Saturday, 24 September 2005
Persian Ramayana, Arabic Gita preserved
September 24, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 24: In this age of religious bigotry, many Muslim organisations of the State are working tirelessly to preserve rare Hindu scriptures. The 117-year-old Dairatul Maarif treasures its copy of the Arabic version of the Bhagawad Gita, probably the only one of its kind in the world. Similarly valued is the Persian Ramayana, estimated to be more than 600 years old, which is kept in the library-cum-research centre of the 132-year-old Jamia Nizamia.
The Arabic Gita and the Persian Ramayana are merely two among the 200-odd rare Hindu religious manuscripts and books preserved in various Muslim research institutes including madarasas. These organisations take great care of such manuscripts. The organisations use state-of-the-art methods to protect them for posterity. Several manuscripts been digitised and the CD versions are available for scholars of comparative religion.
The Arabic version of the Holy Gita, known as Al Kita, is about 100 years old. The Jamia Nizamia, a deemed university with international recognition, also possesses a 500-year-old manuscript of the Mahabharata in Persian. Both these documents have been laminated and preserved by Nizamia. "They are invaluable," said Syed Akbar Nizamuddin, chancellor of Jamia Nizamia. "The Mahabharata manuscript is in bad shape and we have now carefully hand-laminated it. We have also micro-filmed and digitised the scriptures."
Al Kita was published by Dairatul Maarif in the beginning of the last century on the request of a noble from Kolkata. Its pirated editions are available in the Gulf countries. Another valuable possession of the Daira is the Arabic version of Rabindranath Tagore's great Geetanjali.
"There's nothing communal about knowledge," MuftiKhaleel Ahmad, the grand mufti and vice-chancellor of the Nizamia, told this correspondent. "Only people are communal. Reading books of different religions enhances one's understanding. No religion teaches hatred," the Mufti said.
Dozens of researchers visit these libraries to study the rare documents. The Islamic Academy of Comparative Religion also has in its possession score of Hindu religious books, including 188 Upanishads, four Vedas, Bhagawad Gita, Valmiki Ramayana, Manusmriti and several Puranas. It also possesses 30 Bibles in Hebrew, Arabic, Urdu, Telugu and Greek.
"Luckily, our books are still in good condition," said M. Asifuddin, president of IACR. "We have been taking great care to preserve them." Another city Muslim organisation labouriously preserving Hindu scriptures is the Iqbal Academy. It has rare copies of the Gita and Mahabharata. The Asafia Library and the HEH Nizam Trust's Library have several Hindu scriptures in Urdu, Persian and Arabic. "Study of different religions will help prevent misconceptions, hatred and mistrust," said secretary of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board Abdul Rahim Qureshi.
"We can eradicate social evils by promoting religious values," Queshi said. Hafiz Shujath Hussain, a research scholar poring over the Al Kita, said it was heartening to see Muslim organisations preserve such rare manuscripts. "We have to take care to keep them safe for ever," he said.
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