A review of the Dr. Iqbal Mujaddidi Collection at Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan
For scholars of Islam in South Asia and Afghanistan, the Iqbal Mujaddidi collection is indispensable. Dr. Mujaddidi is undeniably one of the region’s foremost authorities on the history of Sufism, having authored and edited over 20 works in addition to several hundred articles throughout his career. This collection is a result of a half century long peripatetic research career at hundreds of Sufi khaniqahs (centers for spiritual training), archives, and private collections from Istanbul to the tribal borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In 2014, the collection was gifted to Punjab University at Lahore, where it is now accessible to the public.
The collection comprises 10,529 published books and 268 journals and periodicals. These range from academic publications to works produced at cottage publishing houses associated with religious institutions. 6,000 of these volumes are in fact classified as ‘rare books’. The collection also features an impressive number of lithographs from the late 19th century onwards, over 1,000 manuscript reproductions (in the form of microfilms, rotographs, and Xerox copies), and 206 rare manuscripts. The bulk of the collection is in Persian and Urdu, in addition to English, Arabic, Turkish, Pushtu, Punjabi, and Sindhi.
An array of disciplines are represented, from Islamic literature, poetry, theology, history, archaeology, art, architecture, philosophy, and of course Sufism which represents the core of the collection. While Dr. Mujaddidi’s research focus is on the Naqshbandi Sufi order (arguably the most widespread internationally in the early modern period), all of the Sufi orders of the broader Persianate oecumene are well represented. In fact, during the inauguration ceremony a scholar of the Chishti order, the most prevalent in South Asia, remarked that this collection contains possibly the most extensive collection of Chishti works that he had come across (at least 300 titles).
The most prevalent genres are histories, biographies of saints, scholars, and poets, and theological texts. Specifically, the collection features numerous rare discourses, divans, city histories, hagiographies, and travel accounts, all of which are invaluable, unmined sources for social history. In addition, it hosts an extensive collection of manuscript catalogues, a valuable centralized resources for scholars wishing to work in libraries throughout South Asia.
There are several features that differentiate this collection from other regional private libraries. First is the deliberate and systematic manner in which the collection was compiled. Dr. Mujaddidi aimed to put together a comprehensive collection of all works regionally available on Sufism and religious history, and all historical and literary works which would complement and situate these works. In addition to widely circulated and reproduced works, he specifically targeted books unrepresented in traditional university libraries and archives, particularly local productions with limited circulation within mystical or scholarly circles.
The manuscripts and manuscript reproductions are also well beyond the scope of most manuscript collections. Dr. Mujaddidi fostered long term relationships with Sufi institutions and local scholars which allowed him access to texts that would otherwise not have been shared with outside researchers. He was able to secure copies of original correspondence and epistles of scholars from Sufi khaniqahs ranging as far afield as Kabul and Delhi to rural settlements in the Indus Valley. Many of the originals have since been lost or scattered. I found a selection of remarkable treatises: for instance, some of the earliest refutations of ‘Wahhabism’ from the Peshawar Valley dating to the 1820s, and an 1840 text arguing for women’s access to higher education, produced just a few kilometers outside of today’s Waziristan. Among the highlights of the collection is a 15th century theosophical text of the Suhrawardi Sufi luminary Baha al-Din Zakariya, whose turquoise tiled shrine towers above the city of Multan. The Multani text was copied 2,000 kilometers away in Samarkand in Central Asia – attesting to the breadth of the pre-modern transregional knowledge economy which has been ignored in secondary scholarship.
As a research scholar of South and Central Asian history, I was most impressed by the selection of regional histories, and corresponding travel accounts. For historians of Afghanistan, for example, the collection contains more than a few surprises – including unpublished and unique chronicles from the 18th and 19th centuries, rare histories of cities within the broader Afghan empire, and an array of British colonial sources.
The collection has been published in six catalogues, under the title Makhzan-e Mujaddidi. Perhaps most useful is the two volume catalogue (also available in electronic form) of manuscripts and manuscript copies. The catalogue features detailed descriptions of each item, with biographical notes on the authors, parsing out the content of miscellanies. A catalogue of printed books is published in four volumes. A corresponding electronic catalogue in MS Excel allows researchers to locate books by author, title, publisher, or subject.
A pdf can be downloaded here: http://mujaddidway.com/books/professor-m-iqbal-mujadaddi-books-list-donated-to-punjab-university/. Several additional books and videos are available on Mujaddidway.com
Visitors should certainly reserve ample time for the broader Punjab University collection, among the largest libraries in Pakistan, with works in English, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Chinese, Punjabi, Pashto, Sanskrit, Hindi, and Gurmukhi. The Manuscript Section dates back to 1920, and contains 24,000 titles (11,400 in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Punjabi and other local languages, and 8,671 in Sanskrit, Hindi, and other languages.) Among the numerous collections that make up Punjab University’s broader portfolio are the collection of South Asia’s philosopher-poet Dr. Prof. Muhammad Iqbal, and the library of the orientalist H.M. Percival. Each portion of the collection has been catalogued through the last century. The entire collection is also searchable through the university intra-net.
Lahore houses innumerable libraries and manuscript collections, and it would be useful for researchers to approach Punjab University faculty and library staff for assistance in locating and accessing additional collections. Lahore’s bustling Urdu Bazaar is possibly the most extensive book bazaar in Pakistan and should not be missed.
Hours and Access
To access the collection, I was asked to write a letter to the head librarian, outlining the project. The head librarian then put me through to the Oriental & Manuscripts Unit librarian, who arranged for a desk in the reading room, and brought manuscripts to me, several at a time. Researchers should be sure to specify that they wish to take photographs, as this can be a source of more than mild confusion. For printed books, I was free to peruse the shelves.
Be forewarned: The university has strict regulations regarding the use and copying of manuscripts and printed material, so researchers are urged to do their due diligence and make sure that they come equipped with all the necessary paperwork and permissions. I would recommend contacting Dr. Iqbal Mujaddidi directly, who in my case helped expedite the process and made the necessary arrangements to access the collection.
The Punjab University administration can also help secure living arrangements in the vicinity of the campus for visitors.
Haseeb Ahmad Piracha, Chief Librarian
Dr. Iqbal Mujaddidi
Research Scholar in Law, Yale Law School
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Yale University
Image: Title page of a lithograph of Manaqib o Maqamat-i Ahmadiyya Sa’idiyya, a well-known 19th-century Naqshbandi biography. Photograph by author.