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AAL is a collaborative initiative between Boston University and the West African Research Center (WARC) in part funded by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme. The AAL Project is founded and led by Dr. Fallou Ngom (Professor of Anthropology and Director of the African Studies Center at Boston University). AAL is envisioned as a continental open access public repository of aggregated Ajami texts from Muslim Africa. The first step in building AAL took place in the summer of 2011. Professor Ngom and Mr. Roger Brisson, Head of Metadata Services of Boston University traveled to Senegal to lead a workshop at WARC focused on digitization techniques of endangered Wolof Ajami manuscripts. Five people were trained in the workshop, including Mr. Ablaye Diakite (AAL-Team Member), Mr. Birane Gassama (AAL-Team member), Mr. Abdoulaye Niang (WARC Technical Director), Mr. Aliou Badara Sarr (WARC Assistant Librarian), and Mr. Ali Diop (an independent scholar).

Although written records are rarely regarded as part of sub-Saharan Africa’s intellectual heritage, important bodies of Ajami literature have existed in Oromo, Somali, Tigrigna, Kiswahili, Amharic, and Malagasy in East Africa, and Bamanakan, Mandinka, Kanuri, Yoruba, Berber, Hausa, Wolof, and Fulfulde in West Africa for centuries. In South Africa, Muslim Malay slaves produced the first written record of Afrikaans in Ajami. The neglect is due to a number of factors, including the lack of an Ajami public depository, the limited number of individuals with the linguistic skills and cultural background required to analyze Ajami documents, and a lack of recognition of the cultural value of Ajami texts, as many Europeans and Arab scholars with the linguistic competence to study these materials have often deemed them of little scholarly interest. Most assume that sources of useful knowledge on Africa are either oral or written in European languages. Yet, Ajami traditions of Africa are centuries-old and are quite varied, consisting of satirical, polemical and protest poetry, as well as biographies, eulogies, genealogies, talismanic resources, therapeutic medical manuals, family journals, business transactions, historical records, speeches, texts on administrative and diplomatic matters (correspondence between Sultans and provincial rulers), Islamic jurisprudence, behavioral codes, grammar, and even visual arts. The primary goal of AAL is to ensure that these materials are no longer treated as insignificant vestiges, but rather as major sources of local African knowledge, without which a holistic and in-depth understanding of Islamized Africa will remain elusive.

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  • Video interview with author and manuscript owner Sheik Abdurrahman Aboki 

    Aboki, Abdurrahman; Kurphi, Mustapha Hashim (2019-06)
    Video interview with author and manuscript owner Sheikh Alhaji Abdurrahman Aboki. Sheikh Aboki is the Chief Imam of Central Mosque of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida—Niger State (Middle Belt of Nigeria) and the author of the ...
  • Qasidah al-Ishriniyyah fi Madhi Khair al-Bariyyah (A poem of twenty rhyming verses praising the best of humankind) 

    Aboki, Abdurrahman; Al-Fazazi (2010)
    This manuscript is titled Qasidah al-Ishriniyyah fi Madhi Khair al-Bariyyah, popularly known as Ishriniyya (or Ishriniyyat). The poem was originally written in Arabic by Sheikh Abu Zayd Abd al-Rahman ibn Yakhlaftan ibn ...
  • Alowo (Political posters in Nupe Ajami) 

    Usman, Abubakar (2019-02)
    These materials are collectively called "Political posters in Nupe Ajami." The four (4) posters were unlike most Ajami manuscripts in sub-Saharan Africa, since the scribe -- Alhaji Abubakar used the Mashriqi style rather ...
  • Laa kaazibu (What is said is not false) 

    Aboki, Abdurrahman
    This manuscript is titled "Laa kaazibu", which is an Arabic expression that means "there is no falsehood in what is being said". The name was taken from the title of the verse as it occurs at the end of each line. The verse ...
  • "Pentastichs" Fiqhu (Fiqhu -- Jurisprudence in Nupe Verses) 

    This manuscript titled "Pentastichs" Fiqhu contains poems on Islamic Jurisprudence in Nupe Ajami. It has a set of verses that consist of fifty four (54) Pentastichs. The first and second pentastichs introduce and enumerate ...
  • Gwalagi Eni Tijāni (Stanzas in Nupe Ajami praising Tijāni) 

    This manuscript titled Gwalagi Eni Tijāni is a eulogy in Nupe Ajami, praising and eulogizing the Sheik Ahmad Tijāni, the leader of the Tijjāniyyah Movement. The poem does not contain the author’s name, nor does it indicate ...
  • Fiqhu (Islamic jurisprudence poems) 

    This manuscript titled Fiqhu, is a set of three (3) different poems. We treat them as one manuscript because their source is the same and the owner of the manuscripts (Sheikh Alhaji Abdurrahman Aboki) examined them all at ...
  • Bãki Nupe Ajami (Nupe Alphabet in Ajami) 

    Aboki, Abdurrahman (1991)
    This manuscript is titled Bãki Nupe Ajami, which means Nupe Alphabets in Ajami. It is a two-page manuscript that provides two tables. The first is for the Nupe Alphabet in both Latin and Ajami script. It equally captures ...
  • Ejinda (Encomium in Nupe Ajami) 

    This manuscript titled Ejinda, is a eulogy or encomium in Nupe Ajami. This poem is eulogizing Sheik Ahmad Tijāni, the leader of the Tijjāniyyah Movement. There is no author name, nor does it indicate when it was written. ...
  • Egimika (A note in Nupe Ajami) 

    Aboki, Abdurrahman
    This manuscript Egimika – is a note in Nupe Ajami. This personal note--as the tradition has it--begins with Basmalah -- Bismillahir-RaḥmānirRaḥīm at the top right-hand side of the page. This two-page manuscript, does not ...

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