Online Workshop: An Introduction to Arabic Manuscripts

Online Workshop: An Introduction to Arabic Manuscripts

The UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies is offering a free, intensive online workshop, “An Introduction to Arabic Manuscripts,” on August 23-27, 2021. The application link can be found here:


Kitāb al-Diryāq, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Arabe 5847, f. 37r

This week-long workshop features leading authorities on the study of Arabic manuscripts. The workshop will equip emerging scholars with the basic tools to conduct research with original handwritten texts in Arabic script.

Over the course of five days, participants will learn the basics of codicology, paleography, and manuscript production and circulation, in the context of an expansive vision of current debates in Arabic manuscript research.

Topics include:

  • anatomy of the codex
  • canonical and informal scripts
  • colophons, audition notes, owners’ notes, readers’ notes
  • digital collections
  • ethics and best practices
  • scribes and other craftspeople
  • strategies for decipherment
  • supports, bindings
  • technical terminology
  • transmission practices and patterns

Enrollment is free of charge. Full participation is by application only. Others may observe via webinar.

Application deadline is 22 April 2021. Apply at
All applicants are welcome, regardless of home institution; priority will be given to PhD students and untenured scholars with compelling need to use Arabic manuscripts in their research.

Co-sponsored by Princeton and UCLA, which house the two largest repositories of Islamicate manuscripts in North America.

Organizers: Marina Rustow (Princeton) and Luke Yarbrough (UCLA)

UCLA event website and list of sponsors:

Princeton website coming soon!

For questions not addressed above or on the web page, please contact: CNES [at]

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2021. All rights reserved.

Summer School in Arabic Codicology, at the Royal Library of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, July 9 – 13, Madrid

The fifth, consecutive, intensive summer school on Arabic Codicology: the Islamic Manuscript Heritage in the El Escorial Collection took place in Madrid, Spain from July 9 – 13. The course was led and directed by Professor Nuria de Castilla (Ecole Pratique d’Hautes Etudes, Paris), and Professor François Déroche (Collège de France, Paris). This year, participants were also able to benefit from the expertise of José Luis del Valle Merino, director of the Royal Library of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The course was sponsored by the European Commission Research Project Saadian Intellectual and Cultural LifE SICLE 670628 and co-organised by UCM’s Fundación General.


Professor Nuria de Castilla and some of the participants at the summer school

The aim of the summer school has been to provide the students with basic training in codicology and the research methods they will need when studying and analyzing Arabic manuscripts. Following morning lectures on different aspects of codicology, such as composition, writing surfaces, illumination, paleography and bindings, the afternoons were dedicated to hands-on sessions at the Royal Library, where participants were able to apply the knowledge and skills they had learnt, by examining manuscripts from the Arabic Collection.

The El Escorial Arabic Manuscript Collection (circa 2000 codices) consists mainly of manuscripts from the Library of Sultan Mūlay Zaydān, which became part of the Library of Phillip III of Spain in 1612. The collection is thus one of the very few from the Muslim world to remain virtually intact and is therefore considered to be the most important collection of Arabic manuscripts in Spain and one of the most interesting in Europe.


A hands-on session in the Library

The course not only furthered participants’ knowledge of the collection, but also promoted the creation of international networks and exchange between participants. With an average of 100 applications each year, but capacity for only 16 participants, to date, the course has welcomed participants from all five continents. This year, the course was attended by participants from Argentina, Austria, France, Germany, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Singapore, Spain, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Anyone interested in the field of codicology can find more information on the summer school’s Facebook page, Twitter profile or website.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.


Summer School “The Arabic Manuscript: Codicology, Palaeography, and History” Tunis – National Library July 10-15, 2017

The National Library of Tunisia and the University of Strasbourg, with the support of the Barakat Foundation and Max van Berchem Foundation, organize a summer school on “The Arabic Manuscript: Codicology, Palaeography and History,” in Tunis, National Library, July 10-15, 2017.

The history of intellectual production, books and libraries in Tunisia is a very rich and long-standing one. The largest collection of premodern, mainly Arabic manuscripts is preserved in the National Library in Tunis. It consists of ca. 25.000 volumes, in addition to thousands of other codices and leaves in the Centre for the Study of Islamic Arts and Civilisation in Raqqada, Kairouan, and in a few other places. This manuscript heritage covers a period of over a millennium (9th – 19th C.) and contains important testimonies to the history of the region.

The summer school aims at offering a substantial training course on the Arabic manuscript with a focus on this heritage.  During six days, some of the most eminent specialists in the field will propose theoretical and practical workshop sessions on the different aspects of the subject, especially codicology and palaeography, with the objective of providing the participants with the knowledge and methods necessary to analyse Arabic manuscripts in research, editing or cataloguing projects. Moreover, the participants will have the opportunity to access one of the most important manuscript collections in the Maghreb and the Arab world. They will also be able to visit several other collections, museums and monuments in Tunis and Kairouan.

The speakers include Jean-Louis Estève (Ecole Supérieure Estienne des Arts et Industries Graphiques, Paris) ; Alain George (University of Edinburgh) ; Asma Hilali (Institute of Ismaili Studies, London) ; Mustapha Jaouhari (Université Bordeaux Montaigne) ; Francis Richard (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Bibliothèque Universitaire des Langues et Civilisations, Paris) ; Rachida Smine (National Library of Tunisia) ; Aurélia Stréri (independent book conservator, Paris).

The number of participants is limited. Preregistration is compulsory. Masters’ students, PhD candidates, librarians and researchers working on Arabic manuscripts will be given priority. Please send a short CV and cover letter to before April 30, 2017.

The main languages of the summer school are French and Arabic.

Organisation and contacts: Rachida Smine, Deputy Director of the Manuscript Department, National Library of Tunisia, and/or Nourane Ben Azzouna, Associate Professor, University of Strasbourg:

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2017. All rights reserved.


Ecole d’été : Le manuscrit arabe : codicologie, paléographie et histoire
Tunis – Bibliothèque Nationale de Tunisie, 10-15 juillet 2017

La Bibliothèque Nationale de Tunisie et l’Université de Strasbourg, grâce au soutien de la Barakat Foundation et de la Fondation Max van Berchem, organisent une école d’été intitulée « Le manuscrit arabe : codicologie, paléographie et histoire » à Tunis, à la Bibliothèque Nationale de Tunisie, du 10 au 15 juillet 2017.

L’histoire de la production intellectuelle, des livres et des bibliothèques en Tunisie est particulièrement riche et ancienne. La plus grande collection de manuscrits, essentiellement en arabe, est conservée à Tunis, à la Bibliothèque Nationale. Elle se compose d’environ 25.000 volumes, auxquels s’ajoutent plusieurs milliers d’autres volumes et feuillets au Centre d’Etudes de la Civilisation et des Arts Islamiques à Raqqada, Kairouan, et dans quelques autres collections. Ce patrimoine manuscrit couvre une période de plus d’un millénaire (IXe-XIXe s.) et est riche de témoignages importants de l’histoire de la région.

L’école d’été vise à offrir une formation substantielle sur le manuscrit arabe avec un accent sur ce patrimoine. Pendant six jours, quelques-uns des plus éminents spécialistes des manuscrits arabes proposeront des enseignements théoriques et des ateliers pratiques sur les différents aspects du sujet, en particulier la codicologie et la paléographie, dans le but de permettre aux participants d’acquérir les méthodes nécessaires à l’analyse des manuscrits arabes dans le cadre d’un travail de recherche, d’édition ou de catalogage. De plus, les participants auront l’opportunité d’accéder à l’une des plus importantes collections de manuscrits du Maghreb et du monde arabe. Ils pourront aussi visiter plusieurs autres collections, musées et monuments à Tunis et à Kairouan.

Intervenants : Jean-Louis Estève (Ecole Supérieure Estienne des Arts et Industries Graphiques, Paris) ; Alain George (Université d’Edinburgh) ; Asma Hilali (Institut d’Etudes Ismaéliennes, Londres) ; Mustapha Jaouhari (Université Bordeaux Montaigne) ; Francis Richard (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Bibliothèque Universitaire des Langues et Civilisations, Paris) ; Rachida Smine (Bibliothèque Nationale de Tunisie) ; Aurélia Stréri (restauratrice indépendante, Paris).

Le nombre de places est limité. L’inscription est donc obligatoire. Les étudiants en Master 2 et en Doctorat ainsi que les enseignants, chercheurs, bibliothécaires et professionnels qui travaillent sur les manuscrits arabes sont prioritaires. Envoyez un bref CV et lettre de motivation à avant le 30 avril 2017.

La formation sera essentiellement en français et en arabe.

Les participants qui le souhaitent recevront une attestation de formation.

Organisation et contacts : Rachida Smine, Sous-Directrice du Département des Manuscrits, Bibliothèque Nationale de Tunisie et/ou Nourane Ben Azzouna, Maître de conférences, Université de Strasbourg :

©Association internationale des études coraniques, 2017. Tous les droits sont réservés.


دورة تدريبية: المخطوط العربي: الكوديكولوجيا، الخطوط، التاريخ
المكتبة الوطنية التونسية، 10- 15 جويلية 2017، تونس

تنظم المكتبة الوطنية وجامعة سترازبورغ بمساعدة “مؤسسة بركات” و”مؤسسة ماكس فان برشام” دورة تدريبية بعنوان “المخطوط العربي: الكوديكولوجيا، الخطوط، التاريخ” بالمكتبة الوطنية التونسية، 10- 15 جويلية 2017، تونس.

تزخر تونس بإنتاج فكري غزير ويتبيّن ذلك من عدد مخطوطاتها ومكتباتها. تحتوي المكتبة الوطنية على رصيد ثري من المخطوطات العربية ما يقارب 24.000 مجلد، إلى جانب آلاف المخطوطات بمركز الدراسات الاسلامية برقادة- القيروان وبعض الأرصدة الخاصة. يعكس هذا الرصيد حصيلة ما يزيد عن عشرة قرون من التراكم المعرفي والفني (تقريبا من القرن التاسع إلى القرن التاسع عشر)، ويبرز ما شهدته إفريقية والعالم العربي والإسلامي من إشعاع علمي وثقافي.

وتتناول هذه الدورة برنامجا مكثفا حول المخطوطات العربية عموما والتونسية والمغاربية خصوصا وتشتمل على عدة مداخلات في علم المخطوطات (الكوديكولوجيا) والخطوط والفهرسة وﺍﻠﺘﺤﻘﻴﻖ ويعقب ذلك عدد من ورشات العمل تتناول .التطبيق العملي للمحاضرات النظرية. سيحاضر في هذه الدورة مجموعة من الأساتذة والباحثين المختصين

سيتعرف المشاركون، على هامش هذه الدورة، على المكتبة الوطنية وأرصدتها الثرية، ﺇﻠﻰ ﺟﺎﻨﺐ مركز الدراسات الاسلامية .برقادة، القيروان

(المعهد العالي إﻴﺴتيان للفنون والرسوم الصناعية، باريس) Jean-Louis Estève
(جامعة ادنبرة) Alain George
(أسماء هلالي (مركز الدراسات الاسماعيلية، لندن
(مصطفى جوهري (جامعة بوردو، مونتانيو
(المكتبة الوطنية الفرنسية، المكتبة الجامعية للغات والحضارات، باريس) Francis Richard
(رشيدة السمين (المكتبة الوطنية، تونس
(مرمّمة مخطوطات، باريس)Aurélia Stréri

:المشرف على الدورة
(رشيدة السمين (كاهية مدير، المكتبة الوطنية التونسية
(نوران بن عزونة (أستاذة محاضرة، جامعة سترازبورغ


  الطلبة والباحثون المهتمون بالمخطوطات –
اختصاصيو المخطوطات بالمكتبات –

:الزمان والمكان
جويلية 2017، المكتبة الوطنية، تونس

:المدّة وعددالساعات
أيام 6
يوميا من الساعة 8.00 إلى الساعة 14.30

:لغة الدورة
العربية والفرنسية

يُرجى إرسال سيرة ذاتية ومطلب مشاركة على الموقع التالي

الأماكن محدودة لذا يرجى الحجز قبل يوم 30 أفريل 2017

تُسلّم في نهاية الدورة شهادة تفيد المشاركة أو الحضور في الدورة التدريبية

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2017. All rights reserved.

The Traditions on the Composition of ‘Uthmān’s muṣḥaf.

By Viviane Comerro

Viviane Comerro is Professor of Islamic Studies at INALCO (Paris). This blog is a synopsis of its French book titled “Les traditions sur la composition du muṣḥaf de ‘Uthmān”, Orient-Institut Beirut, 2012

When and how did the Quran become a book? Even though paleography and codicology provide us with useful elements that shed light on this question, we should not overlook the study of Islamic literary sources which, through the diversity of their accounts on the writing of the Quran and the richness of their glosses on the Quranic text itself, remain bolder and more informed testimonies than any collection of manuscripts.



How should we address Islamic sources which provide us with numerous pieces of information on this issue? An initial historical approach based on the transmission of texts could lead us to follow the Ancients in their investigative endeavor by privileging the historical veracity of the version adopted by al-Bukhārī (d. 256/870) in his Ṣaḥīḥ.

A second, historical and critical approach has already achieved its full potential: drawing out a core that is common to the various versions of the account of the event so as to gain some certainty or extracting this historical core from its legendary, theological or ideological gangue.

Reflection upon the literary nature of sources that has developed alongside this approach has resulted in a transitory suspension of the “naively” historical approach. In fact, a tradition always provides the event and its interpretation as closely related. This is a khabar, information, as well as a hadith, an event set as an account. Thus, it is in taking into consideration the twofold nature of a tradition that I have read afresh the totality of the accounts on the writing of the Quran by paying very close attention to the variants and their meanings.

By placing back the received version of the event – the one Bukhārī kept in his Ṣaḥīh – in this totality, it appears as made up of several motifs that also exist in isolation as independent traditions. This version is therefore the result of a combination that selects some pieces of information while discarding others.

The author of this combination, or common link in the vernacular of the modern specialists of transmission, is Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī (d. 124/742), who certainly did not invent this story but combined different pieces of information on the writing of the Quran, as he did for other accounts.

Beyond this stage, the hadith of Zuhrī evolved even further since a version that is quite different from Bukhārī’s is to be found in the introduction to his Tafsīr by the great compiler of the 3rd century of Hegira, Ṭabarī (d. 310/923).

Apart from the issue of authenticity, wherever we place this version in the chain of transmission, what seems to matter is the reason why such a well-informed exegete as Tabarī chose this version of Zuhrī’s account rather than another one. This question led me to question Bukhārī’s stance and Ṭabarī’s regarding the status of Quranic recitation in the intellectual debates of their time. I came to the conclusion that, to some extent, the issue of the isnād was of secondary importance. What really matters is the content of each account.

For Ṭabarī, who claims that ‘Uthmān reduced the various recitations of the Quran to a single ḥarf in the official muṣḥaf, it is important to note that the Quranic text is not the result of a collection but the writing of a single man, Zayd b. Thābit.

For Bukhārī, it is important to take a stand in a critical debate of his time: that of the created or uncreated Quran, which goes on long after the end of the Miḥna by claiming that the writing of the Quran is created, in contrast with the Hanbali scholars.

Besides, the stance differs from one Ṣaḥīḥ to the other. Muslim (d. 261/875), Bukhārī’s contemporary, who frequented the same circles as him, apparently avoids to take a stand in this debate. Nowhere does he mention the account transmitted by al-Zuhrī. On the other hand, he mentions traditions on the various recitations of the Companions Ubayy, Ibn Mas‘ūd and Abū Mūsā. In this selection of information, one can detect a stand in another significant debate that lasted for centuries about the diversity of Quranic recitations theorized in the form of a prophetic hadith: Unzila l-qur’ān ‘alā sab‘ati ahruf. In this controversy, a stance became more and more a minority, yet it lasted for a long time: it was allowed to liturgically recite ancient qirā’āt, especially that of Ibn Mas‘ūd, due to the fact that the companions of the Prophet and the Successors did it, even though these “readings” were not in keeping with the ‘Uthmānian rasm. It seems that in the 3rd century, prior to Ibn Mujāhid’s reform, the traditionist Muslim was inclined to favor such a stance.

The discrepancies between the accounts about the writing of the Quran, which are already impressive regarding what comes from Zuhrī, are even more so when all the traditions are taken into consideration. They are so not only for the researcher who considers he should not side with the traditionists, now as in the past, but also because all these accounts excluded by the strict selection of the Ṣaḥīḥ reappear in the margin of a commentary or an argumentation by the early (or modern) authors among the most interested in orthodoxy.

Historical description is not the main goal of traditionists, who rather try to solve theological/juridical problems. The diversity of the accounts related to the writing of the Quran, which mostly took place under ‘Uthmān’s caliphate, could result from the traditionists’ worry about the composition of the muṣḥaf in an unfavorable historical context: a challenged caliphate in a time troubled by strong dissensions. The attested circulation of different maṣāḥif of the Quran, one of the sources of legitimacy and authority in the fullest sense of this dīn as the foundation of the new community, represented a danger for Medina’s power. After the historical situation changed, though it was never forgotten, the prime preoccupation concerned the conditions of transmission of the prophetic proclamation. The selection of the ḥarf of Zayd, a man related to ‘Uthmān, had not been consensual. And what to do with the maṣāḥif of Ubayy, Ibn Mas‘ūd, Abū Mūsā, Miqdād and others? Several responses to these unexpressed worries arose in the large corpus of narrative traditions on the writing of the Quran. I have suggested classifying these accounts according to the kind of solution they provided to ensure the faultless transmission of the muṣḥaf.

After this investigation in literary sources, it is to be noted that there is no received version of the writing of the muṣḥaf despite the status acquired by the Ṣaḥīḥ of Bukhārī and the repetition, book after book, century after century, of his hadith on the collection of the Quran, a “thing the Prophet had not done.” In this way, although a 12th century traditionist such as Abū Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-Baghawī reports Bukhārī’s account in his Sharḥ al-Sunna, in his commentary he carries out a rewriting of the event with the memory of other accounts. He claims that the composition of the muṣḥaf is an act involving the Companions as a collective actor of the ijmā‘: they are those who decided together with ‘Uthmān and those who wrote. This rewriting is as perceptible in the 15th century when al-Suyūṭī began his chapter of the Itqān devoted to the collection of the Quran by the blunt assertion that at the time of the Prophet’s death “the Quran had not been collected.” Throughout the text and in the conclusion of the chapter, it appears that the “thing the Prophet had not done” had in fact been accomplished since the muṣḥaf, organized as verses and suras, is exactly the same as that instituted by Muḥammad after the angel’s dictation.

In my book, I left the question of the writing of the Quran at the time of the Prophet open-ended owing to the scarcity of traditions that mention it. This question pertains to another kind of investigation on the oral/written composition of the Quranic text (Angelika Neuwirth) and could rest on the works of linguists and anthropologists dealing with orality and writing.

In conclusion, the study of traditions informs us on some crucial elements of the history of the text: the plasticity of its composition and oral transmission; the antiquity of its writing; the fixation of a model written under ‘Uthmān; its gradual canonization; the preservation of textual variants as a reflection of the original oral diversity and then the philologists’ interest; the parallel theologizing of the history of transmission.

Yet this study chiefly enables us to understand the Tradition that lends their full weight to the actors of transmission. Through selection, combination, additions or deletions, and when the text is permanently fixed in its letter, through their glosses, commentaries and interpretations, these actors contribute to the fluctuation in meaning in the preservation of religion.