Channel: Abdullah Hakim Quick
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There's a popular saying that the journey of 1000 miles often starts with a single step. So it was for me, it's like cross the desert, taking the last few steps and reaching the gates of the famous city of Timbuktu. It has been one of my life's mission to set foot in this oasis of learning. Ever since I first heard about Timbuktu.
Like many travelers before me, I too have reached the gates of Timbuktu Timbuktu the mysterious Timbuktu, the holder of secrets. Timbuktu, the center of knowledge.
The mythical city of Timbuktu is found at the edge of the Sahara Desert in the country of Mali. Today, the desert is slowly encroaching on and upon entering the city, I was amazed to see how ancient could still appear. I can only think of former explorers who journeyed across the Sahara to find Timbuktu. Some perished while others survived. The city was for centuries, close to not possible, and whosoever dare to venture inside its walls would quickly put to death. One of my first questions was to find out how the city was born.
Meaning of Timbuktu depends on historians. According to some historians, Timbuktu came from tin, which is in the local trunk, the wealth and book to that was the lady in charge of nomads lodges, because when numbers are moving, they leave heavy luggage is with that lady, okay. And at the time, the place took the name of thin book to Timbuktu was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was a type of Shangri La, or Atlantis, where people thought that there was a Land Beyond the deserts of the Sahara, where gold lined the streets. And people put gold into the ceilings. And they were famous kings would lavish their guests with gifts of all different types. And it was a type of
sumptuous kingdom, where desert Bedouins would meet with the people of the rivers, and all types of travelers from different parts of the world would gather.
Timbuktu became one of the most important Southwestern capitals where they could send scholars, they could get information. Also, the Quran that were being written in Timbuktu were famous, the beautiful calligraphy, the golden calligraphy, and the type of script. And the leather binding was famous. So it became a commercial center. And then later on, it became an intellectual center because the scholars generally were traveling with the caravans, and the knowledge was moving along with the caravans. And so therefore, it was a natural place for the scholars to reside. So it's a meeting place of agricultural people of nomadic people.
Straight out desert people, and scholars came from all of these groups. So when you look at the history of Timbuktu, you will see that the different groups gave their scholarship at different points in history. So Timbuktu has different phases within its existence, and all of the groups participated in the different phases of development.
Even though Timbuktu has today lost its former glory, I was amazed at how the city has withstood the elements. The Town Center is filled with sights and sounds and colors. And the hustle and bustle remind you of modern cities throughout West Africa.
The Streets of Timbuktu hold many secrets. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the House of one of the greatest teachers in the history of Timbuktu is still in existence. Check Mohammed Babu, the teacher of check Ahmed Baba
We are blessed here in the house of Sheikh Mohammed Baba Yaga to be in the presence of one of his relatives. This is one of the great grandsons of the Shaq Shaq Muhammad and one Gary bakayoko. And he is the Imam of the masjid CDR here, and a very important personality here in Timbuktu
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ever since the first Egyptians discovered the art of writing,
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in time, recording of history evolved into books of knowledge, and in Timbuktu ancient texts can still be found. Libraries have been set up in the homes of families and I was fortunate to be allowed access to
one of the best kept secrets in the city of Timbuktu is right here in this house. The treasure chest of Sheikh Mohammed Baba Yaga with his books is here. And our brother city Mokhtar from his family will open up this invaluable storehouse of knowledge
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the scholars of old are all learned better and pursued knowledge because of their love of Islam. Many of them were imams or mosques and it chef backwoods case. This is no different. As a descendant of chef Baba Hugo. He is also the
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This is the master of CDR here. It was originally built in the 14th century by Shakti Brahim hemella of the famous Quinta clan. He had a dream that this Masjid would be visited by a famous Saint awali. And so he locked the masjid for 40 years. Then there came cd yahia, at least from Andalusia. At that point, Shan Ibrahim realized that this was the fulfillment of the dream. He opened up the masjid and this mosque has been serving the people of Timbuktu from the 14th century, and it represents one of the most important areas of learning and prayers in the city of Timbuktu.
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Spending time in such a steel company, I decided to walk to absorb all that I had seen.
I had barely walked a few meters when I stumbled upon the bucket, the electric atmosphere and golf me. Before I knew it, I was drawn to to barter with one of the trades. I couldn't help but imagine how alive
Timbuktu was a place where gold was traded for salt. It was a place with fine clothing, where leather goods were all types of implements for living retreated by the people.
I decided to remain in the marketplace and visit a few more stores down the dusty streets and alleyways I can find amazing treasures. I knew this from my previous travels to ancient cities. And it wasn't long before I stumbled upon a real book by one of the great scholars.
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As I page through the works of this Maliki scholar from Morocco, my mind wanders to another great scholar
Shabbat Baba was taken prisoner from Timbuktu to block time of his deportation. Check. Ahmed Baba had one of the largest libraries in Timbuktu.
This is the home of check Ahmed Baba Sudan, one of the most famous scholars of Timbuktu and a name that is being remembered all throughout the world. Mohammed Baba spent years in captivity in the north, but he never forgot his home in Timbuktu and he never forgot his responsibility to knowledge.
Although many of his books were taken to Morocco, his legacy and Timbuktu lives on to a documentation center set up in 1967 by UNESCO,
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the admin barber Center has become the focal point of the revival and documentation of the manuscripts of Timbuktu.
in 2002, South African president Thabo Mbeki visited the city and was so impressed by what he saw that he said about making the preservation of the manuscripts of presidential project. This center that we are at now is called the Ahmed Bhabha center. The spirit is that of a great scholar who spent his life in pursuit of knowledge and preservation of Islamic heritage. This center, which was founded in 1967, has expanded to the point where it houses over 120,000 manuscripts.
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Today, the city is at a crossroads. modernization is coming into the city, and it is changing the lifestyle within Timbuktu. The scholars are hanging on to the scholarship, they are bringing forth the documents and trying to let the younger generation see that they have a great tradition, they should be proud of themselves, proud of being Africans, proud of being Muslims, and not ashamed of their color, not ashamed of their identity.
But of course, modernization. Globalization is striking Timbuktu as it is striking the rest of the world. So the scholars are now in a struggle to try to to to bring Timbuktu into the modern world, to digitize their libraries to use modern technology. But at the same time, keep that spirit from the ancient world from Timbuktu when it had reached such a high level within West Africa.
The state of the books, really is in crisis. Weather has deteriorated the texts, also the termites, beetles are eating away from the paper and eating at the different bindings. And so literally, it is a race, you know, to preserve that knowledge that was left from the past. And so scholars are coming forward, families are coming forward and realizing you don't have to give away your treasure. Now a picture can be taken, and then we can categorize this, we can preserve the picture and then they can preserve their text. And also, what is being done is that documentation centers are being developed with actual texts themselves can be preserved in an air conditioned climate. And they can be treated
in such a way that the the materials can be preserved for coming generations.
In his speech, I am an African president Mbeki talks about making the 21st century the African century. These words carry deep meaning. But it's not only to the future, we need to look. Africa's past legacy speaks volumes for itself. The first universities in the world, as well as many inventions can be attributed to the pioneers of Africa. Timbuktu had its own chapter within the system. When I first laid eyes on second quarter university, I imagined the 1000s of students who graduated from Timbuktu is hot. In fact, it is unbearably with temperatures reaching 50 degrees Celsius. One has to wonder what made them come here and what made them stay.
prophetic say seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave acted as one of the wisdom students at St. Gallen they were spurred on by the Islamic beliefs and excelled in medicine, astronomy, theology, Islamic law, and a host of other subjects.
Six years ago, we discovered a manuscript dealing with mathematics. And it's dealing with algebra, we translate it into France, we send it to Paris, to know the level as a result, the same program is given nowadays as the second year of mathematics school in France. And that manuscript or that program was given here at the University of South Korea by the 16th century. Now when we deal with Islamic scholarship, you deal with that
The concept of fatwah and effect is a religious decision that meets our special needs in a special environment. So therefore, for instance, when decisions had to be made about currency, how much should we charge for gold? Or should we tax you know that the travelers, they would go to Timbuktu. And as the scholars give us a federal when they wanted to decide between borderlines of empires, they will ask for a federal in Timbuktu. The scholars in Timbuktu were also known as peacemakers. Whenever there was a difficulty in different parts of the world of the West, West African world, they would go to the area and they would make peace. Timbuktu became a pinnacle of knowledge, and a
sort of grand court, a supreme justice, where the the ultimate decisions could be made for the kings. And we're at the same time a common person, but find the scholar and have a religious decision made in
Islam, by its very nature, encourages people to read. The first revelation given to the Prophet Muhammad SAW some of them was a crop, it brought this mirror become deadly holla read in the name of your Lord who has created the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him actually said al hikmah dolla to lookman. That wisdom, knowledge is the last property of a belief, anywhere he finds it, he is the most deserving of it. Islam benefited humanity in that it gave a type of tawheed ik, a unified approach to creation and a unified approach to knowledge. So Islam then unifies the concept of one God is unified unifies the human race. So black, white, brown, and yellow all see each other as part
of one family. Also, there's a type of tawheed or unity in knowledge. So Muslims were able to gather the knowledge of people from all different societies, put it together in the light of their understanding of one God and then develop a system, algebra and calculus, trigonometry came out of that unified approach, the scientific method, the concept used by the world today to approach science was actually developed by Muslims in the Golden Age.
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good documentation process, some families choose to hang on to their own private collections.
In some cases, the books are not taken care of properly, and some very important work.
Other private libraries, however, take great pride in the works they have and go to great lengths to maintain. I visited the Bahama County Library, where I was pleasantly surprised at the condition.
One of the most unique collections of manuscripts in Timbuktu is the Sheikh Mohammed caty connection. This was based upon the connection between Andalusia and Spain and West Africa, whereby the great grandfather of this family migrated from Andalusia in the 15th century and married the daughter of a skier Mohammed today, the great leader of the Songhai Empire, their son, Mohammed, Cathy became a great scholar and wrote Tata potash, one of the most important histories of Timbuktu and of West Africa. This collection is now available to the public, the family has come together and gathered their works and they are showing it to the public, and it is now one of the most important
and unique collections of Arabic manuscripts in this city.
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after the Ahmed Bhabha center, probably the most well known center for the collection of documentation is the mama Hydra Memorial Library. Mama Hydra himself was one of the most well known collectors of manuscripts in the Timbuktu area. And he left a very large responsibility to his young son AbdulQadir, who was 17 at the time of the death of his father, Abdulkadir since that time, has been able to collect over 12,000 documents for the Ahmed Baba center, and then establish his own Memorial Library for his father and his previous generations. And for all those who have collected these manuscripts in the Timbuktu area
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Timbuktu's fame became International, partly due to the ruler of Mali, Mansa Musa in the 14th century, Mansa Musa undertook a journey that was to become legendary in the annals of history. pilgrimage to Mecca is incumbent on any Muslim. When Mansa Musa embarked on his pilgrimage to Mecca, he crossed West Africa at the Sahara desert with up to 72,000 followers. Timbuktu was also very important for the rulers of the region, because it represented the intellectual capital. Mansa Musa was one of the great kings of the empire of Mali, the premier producer of gold and exporter of gold in the world. So naturally, the kings of Mali were considered to be some of the richest people on
the face of the planet Earth. manesar can can Moosa in the year 1324 set out to make his pilgrimage to Mecca. But what was different about his journey is that he carried somewhere between 60 to 72,000 followers with him. He carried 15,000 camels laden with gold, and many soldiers and they, they literally change the economy of every country that they reached. He not only came back with his followers, but he brought along with him, architects, scholars, and artisans. It is said that everywhere, Mansa Musa stopped, he built a mosque. Every time he stopped. When he reached Timbuktu. He fell in love with the city, he brought with him, an Andalusia architect called sack sad, and he
paid him a lot of money to build the his Mosque of Ganga river, that is nowadays, what heritage sites
are Mansa Musa has returned from pilgrimage his wish was to visit the city of Timbuktu when he arrived here, he was astounded at the level of knowledge of the scholars. His gift to the city was the jingle a Bama today, the Jim Goody bear mask is still the main mosque in Timbuktu and this is most evident at the Friday.
This is the site of the jinga a beer master and master beer. It was founded in 1325. From that time until now, Friday prayers have been held and all of the people of Timbuktu come to this
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The learning in Timbuktu has not stopped all across the town Islamic schools empower young children through the program. They still recite, read and write in Arabic.
This is a typical Quran school in the jungle a bear section of Timbuktu. It was founded three generations ago by Sheikh Mohammed amin, and his people came out of the Sahara desert region. And in this tradition, the madressa continues on with over 120 students. The students are memorizing the Quran, they are all different levels of study. And as part of their
life as a student, not only do they memorize the Quran, but they also work, and they prepare their own food, and it becomes like a community within itself.
The women of Timbuktu have always been involved in intensive learning. Today, study circles are popping up all over the city, where women receive a complete Islamic education.
This is an important development. For when you educate a man, you educate an individual. But when you educate a woman, you educate a family
come back to today is special in the sense that Timbuktu flies in the face of myths of racism, it destroys the myth, that black people that African people are ignorant people, it destroys the myth that literacy and science and progress was from the north, and it came south. So it flies in the face of the north south racist type of concept, because this is now knowledge in the south. And it is going north as well. Also Timbuktu at its height, and you're talking about from the 12th century, and then reaching by the 16th century, its height, it has university like sapkota University with over 25,000 students. Now this is long before so bone, and before Oxford University, University of
London. So at that time, black African people were the pinnacle of knowledge, they will not only studying Islamic subjects in the sense of Quran and Hadith, but they will also studying math, science, medicine, geography, optics, it is said by a Saudi in his study in Sudan, that one of his relatives needed to have an eye operation. And he went to Germany, the city of gender. And this was actually successful. So they were performing cataract eye operations. And so they read such a high level of science and astronomy. And so this astronomical knowledge, this mathematical knowledge, was, you know, on a very high level here in Timbuktu, but one of the areas that is not spoken up so
much is the knowledge of spirituality, that knowledge of sn, how do you purify your soul? How do you come closer to the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the scholars in Timbuktu and the Sahara region, were able to go to a very high level of the spirituality and to actually train people how to clean their souls, and how to prepare themselves for death. So Timbuktu is a very important meeting place of materials and spiritualism. So it is a place where your materials no longer control you. Your spirituality controls you, your materials sustain you. And so in that sense, Timbuktu is one of the greatest centers of learning not only in Africa, but in the world.