Digitising Dagestan's Manuscript Heritage


Project Overview

Scene from Manuscript Scanning (July 2018)


The Ghumūqī Collection is important for many different reasons. First, the author himself, ʿAlī al-Ghumūqī (d. 1943) is a major figure in modern Daghestani intellectual history, whose oeuvre extends across an astonishing range of genres, languages, contexts, and cultures. As a provocative thinker whose writings on Islamic law earned him many critics as well as followers, the manuscripts he collected during his travels across the Middle East and within Daghestan are of interest in terms of shedding light on his intellectual formation, and on the vibrant intellectual milieu of early 20th century Daghestan on the eve of revolution. Further, al-Ghumūqī was one of the last Daghestanis during the Soviet period to receive extensive training in a major center of Islamic learning (al-Azhar University in Cairo). For all these reasons, the Ghumūqī Collection bridges the pre-Soviet period in Daghestani intellectual history, marked by the florescence of Islamic learning, with the post-Soviet present, wherein countless Daghestanis now seek to recover Daghestan’s Islamic past, while lacking access to this rich history.

Beyond the interest of ʿAlī al-Ghumūqī’s own intellectual formation, the Ghumūqī Collection is unparalleled in its temporal range, its geographical scope, and the depth of insight it offers into key issues pertaining to Daghestani history, the Caucasus, and the Islamic world generally. Unlike many of his fellow Daghestanis who collected manuscripts without any specific curatorial strategy, ʿAlī al-Ghumūqī pursued a carefully conceived curatorial programme. He sought out the oldest manuscripts found in Daghestan, and dedicated much of his efforts to obtaining manuscripts that existed in unique copies.

Although the Ghumūqī Collection has never been the subject of a scholarly study or survey, the importance of its holdings was recently made clear in a Russian-language interview (dated 4 March 2013) with Ilyas Kaiaev, the current caretaker of the Ghumūqī Collection, entitled “The Archive of Ali Kaiaev and the Fatwā of Ḥājjī Dāʼūd.”

Beyond its central importance to scholars of Daghestani Islam, the Caucasus, and the Russian empire broadly, the Ghumūqī Collection can enrich Arabic, Persian, and Turkic Studies generally, both through its holding of Yemeni and Egyptian works copied in Daghestan as well as of manuscripts that reached Daghestan from elsewhere in the Islamic world. Particularly for scholarly from abroad who stand to gain the most from this aspect of the Ghumūqī Collection, its holdings are currently beyond reach.

Profile of The al-Ghumuqi Project at the Endangered Archives Programme

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