Arewa House as a centre for Historical Documentation and Research has a long history of work in the area of Arabicwambai00393 manuscript preservation in Northern Nigeria. Since its establishment in the 1970s the founding Director, Professor Abdullahi Smith had initiated many programs for the procurement and preservation of Arabic manuscripts in Northern Nigeria. There were many photographs, microfilms and few copies of original manuscripts procured during his time. Presently, Arewa House has about 1400 original manuscripts from four different private collections deposited in its archives. Below is the brief description of the collections.

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This collection consists of approximately 985 original manuscripts deposited in Arewa House. It is the personal collection of the late Modibbo Ahmadu Fofure of Yola (1889-1960). He was born in the year 1885 in Fufore, Adamawa Emirate, to Alkali Muhammadu Fufore. His ancestors migrated from Ngazargamu then to Kukawa, before moving to Dikkwa, all in the Borno Empire. From Borno they settled at Ribadu, and then at Fufore, before they finally moved to Yola, the Headquarters of Adamawa Emirate.  Moddibo Ahmadu was introduced to Islamic education early in life by his father. Later, he was taught by renowned scholars in Adamawa, such as Modibbo Hammadu, Modibbo Mahmudu son of Alkalli Hamman-joda, the most remarkable Islamic judge in the history of Adamawa Emirate who studied in the Middle East and taught for sometime in the Al-Azhar University in Egypt. Having passed through these great Islamic scholars, Modibbo Ahamadu became very versatile in various fields of knowledge, such as Jurisprudence ( Islamic Law), Tafseer (Qur’anic exegesis) Hadith, Arabic Grammar, Logic, Poetry, Arabic literature, Astronomy, Mathematics and Medicine.

His first appointment in the Adamawa native Authority was in January, 1917 as Malamin Kasa, (The District Scribe) in Wuro Marafa, Vere District and later Alkalin (Judge) of Ribadu/Fufore in 1935. He was later transferred to Jada as Alkali in 1940, and subsequently moved to the Grand Khadi court in Yola as the Grand Mufti under his teacher, Modibbo Mahmudu. Thereafter, he worked under some notable Alkalis like Hamidu and Hamman Gabdo in Yola before he was himself appointed Alkalin Alkalai (Grand Khadi) of Adamawa Province in 1953, which coincide with the installation of Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Aliyu Musdafa, as the 11th Lamido of Adamawa.wambai00602

Apart from his achievements in the judicial services with the Adamawa Native Authority from 1917-1957, his greatest achievement was the number of notable Islamic scholars in Adamawa and Cameroon he produced. These included Modibbo Umaru Ngaundare, one time Imam of Yola Central Mosque, Modibbo Barkindo, Imam of Yola Central Mosque, Modibbo Ahmadu Danburam, Modibbo Umaru Mbamba, Modibbo Abbasi Ribadu, Modibbo Yahya Ribadu, Modibbo Muhammadu Alkalin Garua, Modibbo Ibrahim Alkalin Ngaundare, and the Lamido of Adamawa Alhaji Aliyu Musdafa. Modibbo Ahmadu was an honest and pious Islamic judge and scholar. His thoughts, words and deeds were guided by the dictates of the sacred book, the Holy Qur’an and until his death in 1960 he was a strong believer in Islam and all that it teaches. His Manuscript Collection is a clear testimony of the long intellectual history of Muslims in this country and their effort to promote all the branches of sciences. These works have played a central role in the cultural development of Muslims and the history and civilization of Northern Nigeria.

 The collection is one of the largest of its kind in Adamawa Emirate so far recovered. The many scholarly treasures it contains and the breadth and scope of the subjects they cover make this collection one of the most important storehouses of Islamic knowledge and Northern Nigeria documentary heritage. The collection contains about 600 copies of Manuscripts out of which 370 were catalogued. They bear various titles as they were inherited from their great grand fathers in the period between the 14th and 20th century AD.

The collection is unique for two reasons. First, it contains many important items such as the finest illuminations and calligraphy with a variety of scripts of the Holy Qur’an, calligraphic art works, and other high-quality copies of many important works. Secondly, the collection is one the most diverse in terms of the subjects that are covered by it. These include copies of the Holy Qur’an, works of Qur’anic sciences, Hadiths (reports from the Prophet and the Imams), Tawheed or theology, Islamic law, prayers and sermons, mysticism, philosophy, ethics and politics, biographies, history, geographical works, Arabic and Fulfulde and Hausa grammar, lexicography and philology, poetry and prose, anthologies and other literary works, alchemy, astronomy, traditional medicine, traditional pharmacy and pharmacology, and most importantly a large body of correspondences on Mahdism, etc. This outstanding collection is now accessible to the public in Arewa House Archives, Kaduna.


 This is the second Arabic manuscript collection in Arewa House, Kaduna. It belonged to the late Sheikh Ahmad Arabi of Jos in Nigeria (1910-1973). Shiekh Ahmad Arabi was born in 1909 at Nafada in the present Gombe state. He pursued his elementary school in Dukku, after which he worked briefly as court scribe. Sheikh Arabi later moved to Jos where he continued his Islamic education under his uncle, Alkalin Jos, Mallam Abubakar. He was appointed an Arabic Teacher at Jos NA Elementary School. Arabi’s search for knowledge took him to the famous School for Arabic Studies (SAS), Kano, after which he became a teacher there. He was called back by the Jos Native Authority in 1950.  In 1947, he founded the Islamiyya Nizamiyyah School in Jos. He was appointed as the Deputy Grand Khadi for the defunct Benue Plateau and North Eastern States, and Chairman of Benue Plateau State Pilgrim Welfare Board. He died in 1973 at the age of 63 (Musa 2008). As for his Arabic scripts most of them were written in Naskh script with some Kufic letters. The Naskh has some Maghrib style, especially the curative lettering and the placing of the dots for letters qaf and faa. Diacritical points were not omitted and orthographic colour is different from that of the texts. Special reeds were used in writing these manuscripts. Even the later ones are not written with pens or fountain pens. This is still observed in many places in Northern Nigeria. The ink itself was locally made and prepared by the copyists. The paper is of various kinds and comes mainly from European Countries. This is indicated by the watermarks. Various beautiful figures were represented by the trade marks

The Arewa House archivist did his best to catalogue the collection using the names of both the authors and books with spelling as given in the manuscripts themselves. It was rather difficult to identify authors in some cases, because their names are usually given after two pages or more in the texts. Sometimes, the first pages were missing, and in many cases the authors’ names were given in many manuscripts. His collection consist of 156 copies of handwritten manuscripts, including volumes of hadith and fiqh works, some dating from the eighteenth century.


The owner of this valuable collection is Nupe by tribe who travelled far and wide in Nigeria for the purpose of seeking knowledge and trade and he finally settled in a village to the North of Jos. He has more than 750 copies of original Arabic and Ajami manuscripts written in the period between the 19th and 20th centuries. The subjects covered by the manuscripts wambai00507include Islamic matters such as interpretation of the Qur’an, Sufism, Astrology, Poetry, Sociology and Political Economy.

The manuscripts can be classified into three forms, namely, originals (which can either be on parchment, papyrus, or paper), photographic reproductions, and microfilms. Their content contains discourses on various areas of socio-economic, cultural and political interest, including mathematics, chemistry, physics, optics, astronomy, medicine, Islamic sciences, history, geography, the traditions of The Prophet, government legislation and treaties, jurisprudence, logic and philosophy, as well as poetry and literature.


The collection has more than 350 copies of Manuscripts acquired by Arewa House, in 2011 by during our survey activities