Training Courses on the Preservation of Historical Documents

IRCICA held two training courses on the restoration of historical documents and manuscripts, in 1990 and 1993 respectively, which it organised in its capacity as the Executive Secretariat of the International Commission for the Preservation of Islamic Cultural Heritage (ICPICH). These courses were held at Suleymaniye Library in Istanbul. The first course, organised with financial assistance from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP, New York), was attended mostly by trainees from African member countries: Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, Senegal, and also from Syria, Azerbaijan and Turkey. The second one had participants from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Brunei Darussalam and Azerbaijan.

IRCICA was also co-organiser in Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation's (London) Second Training Course on the Cataloguing and Classification of Islamic Manuscripts. This course was organised by the Foundation jointly with IRCICA and Suleymaniye Library in Istanbul, on 29 August-3 October 1994. The twenty-three participants were selected from among nominees from Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kyrghyzstan, Uzbekstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Tajikistan, in addition to participants from institutions in Turkey including Istanbul University, Ankara University, and the General Directorate of Foundations. H.E. Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, President of Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation (London) gave the inaugural address at the opening ceremony of the training course. The ceremony welcomed a special guest: H.E. Dr. Enes Karic, Minister of Culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who also gave an address. Both theoretical and practical aspects of manuscript studies were taught to the participants.

Al-Furqan Foundation had organised the First Training Course on the Cataloguing of Manuscripts in Cairo, Egypt in January-February 1994 in cooperation with Cairo University. Cataloguers from Arab and African countries had participated in the course. The second training course was held at the Süleymaniye Library in Istanbul.

The teaching staff of the second course consisted of the following scholars and specialists: Dr. Abdussettar Helvacı, Dr. Kasım Ahmed Samarrai, Dr. Jan Just Witkam, Prof. Ibrahim Shabbouh, Dr. Iraj Afshar, Dr. Yahya Saati, Mr. Muammer Ülker, Dr. Ramazan Şeşen, Dr. Günay Kut, Dr. İsmail Erünsal, Dr. Candan Nemlioğlu.

Twenty-three cataloguers participated in the course. They were selected from among the nominees from Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kosova, Tajikistan, besides the participants from institutions in Turkey including Istanbul University, Ankara University, and the General Directorate of Waqfs.

During the first two weeks the trainees took theoretical courses on the following topics: the emergence and historical development of Islamic manuscripts (Arabic, Turkish, and Persian); cataloguing and classification of Islamic manuscripts; Arabic script and samples of works written in this script; methods and principles in the study of manuscripts; the development of writing materials such as papyrus, various types of paper, ink, etc.), the establishment and development of libraries; the arts which are related to manuscripts and their historical development (calligraphy, miniature, bookbinding, gilding, etc.); manuscript collections located in the libraries of Turkey. The courses were given in Arabic, English, Turkish or Persian; translation was provided into Turkish and Arabic.

In the last three weeks, the trainees collected bibliographic information on rare manuscript works and filled out bibliographic sheets which are necessary for preparing catalogues. In this period experts on manuscripts, namely Prof. Nasrullah Tirazi, Dr. Mahmud Tanahi, Mr. Abdullah Uysal, Dr. Nevzat Kaya, and Dr. Ali Öngül supervised the cataloguing work of the trainees and helped them solve the difficulties they encountered in the practical sessions of the training course.

H.E. Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani gave the inaugural address at the opening ceremony of the training course, expressing his happiness that the Second Session of the Training Course on the Cataloguing of Islamic Manuscripts was being held in Istanbul. On behalf of Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, he thanked Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin IhsanoŸlu and Mr. Muammer Ülker for their full and unlimited support, help, and cooperation in the organisation of this project. Sheikh Yamani stated that Muslims inherited a huge number of manuscripts that are scattered all over the world. Unfortunately, a considerable part of it is lost. It is necessary to preserve the rest of these manuscripts and bring them to light. He pointed out that Al-Furqan is one of the many institutions established to realize this goal. The task is a big one, and everyone who has the ways and means to help should assist. He expressed his satisfaction that Al-Furqan has succeeded to begin the survey of Islamic manuscripts all over the world. Hence, we know where to find these manuscripts and in which languages. He added that in addition to surveying manuscripts, we should also catalogue them. The art of cataloguing Islamic manuscripts is very difficult, those who can do it are getting very rare, and there are many difficulties, such as the language problem. This is why Al-Furqan Foundation decided to embark on a project of training university graduates and especially librarians on the cataloguing of Islamic manuscripts. H.E. Sheikh Yamani expressed his pleasure that from Istanbul it is possible to assist the newly independent States in Central Asia, Caucasia and the Balkans, and institutions and individuals concerned in Turkey.

The inaugural ceremony welcomed a special guest: H.E. Dr. Enes Karic, Minister of Culture of Bosnia and Hercegovina. Dr. Enes Karic spoke of the history and culture of Bosnia and Hercegovina, pointing out that throughout history Bosnia was a crossroads of civilisations. Bosnian population consisted of three major elements: Bogomil, Catholic and Orthodox people. With the advent of Islam, the Bogomil (Bosnian) Church was replaced by Islam. He pointed out that the spread of Islam in Bosnia and Hercegovina did not destroy the multireligious and multicultural structure of the country. Bosnia became a homeland of Islam, but simultaneously remained Catholic and Orthodox. Owing to the flexible Ottoman rule, its socio-economic structure was not disrupted. Dr. Karic made a differentiation between the "spread of Islam" and the "Islamization" of Bosnia since Islam was not imputed or imported by force and sword. There is strong evidence for this in today's Bosnia where there are mixed villages of Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox people. He pointed out that Islamic civilisation in Bosnia has a universal as well as a domestic nature. There is no branch of the global Islamic culture which remained unknown in Bosnia. For many centuries, the Bosniaks have been familiar with the ideas of Rumi and those of Dante; the ideas of Ibn-i Sina as well as those of Copernicus. He said that there are very valuable manuscript copies of Ghazali's šhya Ulum al-Din copied by a Bosnian only five years after Ghazali's death. Gazi Husrev Bey Library in Sarajevo contains almost every key commentary on the Holy Qur'an which was copied by Bosnians. Today as a result of the war, more than 800 mosques, masjids, libraries and bridges have been destoyed in Bosnia. More than 200.000 Muslims were brutally killed and over 800.000 Muslims were expelled in the process of the so-called "ethnic cleansing" policy. Enes Karic expressed his belief that Bosnia will survive because the Bosnians have been defending it for almost three years. He expressed his hope to be able to hold a session of Al-Furqan Foundation's training courses in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo in near future.

Mr. Muammer Ülker, Director of the Süleymaniye Library pointed out in his address that as the largest library in the world that contains Islamic manuscripts, the Süleymaniye Library houses one hundred thousand manuscripts and valuable old printed works. He added that it is a natural duty of the Süleymaniye Library to cooperate in the organisation of this training course since Islamic cultural heritage is common to all Muslims and they should all benefit from it. He stated that the present session of the training course, organised by Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, is the most meaningful of such activities on the international level in which the Süleymaniye Library participated.

Then, IRCICA Director General Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu pointed out that Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation has taken big steps in the cataloguing and presentation of Islamic manuscripts in the world. Three great volumes on the survey of Islamic manuscripts c in the most important collections all over the world are already published by Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation. The third volume is on the way. Prof. Dr. İhsanoğlu emphasized that many of the collections of Islamic manuscripts need the attention of those who can handle them and publish them for the benefit of the world of learning and culture. So, the second natural step in the long process was to train people to work on the cataloguing of the manuscripts, i.e. the curators or potential curators and cataloguers. He said that the organizers were lucky to have the full cooperation of academies of sciences, universities and other institutions which deal with collections of Islamic manuscripts. It was also fortunate to hold this activity in the beautiful historical building of the Süleymaniye Library which houses the biggest collection of Islamic manuscripts in the world. Prof. Dr. İhsanoğlu then gave information on the studies conducted at IRCICA in the field of Islamic manuscripts. He pointed out that since the day IRCICA began its activities, the Centre has given manuscripts, as the main sources of Islamic cultural heritage, the utmost importance. He stated that with the contributions of Dr. Ramazan œeen and his colleagues in the Department of Manuscripts, the Centre has published three volumes of the Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Köprülü Library, as well as the Union Catalogue of Medical Manuscripts in the Libraries of Turkey and the list of the manuscripts on Ibn Khaldun in Turkey (with the cooperation of Dar al-Hikmah in Tunisia). He pointed out that studies are going on to publish a bio-bibliography on manuscripts on astronomy produced during the Ottoman period. He said that another project finalized by the Centre is the catalogue of Islamic manuscripts found in Cyprus. On behalf of his colleagues at the Centre, Prof. Dr. İhsanoğlu expressed his happiness to cooperate with Al-Furqan Foundation which is becoming the centre of excellence in the field of Islamic manuscripts. He thanked H.E. Sheikh Zaki Yamani for his continuous support and Al-Furqan Secretariat for their efforts. He said that himself and the staff of IRCICA are honoured to welcome H.E. Dr. Enes Karic, Minister of Culture of Bosnia Hercegovina. IRCICA Director General also expressed his thanks to Mr. Muammer Ülker and the staff of the Süleymaniye Library, the Ministry of Culture and, in particular, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey for providing the necessary channels to contact all the countries concerned. He also thanked the teaching staff of the training course.

The training course ended with a ceremony where certificates were presented to the trainees.