Student digs up Malay texts in Egypt

Treasure trove of knowledge: Muhammad Nur Hadi looking for old indigenous texts in the book warehouse at Mustafa al-Halabi. — BernamaTreasure trove of knowledge: Muhammad Nur Hadi looking for old indigenous texts in the book warehouse at Mustafa al-Halabi. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian student in Egypt has collected nearly 200 books written by Malay scholars from the 1920s to the 1960s.Muhammad Nur Hadi Sallehuddin, a final year Usuluddin student at al-Azhar University, began the collection in 2020.

Most of the texts in his collection were printed by Mustafa al-Halabi, one of the oldest printing and bookselling companies in the country.Muhammad Nur Hadi said that these old books – indigenous Nusantara books (kitab turath) – were mostly written in Jawi and Acehnese script, covering various Islamic disciplines, including history and Arabic-Jawi dictionaries.

The said works were authored by renowned scholars from Malaysia, including the first National Tokoh Hijrah Maal recipient (1987) Dr Syeikh Idris al-Marbawi, Kelantan scholar Sheikh Jaafar Husein, and Kedah scholar Sheikh Abdullah Wan Ibrahim, apart from scholars from Indonesia and Pattani.

“For example, besides being known to play a major role in writing the Arabic-Jawi dictionary (kamus al-Marbawi), Sheikh Idris also interpreted Surah Yasin into three versions, namely the translation of his mafhum (thought), a translation from the works of Arab scholars into Javanese as well as translated summaries.

“Also recorded was the writing of the Arafah prayer by Sheikh Jaafar Husein and many more,” he told Bernama.

Muhammad Nur Hadi parsing through old Nusantara books found at Mustafa al-Halabi. — BernamaMuhammad Nur Hadi parsing through old Nusantara books found at Mustafa al-Halabi. — Bernama

He said that almost RM20,000 of his savings was spent to get the books, including other materials such as correspondence documents and iron stamps engraved with Jawi-Arabic script.Muhammad Nur Hadi, 24, said he became motivated to collect such old books from the archipelago as they have historical value, including being original prints in Egypt.

They are also valuable relics from past scholars, he said.

“When I first came to Egypt, I did not know the existence of this Jawi book (kitab turath) until a friend in Malaysia informed me. “In the beginning, I just took 25 books.

“Eventually a sense of responsibility arose in me to find and collect them.”Muhammad Nur Hadi, who is from Perak, said that his meeting with an Arab book dealer, Ammu Abdul Maula, while in Egypt was also one of the factors that facilitated his efforts to collect such books.

“Ammu, who is in his 70s, has been an employee of Mustafa al-Halabi for over 50 years and is knowledgeable about the storage of holy books printed by the company. “I have met him many times to find books on Malay lore.

“When he saw my interest and was convinced that I could keep the book for the future generations, he took me into the book warehouse and showed me the books on Malay traditions that were still there.

“So, that is where I get most of the titles that no longer have excess copies,” he said.

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Student , Egypt , Books , Malay scholars


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