Accepted Papers:

The dissemination and reading of Arabic grammar treatises in the early modern Deccan  


Christopher Bahl (SOAS, University of London)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper is a study of the intertextual significances between a medieval treatise on Arabic syntax and its commentary, based on later manuscript versions, addressing the socio-cultural significance of manuscript dissemination and their contextual reading among Arabicised communities in the Deccan.

Paper long abstract:

The early modern Deccan formed an important part of the transregional networks of Arabic scholarship stretching across the Western Indian Ocean region. This can be exemplified by the itinerary and academic transactions of the Egyptian scholar Muḥammad Abū Bakr al-Damāmīnī (d. 828/1424). At the beginning of the 15th century he travelled from the Red Sea region across Gujarat and the Deccan to seek patronage from various Sultans in exchange for the composition of commentaries on Arabic grammar works. In the 16th and 17th centuries transcriptions of his commentary al-Manhal al-sāfiy on Muḥammad b. ʿUmar al-Balkhī's al-Wāfiy (d. 8th/14th century) continued to circulate at the royal courts and among the Sufi communities of Ahmadnagar and Bijapur in the Deccan.

In this paper, I will focus on the dissemination of these later manuscripts in order to analyse different historical moments in the changing textual relationships between al-Damāmīnī's and al-Balkhī's works. Apart from the transcriptions of al-Damāmīnī's commentary based on his 15th century composition from the courts of the Niẓām Shāhīs and ʿĀdil Shāhīs, two transcriptions of al-Balkhī's treatise survive in the Royal Library and the Qādiriyya library at Bijapur. The latter two manuscripts contain several marginalia, among them extracts from al-Damāmīnī's commentary. I will argue that, by studying the intertextual and format changes of these circulating manuscripts, it is possible to evaluate the socio-cultural context in which these texts were read and their value among the Arabicised communities of the early modern Deccan.

panel P33
New approaches to manuscript variations in South Asia