Sudanic Africa 2, 1991.

A note on Askiya al-hajj Muhammad's Meeting with al-Suyuti

John O. Hunwick

In the first issue of Sudanic Africa (1990) I published a translation of the account of Askiya al-hajj Muhammad and his successors by the enigmatic 'al-Imam al-Takruri'. Since that time I have unearthed a notebook of mine dating back to 1967 which contains some information on the Askiya's meeting with al-Suyuti which it seems worthwhile to publish now for the sake of completeness.

The note was made in Rabat while examining manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Générale et Archives under the kindly guidance of the late Muhammad Ibrahim al-Kattani. [1] The manuscript in question is from the Kattani collection and is numbered K1746. It is a copy of al-Minah al-hamida fi sharh al-farida, a work written by Muhammad Baba b. Muhammad al-Amin b. Habib b. al-Mukhtar al-Tinbukti (d. 1606). [2] Since the work is a commentary on a work of al-Suyuti­his Alfiyya or al-Farida fi 'l-nahw wa 'l-tasrif wa 'l-khatt­Muhammad Baba prefaces it with a biographical note on the original author. Although this is mainly based on material in al-Suyuti's Husn al-muhadara, there is a short passage of original material, as follows:

When the Commander of the Faithful Askiya al-hajj Muhammad entered Egypt on his way to perform the pilgrimage, he met with him [sc. al-Suyuti] and frequented him and put questions to him on various matters. [Al-Suyuti] composed for him al-Ahadith al-mutqina fi fadl al-saltana al-sharifa and mentioned at the beginning of it that he had made it 'a gift for the sultan, the just and upright king who strives in the way of God (al-mujahid), by whom is meant he who upholds the right, who speaks the truth, the king of Takrur, Askiya [al-hajj Muhammad].' . . . Indeed, his conduct was good and his heart well-disposed. Through him God brought relief to his servants after Sunni (sic) 'Ali just as he brought relief through 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz after al-Hajjaj. [3]
Al-Ahadith al-mutqina fi fadl al-saltana al-sharifa is indeed a known work of al-Suyuti. Brockelmann lists copies in Cairo and Patna, [4] while a recent guide to manuscripts of al-Suyuti's works and their locations lists a copy in the Zahiriyya, Damascus and one in Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyya. [5] Attempts will be made to secure one or more copies of the work and a further note will appear if the work does indeed turn out to be dedicated to Askiya Muhammad.


1 Muhammad Ibrahim al-Kattani, who died on 18 November 1990, was the doyen of Moroccan historians who devoted his life to exploring the manuscript resources for Moroccan history and who took a lively interest in Morocco's cultural connections with sub-Saharan Africa. [*]

2 In an earlier article I mistakenly attributed this work to the better known Ahmad Baba al-Tinbukti. See my 'Ahmad Baba and the Moroccan invasion of the Sudan (1591), J. Hist. Soc. of Nigeria, ii, 3, 1962, 311. That attribution was taken from a copy I examined in September 1961 at the Shahuci Juducial School, Kano, with the kind permission of its then principal Alhaji Nasiru Kabara. He informed me that copies of the work are plentiful in northern Nigeria and that it was a common study text. [*]

3 A reference to the Caliph 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz (717-20), generally considered by Muslims a wise and just ruler and often named as the mujaddid of the first century of Islam, and to the Umayyad governor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi, notorious for his harsh measures in dealing with turbulence. [*]

4 See GAL, II, 151147. [*]

5 Ahmad al-Khazindar and Ibrahim al-Shaybani, Dalil makhtutat al-Asyuti wa-amakin wujudiha, Kuwait 1983, item 72. [*]

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