Ajami Texts Available in Boston University Libraries.
African literature is still not that well known outside the continent. If it is recognized at all it is usually through such writers as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka who wrote in English and Leopold Senghor who wrote in French. Much less familiar is literature in African languages which often preceded African literature in European languages. Still less known is the literature in African languages written using modified Arabic script known as “ajami” which began centuries earlier. The purpose of this guide is to alert readers to texts in ajami which are available in Boston University’s African Studies Library in a number of different languages including Swahili (East Africa) and Kanuri, Hausa, Fula, Wolof and Jóola Foñi (all West Africa). Background material accompanies the texts. Many of these materials are in electronic format . Ajami literature represents some of Africa’s earliest writing. Inspired by Islam’s sacred texts Muslim authors wrote commentary and exegesis to make these works meaningful to a local audience. Other kinds of writing became important including record keeping, medicine, science and mathematics as well as political commentary, genealogy, history, biography and poetry including epic. Adapting Arabic script for African languages was a difficult process since the phonology of each of these languages was unique and different from that of Arabic. Each linguistic community had to adapt to its own conditions so in this sense there are many ajamis not just one. Two things should be kept in mind: first, ajami is a script not a language; second, this guide is specific to Boston University. Finally it can be added that Boston University is unusual in offering language courses that teach the corresponding ajami versions. There is even a course which serves as an introduction to ajami in its own right. It is hoped that this document might open the minds of students to the possibilities of pursuing studies in this rewarding field of knowledge.