NLR Online Exhibitions

Samarkand Quran

Samarkand Quran in the Public Library (1870–1917)

O.V. Vasilyeva

Tatar Sources

Further history is known from Tatar sources. Gabdrakhim (Abd al-Rahim) Utyz Imyani, (1754 –1834), a Tatar thinker and poet, moved to Central Asia in circa 1788. He studied in Bukhara, visited different cities, served as the imam of the Mugak Mosque in Samarkand. Around 1805, he returned to his native village Utyz Imyan. He wrote several books in the Tatar language and, among other things, spoke about the Samarkand Quran in the poem The Magnificent Pearl, fragments of which were published by Rizaeddin bin Fakhreddin in his biographical work Asar. ("Biographies").

When I, unfortunate, wandered around the world
And I spent many days in Samarkand,
There I saw that Mushaf in a special place –
The leaves fell apart, decayed together.
Only writing is wonderful, but no one,
Alas, can't read it anymore...

It is interesting to note, in this context, the message in the Collection of Articles Concerning the Turkestan Region. A. P. Khoroshikhin wrote that in 1869, one of his Samarkand acquaintances, "an inveterate literate", said that "more than 50 years ago,  some Tatar, who came from Russia, read the Quran of Khawja Akhrar, wept over the blood of the caliph, and that both the old and the young flocked to listen and gaze at the Tartar, as if at a miracle. Apparently, it was about Gabdrakhim Utyz Imyani.

Later in his poem, Gabdurahim tells that the leaves of the Quran are made from the skin of wild goats, and each folio contains 12 lines of beautiful writing. Regarding the size, the author states that the book is four spans (71 cm) long and almost three spans (53 cm) wide, which practically corresponds to the actual size (68×53 cm).

In conclusion, Gabdurahim writes about his work,

"And gathering all those leaves together,
I clamped between two boards by force.
Then I bound them together with a strong thread
And put that book in a niche. "

In the Book of Useful News about the Affairs of Kazan and Bolgar, the well-known Tatar educator Şihabetdin Märcani (Shihab al-Din al-Marjani) (1818–1889) testifies that Mullah Gabdrakhim Utyz Imyani from Samarkand “filled in some missing parts, recovered writings in damaged areas” of the Quran “located in the Khawja Akhrar Madrasa and regarded by the population of Bukhara as the Uthman Quran. Märcani was the first to write, back in 1856, that Caliph Uthman had never held the Samarkand Quran in his hands.

The Magnificent Pearl. Fragment of a poem. P. 311
The Magnificent Pearl. Fragment of a poem. P. 312
Rizaeddin bin Fakhreddin. Asar. Title page.
Şihabetdin Märcani (Shihab al-Din al-Marjani) (1818–1889)