THE ongoing destruction in Timbuktu compelled me to write these few lines to draw attention of the interested and the concerned to another looming destruction in Timbuktu. I refer to an article in the Time magazine of Sept 28, 2009. A news item about this had also appeared in one of your past issues.
There are hundreds of thousands of books, mostly in Arabic language, in possession of the people of Timbuktu. These books are from 14th and 16th centuries. They are on subjects as diverse as the history of Africa and southern Europe, religion, mathematics, medicine, other sciences and law.
There are manuscripts detailing the movement of the stars, possible cures for malaria and remedies for pain. Ancestors of some of the residents carried their books to Timbuktu from Toledo, Spain, when they fled religious persecution in 1467, and later wrote and purchased thousands more.
Images of some pages from the book are contained in the magazine that show intricate scientific diagrams that suggests these are research articles written by some genius of the time who remain obscure due to the books remaining hidden from scholars of our time. These books contain priceless treasures from Muslim history. A big number of books have been retrieved and displayed in a recently completed museum.
The books are exposed to destruction by the roaming goons and thugs of the Ansar Dino. Indeed they believe in destruction of everything that is strange to them. One is reminded of the destruction of the big library of Alexandria when the Muslim army conquered Egypt. It is said that the library contained thousands of precious works of sciences which the conquering army found to be containing magic and heretic logic.
I fear the books in Timbuktu contain similar magic and heretics and so the followers of those who destroyed the statue of Budha in Afghanistan and are at present busy destroying the Sufi mosques and heritage in Timbuktu will turn to destruction of books in possession of the followers of Sufism.
JAFFAR AKBARI Karachi