This is a continuation of the previous article in which we mentioned about Professor Hamidullah’s contribution to the growth of Islamic scholarship and its subsequent influence on Islamic movements in Turkey. Here we mention about the tireless and diligent efforts of the Professor in unearthing valuable manuscripts from libraries in Turkey and bringing them to light. Again, I am grateful to Mr. Biju Abdul Qadir for permitting me to quote from his wonderful article on Professor Hamidullah which was published in the Educational Encyclopedia of Islam, Bangalore, India.
Meanwhile in Turkey, Hamidullah had unearthed the Sunan Sa‘id ibn Mansur which is a rare manuscript consisting of an invaluable collection of Hadith. Edited and cross-checked by Habib-ur-Rahman al-Azami, it was published from Dabhel, Gujarat, in 1968, together with an introduction by Hamidullah. By 1973, Hamidullah had unearthed two more historical manuscripts, one being Abu Hanifah al-Dinawari’s Kitab-ul-Nabat (Book of Plants) published from Cairo, Egypt, and the other Shaykh Nu‘man b. Muhammad’s Ma‘danu’l-Jawahir fi Tarikhi’l-Basrah wa’l-Jaza’ir, published from Islamabad, Pakistan. Al-Dinawari’s Kitab-ul-Nabat was subsequently translated by Hamidullah and published from Islamabad.
The story of how Hamidullah finally ended up with the long-lost, original, multi-volume work of Kitab-ul-Nabat is an astonishing, indeed, moving, anecdote on human dedication. It was while he was editing the only extant volume of the book that he thought over the fact that the same text, in its original, had been widely referred to by several subsequent authors from the classical period of Islamic history. Already impressed with the value of the work, in any case, it then occurred to Hamidullah that if he were to cull all referenced material from the original book, now spread out through these secondary sources, he may actually be able to reproduce the complete Kitab-ul-Nabat as a whole. The sheer number of pages, in their thousands, which he must have then pored over to reassemble the Kitab-ul-Nabat of Dinawari will be a standing testimony to his almost limitless industry and perseverance in the cause of pure scholarship at its best.
Hamidullah’s earnestness in the pursuit of ancient manuscripts relating to the period of the Prophet (saws) was in evidence yet again when, in May 1974, Hamidullah’s Turkish student, Mahmud Rifat Kademoglu was with him on a personal family occasion. It was Rifat’s wedding day and Hamidullah had kindly consented to conducting the ceremony himself. Rifat’s own account of the incident is as follows:
“On the appointed day, we met with our Professor and his faithful friend and translator, Dr. Salih Tug, and went to my future wife’s house at Uskudar-Baglarbasi. It was Thursday, the fifth day of the first month of 1394 AH/May 23, 1974 A.D. After a brief introduction of guests, Professor Hamidullah said, ‘I have received a wonderful news today!’ Then he took out an Arabic newspaper from his bag. It included an article which was about the discovery of the original letter which our Prophet had sent to – if I’m not mistaken – the Byzantium Emperor, Heraclius, in order to invite him to Islam. This newspaper was the May 5, 1974 edition of Al-Itihad which used to be published at Abu Dhabi. The discovery of this historic document was of utmost significance because it would establish many fundamental aspects of early Islamic history beyond doubt. Our professor understood the importance of this discovery and was extremely happy on that day. He especially wanted to share the pleasure of the publication of this discovery with the wedding guests. Thus, his merriment became ours as well. This was, indeed, a very lovely and happy beginning for us.”Remembering Muhammad Hamidullah, Mahmud Rifat Kademoglu