Sharjah Ruler publishes groundbreaking new history book

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Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah, has published a new book on the history of the Sultans of Kilwa, an East African dynasty.

Title The Biography of the Sultans of Kilwathe 114-page book describes how the dynasty migrated to Africa and ruled over Kilwa – an island in southern Tanzania.

During their reign, the sultans made Kilwa a wealthy trading power along the maritime silk route. One of the testimonies of their power was the Grand Mosque, the oldest standing mosque on the East African coast and once the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Until now, the story of the sultans of Kilwa has remained steeped in myth, with the most popular tales claiming that the dynasty emerged from Shiraz, before carving out a kingdom that stretched across the Swahili coast.

However, in order to determine truth from fiction, the ruler of Sharjah wrote his book after careful analysis of dozens of historical documents; notably The book of Salwa in the history of Kilwa.

In the introduction to his book, he writes: “It’s a real historical novel that I wrote from the manuscript of The book of Salwa in the history of Kilwa.”

He continues: “When I decided to write the history of East Africa, I contacted the British Library in London and obtained a photocopy of the manuscript known as the The Book of Salwa in the History of Kilwa.

“I started to study this manuscript as well as to study everything that was written on this manuscript by Arab and foreign historians, who were unable to explain what was written in this manuscript, because the question became confusing for them.”

Although the name of the author of the manuscript is unknown, his birth is recorded as “the second Monday of Shawwal in the year 904 [Hijri]”. The age of the manuscript is evidenced by the date it was copied on the orders of the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1877.

There were some issues with using the manuscript as a reference – some parts were unreadable, damaged over time, or just missing.

However, apart from his study of authors and historians of modern Kenya and Tanzania, Sheikh Dr Sultan’s extensive collection of British and Portuguese historical documents has enabled him to fill in the missing details – compiling various strands of history , to piece together the entire array for the very first time.

“What was written in the manuscript about the arrival of the sultans of Shiraz on the African coast is a myth and the truth is found in contemporary manuscripts,” says Sheikh Dr Sultan.

Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi is a collector of historical manuscripts.  The image depicts a set of manuscripts he donated to Al Qasimia University's House of Islamic Manuscripts, to be studied by scholars and scholars.  Photo: W.A.M.

Spanning 11 chapters, the book also includes an appendix, a genealogical chain of the sultans of Kilwa and dozens of foreign references – providing a crucial resource for anyone looking to learn more about the dynasty.

In the process, Sheikh Dr Sultan is clearing up some misunderstandings surrounding the dynasty, adding to his oeuvre, which now spans 76 publications, with its titles translated into 20 foreign languages.

The ruler of Sharjah is a prolific writer, scholar and historian, who has composed memoirs, studies, novels, collections of poetry and plays – exploring the heritage and teachings of the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East and North Africa.

Scroll through images from 50 years of Sheikh Dr Sultan’s reign below:

Updated: August 22, 2022, 06:08

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