By Adan Makina
Seek knowledge from cradle to the grave–Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH).
The history of record keeping that is part of library started with the fall of the Roman Empire, and during the Han and Gupta Dynasties. Archival savings have been described as the backbone of historians since time immemorial and have been the factories and laboratories of historians who have been interested in historical authenticity or historicity. With the collapse of the Somali central government in 1991, the most famous library that was known as “Maktabadda Qaranka” or the National Library was either looted by gangsters or burned to ashes according to people who were familiar with the prevailing conditions of that time.
Prior to the discovery of papyrus in Egypt in the 4th Millennium BCE–an art of writing known as cuneiform popped up in Sumer in Mesopotamia. The term ancient civilizations did not imply exposure to primitivism, primordialism or backwardness. Instead, they were distinct settlements that were either close to each other like the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, and in faraway distant lands like the Chinese, the Indus Valley in India and the Maya in South America. The major objects that were used for writing included palm leaves, clay tablets, flexible stones and inscriptions on the internal walls of sacred or religious buildings.
As for the palm leaves that some religious scholars claim to have been used to write the Zaboor or the Psalms that was revealed to Prophet Daud (David), some scholars refer to it as the Psalters–voluminous books containing contents of the Psalms. What we refer to as ancient civilizations applied record keeping transactions before the emergence of double entry bookkeeping. Around 250 B.C., a Chinese named Meng Tien made a brush from camel hair that was used as a pen. However, in 105 A.D. Ts’ai Lun came up with a marvelous invention of true paper. This new invention brought exponential use of the art of calligraphy. As Hunter (1978) claims, it took a thousand years for the Chinese paper technology to reach Europe. In modern times, the Japanese are the leading calligraphers of the Qur’an and Arabic and this makes me wonder, despite having uncountable memorizers of the Qur’an, why Somalis have failed in this kind of art.
Describing it as “Music without Sound”, Fuad Kouichi Honda who teaches at Daito Bunka University, is reputedly the best calligrapher in Qur’an inscriptions with many awards to his credit. In the Glorious Qur’an–the revered book of Muslims, after Adam, Prophet Idris is the second to be mentioned and according to Ibn Is-haq, he was the first to write with a pen. On the same length, Tabari supports the idea that he was the first to write with a pen. Likewise, Ibn Kathir, an expert commentator of the Qur’an, states that he was the first to write with a pen. I wish to differ with those experts in Hadith who claim the first thing Allaah created was the pen, because, the Qur’an in Surah Huud or Hood (11: 7) states: “And He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six days and His Throne was on the water, that He might try you, which of you is the best in deed.” Since His Throne was on water, there is no doubt that the Throne was the first to be created by Allah.
Baraarug Library Going Extra Miles
In 2016, Hassan Mudane who was in Turkey to pursue his advanced international degree in the blessed and historical nation of Turkey got in touch with this writer, Mr. Makina through electronic correspondence. At that time, he was struggling with the Turkish language that is a must for foreign students. Unlike the curiosity that killed the cat, Makina never felt any sense of intrusiveness or suspiciousness because, Mr. Mudane’s linguistic introduction bluffed aside all types of satanic whispers that would have dissuaded the writer of this article from responding to his succinctly articulate communication. From there on, Makina became a keen observer of how Mr. Mudane was covering new ground in academia, in social media, and his concerted efforts at educating anyone who was willing to grab his unstoppable efforts at educating humanity without regard to color, race, creed, religion, gender, and political and social affiliation. While the subject matter of this article is not about Mr. Mudane, it is worth reminiscing the past because someone once said,” We remember the past in order to make the present tolerable and the future worth waiting for.”
A man of humility and a natural philosopher, Mr. Mudane is a Mudanist–a new philosophical thought that propagates all that is beneficial to humankind. In general, he is a polyglot, a polymath, an epistemologist, and the author of Sirta Guusha that is written in Somali and he is, as well, according to my view, a philomath who does not shy away from perusing through books, journals, magazines, scholarly papers, documents, and subjects that seem appealing to him. On the other hand, he is never selfish at sharing knowledge that is worthy of dissemination unlike the envious when they envy in Surah Al-Falaq (Qur’an; 113-5). His book, Sirta Guusha when translated into English, denotes ‘The Secret of Success.’
It is permissible for a Muslim to seek knowledge as long as it does not contravene the perfected Islamic faith–perfected because, Allah, in His Glorious Qur’an that He revealed to His Messenger Muhammad, in Surah Al-Ma’idah or the Table Spread which is Chapter 5 verse 3, though long in context, in His final message reminded Muhammad (PBUH),…”Today I have perfected your faith for you, completed My favour upon you, and chosen Islam as your way…” With Islam being a practical religion, believers are exhorted to learn from those endowed with knowledge and these are scholars who are eloquent in religious matters especially the Qur’an, Hadith (Traditions) and Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh). Astonishingly, with unaccountable numbers of Somali secular scholars scattered worldwide, none dared reach the educational and humanitarian stage of our Mr. Mudane. After the establishment of Baraarug library, there have been reports of other virtual libraries that have been created by fellow Somalis using what we could describe as the “psychology of imitation.”
The Establishment of Baraarug Library
Going by the old wise saying of Lao Tzu that “a journey of a thousand miles, starts with one step”, Mr. Mudane started the current Baraarug Library in May 19, 2016 on Facebook–a social media that has great significance even though the number of Somalis who use it as a valuable tool are quite scanty. Other social media the library prides to be visible include Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Telegram plus Zoom for videoconferencing. The library has discussion sites where all types of profanities are objected and deleted immediately to avoid readers’ conflagrations. At the present time, the library has a combined 7,000 valuable books on different subjects or topics and 25,000 frequent followers while the number of people seeking membership keeps on growing by the day. Those Somali scholars having show-off mentalities or who could be branded ineptitude braggadocios with scholarly journals are many, however, due to greed, accessing their journals requires subscriptions that are quite expensive for the disadvantaged student and that’s one of the main reasons the library was established. There must be something unpalatable and unscholarly condiments, hidden secrets that could be full of propaganda and distasteful tribalistic memorabilia when a book written by a Somali scholar is sold for $80 on international bookselling websites.
On WhatsApp, despite the number of members it can accommodate being 200 plus, the library has several forums like Baraarug Book talk and Somali scholars Committee. The committee deliberates on what matters most, what is to be done in short- and long-term goals and how to keep the ball rolling without any stops whatsoever. The term “nothing is impossible” seems credible for it requires time management and determination to acquire specific goals. “Climbing the ladder of success” is another wise saying because, to reach the summit of a mountain, regardless of its height, requires one to have the courage to keep on trying to climb without losing hope and defeat. In so doing, success will be within reach even if it is the highest summit of Mount Everest.
If you attempt to type Mudane on your keyboard on Google, the word Mundane appears as a replacement. Though mundane means “dull” synonymously, after removing the second ‘n’ alphabet, Mudane in Somali means someone of wisdom, one having a high degree of respect, and a person who has unique human qualities that are rare among other human beings. Usually, in Somali, Mudane is used for a Member of Parliament, though some could be good-for-nothing, clannish or tribalistic, and unworthy of the roles they hold for their constituents.
With Mudane Hassan at the helm as the Executive Director, there are nine executive members who help him with the smooth running of the library daily activities.
Baraarug Etymology and Intentions
The name Baraarug is a Somali word that is derived from Baraarujin and when translated into English, it denotes ‘awareness’, “accentuate” or ‘bring attention to’. The library was mainly established to bring attention to the significance of reading and writing to the multitudes of Somali students struggling to achieve knowledge in this era of Information Technology (IT). With Somalia priding to have the cheapest internet connectivity and charges, smartphone availability in the African continent, and other forms of advanced IT technology, even modern days camel herders who can read while tending to their livestock can access the library with ease. Whether at home within the Somali Peninsula or in the Diaspora, Baraarug Library is intended to become the largest physical and virtual library in Africa.
Though it is already a virtual library, physically or architecturally, there is a long-range project that is already underway to bring together educational philanthropists from all walks of life who will contribute generously to the construction of a massive library in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia–a building that will have books on broad subjects ranging from those intended for kindergarteners to people with advanced levels of education.
In the future, since Somalis have jumped on the bandwagon of becoming the leading nation in multilingualism if not the future polyglots in Africa or the whole world, the number of books to be added apart from English that towers above the rest will include French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Esperanto, and others depending on the number of speakers of the future foreign language to be agreed upon. Since no religion will be excluded from the library shelves, books on theology will be given great significance. Books on the five largest religions such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism will have shelves preserved for them.
Like the Library of Egypt and its much-celebrated Museum (or Mouseion) that brought together scholars of literary repute, if not community of scholars such as Eratosthenes, Euclid, and Callimachus, Baraarug Library is intended to leave a legacy to be inherited by millions not only for the present but for posterity. Despite Somalia experiencing plethora of political disagreements, gross human rights injustices, hunger and deprivations and jostling for power by tribal-minded individuals who were mainly warlords and human rights violations criminals, the adage “where there is a will, there is a way” is clearly visible, even though foreign influence remains a clog in the eyes of the Somali leaders who would have steered the nation-state in the right direction.
Borrowing a leaf from the biggest ancient libraries in the world, like that of Alexandria that was named after Alexander the Great of Macedon that was founded between 300-290 BC by the first Ptolemy, Baraarug Library aims to climb the ladder of success by taking the lead in the dissemination of knowledge in Africa like the olden days in Egypt. Unfortunately, though it could be genuine or an exaggeration, the Library of Alexandria was burned by Julius Caesar. After the burning of the library, three prominent individuals decried the wanton destruction of the “Mother” of all libraries. Most of books were written in Papyrus.
The claim by some scholars that Khalif Omar played a role in the burning of the Library of Alexandria is nothing but untruth. If Islam warns against the burning of non-Muslims places of worship like churches, cathedrals, shrines, and temples, how can a man who inherited the Messenger of Allah to lead Muslims to the right path, dare destroy a mountain of books?
Since the Library of Alexandria brought together scholars who were versed in medicine, astronomy and mathematics and the study of literature and editing works by Homer, most were paid and provided with meals by the presiding king of that era. The feeding and paying of the scholars left Timon of Phlius, feeling discouraged and had this to say: “In the populous land of Egypt there is a crowd of bookish scribblers who get fed as they argue away interminably in the chicken coop of the Muses.”
Credit goes to the Sassanid Empire or the Sassanid Dynasty that lasted from 221-654 AD. A Persian Empire that succeeded the Parthian Empire had great sway over Persia. It was the Sassanid Empire that gave the fleeing Greeks and their manuscripts safe haven after the Roman takeover of Greek Territories. The Persians kept the manuscripts until the rise of Islam in 610 AD. The Roman Empire was preceded by the Byzantine Empire whose name was taken from a small port in the Sea of Marmara at the entrance of Bosporus Strait that was known as Byzantion. Another prominent library that is worth mentioning is the Library of Baghdad that was destroyed by the invading Mongols. According to Historians, the brutality of the Mongols was so immense such that, besides killings and plunder, most of the books that were written in ink were dumped into one of the rivers leaving it limnologically discolored with the water turning black.
For Baraarug Library, things will be different and if all goes well, there will be a classic café where visitors can sit with ease and debate. On the Other hand, Baraarug has a long vision of having a park that will accommodate those who prefer total privacy. Hopefully, in the long run, there will be a store that will sell exercise books, pencils and diaries etc.
Even with Somalia entombed in prolonged insecurity arising from the lack of credible leadership and social disunity and disharmony, those who embarked on its establishment are more than determined to safeguard any anticipated attacks on the library building, library goers and the educational materials it will contain. Depending on the streaming of resources, the more the economic equilibrium of the library skyrockets, Mr. Mudane and his assistants have a future plan of having library branches in Hargeisa, Bossasso, Baidoa, Kismayu, Jigjiga and Djibouti City in neighboring Djibouti.
Since beggars have no choices and that if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, Baraarug Library will eventually strive hard to become a force to reckon with without entertaining beggary. There is no doubt that “that has a beginning has an end.” Besides the ancient libraries we mentioned earlier and the problems they encountered, an example of a library that experienced the same fate was the Library of Congress of the United States that is located in Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. As fate would have it, in August 1814, British soldiers set it on fire subsequently destroying 3,000 volumes of books. In less than a year on January 30, 1815, American Congress immediately approved to buy Thomas Jefferson’s prestigious personal library that contained 6,487 books for the price of $23,950. According to the Library of Congress, it was founded in 1800 and currently prides to have 170 million items–making it the biggest library in the world.
Interview Questionnaires Responses
Mr. Mudane Hassan conducted a few select interviews with some of the library followers using different types of social media. For the sake of academic excellence, the interviewees remained anonymous during his attempts to conduct his research endeavors. A few of the questions that were delivered include:
- What is your view of Baraarug library since joining it?
- How have you benefited from Baraarug library?
- Do you think it will have great impact on the Somali community if expanded?
Majority of the interviewees were of the view that the library is very significant in this era of globalization and mushrooming Information Technology because it will benefit those who value what it holds especially the thousands of books that seem new and have never been heard of before Baraarug establishment. The library is intended to flow nonstop like a natural spring water to quench the thirst of the current and future generations yearning to suffocate the deliberately prolonged illiteracy that decelerated the literacy rate of Somalia after its initial collapse in the early nineties.
Likewise, the library will remain like a deciduous or tropical forest that will provide valuable and nutritiously necessary elements that will rejuvenate and resuscitate the general human faculty of thinking while keeping an eye on the major factors that cause physiological, psychiatric and psychological infirmities. Those farsighted and broadminded interviewees had the assumption that it will benefit those teachers working for underfunded primary and secondary schools as well as institutions of higher learning. A lone interviewee cited a very painful article that decried the hard situations and precarious conditions experienced by Somalia’s higher institutions lecturers. The writer of the article clearly explained the financial difficulties lecturers endure. Regardless of the lecturers’ financial hardships, at least, Baraarug Library will help in the search for references or citations or bibliographic contents during their scholarly researches.
The proverbial expression “that has a beginning has an end” clearly stipulates that what begins must have an end one day. Since its establishment in 2016, Maktabadda Baraarug or Baraarug Library is expanding in its search for new knowledge by the day, and with positive horoscopic expectations showing valuable unprecedented luck ahead, plus creativity, we hope to prosper in the future. Likewise, winning the hearts and minds of many and also gaining new members every day, taking great pride or pleasure in its exploratory adventures, and with your frequent prayers, we hope to cover unblemished new ground.
Baraarug Library would like to thank WardheerNews, the most scholarly and journalistic Horn of Africa online magazine for being the first to give it the chance to share its views and ideas. Single mothers with their abandoned children will be given preference so that, in the future, Somalia will have dedicated and educated children who will steer the currently war-ravaged, impoverished, and beleaguered Somali nation. If the writer of the essay Landforms Story and Killer Whales was a mere seventh grader who was fond of animal sciences and recently wrapped up his 12th grade in high school, those irresponsible, vainglorious absentee fathers who are beating about the bushes after abandoning their beloved children deserve to be reminded of the fascinating contents of The Inglorious Absentee Father in Contemporary Somali Politics.
Email: [email protected]
 Walsham, A. (2016). The social history of the archive: record-keeping in early modern Europe.
Joseph H. (1999). “Zabur”. In Bearman, P. J. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Islam. XI (2nd ed.). Leiden: Brill. Pp. 372-373.
Irfan, S. (1989). Byzantine and the Arabs in the Fifth Century. Durbaton Oaks. P. 520. ISBN 9780884021520.
Hunter, D. (1978). Papermaking: the history and technique of an ancient craft. Books.google.com
Azhari, K. (July 30, 2020). Fuad Honda, the Japanese Muslim Reinterpreting Arabic Calligraphy. Retrieved from https://arab.news/zacss
Dr. Mustafa Khattab, The Clear Quran. Al-Ma’idah, Chapter 5:3. Retrieved from https://quran.com/5
Erskine, A. (1995). Culture and power in ptolemaic Egypt: The Museum and Library of Alexandria. Greece & Rome, 42(1), 38-48.
Fascinating Facts about the Library Congress. Retrieved from loc.gov
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