Upcoming Public Exhibition for al-Bāsī Library Project in Djerba, Tunisa: معرض مكتبة الباسيين في جربة

It is my pleasure to announce the upcoming public exhibition of “Conserving Endangered Archives in Jerba: the al-Bāsī Family Library Project” in Djerba, Tunisia, taking place this coming weekend on Saturday, 3rd of March at 17:30 in Houmet Souk. Over the past 6 months, our team in Djerba has been cataloging and photographing the manuscript collection belonging to the El Bessi (al-Bāsī) family. This library conservation project, which photoaffiche el makhtoutgraphed and inventoried over 200 volumes as well as family documents, was generously funded by the British Library and Arcadia as part of the Endangered Archives Programme. The collection includes both Ibadi and non-Ibadi manuscripts, including works in the sciences, language, exegesis, and grammar. I will post photos and video of the exhibition soon but I hope that those in the area will be able to join us this weekend or over the following week for the exhibition of the project in the Rawāq al-Mutawaṣṣat in Houmet Souk.

يسعدني أن أعلن بمناسبة اختتام مشروع رقمنة مكتبة الباسي وفهرستها في حومة السوق في جزيرة جربة ٣ مارس في الساعة الخامسة ونصف مساءا برواق المتوسط. منذ ستة شهور فريقنا بذلوا جهودا دؤوبة لتصوير المخطوطات في هذه المكتبة الخاصة القيّمة التي يشتمل رصيدها على مخطوطات إباضية وغير إباضية. سوف تكون متوفّرة الصور الكل على موقع المكتبة البريطانية (التي دعمت المشروع بتعاون من منظمة أركاديا) في آخر السنة إن شاء الله. سأضيف صورا وفيديو من المناسبة فيما بعد ولكنني أتمنّى حضوركم في الاختمام أو زيارتكم للمعرض في الأسبوع القادم إن كنتم في المنطقة

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Abū Yazīd Makhlad b. Kaydād, the Jihadist | أبو يزيد مخلد من كيداد، الجهادي

Sahib al-Himar Play cover

“al-Zanj wa-thawrat ṣāhib al-ḥimār” is a play by Tunisian writer ʿIzz al-Dīn al-Madanī (b.1938) that chronicles the story of Abū Yazīd. Since the Tunisian revolution in 2011, it has been a regular feature at festivals in Tunisia due to the play’s symbolic use of revolts against injustice. The cover to the printed edition (al-Sharika al-Tūnisiyya li-l-tawzīʿ, 1988) is shown here.

[تنبيه: الترجمة العربية ستأتي بعد]

Ibadis appear in surprising places—including late-20th century Jihadist literature. This post is about an unexpected use of the story of the famous 10th-century Ibadi leader of a rebellion against the Fatimid dynasty, Abū Yazīd Makhlad b. Kaydād (d.333/945), which appeared in a Jihadist newsletter from the 1990s called al-Anṣār. I learned about this passage from Wissam Hiti, a graduate student at Al Akhawayn University whose thesis uses this newsletter to examine discourses of violence in Algeria’s ‘Black Decade’ (1992-2002). I am delighted to have her as a coauthor here.

The GIA in Algeria and al-Anṣār [1]

In the 1960s, the Maghrib witnessed the rise of Islamism due to a multitude of social, economic and political factors, with the first outbursts taking place in the late 1970s.  Some radical stances in the Islamist movements tried to exploit the ideas of Jihad to justify opposition to Maghribi states. This threat to the hegemony of the ruling elites led to a swift combination of co-optation and repression on Islamist tendencies, in general. While some adhered and even embraced the status quo, other Islamists chose the path of exile where they met other dissident and often, radical voices from the Mashriq in different places including Europe.

Al-Anṣār, Vol.88

The front page of Majallat al-Anṣār 88 (30 March 1995), in which the article mentioning Abū Yazīd appears.

London became one of the havens of Jihadists, particularly after the end of the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-89). By the 1990s, the city emerged as a major print and distribution hub for media outlets in Arabic. One of these newsletters was al-Anṣār, to which two key figures in the Jihadi scholarship regularly contributed from 1994 to 1996: Abū Qatāda al-Filasṭīnī and Abū Musʿab al-Sūrī. While the former embraced a rigid Salafi orientation and was more of a preacher and doctrinarian, the latter had a pragmatic outlook and military orientation probably due to his active engagement as a mujāhid in the Afghanistan War.

The newsletter dubbed itself as the voice of the GIA (Armed Islamic Group) in Algeria, whose members participated in the massive bloodshed in the country throughout the 1990s. Al-Anṣār was mainly funded and supported by Al-Qaeda. It became a space where the two major contributors mentioned above devoted attention to clarifying key points of Salafi-jihadi doctrine such as rejecting an Islamism that willingly engages in non-violent politics, insisting on a Salafi creed while by the same means rejecting non-Jihadi Salafism, and accusing of unbelief Arab rulers and their supporters. [2]

Abū Qatāda al-Filasṭīnī contributed to a weekly section entitled Bayna manhajayn under the section Min ṣamīm al-manhaj. This specific contribution of his would later be compiled in a booklet entitled al-Jihād wa-l-ijtihād and made available on the Al-Qaeda online library, Minbar al-jihād wa-l-tawḥid, marking it as essential reading for Jihadi activists. [3]

Abū Yazīd, the Jihadist

The story of Abū Yazīd appears in this same section, Min ṣamīm al-manhaj, where the author is discussing the Fatimids, whom he refers to as al-ismāʿīliyyūn al-ʿubaydiyyūn. The specific passage mentioning Abu Yazid reads:

“The shining minds of Islam in the Maghrib, including extraordinary Maliki scholars, rose up and fought [the Fatimids] without hesitation. When Abū Yazīd the Kharijite (who was of the Ibadi madhhab) began his rebellion, some people hesitated to fight the apostates [i.e., the Fatimids] under the banner of the Kharijites. But the argument of the [Maliki] scholar Imams at that time was: “We fight under the flag of whomever believes in God against the flag of whomever disbelieves. Yes, we fight under the banner of the Kharijites against the miscreant apostates!” And so, the brilliant Imam, the serpent of the valley, Rabīʿ al-Qaṭṭān donned the Qur’ān (lit. al-muṣḥaf) around his neck, went out [to battle with Abū Yazīd], and fought the apostates until he was martyred.” [4]

That is probably the most generous historical account of Abū Yazīd’s rebellion out there. First of all, the account is unusual in its (relatively) positive portrayal of Abū Yazīd. It probably won’t come as a surprise that the Fatimid historians were not big fans of Abū Yazīd but even the later Ibadi tradition distanced itself from him. He was given the moniker ‘al-Nukkārī’ (the denier) in an attempt to associated him with a branch of Ibadis who (unsuccessfully) challenged the dominant narrative of Ibadi history. Since Ibadis are ambivalent and the Fatimids sometimes referred to Abū Yazīd as the ‘anti-Christ’ (al-dajjāl), it is fascinating how the author of this article has recast his story and made him the champion of rebellion even for his Maliki contemporaries. At the end, he even points out that the famous Maliki scholar and ascetic, Rabīʿ al-Qaṭṭān, fought alongside Abū Yazīd in the battle of Wādī Māliḥ, where he was martyred. [5]

So, there you have it: Abū Yazīd, the Jihadist.


[1] This section was authored by Wissam Hiti, based in part on her thesis research, tentatively entitled: Memorable violence: Algeria’s Black Decade and the Social Structure of the Past (1992-2002).

[2] Thurston, Alexander. “Algeria’s GIA: The First Major Armed Group to Fully Subordinate Jihadism to Salafism.” Islamic Law and Society 24: 4 (2017): 422. https://doi.org/10.1163/15685195-00244P05.

[3] See: http://www.ilmway.com/site/maqdis/MS_150.html

[4] Abū Qatāba al-Filasṭīnī. “Bayna manhajayn,” Majallat al-Anṣār 88 (30 March 1995): 5-6. (Accessed on 25/10/2017 at: https://archive.org/details/ansar_masg)

[5] For a full historical and historiographical overview, see Chapoutot-Remadi, Mounira, “Abū Yazīd al-Nukkārī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. (Consulted online on 02 January 2018) http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_23783  [First published online: 2013; First print edition: 9789004252653, 2013, 2013-1]


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New article in the Journal of Islamic Manuscripts | مقال جديد في مجلّة المخطوطات الإسلامية

I am hoping to have another manuscript catalog published by December but in the meantime, I wanted to announce the publication of my inventory of the manuscript library of Shaykh Sālim b. Yaʿqūb (d.1991) in Jerba, Tunisia. This rich collection is well known among specialists and my hope is that our efforts to preserve the manuscripts will lead to a full catalog in the future. The article is available here on the journal’s website.

 أتمنّى أنّني سأكمل فهرس جديدا في الشهر دسمبر المقبل ونشره في الموقع ولكنّي أردت أن أعلن عن نشر مقال جديد حول جرد مكتبة الشيخ سالم بن يعقوب في جزيرة جربة في تونس. قمنا بهذا المشروع في عام ٢٠١٥ والمكتبة معروفة بين المختصين. أملي هو أنّ هذا الجرد ومحاولاتنا المتواضعة للحفاظ على المخطوطات ستؤدي إلى فهرس كامل في المستقبل. المقال متوفر في موقع المجلّة


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Article in the Journal of African History | نشر مقال في مجلّة التاريخ الإفريقي

Just a quick announcement that my article entitled “The Colonial Pasts of Medieval Texts in Northern Africa: Useful Knowledge, Publication History, and Political Violence in Colonial and Post-Independence Algeria” was just published in the Journal of African History.  The article traces the publication history of Abū Zakarīyāʾ Yaḥyā al-Wārjlānī’s Kitāb al-sīra, exploring the ‘colonial pasts’ of this medieval Ibadi text in northern Africa.

إعلان سريع بظهور مقالي الجديد في مجلّة التاريخ الإفريقي بعنوان: “الماضي الاستعماري للنصوص من العصر الوسيط في إفريقيا الشمالية: المعرفة المفيدة، تاريخ النسر، والعنف السياسي في الجزائر المستعمرة والمستقلّة.” يتابع المقال تاريخ النص المعروف بـ”كتاب السير” لأبي زكرياء الورجلاني، استكشافا لما أسمّي بـ”الماضي الاستعماري” لهذا النص الإباضي في المغرب

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Ibadi Manuscripts in Naples| المخطوطات الإباضية في نابولي


I am delighted to announce that I have now posted an inventory and catalog of the Ibadi manuscripts held at the Special Collections Library of the Università degli Studi di Napoli L’Orientale in Naples, Italy. The catalog includes appendices of watermarks with images, former owners, and copyists. The full version is available in PDF format here: on Academia.edu

يسرّني أن أعلن بأنّني وضعت جرد المخطوطات الإباضية في جامعة نابولي الشرقية على موقع “أكاديميا.” توجد في الملف ملاحق للعلامات المائية وقوائم من النساخ. يمكن تحميل الفهرس هنا: https://www.academia.edu/34506748/Catalog_of_Ibadi_Manuscripts_at_the_Universita_degli_Studi_di_Napoli_LOrientale_in_Naples

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Announcing a new manuscript conservation effort in Djerba, Tunisia: the El Bessi Library Project | إعلان بمشروع جديد للحفظ على المخطوطات في جزيرة جربة: مشروع مكتبة جامع الباسي

It is my pleasure to announce that the Endangered Archives Programme (supported by the British Library and Arcadia) has awarded a pilot project grant for the preservation and digitization of the El Basi Mosque manuscript library in Djerba, Tunisia. In cooperation with the Association pour l’animation culturelle à Djerba (Centre Culturel et Touristique Méditerranéen de Jerba),  I and my cocoordinator Dr. Ali Boujdidi (Université de Gabès-Médenine) will be leading a project entitled “Preserving Endangered Archives in Djerba, Tunisia: The al-Bāsī Family Library Pilot Project.” The announcement for the project is available here: “EAP0993: Conserving Engangered Family Manuscript Libraries on the Island of Jerba, Tunisia.

يسرّني الإعلان بمشروع جديد للحفظ على مكتبات المخطوطات في جزيرة جربة. وافق “البرنامج للأرشيفات على حافة الانقراض” (المكتبة البريطانية الوطنية وأركاديا) بتمويل مشروعا لرقمنة المخطوطات التي كانت موجودة سابقا في مدرسة جامع الباسي في حومة (قرية) والغ في جربة. بتعاون جمعية التنشيط الثقافي في جربة، أنا وزميلي د. علي البوجديدي (جامعة قابس مدنين) سندير مشروعا اسمه “الأرشيفات على حافة الانقراض في جزيرة جربة: مشروع مكتبة الباسي.” الإعلان الرسمي موجود في الموقع التالي:ـ

EAP0993: Conserving Engangered Family Manuscript Libraries on the Island of Jerba, Tunisia.


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An Ibadi Bookstore in Tunis | مكتبة إباضية في تونس

While visiting Tunis this month I stopped by to see my friend Mohamed Bennani, owner of what is for me one of the most eclectic and fascinating book and ephemera collections in Tunisia (the “Beit el Bennani” library). I told him about a growing interest of mine in Ibadi library history and we began talking about a bookstore in Tunis that used to be owned by Algerian reformist thinker Muḥammad al-Thamīnī (1897-1970).


34 Rue Ben Arous (Photo P. Love, 2017). Assuming the numbers have not changed, this was the original location of the Maktabat al-Istiqāma. The archway on the left leads into the Souk Ech-Chaouachine.

Al-Thamīnī was an interesting guy.

Among other things, he was part of a delegation of student-cum-activists who traveled to Tunis from the Mzab valley in Algeria in the 1910s to study at the Zaytuna Mosque. He was active in the Tunisian nationalist movement and a member of the Destour party (and later the Neo-Destour party), helped publish the newspaper Wādī Mzāb with fellow Algerian journalist Abū al-Yuqẓān Ibrāhīm (1888-1973), and studied under the famous Maliki jurist Muḥammad Ṭāhir b. ʿAshūr (1879-1973). [1]

Al-Thamīnī’s private collection of books and manuscripts remained in Tunis even after his death in 1970 but were eventually moved to the town of Beni Isguen in Algeria in the early 1990s, where they today constitute a rich collection of manuscripts and printed books. [2] But al-Thamīnī was not only a journalist, political activist, editor, and collector.


Rue Sidi Ben Arous. Maktabat al-Istiqāma would have been located just opposite the Hammouda Pasha mosque, the minaret of which can be seen here on the right hand side. (Original photo here)

He also owned a bookshop.

Maktabat al-Istiqāma, which would give its name to the private library founded in Beni Isguen many decades later, was a bookstore located at 34 Rue Sidi Yahya Ben Arous in the medina of Tunis (see photos). Just opposite the Mosque of Hammouda Pasha and a few steps from both Zaytuna Mosque and the Casbah, Maktabat al-Istiqāma offered patrons printed books by Ibadi and non-Ibadi authors on a wide variety of subjects.

While we were talking, Mohamed momentarily disappeared into one of his rooms of books and documents and reemerged with a folder full of catalogs and papers related to bookstores in Tunis. He flipped through the plastic sleeves, pulled out a booklet, and handed it to me. The two covers read: “Catalogue de la librairie al-Istikama” and “Qāʾimat maktabat al-istiqāma.” (see photo)

The catalogue provides titles for books available through the library in 1353/1934. [3] Although not numerous, books by Ibadi authors appear first in each section. The library sold books from Tunis and elsewhere. Some of these books were printed in Cairo or Algiers before then being published and distributed in Tunis by Maktabat al-Istiqāma.


1934 Catalog of the Maktabat al-Istiqāma in Tunis. This copy is in the Beit El Bennani Library in Tunis (Photo P. Love, 2017)

For example, it published titles as eclectic as al-Muslimūn fī jazīrat Siqīliya wa-junūb Iṭāliya (Muslims in Sicily and Southern Italy) by the Algerian historian Aḥmad Tawfīq al-Madanī (1889-1983) and Maqāṣid al-sharīʿa al-islāmiyya by al-Thamīnī’s teacher at the Zaytūna mosque, Muḥammad ُṬāhir b. ʿAshūr. [4] Another famous non-Ibadi titled published by the library was al-Ṭarīqa al-marḍiyya fil-ijrāʾāt al-sharʿiyyah ʿalā madhhab al-mālikiyya by Muḥammad ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Jaʿyyiṭ (1886-1970). According the book’s cover, by the time it published the second edition of Jaʿayyiṭ’s book in 1946-47, the bookstore had changed locations to 37-39 Souk El Attarine just around the corner. (see photo) [5]

Beit El Bennani only has the catalogue from this one year and, curiously, so does the Tunisian National Library. This makes me think that library might have only published the catalogue once (in 1934) [6]. If other catalogues exist,  it would be fascinating to follow the inventory of this library over the period of al-Thamīnī’s time in Tunis, which included his arrival with the Mzabis but also his remaining in Tunis after the former broke with the Neo-Destour party that eventually came to power following independence in 1956.


This title page from the 1946 edition of M. Jaʿyyiṭ’s al-Ṭariqa al-marḍiyya gives the Maktabat al-Istiqāma address as 37-39 Souk El Attarine

The catalogue and the bookstore and publishing house behind it represent a fascinating period in both the shared history of Tunisia and Algeria and the regional history of modern Ibadi communities linked across vast distances by the printing press just as they had been in the pre-modern period by extensive manuscript networks.



أول الشهر هذا، زرت صديقي محمد البناني الذي له من أهمّ الخزائن الخاصّة للتراث التونسي في الجمهورية التونسية (ومن أكثرها تنوّعا) ألا وهي “بيت البناني” في شارع باب منارة في تونس العاصمة. كنا نتحدّث عن اهتمامي في تاريخ المكتبات الإباضية الخاصّة وبدأنا نتحدّث عن مكتبة (أي لبيع الكتب وشراءها) كانت توجد في الأسواق العربية في المدينة القديمة في تونس العاصمة وصاحبها الصحفي والمفكّر الإصلاحي محمد الثميني (ت ١٩٧٠) [1]

والثميني كان شخصا مثيرا للاهتمام…ـ

كان في بعثة من الطلبة والناشطين الجزائرين  الذين جاءوا إلى تونس في أوائل القرن العشرين لكي يدرسوا في جامع الزيتونة . كان ناشطا في حركة الاستقلال التونسية، وعضوا في الحزب الحرّ الدستوري (و”الحزب الحرّ الدستوري الجديد” فيما بعد)، وشريكا في نشر جريدة “وادي مزاب” لصاحبها الصحفي والناشر المزابي أبي يقظان إبراهيم (ت ١٩٧٣)، وتلميذا للفقيه المالكي المشهور (وشيخ المالكية في تونس) محمد طاهر بن عاشور (ت ١٩٧٣)

كانت له خزانة خاصّة هامّة فيها مخطوطات وكتب قيّمة. بقيت الخزانة في تونس العاصمة حتى بعد وفاته في عام ١٩٧٠ ولكنّها تنقّلت إلى بني يزقن في الجزائر في أوّل التسعينات. اليوم تلك الخزانة تمثّل رصيدا مهمّا للتراث الإباضي والإسلامي. ولكنّ الثميني لم يكن صحفيا وناشرا وعالما وجامع للكتب لخزانته الخاصّة فحسب… [2]

بل وإنما كانت له مكتبة أيضا

كانت “مكتبة الاستقامة” تقع في ٣٤ نهج سيدي بن عروس في المدينة العربية العتيقة في تونس بين نهج القصبة وسوق العطّارين ومقابل جامع حمودة باشا (انظروا الصور). كانت توفّر لحرفاءها كتبا إباضية وغير إباضية في قلب المدينة القديمة

خلال نقاشها، أختفى صديقي محمد ليدخل رواقا مليئ بالكتب والوثائق. خرج وفي يده دفتر يحمل بين غلافيه قوائم ووثائق متعلّقة بالمكتبات التونسية. مدّ إليّ كُتيبا عنوانه “قائمة مكتبة الاستقامة” [3] (انظروا الصورة). الكتاب عبارة عن عناوين الكتب للبيع في عام ١٣٥٣/١٩٣٤. مع أنّها ليست كثيرة فالكتب الإباضية تظهر في أول كل قسم من القائمة. كانت تبيع المكتبة كتبا طُبعت في تونس وخارجها. على سبيل المثال، طُبع بعض الكتب في المطابع المصرية أو الجزائرية ونُشرت في تونس حيث وزّعتها مكتبة الاستقامة

كانت المكتبة تنشر كتبا في مجالات مختلفة. مثلا، نشرت “المسلمون في جزيرة صقيلية وجنوب إيطاليا” للمؤرخ الجزائري أحمد توفيق المدني (ت ١٩٨٣) و”مقاصد الشريعة الإسلامية” لأستاذ الثميني في جامع الزيتونة محمد طاهر بن عاشور [4]

 كان من ضمن الكتب غير الإباضية الأخرى التي نشرتها مكتبة الاستقامة “الطريقة المرضية في الإجراءات الشرعية على مذهب المالكية” لمحمد عبد العزيز جعيّط (ت ١٩٧٠). حسب غلاف الطبعة الثانية لهذا الكتاب الذي خرج في عام ٤٧-١٩٤٦ م تنقّلت المكتبة إلى مقرّ جديد في ٣٧-٣٩ نهج سوق العطّارين (انظروا صورة غلاف الكتاب) [5]

في مكتبة “بيت البناني” قائمة من عام واحد فقط وكذلك توجد قائمة من نفس العام في المكتبة الوطنية التونسية. هذا يؤدينا إلى الافتراض بأنّ القائمة طُبعت في عام واحد (١٩٣٤) فقط. [6] إن كانت توجد قوائم أخرى ليكون مثيرا للاهمتام جدا أننا نتابع المنشورات في السنوات بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية والاستقلال التونسي في عام ١٩٥٦م

تمثّل قصّة هذه القائمة ومكتبة الاستقامة فترة هامّة في التاريخ التونسي-الجزائري المشترك فضلا عن أهمّيتها للتراث الإباضي وتاريخ الشبكات الفكرية التي ربطت الجماعات الإباضية في شمال إفريقيا في العصر الحديث مبنيا على تكنولوجية الطباعة (ويمثّل هذا بطبيعة الحال استمرارا في شبكة توزيع المخطوطات وتنقّلاتها في العصر ما قبل الحداثة).

مشوّق! ـ


[1] On this delegation and some of al-Thamīnī’s contemporaries and students see Amal Ghazal, “Tensions of Nationalism: The Mzabi Student Missions in Tunis and the Politics of Anticolonialism,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 47:1 (2015), 47-63.

[2] For a full biography of al-Thamīnī, see his entry in the Muʿjam aʿlām al-ibāḍiyya here: http://www.tourath.org/ar/content/view/1436/41/

[3] Qāʾimat maktabat al-istiqāma / Catalogue de la librairie al-Istikama (Tunis, 1353/1934). Exemplar in the Beit El Bennani library in Tunis, Tunisia. Many thanks to Mohamed El Bennani for allowing me to photograph it.

[4] Aḥmad Tawfīq al-Madanī, al-Muslimūn fī jazīrat Siqīliya wa-junūb Iṭāliya (Tunis, 1365/1945-6) and on Archive.org here; Muḥammad b. ʿAshūr, Maqāṣid al-sharīʿa al-islāmiyya (Tunis, 1366/1946-7).

[5] Muḥammad ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Jaʿayyiṭ, al-Ṭarīqa al-marḍiyya fil-ijrāʾāt al-sharʿiyyah ʿalā madhhab al-mālikiyya (Tunis, 1366/1946-7).

[6] The catalog is prefaced by a note from the publisher (presumably al-Thamīnī) that the bookstore’s stock is constantly changing and that customers are advised to check in advance of ordering to insure the book they want is in stock. (“Qāıimat…,” f.1.b). This problem may have discouraged the library from printing additional catalogues.

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