Professor Abbas Hamdani of Milwaukee (USA) gifted a collection of rare and important manuscripts to The Institute of Ismaili Studies. The Sayyidi Muhammad ‘Ali Hamdani Collection of Ismaili and other manuscripts, in the Hamdani family for several generations, is well-known among scholars in the field of Shi‘i and Ismaili studies.
The Hamdani Collection has a fascinating provenance, attested by the many seals and signatures of Professor Hamdani’s distinguished forebears. It represents one of the most significant collections of Ismaili writings in private hands and contains some 300 manuscripts and rare imprints in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Gujarati. Many scholars have drawn on its holdings in the preparation of editions of Ismaili texts.
The Institute of Ismaili Studies is privileged to receive this extraordinary heritage. The Institute’s Library will preserve the manuscripts, using microfilm and digital technologies. A catalogue of the holdings will be published by the Institute which will make the collection available to researchers.
Ismaili manuscripts in the Collection are mostly authored by da‘is from the pre-Fatimid period onwards. Also included are original works by Tayyibi Ismaili scholars to the 20th century. The collection contains rare manuscripts of seminal Ismaili works on philosophy, such as the Rahat al-‘aql of al-Kirmani (the oldest surviving manuscript of this text), law, such as the Da‘a’im al-Islam of Qadi Nu‘man, and history, such as the Iftitah al-Da‘wa, also by Qadi Nu‘man, and volumes of the ‘Uyun al-Akhbar and Nuzhat al-Akhbar of Idris ‘Imad al-Din.
There are also many works important for Islamic history in general, such as a catalogue of Abbasid decrees to their governors in Egypt before the establishment of the Fatimid state, and works on subjects as varied as astronomy, mathematics and medicine. The Nahj al-Balagah is represented by a 300-year-old copy written by a woman calligrapher. The Collection includes curiosities, such as the manuscript of al-Hamidi’s Kanz al-Walad which Muhammad ‘Ali Hamdani copied out in a secret script so that he could bring it safely along with him on the pilgrimage.
Professor Abbas Hamdani has had a long-standing relationship with The Institute of Ismaili Studies. He has taught on the Institute’s human resource development programmes for a number of years and is currently working on the edition and translation of a medieval Ismaili text in collaboration with the Institute’s Department of Academic Research and Publications. Professor Hamdani was born in Surat and received his B.A. with honours and his L.L.B. from Bombay University, after which he obtained his Ph.D. from the University of London. After teaching in Karachi and in Cairo, he joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin where, for more than thirty years, he taught and carried out fundamental and influential research on Ismaili history, before becoming Professor Emeritus in 2001. He has been recognized for his scholarship by many awards and fellowships, and has lectured at universities world-wide. The author of more than fifty publications, he is currently writing a study on the Rasa’il of the Ikhwan al-Safa’.