Mohamed Diagayeté, Doctor of the EZ-ZITOUNA University in Islamic Sciences of Tunis in 2007, is dedicated to the study of ancient manuscripts from Mali, particularly those related to the Fula people. In this sense, he defended a thesis entitled: Contribution of the Fula people of Mali to Islamic civilization during the 18 and 19th centuries. Dr. Diagayeté has curated several exhibitions of ancient manuscripts in Mali, South Africa and Germany. He has also been a research fellow at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (France), the University of Beijing (China) and the University of Champaign-Urbana in Illinois (USA).
Mohamed Diagayeté has also participated in several national and international conferences. Some of his works have been published, along with articles, some of which are published, and others are in the process of being published. Since 4 April 2018, he has been General Director of the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research in Timbuktu.
Paper Abstract: The Challenges of Cataloguing and the Critical Editing of Islamic Manuscripts: The Case of the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu
The Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research in Timbuktu (IHERI-AB) is the largest manuscript preservation centre in Sub-Saharan Africa. It hosts approximately forty thousand (40,000) manuscripts covering various fields of knowledge, notably in relation to Fiqh, Hadith, literature, history, etc. This paper will address the meaning of cataloguing; that is to say, the standardised or normalised description of manuscripts. Cataloguing is also a scientific endeavour facilitating researchers’ and readers’ access to manuscripts.
We will note that, in order to be a good cataloguer, one must necessarily possess a very rich knowledge of Islamic culture allowing the cataloguer to authenticate manuscripts and authors, understand the types of writings – Maghrebi, Mashriqi and Sudanese – and apply any useful information that may improve the cataloguing of manuscripts.
Regarding the contents of the IHER-ABT, actual cataloguing began in the nineties (90’s), which allowed the publication of six (6) volumes by the Al-Furqan Foundation in London. Each volume contains 1500 titles. Other catalogues compiled with Ahmed Baba Institute materials were published locally under conditions set by donors. These works, however useful, are too limited for researchers to benefit from them.
Our presentation will also describe how we approached the critical editing of Institute materials; that is to say, the authentication of manuscript texts and their publishing for easier readability in comparison to handwritten texts. We will detail the challenges faced and difficulties overcome in composing the critical edition of certain manuscripts by local authors.
If the purported aim (the purpose) of the physical and electronic preservation of manuscripts is their scientific use – in other words, to edit them so as to popularise their content, because manuscripts are not museum pieces – this is one of the challenges we must overcome for the benefit of future generations.