Crimean Manuscripts In Lviv: The New Discoveries

Mr.Mykhailo Yakubovych, Orientalist
Rate this article: 
(482 votes)
Михайло Якубович
Михайло Якубович's picture

Curiously enough, far West of Ukraine is interesting for Islamic researchers not less than the South-East. For instance, there’s Lviv, whose Muslim community increased dramatically due to the latest events, and a new Muhammad Asad Islamic Cultural Centre was opened last July. Many important dates of Islamic history of Ukraine are somehow related to Lviv: interpreter of Qur’an Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss) was born here in 1900, first Ukrainian translation of the verses of Qur’an was made here in 1913-1914 (by Lviv University graduate Mr.Olexandr Lysenetsky), Lviv Orientalist Mr.Yarema Plotniuk translated the Meccan Chapters of the Qur’an to Ukrainian directly from Arabic in 1990ies.

However, those aren’t the only treasures of Lviv’s “Islamic History”, as proved by materials of local Museum of History of Religions, that are really important for studying Islam in Ukraine. In 1970ies, scriptures from Zincirli Medrese (the oldest Crimean Muslim educational institution founded in 1500 and working until 1920ies when it was closed by Bolshevik occupants) were transferred here. The scriptures still have the stamps indicating they belonged to “Zincirli Medrese in Bakhchisaray”.

Although several years ago most of the scriptures were, unfortunately, returned to Crimea, several important texts still remain in Lviv. Taking into account the complexity of those scriptures (with their long history, pastings, annexes, and restorations in the ancient times), formal description in terms of canonical science can be made for only separate studies, by close examination of paper and ink and other material characteristics. Due to this, only their context will be examined in terms of this article, for the purpose of a better and more accessible.

The first and very interesting work  (accession code number 6494) is a manuscript of an Arabic-written piece with a long title “Majalis al-Arar wa Masalik al-Ahyar wa Maha’ik al-Bidaa ws Makami al-Ashrar” (“The Assembly of the Righteous, The Paths of the Best, The Destructors of Modifications in Religion and the Rivals of the Most Unrighteous”) by an Ottoman author Ahmad Ar-Rumee al-Hanafee (died in 1632). It is written by a disciple of so called Qadizadelizm (named after a preacher Mehmet Qadizade), directed against deviations from Sunnah and to revival of genuine Islam. The author describes religious beliefs and practises in 100 chapters, constantly stressing that there can be no “good modifications” in religion, for if some new practises are in terms of Sharian, it becomes Sunnah, not “modification”. In general, there are dozens of copies of this manuscript in the libraries all over the world; there’s even a printed critical version published in 2007 at Islamic University of Madinah (Saudi Arabia).

In general, the Lviv manuscript matches the other copies, and it’s been rewritten by a man named ‘Abd al-Gaffar bin Bagadirshag in 1216 hijri (1801), as indicated in the signature on the last page. Despite the fact we have no information about the place where the manuscript was written, it’s probably Crimea, for, as told by Mr.Refat Abdujemilev, Bagadirshag was a common name in Crimea.

It’s also remarkable that the manuscript contains so-called glossos (Arab. “khashiat”), notes of the latter times in the margin, signed by the word “Qady”, which can mean “a Judge”. All in all, this manuscript, directly related to Crimea, indicates that Qadizadelizm spread over the Ottoman Empire in early XVII and was popular on Southern territories of Ukraine even after Crimea was occupied by the Russian Empire. At least two authors who were adepts of Qadizadelizm originated from Crimea in XVII, namely Muhammad al-Qafawee (died in 1754) and Kutb ad-Deen al-Qirimee (died after 1970). They opposed the modifications associated with popular forms of Sufizm and called first of all for moral revival of the Muslim community. Clearly, the manuscript of Ahmad ar-Rumee was read in late XIX and even early XX, during the period of Islamic reformism in Crimea and Muslim world in general.

Another manuscript, equally interesting, is about the Qur’anic studies (accession code number 6495). Despite the first chapters are lost, more than two thirds of the remaining sheets contain the interpretations of Qur’an “Anwar at-Tanzeel” (The Lanterns of Sending) by Abdullah al-Baidauwee (died in 1286/1310). This text, which by no doubt had been the source No.1 in learning the interpretations of the Qur’an in the Ottoman Empire, has glossos in the margin by Muhiddin Sheikh-Zade (died in 1544). Supposedly, due to the state of paper, this interpretation was also re-written in Crimea, not in early XIX, but in XVIII or even in XVII century. There’s also a printed version of this source (in 8 volumes, by Dar al-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah, 1999). Same as the previous text, Khashya be Sheikh-Zade contains annexes written, most likely, by one of the Crimean readers.

It’s worth mentioning that it were Crimean-born scholars who promoted that interpretation by Abdullah al-Baidauwee in their times.For example, one of the first Ottoman glossos, similar to Khashia by Sheikh-Zade, was written in the middle of XIV by Ahmad al-Qirimee, who moved to Anatolia after being educated in his Homeland by a Hanafi scholar Ibn al-Bazzazee. It’s worth recalling that there were also several interpretations of Qur’an by by Abdullah al-Baidauwee, all of others, that were transferred to Bakhchisaray Historical and Cultural Conservancy Area several years ago.

Finally, the third manuscript in Arabic (with it’s beginning and ending are likely missing) relates to Philology (accession code number 6493). As specified after a long researсh and comparative analysis, this is an unknown authors glosso to the anonymous interpretation of Yakub bin ‘Ali al-Burusawee’s (died in 1524) work “Irab Dibbajatu-l-Misbah”. The manuscript is dated by 1080 (1669) and rewritten by Mustapha ben Bakhee, and the very anonymous interpretation was written no later than in 1643, for this is the dating of another copy of the same work that now is in the Manuscript Department of King Abd-al-Azeez er-Riyyadee Public Library (Saudi Arabia, access code 298). The glossos to this anonymous interpretation could be written in Crimea or re-written from some Ottoman source. Unfortunately, ex libris stamps of the owners that can be found on the pages are almost impossible to read, so tracking the full story of each manuscript needs more research.

Besides the listed above, there are other things that are directly related to the intellectual history of Crimean Khanate, namely handwritten Qur’ans (mushafs), on which research of Crimean Tatar tradition of re-writing Qur’an can be done. There are also some Muslim printed editions in Arab and Tatar languages (mostly published in Kazan, except for an old print of theological work by Adud ad-Deed al-Ijee “Kitab al-Mawakif”, published in Istanbul in late XIX).

The above mentioned manuscripts aren’t all the Crimean heritage still remaining in Ukraine: several manuscripts rewritten in Crimean medrese are kept at the National Vernadskii Library. Such things are also found from time to time in regional museums and private collections, for no one really cared about that heritage during XX, especially after the Crimean Tatars were deported; moreover, it was dangerous to do this openly. Even more manuscripts are now beyond Crimea and Ukraine, including those written in Bujak and Edisan (which is, on the territory of modern Odessa and Mykolaiv regions).

Of course, it’s hardly possible to collect all those manuscripts in one place (in terms of one Musleum or exhibition). Anyway, a catalogue can be made to estimate the real input of the Crimean Khanate to Islamic intellectual tradition, and this task is bearable for Ukrainian researchers. Another problem is, this needs a serious amount of investments, but without this work the Crimean heritage will be, step by step, pocketed by the aggressor, as they “pocketed” the Crimean peninsula and many pages of the Ukrainian history.

The author’s tributes to the Lviv Museum of History of Religions staff who kindly allowed to examine the manuscripts.

Mr.Mykhailo Yakubovych, Orientalist
special for “Islam in Ukraine”


Log in or register to post comments
If you find an error, select the desired text and press Ctrl + Enter, to notify the publisher.