Workshop on Ibadi Manuscripts (2019)| ورشة عمل حول المخطوطات الإباضية

I am delighted to announce the call for participants in an upcoming workshop entitled “Ibadi Manuscripts and Manuscript Cultures” to be held from 5-6 April 2019 at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco. The details can be found in English, Arabic, and French here. Proposals for participants are due by 1 December 2018.


The workshop will take place at the Al Akhawayn University Conference Center in Ifrane, Morocco.

يسرّني أن أعلن بدعوة للمشاركة في ورشة عمل حول المخطوطات الإباضية وثقافة المخطوط عند الإباضية. ستكون الورشة الخامس والسادس من شهر أبريل ٢٠١٩ في جامعة الأخوين في المغرب. تفاصيل المشاركة متوفرة هنا بالعربية والفرنسية والإنجليزية. آخر أجل لاستسلام الملخصات هو فاتح شهر دسمبر ٢٠١٨



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Preserving Endangered Archives in Jerba, Tunisia: The al-Bāsī Family Library | الحفاظ على الأرشيفات المهدّدة في جربة: مكتبة الباسي العائلية

JMS Cover

The Journal of Manuscript Studies (3:1, Spring 2018) has just published a short research annotation by my colleague Dr. Ali Boujdidi and myself, describing our project on the El Bessi (al-Bāsī) family library in Jerba, Tunisia. The article is available here on my page.

This project, carried out from July 2017-March 2018, included the inventorying and digitization of some two hundred manuscript volumes. This project was generously funded by the British Library and Arcadia’s “Endangered Archives Programme.” We are still working on organizing the data but the photos will soon be available on the British Library’s “Endangered Archives” website and I will soon be posting a short piece about the Ibadi texts in the original inventory from the 18th century.

نشرت مجلة الدراسات المخطوطية (٣:١، ربيع ٢٠١٨) مقالا ألّفناه أنا وزميلي د. علي بوجديدي حول مشروعنا للحفاظ على المخطوطات في مكتبة الباسي العائلية في جزيرة جربة. المقال موجود هنا في صفحتي الخاصة في “أكاديميا دوت إي دي يو.” ـ

قمنا بهذا المشروع خلال العامين ٢٠١٧ و٢٠١٨ وأشتمل المشروع تحضير جرد المخطوطات ورقمنتها. عدد المجلّدات في المكتبة حوالي ٢٠٠ مجلّد وأتى التمويل للمشروع من المكتبة البريطانية ومؤسسة أركاديا في الممكلة المتحدة في إطار برنامجهما “الأرشيفات على حافة الانقراض”. في المستقبل القريب، ستكون الصور كلها متوفّرة للجميع مجانا على موقع المكتبة البريطانية فالمقال القادم سأضيف بعض المعلومات حول المخطوطات الإباضية التي ذُكرت في جرد المكتبة الأصلية في القرن الثامن عشر


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New Online Resource for Ibadi and Omani Manuscripts & Newspapers | مرجع جديد للبحث حول المخطوطات الإباضية والجرائد متوفّر في الإنترنت


ُThe new “E-Library” of Ibadi and Omani-related texts and manuscripts, launched by the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs in Oman.

I was delighted to learn this past week of an amazing new collection of digital facsimiles of Ibadi manuscripts and related newspapers from Oman, Zanzibar, and the Mzab published online by the Omani Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs. The ministry’s Online Library is now live and offers an interface in Arabic, English, and French. It appears to still be under construction but the images are available, including full catalog entries for every title. This is an exciting new resource!

أسرّني في الأسبوع الماضي اكتشاف مجموع جديد من الصور الرقمنية للمخطوطات الإباضية وجرائد متعلّقة بالحماعات الإباضية من عمان وزنجبار ووادي مزاب قدّمتها وزارة الأوقاف والشؤون الدينية العمانية. توفّر “المكتبة الإلكترونية” صور المخطوطات وأوصافها من الفهارس أيضا. هذا فعلا مرجع مهمّ للغاية! ـ

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Unexpected Connections: Musa Bey Grada, the Ottomans, and the Buffalo Agency | روابط غير متوقعة: موسى بيك قرادة، العثمانيون، ووكالة الجاموس


Mūsā Bey Grāda (far right), Prefect of Yefren (d.1933). Image source: Wikipedia.

While working on an article on the history of Ibadi manuscripts at the Università degli Studi di Napoli L’Orientale (UNO) in Naples, I ran across an interesting connection between that article and a larger project of mine on Ibadis in early-modern Egypt.

Several of the UNO Ibadi manuscripts belonged to an Ottoman prefect in the town of Yefren in the Jebel Nafusa, where Ibadis have lived since the 8th century or so. The man’s name was Musa Bey “Grada” (d.1933) and it was in his office that several of the manuscripts were found in 1911-12 and subsequently transferred to the UNO in 1913. [1]

I suspect there is a solid paper trail for Musa Bey, since he went into exile in Tunis along with the famous Sulayman al-Baruni and the latter shows up as a preoccupation of the French colonial archive. [2] Thus far, however, I have not run across any references to Musa’s father’s or grandfather’s name. Recently, however, I found a possible connection between Grada, the Naples manuscripts, and the Ibadi school, trade agency, and library known as the “Buffalo Agency” (Wikalat al-Jamus) in Cairo.

In a hand list of endowed manuscripts that used to be help in the Buffalo Agency library, Jerban historian Shaykh Salim b. Yaʿqūb (d.1991) provides the following entry:

Grada passage from SbY List

From the “Catalog of ًًEndowed Books” (Qāʾimat al-kutub al-mawqūfa) in the Buffalo Agency Library. The original manuscript was in the hand of Shaykh Sālim b. Yaʿqūb (d.1991). This photograph was provided to me by Martin Custers, who has also published a full translation of the hand list here on  Many thanks to Martin for sharing these images with me.

[Kitab] al-Shifāʾ al-ḥāʾim ʿalā baʿḍ al-Daʿāʾim by the Imam al-Shaykh Abī al-Qāsim b. Abī Isḥāq Ibrāhīm al-Barrādī. Endowed (awqafahu) by the two brothers al-Ḥājj Yūnis and al-Ḥājj Sulaymān b. Shaʿbān and al-Sayyid Aḥmad b. Daḥmān. It’s copyist is Ibrāhīm b. Muḥammad b. Thābit al-Jarbī [, who copied it] in the beginning of Shawwāl 883 [1479]. At the beginning and end of [the manuscript], al-Ḥājj Saʿīd b. Mūsā Agrāda al-Yafranī wrote these historical words and they are: “This is the Kitab al-daʿāʾim. I bought it from the al-ʿAskar al-Manṣūr, ʿAskar Sīdī Aḥmad Bāshā, the Wālī of Tripolitania, who seized the fort of Jādū  in the year 1259 [1843-4]. I bought it for myself on the advice of the people of knowledge (ahl al-ʿilm wa-‘l-maʿrifa) for a price of eight Ishbīliyya, the currency of the titme (sikkat al-tārīkh). I am…al-Ḥājj Saʿīd b. Mūsā Agrāda al-Salāmī al-Yafranī, may God be kind to him. Āmīn! [3]

With the resources I have now, I cannot prove that this Sa’id b. Musa Agrada al-Salami al-Yafrani is the grandfather of Musa Bey Grada. In terms of dates and context, however, the connection would make sense. Sa’id was alive in the mid-19th century, Musa Bey was active in the early-20th century. Likewise, it is noteworthy that Sa’id says he purchased the manuscript from Sidi Ahmad Basha, the governor of Tripolitania, and that Musa Bey was himself an Ottoman official in Yefren in the early-20th century. Finally, the names of those who were responsible for endowing the book (the two sons of Ibn Shaʿbān and Ibn Daḥmān), endowed several manuscripts in the mid-19th century, which would conform to the date of purchase in Tripolitania. [4] The manuscript would therefore have traveled from Tripolitania to Cairo sometime in the decade or so after its purchase in Tripolitania.

This will require a bit more searching to demonstrate with certainty, but if the former owner of the manuscript was indeed Musa Bey’s grandfather it would provide an additional clear connection between Tripolitania and the Buffalo Agency in Ottoman-era Cairo. In any event, it serves as a reminder that Ibadi books and their owners and users were constantly on the move!

أثناء كتابة مقال حول تاريخ المخطوطات الإباضية في جامعة نابولي الشرقية، تعثرت على رابطة غير متوقعة بين تلك المخطوطات وبين مشروعي حول الإباضية في القاهرة في العصر الحديث. ترجع عدد من تلك المخطوطات إلى مكتبة المتصرف العثمانية في مدينة يفرن في جبل نفوسة واسمه موسى بيك “قرادة” (ت1933) انتقلت بعض المخطوطات والكتب الحجرية من مكتبه إلى مكتبة الكتب النادرة في جامعة نابولي الشرقية في أول القرن العشرين [1]ـ

أتصوّر أنّه يوجد تأريخ موثّق لحياة موسى بيك في الأرشيف الإستعماري بما أنّه كان صاحبا للشخصية الإباضية المعروفة والثائر المشهور سليمان الباروني باشا. [2] ولكني حتى الآن لم أجد ذكرا لاسم أبيه ولا جدّه. بصدفة، وجدت أخيرا رابطة محتملة بين قرادة والمخطوطات النابولية وبين تاريخ وكالة الجاموس في القاهرة التي لعبت عدّة أدوار اجتماعية للمجتمع الإباضي في مصر من ضمنها وكالة تجارية ومكتبة ومدرسة

في قائمة من الكتب الموقوفة في وكالة الجاموس، كتب المؤرّخ الجربي الشيخ سالم بن يعقوب مدخلا  حول مخطوط صاحبه اسمه “الحاج سعيد بن موسى اقراده السلامي اليفرني” [انظر الصورة في الأعلى والهامش 3]. اعتمادا على المصادر بين يدي حاليا لا أتمكن من تثبيت هوية الشخصية هذه ولكنّي أعتقد أنّه قد يكون جد موسى بيك قرادة نظرا للسياق التاريخ ولظروف شراء المخطوط من والي طرابلس في وسط القرن التاسع عشر. فوق ذلك، أصحاب وقف الكتاب (ولديْ شعبان وابن دحمان) معروفون بهداء عدّة مخطوطات إلى مكتبة وكالة الجاموس في وسط القرن التاسع عشر [4]ـ

ما زال يحتاج الموضوع إلى البحث والتثبيت ولكن إن كان سعيد بن موسى جد موسى بيك ليُظهر رابطة تاريخية بين إباضية  وكالة الجاموس وبين طرابلس في العصر العثماني. على كل، يذكّرنا هذا المثال تنقّلات المخطوطات الإباضية وأصحابها في العصر الحديث التي لم تتوقّف!ـ


[1] Details in my forthcoming article: “Provenance in the Aggregate: The social life of an Arabic manuscript collection in Naples” (Manuscript Studies, fall 2018)

[2] On Saʿīd al-Bārūnī, see: Amal N. Ghazal, “An Ottoman Pasha and the End of Empire: Sulayman al-Baruni and the Networks of Islamic Reform,” in Global Muslims in the Age of Steam and Print (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), 40–58.

[3] Translation adapted & expanded by that in M. Custers, “Catalog of Waqf-Books in the Wikālat al-Baḥḥār (Jāmūs), Ṭūlūn – Cairo” (Pt.1), pg.4.

[4] Details in my forthcoming article, “Ibadis on (and in) the Margins.
Manuscript notes from the Buffalo Agency in Early-Modern Cairo,” (Journal of Islamic Manuscripts, 2018)

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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.

[3] See:

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

[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)  [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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