Persian ‘Mahabharata’ In Hyderabad’s ‘Islamic’ School!

Tucked away in the dingy lanes of the old city of Hyderabad is a
hoary institute of Islamic learning whose prized possessions
include a Persian translation of the Mahabharata and rare Islamic
manuscripts.

Located at Shibli Gunj, some 3 km west of historic Charminar, the
144-year-old Islamic university still stands tall. Equated with Al
Azhar University of Cairo for its standard of education, Jamia
Nizamia has about 3,000 manuscripts, including the over 400-year-
old translation of the Mahabharata and books written by renowned
Indian and Arabic Islamic scholars.

Translated by Abu’l-Fazal, one of the navratnas (nine jewels) of
Mughal emperor Akbar’s royal court, the Mahabharta runs into 5,012
pages. It was in the personal collection of Moulana Mohammad
Anwarullah Farooqui, the founder of Jamia, the biggest seminary in
southern India. “He felt a library should have all types of books
and students should study other religions,” Shaikul Jamia or head
of the university Mufti Khalil Ahmed sais.

The Mahabharata is one of the two major Hindu epics. It is the
longest known epic with about 1.8 million words in total. It is
roughly 10 times the length of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey” combined.
Scholars and students of comparative religion from different parts
of India and various countries visit Jamia Nizami’s library to
study the Persian translation of the Mahabharata and other rare
manuscripts and books in Persian, Arabic and Urdu.

As Jamia has digitised several manuscripts, some scholars take CD
versions, said Fasihuddin Nizami, the librarian. He said scholars
from countries like China and Japan visited Jamia recently. The
library also has a recent piece of Islamic calligraphy by a city-
based artist, Anil Kumar Chauhan. He has written ‘Yaseen’, one of
the chapters of the Holy Quran, and this work adorns a hall in the
library.

“The library is the heart of Jamia and these manuscripts are the
heart of the library,” said Fasihuddin, pointing towards the
manuscripts including a 400-year-old copy of the Holy Quran, whose
first two pages are gold-plated. The oldest manuscript here is a
copy of ‘Kitab-ul-Tabsera Fil Qiratil Ashara’ authored by renowned
Islamic scholar Abu Mohammed Makki bin Talib. This 750-year-old
book is about reading Quran with the art of ‘tajweed’.

The Jamia library has more than 100,000 printed books written by
renowned Islamic scholars covering various subjects related to the
Quran and ‘Ahadith’ (sayings of Prophet Mohammed). Jamia is
celebrating the 100th death anniversary of its founder this week
by organising a series of programmes to highlight his
contributions in developing Hyderabad a global centre for Islamic
studies.

This unique institute was set up in 1888 for research and printing
Arabic books written before 800 AD, said Mufti Khaleel. Jamia
Nizamia has 30,000 students at its 254 branches in Telangana,
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. With an annual budget
of about Rs 4 crore, it provides free education with boarding and
lodging facilities at some branches. #KhabarLive