-Dhaki , based on several copies I have collected.

This paper will attempt to generally illustrate the existence of Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscripts in several libraries, and also to briefly draw my current research of this manuscript, but not to discuss the content of the text itself.

A Glimpse of Ithaf al-Dhaki
Let me begin by refresh our memory that Ithaf al-Dhaki is an Arabic work written by Ibrahim ibn Hasan al-Kurani al-Kurdi al-Shahrazuri al-Shahrani al-Madani al-Shafi'i (1614-1690), a Kurdish scholar who taught in Medina in the mid seventeenth century; this work contains both the author’s commentary and explanation of al-Tuhfah al-Mursalah ila al-Nabi, another mystical work contains the unity of God teaching (wahdat al-wujud), written by an Indian Muslim scholar, Fadl Allah al-Hindi al-Burhanpuri (d. 1619).

In the beginning of the text, al-Kurani explained that he wrote Ithaf al-Dhaki to respond to a repeatedly request from a number of Malay Muslim scholars, or Jama’at al-Jawiyin as al-Kurani addressed them, especially Abd al-Rauf Ali al-Jawi from Aceh, to write an explanation of the Sufi doctrine, discussed in al-Tuhfah al-Mursalah, which appropriate to the essential principles in the Koran and the Tradition. This request was submitted by the Jama’at al-Jawiyin regarding the misunderstanding among the ordinary people in the Malay world, or Bilad Jawah as the author called it, surrounding the Sufi doctrine discussed in al-Tuhfah.

However, while the initial reason is to respond a controversy of the Sufi doctrine occurred in the Bilad Jawah, it seems that Ithaf al-Dhaki is so popular in other Islamic countries. The several manuscripts found in several libraries in different countries could be regarded as an indication of the popularity in the past.

Ithaf al-Dhaki Manuscripts
Let’s look now at the existence of all copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscript I identified in several libraries, and how I use some of them for my current research.

Since the beginning of the fellowship, I have made an effort to collect as much as possible information regarding the copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscripts in several places. In this stage, I am indebted to some colleagues, among them are Husain Kadodia from Durban and Florian Schwarz (Washington University) who have informed me about the existence of copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki in several institutions.

Hitherto, there are 29 copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscripts identified in different libraries around the globe, namely: Al-Azhar University Library and Dar al-Kutub Library in Cairo, Egypt; Leiden University Library; The India Office Library, London; National Library, Berlin; Malaiologie, University of Cologne; Daiber Collection, University of Tokyo; Houghton Library of Harvard University; Koprulu Library in Istanbul; King Faisal Center for Islamic Studies in Saudi Arabia; Birmingham, Sally Oaks Library, Mingana collection; National Library, Damascus, Syria; Al-Zawiya al-Hamzawiya and Dalil Makhtutat al-Khizanat al-Habsiya in Marocco.

And, in the line with its popularity in the past, I am completely sure that there are still many unidentified copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki in other places.

However, of those all identified copies, I still include only 8 copies in my current research to make an edition, for the information regarding the existence of twenty one of them just come to light few months ago. Nowadays, I am looking forward to receive a copy of Ithaf al-Dhaki from Koprulu Library in Istanbul, which is the oldest copy of all, and ---based on the information in the Catalogue--- a handwritten copy of the author.

The Establishment of the Text
[I have decided to temporary exclude this section and do a significant revision, since I just have received a new copy of Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscript from the Koprulu Library which confirms that this copy is the oldest one (1665), and was copied from the the author's manuscript itself; please be patient to read a revised version].

Closing Remarks
It’s no doubt that Ithaf al-Dhaki is an example how a manuscript shows the transnational intellectual Islamic relationship, in this case between the Muslim scholar in Mecca and Medina, or Haramayn, and those pupils who came from the Malay-Indonesian world; this kind of relationship had produced a lot of amazing works such as Ithaf al-Dhaki.

After centuries, the copies of Ithaf al-Dhaki manuscript have spread to the worldwide areas, including Europe, and the interdisciplinary study of these copies might be useful to reconstruct the social-intellectual history of the past.

Lastly, let me express my sincere gratitude to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, whose fellowship has enabled me to properly conduct this research and to Prof. Wieringa for his full support.

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