The Textual Landscapes of Ḥanafī Eurasia: South Asian Scholarship in Turkish Print Collections (Part 2 of 2)

By Sohaib Baig

In the previous essay, I explored the transmission of South Asian Muslim scholarship to the Ottoman Empire by analyzing contemporary holdings of Turkish manuscript collections. In this essay, I continue this exercise by analyzing Turkish print collections.

I used the same union catalog of Turkish collections, which draws data from 24 libraries and contains (as of the date of writing) 341,054 records of manuscripts, as well as 255,079 printed books. I made two search queries:

  • publication place (filtered for South Asian places)
  • author name

To filter for printed texts, I selected “Matbu” (print) under “Materyal Türü” (material type).

For the first search, I used the keywords listed in the table below to search by place of publication (“İstinsah/Basım yeri”) in the advanced search (“Detaylı Arama”). This query was not possible to pursue with the manuscripts given limited metadata on manuscript provenance. Since all catalog records do not include their place of publication, the data below is not thoroughly representative. However, it did reveal the following useful information.

Place of Publication:

Keyword: Items:
Bombay 394
Hindistan* 166
Delhi+Dihli+Dehli 140
Haydarabad 112
Lahor 86
Lucknow+Leknev 61
Kanpur 16
Bhopal+Bopal 12
Kalkuta 12
Madras 4
Total: 1,003

*I removed duplicate entries with Hindistan from all the other search queries (since some items are labeled with both a city name and Hindistan, e.g., Hindistan: Delhi).

The vast majority of these books were published before 1950 (about 68 books were listed as being published after 1950), and thus can help shed light on print culture and intellectual history before this period.

When further analyzed by language and subject, here is what appeared for the Indian books (again, the metadata is not 100% reliable and contained many errors).


Top 3 Languages: Number of Holdings:
Arabic 615
Persian 289
English 49


Subject: Number of Holdings:
Sufi texts (Tasavvuf ve Tarikatlar – 297.7) 174
Hadith Sciences and Compilations (Hadis – 297.3) 172
Persian literature (İran Edebiyatı – 891.5) 80
Law          Fiqh (Fıkıh ilmi – 297.5) 40
        Legal theory (Usûl-i Fıkıh – 297.501) 15
Hanafi law (Hanefi Fıkhı – 297.511) 13
Other subcategories: 8
Law total: 76
Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (Tefsir – 297.2) 62
Theology and creed (Akâid ve Kelâm – 297.4) 59
Arabic literature (Arap Edebiyatı – 892.7) 41
Arabic grammar (Arap Dili – 492.7) 27
World history (Dünya Tarihi – 909) 23
Logic (Mantık – 160) 16


It is no surprise that Arabic continued to dominate in the transregional transmission of texts in the age of print. This reflects a large degree of continuity with early modern manuscript culture, as discussed in the previous essay, as far as Indian-Ottoman intellectual exchange is concerned. It should not be mistaken for a uniquely modernist turn towards Arabic in South Asia.[1]

Certainly, the prominence of ḥadīth works may reflect to an extent the rising attention given to ḥadīth in 19th century South Asian scholarship due to a number of reasons, including its importance for legal discussions.[2] However, this too was not unprecedented and had its roots in preceding centuries.[3]

The continued prominence of Persian literature as a subject category is also noteworthy in that modern Indian-Ottoman Persian connections are often left unexamined due to nationalist geographies of Persian, and amidst the larger narrative of the fracturing of the Persianate world in the modern period. As I argue in a forthcoming article, the Indo-Persian books of Istanbul testify to a longer story of modern Persian exchange between Indian and Turkish scholars.[4]

The above data thus demonstrates some continuities with manuscript culture, but there were changes in terms of the composition of authors and texts. For fiqh, for instance, a large number of books were by 19th century Indian scholars, such as Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān (d. 1307/1890) and Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī (d. 1304/1886).

The publications were also not exclusively Ḥanafī. There was a mix of medieval scholars, including Muḥammad b. Ḥasan al-Shaybānī (d. 189/805), Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), Ibn Qudāma (d. 620/1223), Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751/1350), and many others. Some later Ḥanafī works by scholars such as al-ʿAynī (d. 855/1451), al-Ḥaṣkafī (d. 1616), and Mullā Jīwan (d. 1130/1718), and Shāfi‘ī scholars such as Ibn Ḥajar al-Asqalānī (d. 852/1449) and al-Suyūṫī (d. 911/1505) were also included. Finally, these Indian publications also included works by Shī‘ī scholars, such as al-Ḥillī (d. 726/1325).

Second, I compared the print holdings with the manuscript holdings for the premodern authors listed in the previous essay. By comparing them in this format, I do not mean to suggest that the manuscript and print holdings hold equal significance for understanding the historical circulation and transmission of the texts; I simply intend to get a better idea of the changing levels of circulation for each author’s works.

The numbers below for print holdings include publications from all places and are not restricted to South Asia.


13th– 15th centuries
  Manuscripts Printed Books
es-Sagani, Radiyyüddin Hasan b. Muhammed el-Adevi el-Cagani (d. 650/1252) 501 36


Emir Hüsrev-i Dihlevî, Ebu’l-Hasen Nâsıruddin Hüsrev b. Mahmûd ed-Dihlevi (d. 725/1325) 180 6
el-Gaznevi, Siracüddin Ömer b. İshak el-Hindi el-Hanefi, Ebu Hafs (d. 773/1372) 69 1
Âlim b. Alâ’ el-Enderpetî ed-Dihlevî el-Hindî (d. 786/1384) 226 1
ed-Devletabadi, Şihabüddin Ahmed b. Ömer el-Hindi (d. 849/1445) 135 5
16th – 17th centuries
Muttakî el-Hindî, Alâ’eddin Ali b. Hüsâmeddin b. Abdulmelik el-Hindî el-Hanefî (d. 975/1567) 77 48
es-Sindi, Rahmetullah b. Abdullah b. İbrahim (d. 978/1570) 29 9
Mirzâcan, Şemseddin Habîbullah b. Abdullah el-Ulvî eş-Şirâzî ed-Dihlevî el-Hanefî (d. 994/1586) 445 6
Feyzî-i Hindî, Ebu’l-Feyz Feyzullah b. Şeyh Mübârek el-Mehdevî el-Ekberâbâdî (d. 1004/1595) 64 3
Ali el-Kârî, Ebu’l-Hasen Nûreddin Ali b. Sultan Muhammed el-Herevî el-Kârî (d. 1014/1605) 3,384 674
İmâm-ı Rabbânî, Ebu’l-Berekât Ahmed b. Abdulahad b. Zeynelâbidîn el-Fârûkî es-Sirhindî (d. 1034/1624) 35 52
Tâceddin b. Zekeriyyâ b. Sultan el-Abşemî el-Hindî el-Osmânî el-Hanefî en-Nakşibendî (d. 1050/1640) 21 2
Dihlevî, Abdulhakk b. Seyfeddin b. Sa‘dullah el-Buhârî el-Hanefî (d. 1052/1642) 7 6
Abdulhakim es-Siyalkûtî, Abdulhakim b. Şemseddin Muhammed es-Siyalkûtî el-Hindî (d. 1067/1657) 362 457
authorship of el-Fetâva’l-Hindiyye (Alemgiriyye) ~65 ~126
18th century
el-Bihari, Muhîbullâh b. Abdüşşekur el-Hindi (d. 1119/1707) 1 2
Muhammed Hayat b. İbrahim es-Sindi el-Medeni (d. 1163/1750) 19 5
Şah Veliyyullah ed-Dihlevî, Ebû Abdulaziz Kutbuddin Ahmed b. Abdurrahîm b. Vecîhüddin el-Hindî el-Ömerî el-Fârûk (d. 1176/1762) 2 44
Âzâd-ı Bilgrâmî, Mir Gulâm Ali b. Nuh el-Bilgrâmi el-Hüseynî el-Vâsıtî (d. 1199/1784) 1 3


Overall, the data shows how the holdings for print fall far below the holdings of manuscripts in this collection. It is especially striking how many authors almost completely vanish from the print collections. For instance, Shihāb al-Dīn al-Dawlatābādī, who wrote a commentary on the Arabic grammar al-Kāfiya, virtually disappears (and his commentary is replaced by others). Similarly, even though Persian literature as a category was well-represented amongst the Indian prints, Amīr Khusraw’s body of work also recedes from the print collections.

This phenomenon of disappearing titles is also seen in regards to some works on Islamic law. The holdings for the 14th century Fatāwā al-Tātārkhāniyya drop from around 225 manuscript records to 1 for print (in contrast, the 17th century Fatāwā ‘Ālamgīriyya holdings almost double for print). The vast Sindhi scholarship on ḥadīth and law is mostly left unprinted, as seen in the example of Ḥayāt al-Sindī (19 manuscript records to 5 print records). In fact, if we search by the nisba “Sindi,” we only find 53 results for printed books as opposed to 143 for manuscripts. A large proportion of their scholarship thus fades from circulation in the modern period, as does the broader memory of their intellectual significance.

Furthermore, almost all of the Sindhi books are published either in Cairo or Istanbul – there are very few from South Asia (in this collection). Similarly, the books by Mullā ‘Alī al-Qārī and ‘Abd al-Ḥakīm al-Siyālkūtī are also overwhelmingly published in Istanbul, and to a lesser extent from Cairo. There are almost none from South Asia. In doing so, they, along with the Sindhi works, do represent how such a corpus of scholarship successfully “migrated” to the Ottoman Empire, in the sense that they were published far from their homelands by scholars who did not have any institutional connection to them.

‘Abd al-Ḥakīm al-Siyālkūtī’s case in particular is unique in that his work actually sees an increase in print holdings as compared to manuscript holdings. Much of his work represents the quintessential postclassical tradition of glosses; his case shows how such works continued to be used and read in the age of print by (mostly) Ottoman scholars, even more so than Indian scholars.[5]

In contrast, we do see the newfound proliferation of works by some early modern scholars. The famous 18th century Shāh Walīullāh has at least 44 print records, even though he only had 2 manuscripts. A good proportion of them are actually Indian prints, but there are some from Cairo and at least one from Istanbul. This was likely a result of the active profile and transregional connections of his own group of successors in Delhi and the Hijaz. It is indicative of how Shāh Walīullāh gained a broader, transregional readership at a later point in the 19th and 20th centuries.[6]

Another noteworthy aspect is the rise of translation from Persian into Ottoman. A case in point: while many copies of Aḥmad al-Sirhindī’s famous Maktūbāt were found in Persian in manuscript, there are fewer copies in print. Instead, the bulk of his printed works are actually translations into Ottoman Turkish. This is also true for modern figures; the 19th century Sufi shaykh Ḥājī Imdādullāh Makkī (d. 1899) also had some of his works translated from Persian into Ottoman by Turkish scholars.[7] Hence, even as Persian continues to be read by scholars in Istanbul, it appears in the case of these works to be increasingly translated into Ottoman.

To conclude: despite the limited nature of the metadata, this exercise still reveals useful information that can help explain the textual landscape of Indian-Ottoman intellectual connections in the age of print. There are some continuities with manuscript culture in terms of language (Arabic and Persian) and some subject categories (fiqh, kalām, Persian literature, etc.), but the titles and authors in question do change. Many of the premodern authors and titles appear to have decreased in circulation with print; others appear to have gained newfound significance and readership. On the whole, one may argue that premodern Indian scholarship is better represented in the manuscript holdings of the Turkish collections.

This exercise only tells one side of the story: the presence of South Asian scholarship in Turkish collections. To complete the story of intellectual exchange, one would have to examine South Asian collections for Ottoman scholarship. One hopes that someday a union catalog of South Asian collections can make such an inquiry possible.


[1] On Arabic printing in South Asia, see Sohaib Baig, “Editing and Printing the Arabic Book: Perspectives from South Asia,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 55, no. 1 (2023): 139–45. doi:10.1017/S0020743823000491.

[2] On ḥadīth printing in South Asia, see Muntasir Zaman, Hadith Scholarship in the Indian Subcontinent: Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri and the Canonical Hadith Literature (UK: Qurtuba Books, 2021); M. Qasim Zaman, “Commentaries, Print and Patronage:  Ḥadīth and the Madrasas in Modern South Asia,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 62, no. 1 (2009): 60–81.

[3] Sohaib Baig, “Indian Hanafis in an Ocean of Hadith: Islamic Legal Authority between South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, 16th – 20th Centuries,” (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2020).

[4] Sohaib Baig, “Printing a Transregional Tariqa: Haji Imdadullah (d. 1899) and Sufi Contestations from Thana Bhavan to Istanbul,” International Journal of Islam in Asia (forthcoming).

[5] On reasons why, see Khaled El-Rouayheb, The Development of Arabic Logic (1200-1800) (Basel: Schwabe Verlag, 2018), 176–78.

[6] On the growing transregional profile of his 19th century successors, especially Shāh ‘Abd al-Ghanī al-Dihlawī (d.1296/1878), see Baig, “Indian Hanafis in an Ocean of Hadith,” 370–73.

[7] Baig, “Printing a Transregional Tariqa.”

(Suggested Bluebook citation: Sohaib Baig, The Textual Landscapes of Ḥanafī Eurasia: South Asian Scholarship in Turkish Print Collections (Part 2 of 2), Islamic Law Blog (Aug. 17, 2023),

(Suggested Chicago citation: Sohaib Baig, “The Textual Landscapes of Ḥanafī Eurasia: South Asian Scholarship in Turkish Print Collections (Part 2 of 2),” Islamic Law Blog, August 17, 2023,

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