Experts call for preservation of ancient manuscripts at SBA's 'Tales from the East' exhibition


At a panel discussion organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) as part of the cultural agenda of the ongoing ‘Tales from the East’ exhibition, eminent experts discussedthe challenges and importance of preserving ancient manuscripts for upcoming generations.

Held at SBA's headquarters in Sharjah, speakers at the session titled ‘The Future of Manuscripts’,included Dr. Ali Bin Ibrahim Al Namlah, former Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in Saudi Arabia, and Ahmed Mohamed Obaid, a UAE writer and researcher.Emirati author Eman Al Yousuf moderated the discussion.

Speaking at the session, Dr. Ali Bin Ibrahim Al Namlah noted that “hundreds of thousands of manuscripts have been well-preserved in Arab research centres and libraries, or are held privately by scientists and collectors. An exceptional collection of rare manuscripts were stored in centres of learningin several Islamic cities, especially Baghdad. Apart from encouraging scholarly writing, these centres also served as a meeting place for prominent literati, including Al Mutanabi, Al Asma'i, and many others."

"More important than recovering the original manuscript,is the preservation and restoration of its content, either through modern technologies or other reliable tools."Manuscripts were also wilfully destroyed by colonial invaders, while many were destroyed as scholars often did not have heirs to preserve them, he added.

Ahmed Mohamed Obaid pointed out that the popular perception of manuscripts as “content from the past which only specialists can read is slowly eroding as exhibitions have brought people closer to the world of manuscripts."

Affirming a decline in the relevance of manuscripts in the modern age, he said that Arabic manuscripts expanded and flourished until the Second World War because of institutions that focused onits preservation and authentication.

Obaid added: “Every science has its challenges, and the study of manuscripts is hindered by the lack of monetary value for the work of experts to verify its authenticity. That said, we must give duecredit to those experts whotake great efforts to share manuscripts online and make them accessible to the public."