The Power of Timbuktu: Libraries in Exile – By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine

The Power of Timbuktu: Libraries in Exile

By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine

Canoes, carts, and camels. These were some of the methods used to save the manuscripts of Timbuktu. The story of Timbuktu is one of power in the written word and the struggles that it took to preserve it.

‘The ink of the scholar is more valuable than the blood of the martyr.’ This was a popular saying taken from the works of Ahmed Baba in 1603. Ahmed Baba was one of the most famous scholars in Timbuktu. This distant, mysterious and once powerful city has produced a rich stream of knowledge that continues to influence our thinking.

Read More: Profile- The Power of Timbuktu – By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine

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  • guyaneseonline  On June 4, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    C. Â-Re Published on Sep 2, 2015

    In the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, thousands of scientific and religious texts have been hidden for centuries. This program examines the rich history and variety of Timbuktu’s lost libraries. Scholars from across Africa and the Western world elucidate how valuable these fragile treasures are to our knowledge of Africa, Islam, and the growth of literacy outside the Western tradition. The program also asks: how differently would Africa have developed if the libraries hadn’t been forced underground by colonial interests?

    A BBC Production. Category Education

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On June 5, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Some quotes and comments/questions:

    “Timbuktu [on the Niger founded in the 11th C.] has shown that Africa had a Renaissance long before that of Europe. The city was the center of prolific writing; thousands of scholars convened at mosques and there was trading in gold, salt and slaves.”
    “The city was captured in 1325 by Mansa Mussa. He was the Emperor of Mali. It is said that when Emperor Mansa Mussa visited Mecca he took 12 tons of pure gold and a caravan of 60,000 men”.

    Q. Why was Mussa taking all that gold and likely most of 60,000 as slaves to Mecca? Did they trade in slaves there?

    “. Slavery was an important institution in Timbuktu as the city was situated on the trans-Sahara trade route. The manuscripts spoke about slavery and Ahmed Baba’s legal opinion provided unique insights on slavery. Baba argued in 1615 that Muslims were not allowed to be held as slaves. He also spoke out against racism and prejudice. According to Baba, ‘God orders that slaves must be treated with humanity, whether they are black or not; one must pity their sad luck, and spare them bad treatment since just the fact of becoming an owner of another person bruised the heart, because servitude is inseparable from the idea of violence and domination, especially when it relates to a slave taken far away from his country.’

    Comments: So, it seems that slavery was well ensconced in Africa before the entry of Europeans.

    Secondly, Ahmed Baba, obviously a Muslim, “argued in 1615 that Muslims were not allowed to be held as slaves.” So, if you were not Muslims it was OK to be a slave? And, it was based on “their sad luck”. So, God ‘throws dice’ and thus decides human fate? Furthermore: “According to Baba, ‘God orders that slaves must be treated with humanity, whether they are black or not.’” Why didn’t the ‘enlightened’ Baba reject slavery all together? Had he done so, the slave trade, already practiced in Africa, by Africans and Arab/Muslim slavers, would likely have been nipped in the bud and the cross-Atlantic European slave trade would likely not have happened.

    “Timbuktu was taken over by Soni Ali in 1469. It is said that Soni Ali, ‘ put to death so many scholars that many of them fled to Walata which is the Republic of Mauritania. This is the reason why many of the manuscripts of Timbuktu are found in Mauritania today.’

    This slaughter of scholars (and destruction of several universities – India had about two dozen at one time, North to South) was also widespread in India, carried out by Muslim invaders. One of the most notable one was Nalanda in Bihar. In the 12C., Bhaktiar Khilji, overran Nalada and slaughtered all the 10,000 world-wide students and 1500 professors. Nalanda, built in the 6th-5th BCE, was known throughout the ancient world – from Greece to the Far East. When the 9-storeyed high main and library (of thousands of manuscripts) was burned, it is said it took up to 3 months for the embers to die down. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

    VedaNM.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On June 5, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    The ‘6th-5th BCE’ birth dating of Nalanada U. is taken from Britannica.
    https://www.britannica.com/topic/Nalanda

    VNM

  • Ron Saywack  On June 6, 2018 at 8:53 am

    “Had he (Ahmed Baba) done so, the slave trade, already practiced in Africa, by Africans and Arab/Muslim slavers, would likely have been nipped in the bud and the cross-Atlantic European slave trade would likely not have happened.”

    That is a curious inference, Veda. But I beg to differ. Slavery has consistently been a fact of life in the ancient world, and long, long before humans invented the art of printed records.

    If you imply that the Europeans possibly hatched the idea of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from Africa, that is not necessarily the case as human enslavement dates back thousands of years and across many cultures, regions, and religions.

    Slavery was well “ensconced” in Europe long before the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade could have been conceived. It seems to me that the Slave Trade was destined to happen once the Europeans discovered that the Earth was not flat and that there was another ‘world’ outside Europe.

    What is unfortunate is that slavery is still practiced in many parts of the world today, with India leading the way with more than 18 million slaves, China with nearly 3.5 million, Pakistan with more than 2 million and Russia at more than a million.

    Human trafficking is a crime that should be expunged, condemned and outlawed in its totality all over the world. It is a crying shame and disgrace that it exists in the present age.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On June 7, 2018 at 12:18 am

    “It seems to me that the Slave Trade was destined to happen once the Europeans discovered that the Earth was not flat and that there was another ‘world’ outside Europe.”

    Ron, you are similarly inferring the cross Atlantic slave trade was inevitable as well as, indicting only the Europeans.
    I, on the other hand, based on the evidence in the article and from myriad other sources, implicate the Africans themselves, as they had a robust inland slave trade among themselves and with the Arabs who took African slaves into Europe and Asia as slave armies and as chattel slaves. As well, it is said the Portuguese took the Bantu people in to India.

    “The Siddis of Karnataka (Kannada: ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದ ಸಿದ್ಧಿಗಳು) (also spelled Siddhis) are an ethnic group inhabiting India. Members are descended from Bantu peoples from Southeast Africa that were brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by Portuguese merchants.[1] There is a 50,000 strong Siddi population across India, of which more than a third live in Karnataka. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddis_of_Karnataka

    It wasn’t the Potuguese who went into African and caught the slaves, It was the Africans themselves (including those adopting Islam) who caught the unfortunate ones, enslaved and sold them – hence the robust inland African slave trade. It is the Africans slavers themselves who sold the Europeans the slaves who then took them to the Americas. In simple terms: African slavers partnered with the Europeans in enslaving Africans into the ‘New World’. That is the unfortunate history that is swept under the carpet.

    Seconndly, would like to know your source for this: “… slavery is still practiced in many parts of the world today, with India leading the way with more than 18 million slaves…”
    This Global Slavery Index has India at # 146; as well, below the table India is among the 30 LOWEST.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Slavery_Index

    VedaNM.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On June 7, 2018 at 8:28 am

    “It seems to me that the Slave Trade was destined to happen once the Europeans discovered that the Earth was not flat and that there was another ‘world’ outside Europe.”
    Ron, you are similarly inferring the cross Atlantic slave trade was inevitable as well as, indicting only the Europeans. This is no proof that my assertion is wrong.
    On the other hand, based on the evidence in the article and from myriad other sources implicate the Africans themselves, as they had a robust inland slave trade among themselves and with the Arabs who took African slaves into Europe and Asia as slave armies and as chattel slaves. As well, it is said the Portuguese took the Bantu people in to India.

    “The Siddis of Karnataka (Kannada: ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದ ಸಿದ್ಧಿಗಳು) (also spelled Siddhis) are an ethnic group inhabiting India. Members are descended from Bantu peoples from Southeast Africa that were brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by Portuguese merchants.[1] There is a 50,000 strong Siddi population across India, of which more than a third live in Karnataka. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddis_of_Karnataka

    It wasn’t the Portuguese who went into African and caught the slaves, It was the Africans themselves (including those adopting Islam) who caught the unfortunate ones, enslaved and sold them – hence the robust inland African slave trade. It is the Africans slavers themselves who sold the Europeans the slaves who then took them to the Americas. In simple terms: African slavers partnered with the Europeans in enslaving Africans into the ‘New World’. That is the unfortunate and inconvenient history that is swept under the carpet.

    Secondly, I would like to know your source for this: “… slavery is still practiced in many parts of the world today, with India leading the way with more than 18 million slaves…”
    This Global Slavery Index has India at # 146; as well, below the table India is among the 30 LOWEST.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Slavery_Index

    VedaNM.

    • Ron Saywack  On June 7, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      Veda, you inquire, “… I would like to know your source for this (India topping the list as the country with the most modern-day slaves”.

      A simple Google search will reveal various sources where India is, repeatedly and ignominiously, #1. The number of slaves in India, depending on the source, varies from approximately 13.5 million to 18.4 million.

      Slavery is a crime against humanity and should be uprooted and criminalized wherever it exists. Currently, the Indian gov’t is working at eradicating the problem but finds the task challenging.

      The reader can choose to look up said sources and decide for himself/herself.

      Here’s a couple of examples:

      India is said to be the country with the highest number of slaves in the world.

      Almost all forms of slavery are practiced there, from inter-generational bonded labor to sex trafficking, forced marriage, and child labor.

      With an estimated 18.40 million slaves, India is home to almost 1/2 of the world’s slave population.

      1. https://www.wonderslist.com/10-countries-with-most-slaves/

      2. Huffington Post has the number at 14.3 million:

      https://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/11/20/countries-with-the-most-slaves/4/

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On June 7, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Clarification:
    When I speak of African slaves taken to India, those slaves were NOT for Hindus. India, until independence and partition into a separatist Muslim Pakistan and now Bangladesh, was ruled by Muslim invaders (such as Bhkatiar Khilji who destroyed and slaughtered the foreign and Indian live-in students and professors at Nalanda U. and other universities in India; because such Muslims argue the Koran has all knowledge) and they invited in and overlapped the rapacious British East India Co., then the British Crown for 1,000 (one thousand) years. So, those slaves were for the Muslim/Mughal rulers.

    The Portuguese later unleashed the Catholic Inquisition on Hindu converts and other Hindus. The much loved Saint Francis Xavier (Catholics flocking to kiss his embalmed corpse around the world) was the one who first requested the Portuguese King to unleash the Goan Inquistion on the backsliding Hindus. Such is the inhumanity and hypocrisy of the Church. And the followers don’t care.
    The cruelty and rapacity of the Muslim and British rulers drained India which caused the outflows of the (near slaves) Indentured “Coolies” to Guyana (240,000 alone), Caribbean, Surinam, Br. Honduras and other places around the world.
    I will deal with these issues in my upcoming book. Prof Clem Seecharan (just received an honorary degree from UWI) like many scholars who sweep such inconvenient facts under the carpet, avoids looking at them as he denounces the most Hindu Indentured labourers so as to suit a particular readership who urge to get his biased history into textbooks.

    Veda.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On June 7, 2018 at 10:18 am

    Here is Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates supporting my thesis: African enslaved their own and sold to the white slavers:

    Also, look at Gates bursting more myths. In this case hamites sold Hebrews into slavery.

    VedaNM/

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On June 7, 2018 at 11:04 am

    You will see at the 9 min mark of this other Gates’ video this lady prof. on African slavery say just what I am saying: ‘if Africans didn’t sell other Africans to the Whiteman there would likely be NO transatlantic slavery.

    Veda

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On June 8, 2018 at 12:31 am

    “India is, repeatedly and ignominiously, #1…Almost all forms of slavery are practiced there, from inter-generational bonded labor to sex trafficking, forced marriage, and child labor.
    With an estimated 18.40 million slaves, India is home to almost 1/2 of the world’s slave population. “
    Ron: It’s amazing how your definition of slavery has morphed from the traditional imagery of ‘Africans in chains taken to the New World, some losing limbs and whipped and like animals ’ to include:
    “inter-generational bonded labor to sex trafficking, forced marriage, and child labor”.
    Prof. Clem Seecharan would disagree vehemently with you as he dismisses the “bonded labor” category (indentured labourers taken to Br.Guiana who were also whipped) in his ‘Eldorado Complex’ as slavery. He said that Indentured (bonded) labourers were falsely calling their indentureship a “new slavery” so as to compete with the black slaves whom they replaced. Yet, most of these indentured labourers were inveigled, even physically caught and held – reminiscent of black and other slavery – in depots then placed on ships for a 3 ½ month journey to Guyana.

    Then you include ‘forced marriage’ and “child labor’. (Child labour was also included under indentureship; ten-year old girls, and at least one documented case of a 12-yr boy was grabbed and shipped to Guyana).
    Are you serious: “forced marriage” is slavery? I am surprised you will quote evidence which claims this. If that’s the case, virtually most Muslim world’s marriages fall into this category. Yet, I am willing to bet that none such marriages (except the one in India, of course) are included in your statistics. I say ’except India’ because India is the whipping boy of all things wrong with the world. This is because 80% of Indians follow a ‘pagan (idolatrous) religion’ and so do not fall into the Judeo-Christian-Islamic or Abrahamic societal mould. So, what ills common in other societies are downplayed are then highlighted when it comes to India.

    Here is Brittanica’s definition of slavery: “Slavery, condition in which one human being was owned by another. A slave was considered by law as property, or chattel, and was deprived of most of the rights ordinarily held by free persons.
    “There is no consensus on what a slave was or on how the institution of slavery should be defined. Nevertheless, there is general agreement among historians, anthropologists, economists, sociologists, and others who study slavery that most of the following characteristics should be present in order to term a person a slave. The slave was a species of property; thus, he belonged to someone else. In some societies slaves were considered movable property, in others immovable property, like real estate. They were objects of the law, not its subjects.”
    Then, in a book, Catholics and Slavery, the author defines slavery, thus:
    “his person is the property of a another man, his will is subordinated to his owner’s authority and his labour or services are obtained through coercion”. He goes on to say: “The outcome of slavery is always the theft of labour resulting in economic gain for the shareholder…”
    Nowhere does “forced marriage” meet the above criterion of “theft of labour”….
    Except, of course, when it applies in pagan India. Most Indians follow a practice of ‘arranged marriages’ which can be construed as “forced marriages”. So, I am surprised the number of Indian slaves are not off the charts.
    You are being conned, Ron!

    Then you say “slaves in India, depending on the source, varies from approximately 13.5 million to 18.4 million.”
    Why this 5 million divergence? Where are they getting their figures from? Or, is that they just can’t decide on the definition of a slave… Like the silly “forced marriage” ?
    So, let’s take the Huff Post (India) 14.3m vs the 45.8 m worldwide. That is 31.2 % but you claim India’s 50%. See how inflated your percent is?

    Next, compare this to the population metric. India has 1.3 bn vs world’s 7.5bn or 17.3% of the world’s.
    When we throw out the foolish “forced marriages”, I would bet that India’s so-called slaves would match the 17.3% population metric.

    But, there are other things about India that you don’t seem to know about. Most of the underage and forced marriages are Muslim. For example in Iran, there is no minimum age for marriage of girls. And in Saudi Arabia, similarly, the Grand Mufti refuses to accept a minimum age for girls’ marriage. Look at this:
    In Saudi Arabia: “In 2009 the Justice Minister said that there were plans to regulate the marriages of young girls after a court refused to nullify the marriage of an eight-year old girl to a man 50 years her senior.”
    http://www.arabianbusiness.com/no-minimum-age-for-marriage-of-girls-grand-mufti-576044.html

    So, the 180 million Muslims in India follow these two major Muslim nations. And, given Muslims ruled India for over 800 years, the ill effects are hard to change, leading to possible riots if change is contemplated. For Example: Muslim are also petitioning for no minimum age for Muslim girls to get married.
    https://www.indiatoday.in/featured/story/muslim-groups-want-minimum-marital-age-scrapped-211885-2013-09-22

    And, if you think age of marriage is the only issue for Muslims in India, consider this form of Muslim divorce causing Muslim uproar in India:
    “India’s top court bans the controversial law that allowed Muslim men to end marriage by uttering talaq three times.”
    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/tripple-talaq-triple-divorce-170511160557346.html

    Hence unless the researchers take these sectarian issues into account all India and Indians get tarred with the same foul brush.
    Now, about the economic conditions and how they became onerous, leading to child labour. Shashi Tharoor indicts the British rapacity in his recent book “An Era of Darkness” which I will quote in my upcoming book on how the British destroyed the native Indian industries so as to grow commercial crops (such as Indigo and Opium) for exporting profits to British shareholders.

    In Dowry Murder – The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime, Prof Veena Oldenburg quotes a researcher Ibbetson about the salinity of the soil from the canal system introduced by the British in order to maximise profits: ’60 to 80% of the inhabitants of the worst affected villages suffered from fevers, enlarged spleens, langour, depression of manner and stunted and shrivelled forms. ..spectacle of sick women and diseased children crouching among the ruins of houses; of haggard cultivators wading in swamps and watching their sickly crops or attempting to pasture their bony cattle in the unwholesome grass.’

    This is the condition that the British caused in India and then partitioned and left (still sectarian) India trying to get back its bearings. So, when you quote these outfits who take no account of the political, religious, sociological and economic devastations caused for 1,000 years by first Islamic and then the rapacious British who left the country partitioned and struggling to get back on its feet and still having to deal with age-old embedded Islamic underage marriages, etc., and other Sharia requirements it is only to be expected that statistics which take none of the baggage into account would be warped but good ammo for India haters and the unwary.

    Refuse to be conned, Ron.
    Veda.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On June 8, 2018 at 10:45 am

    This will be my last comment on this issue as I have a book to complete.

    In addition to two books I mentioned earlier: Era of Darkness and Dowry Murder – The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime (both books’ names are suggestive of the British colonial rule in India), two other books need to be read/acquainted with before anyone decides to comment on India.

    Breaking India – Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines (again suggestive of how European Indologists and Western academics, Christian churches and governments are stirring up trouble in India) and
    The Wonder That Was India. Here, Prof Basham – considered the Dean of Ancient India studies – writes:

    • ““Yet our overall impression is that in no part of the ancient world were the relations of man to man, and of man and the state, so fair and humane. In no other early civilization were slaves so few in number, and no other ancient law book are their rights so well protected as in the Arthasastra. No other ancient lawgiver proclaimed such noble ideals of fair play in battle as did Manu. In all her history of warfare Hindu India has few tales to tell of cities put to the sword or of the massacre of non-combatants….To us the most striking feature of ancient Indian civilization is its humanity.” (Italics mine). A.L. Basham: The Wonder That Was India (2004 ed.)

    Basham even quotes Megathenes (c. 350 – c. 290 BC) was an ancient Greek historian, diplomat and Indian ethnographer and explorer in the Hellenistic period) to say he saw NO slaves in India. Basham points out that Megasthes was wrong because they were so few and so different from other ancient civilizations. For example, Basham points out: according to the ”law of war” losers were often enslaved yet not forever but until ransomed’… some became royal counsellors… “masters had NO rights over the lives of their slaves and were NOT allowed to abandon them in old age as in other civilizations…on death the master was required ro perform cremation rites for the soul…slaves were allowed to own property and earn money freely in their spare time…the chastity of a slave girl is protected – the master who rapes a slave-girl must pay her compensation, and if she has a child, even with her consent, both mother and child become free….”
    All that very “liberal” and “milder” ‘slavery’ changed drastically with the advent of Islamic invasions starting in the 7th C. followed by their 800 years rule and concurrently with the British East India Co, from 1610 until the British Crown took over until 1947.

    There are other Western scholars who stood up against similar uneducated ‘statistical’ attacks on India whom I will quote in my book.
    Until a commentator on India becomes familiar with at least the four books cited above, I recommend staying away as you will get it very wrong as do the numerous media outlets who regurgitate Judeo-Christian-Islamic (Abrahamic) tripe about ‘pagan’ India.

    For a quick education, view Tharoor’s Oxford Union speech

    Veda

  • dhanpaul narine  On June 9, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks Veda and Ron for some interesting insights. Apart from the history, one hopes that the discussion would focus in some way to the state of our records in Guyana. Timbuktu tried at all costs to preserve the documents, while in places such as Guyana, the Archives could do with standards to preserve our history.

    • Ron Saywack  On June 9, 2018 at 6:58 pm

      “Thanks, Veda and Ron for some interesting insights. ” Dr. Narine.

      You’re most welcome, Dr. Narine. Keep up the great work.

      Cheers, Ron.

  • Albert  On June 9, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    I recall reading about African history years ago by a writer call Davidson. He might have been British. In later years African born writers, rooted in African culture, pointed out the many errors in Davidson’s work. One hardly see Davidson on bookshelves these days. Davidson was writing for British readers. There is always the likelihood of an unconscious, or otherwise bias interpretation by a writer of historical events to show his culture/race as superior to others. Travelling and, or living for a while in the culture of others is a great remedy for this human deficit. One English writer said to his countrymen what do you know of England you who only England knows. (my words). The experience reader readily see these limitations in a writer.

    Guyana has changed significantly since the 60’s. In those years the differences in the races were observable and more original. I have not seen the work of any educated Guyanese writer with factual knowledge of the major races. So something of our history seem to have been lost.

    My view is that the country is now becoming an adaptation by its people to western capitalist economic forces. Our education and behavior is largely Western. So is the food and other things we consume….though the Chinese may change this.

    • Ron Saywack  On June 9, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      “I have not seen the work of any educated Guyanese writer with factual knowledge of the major races. So something of our history seems to have been lost.”

      Interesting point, Albert.

      Indeed, most of the histories of the world, not just Guyana, is lost or unrecorded considering the fact that recorded history is still in its infancy.

      The history of Guyana, outside the indigenous populations, is relatively brief.

      Thus, I’d guess that the archives in the Netherlands (perhaps in France) and England, may possibly contain bits and pieces of Guyana’s history. But that would be tantamount to looking for a needle in a haystack.

      Oral tradition is another source, but, obviously, relatively unreliable, as stories significantly morph with the passage of time.

      However, what we do know spans a mere few tortuous hundred years of enslavement, unimaginable abuse of our forebears, and the rampaging, uncontrolled plunder and theft of our natural resources, followed by the lamentable pre-and-post-independence period.

      Cheers, Ron.

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