Text of Speech by YABhg Tun Ahmad Sarji bin Abdul Hamid, Chairman, Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia at the launch of the “Special Collection on Islamic Civilisation” of the Institute’s Library on 4th September 2020 (Friday) at IKIM
Bersyukur kita ke hadrat Allah Subhanahuwata’ala oleh kerana dengan limpah Keizinan dan InayahNya, maka kita dapat hadir pada pagi ini, sempena majlis pelancaran Koleksi Khas Tamadun Islam bagi Perpustakaan Institut KefahamanIslam Malaysia (IKIM). Salawat dan Salam kita sampaikan kepada Junjungan Teramat Mulia, Rasul Penamat Nubuwwah, Sayyidina Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam, yang telah mendidik Umat Baginda agar memuliakan Ilmu, Majlis Ilmu dan Ahli Ilmu.
2. Bagi manfaat para penonton di peringkat antarabangsa yang sedang mengikuti majlis ini melalui tvIKIM dan Facebook Live (FB Live), saya mohon izin untuk meneruskan ucapan ini dalam Bahasa Inggeris.
Allah the Almighty said in Surah Al-‘Alaq verses 1 to 5,
Proclaim! (or read) in the name of your Lord and Cherisher, who created—Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood; Proclaim! And your Lord is Most Bountiful—He Who taught by the Pen—Taught man that which he knew not.
In pursuit of this Qur’anic injunction, the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM), in 2008, acquired 8,001 multi-lingual volumes of rare and antiquarian works on various subjects on the Civilisation of Islam. This most treasured intellectual property, forms an important part of IKIM Library and is called the “Special Collection on Islamic Civilisation.” This “Special Collection” were the personal collections of distinguished western academics and researchers on the civilization of Islam: namely: Professor Emeritus Dr. Maan Z. Madina (died 2013) from Columbia University; Prof. Dr. Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, Curator Emerita of the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Professor Emeritus Dr. Jerome W. Clinton (died 2003) of Princeton University. The acquisition of this “Special Collection” was done through Ars Libri Ltd, a world renowned professional agent, recognized by The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers and the International Fine Print Dealers Association.
3. IKIM is eternally grateful to the Government in particular, the fifth Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who approved the funds, and its third Director-General, Datuk Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik al-Attas, for the identification, and subsequently shouldering the administrative burden, leading to the acquisition of the “Special Collection” which cost US$2.5 million. I wish to thank IKIM Honorary Fellow, Prof. Tatiana Denisova for her scholarly inputs in the arduous task of cataloguing the “Special Collection”, as well as the publication of a special brochure, which we are presenting to each of you a copy each, for the honour of your presence this morning. This special publication, in both printed and electronic forms, shall be available for purchase through IKIM Website.
4. The “Special Collection” has many monumental works in different languages on architecture to decorative arts, to the lesser known works on arms and armours, textiles, ceramics, metal work, glass works and the decorative features which give the Muslim arts their distinctive character, covering the various geographical domains from the Muslim heartland of the Arabian Peninsula to Turkey, Persia, Muslim Northern Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Spain, Indian Sub-Continent, Central Asia, and the Malay Archipelago. One may ask: What make this collection “invaluable”? There are 4 determining criteria, namely: provenance; rare, scarcity, and significance. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, the volumes of works acquired were the personal collections of three accomplished scholars and researchers on the civilization of Islam from distinguished institutions in the United States of America – thus fulfilling the criterion of “provenance”; secondly, the collection comprises works in almost twenty (20) languages of the world, including Hebrew, French, German, Latin, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Turkish, and Arabic, which is rare compared with most libraries in Southeast Asia; thirdly, the collection consists of works which are either first editions, specially published with limited copies, or are no longer in print—thus fulfilling the criterion of “scarcity”; and fourthly, the collection contains a number of oversized books published between the 17th and 20th century which are not to be found physically in other libraries in Malaysia, and most likely in other countries in Southeast Asia—hence, fulfilling the criterion of “significance”.
5. It is worthy of note that in the “Special Collection”, 912 volumes were published before the year 1950, including one title published in the 17th century, four titles published in the 18th century, and 114 titles, in the 19th century. Of current interest, the IKIM Library is now in possession of four complete sets of journals, namely:
- Arabic Sciences & Philosophy (published by Cambridge University Press and Periodical Service Company since 1991 numbering 29 volumes);
- Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (published by The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London since 1939 numbering 82 volumes);
- International Journal of Middle East Studies (published by Cambridge University Press since 1970 numbering 51 volumes); and
- Modern Asian Studies (published by Cambridge University Press since 1967 numbering 53 volumes).
The ownership of this collection has made IKIM Library one as of the few libraries in Malaysia and perhaps in Southeast Asia having such treasure.
6. The ‘Special Collection’ according to our Honorary Fellow, Prof. Tatiana Denisova, could provide the gems and materials for at least two research projects. Research project (i) may be on Russian Islamic Studies on Islamic Civilization: One of the features of Russian Islamic studies is its particular objective approach to the study of Islam and assessments of its role in world history. Compared with European Orientalists, Russian works have been less influenced by Eurocentrism and have long been accustomed to live side by side with their Muslim neighbours, therefore obtaining a deeper understanding of the realities of Islamic civilization. The “Special Collection” contains more than 400 items in the Russian language on Islamic art, history, literature, language, etc. All these subjects are written by well-known scholars, including G. Sablukov (1803 – 1880), V. Bartold (1869 – 1930), I. Krachkovsky (1883 – 1951), A. Krimsky (1971 – 1941), N. Pigulevskaya (1894 – 1970), E. Davidovitch (1922 – 2013), and F. Atsamba (1922 – 2016). Research project (ii) maybe on Islam and Islamic civilization within the context of Hebrew Studies: During 19th-20th century, the Jewish Oriental studies focused on the elevation of Islam as a rational religion and its relationship to Judaism. In their studies of the Qur’an, European Jewish scholars were fascinated by Islam and its monotheism, rationalism, openness to science and philosophy, rejection of anthropomorphism and adherence to a religious law based on ethics. The Jewish scholars’ works emphasized the tolerance of Muslim societies towards Jewish people and other non-Muslims in opposition to Christianity. They aligned Islam with Judaism and found a lot of similar key points in history, philosophy as well as in some theological aspects. The Jewish scholars in Islamic Studies include: Heinrich Graetz (1818 – 1891), Ignac Goldziher (1850 – 1921), Gustav Grunebaum (1909 – 1972), Shlomo Goiten (1900 – 1985), Franz Rosenthal (1914 – 2003) etc. The ”Special Collection” also contains five Hebrew Studies scientific journals; namely (i) American Jewish Archives (USA, 1948 – 1995); (ii) Israel Exploration Journal (Israel, 1950 – 1996); (iii) Journal of Palestine Studies (UK, 1971 – 2006); (iv) Journal of Semitic Studies, (UK, 1956 – 2001) and, (v) Palestine Exploration Quarterly (UK, 1869 – 2000)
7. To ensure that this priceless national asset in the “Special Collection” shall be preserved for posterity, IKIM is in discussion with the National Archive of Malaysia—whose Director-General, Datuk Azemi bin Abdul Aziz,is present with us today, on the ways and means of taking good care of the books, including the restoration of damaged copies, and the digitalization of this collection. The ultimate result of this discussion will be the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the National Archive of Malaysia and the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia.
8. We hope that this “Special Collection” will attract the interest of scholars and researchers. The “Special Collection” volumes have been fully catalogued and are now accessible for online search via IKIM Library Website. The use of the “Special Collection” will be governed by rules and regulations as are found in other more established institutions with similar collections, namely the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, Cambridge University Library and our own National Library.
9. Bagi pihak ahli-ahli Lembaga Pengarah, saya mengucapkan terima kasih di atas kehadiran tetamu dan jemputan yang menjadikan majlis ini sungguh bermakna. Kita memberi setinggi penghargaan kepada Ketua Pengarah IKIM, YBhg Datuk Dr. Azizan binti Baharuddin, dan juga kepada YBhg Dr. Mohd. Zaidi bin Ismail, Timbalan Ketua Pengarah dan Encik Mohd Zafri bin Abdul Karim, Pustakawan IKIM yang telah diamanahkan untuk mewujudkan “Special Collection” ini. Their exertion in this project is not without the anticipated reward: the establishment of this “Special Collection”.
10. Dengan lafaz Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, saya dengan amat sukacitanya merasmikan “Special Collection on Islamic Civilization” untuk IKIM Library pada pagi ini.