Arabic Grammar

Arabic Grammar by Ibn Ajurrum al-Sanhaji

Introduced by Emma Balch 

Finding myself with a couple of hours to spare on my way from Hay-on-Wye to Buenos Aires, I went to the Africa: Word, Symbol and Song exhibition at the British Library.

It was hard to choose one book from an exhibition with such a broad scope. Aesthetically, though, this was one of the stand-out exhibits for me. It is also an example of the role that manuscripts and books have played in the exchange of knowledge across the different cultures within the region.

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It is a copy of a major work by the Moroccan scholar Ibn Ajurrum al-Sanhaji (1273-1323), in which he put the principles of Arabic grammar in verse form.

Many West African manuscripts are not illuminated – instead they feature calligraphic work. Arabic lends itself well to artistic expression, because of the flexibility of its letter shapes. This book, made by scribes in West Africa, is a stunning example. The five lines on each page are the original work, and the notation in smaller text was added by local scholars for teaching purposes.

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This book is an excellent example of the transfer of knowledge and scholarship across the Sahara. Trans-Saharan links brought both Islamic learning and a culture of books to great swathes of West Africa, from Mauritania in the north-west to Nigeria and Cameroon in the south-east.
Work on grammar OR 6953

Hay-on-Wye is twinned with Timbuktu, home to thousands of mediaeval manuscripts.
Hay 2 Timbuktu:
http://www.hay2timbuktu.org.uk/
The Tombouctou Manuscripts Project: 

http://www.tombouctoumanuscripts.org/

 

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