I have returned to the CFMM collection for some more cataloging work, and I am now continuing with a series of Syriac homiletic manuscripts, including especially the work of Jacob of Serug. Far into one of these manuscripts (CFMM 134), the following note in Arabic appears:
CFMM 134, p. 666
Here is an ET with a few comments:
Let the reader understand, be informed, and advise [those] near him and everyone that they should give glory to the Son of God, who receives the repentant, who saves his church from drowning in sins and from eternal damnation.
- Let the reader understand cf. Mk 13:14, ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοεῖτω.
- al-muḫalliṣ might better be read without the article, in construct with kanīsatihi, but here the latter word is vocalized kanīsatahu (ACC, not GEN), and so the writer clearly had a verbal (“saving, one who saves [X]”), rather than nominal (“savior [of X]”), function in view for the participle al-muḫalliṣ.
- ġarīq here seems to = ġaraq.
- drowning in sins (or the like) is a common expression; another example is in this post.
At the end of one of the texts in SMMJ 183, which contains theological and hagiographic writings in Garšūnī, some later reader (or readers?) — the handwriting does not seem to be the same as the scribe’s — has recorded some intended wisdom. The two four-line sayings are in Arabic, but written in both Syriac and Arabic script.
SMMJ 183, f. 98v
This is not the prettiest handwriting, and the spelling might not be what is expected, but the meaning of both is relatively clear. (For the long vowels at line-end, cf. Wright, Grammar, vol. 2, § 224.) The sideways text in the center has its Arabic-script version is on the bottom.
O seeker of knowledge! Apply yourself to piety,
Forgo sleep and subdue satiety,
Continue studying and don’t leave it,
For knowledge consists and grows in study.
On the right we have four more lines in Garšūnī, with its Arabic-script version immediately below.
O child of Adam! You are ignorant!
There is no more awaiting the reckoning:
Look! Your life and your time have vanished.
Now you shall return to dust.
In line 2, al-ḥisābi (written –ī) must be genitive with the foregoing V maṣdar, tanaẓẓur; the latter word is written with ḍ in the Arabic text, but a derivative of “to blossom” doesn’t make much sense, and the Garšūnī writing of ṭ, even without a dot, is known well for ẓ. In the last word of these lines, the Garšūnī version lacks the preposition l-, but it’s present in the Arabic version and is needed for the sense in any case.
Finally, the three Garšūnī lines on the far left read, “Our trust is in God, the quickener of our souls. To him be glory forever.”
Colophons do not necessarily match in language the texts that they conclude, so that we sometimes have a Garšūnī colophon at the end of a Syriac text, or vice versa (as in an earlier place in the manuscript mentioned below). Garšūnī and Arabic are not, of course, distinct languages, but given that the medium in view here is graphic, the clearly distinct writing systems employed for them may matter in a way approaching that which exists between different languages properly speaking. In addition, at least some scribes that used Garšūnī were careful to note the difference, as I pointed out recently.
Here, mainly for the handwriting, is an Arabic colophon at the end of a Garšūnī manuscript: Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, № 169, which mostly contains homilies in Garšūnī. (At the beginning there is an excerpt, in Syriac, from the Chronicle of Michael the Great, book 11 of chapter 20, on the Council of Manazkert convened in 726 by Catholicos Yovhannēs Ōjnec’i the Philosopher with Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Athanasios III. Neither Michael nor the title Chronicle are specifically mentioned here, however.)
The kind of Arabic script most often found in the collections I have cataloged is naskh. Less commonly we see ruqʿa, and rarer still is the slanted taʿlīq or one of its derivations, so the handwriting here is of some interest merely for that reason. The script here is characterized by each word being written on a down-slanting line (sometimes with the last letter written above the preceding parts of the word), loosely placed diacritical marks, and some horizontal and rounded lines being notably extended. Perhaps others would like to try their hand at reading it. My transcription (save for one part in the first line that has proven undecipherable to me so far) follows below. By the way, the year is given as 1092 AG, but this must be a mistake for 2092 AG (= 1780/1 CE), so the full date as given below would be May 1, 1781; a purchase note at the end of the manuscript is dated 2102 AG (= 1790/1 CE). The scribe, also named earlier in this manuscript in a Syriac colophon, is called Anīs, who is from Gargar, but this manuscript was written outside Diyarbakır/Āmid.
SMMJ 169, f. 145r
كتب بداخل مدينة آمد في قلاية البطريركية الايغناطيوسية ادام الله سعادتها ؟ ؟ الينا المعظم المغبوط المكرم مار ايغناطيوس
بطريرك انطاكية بيد احقر عبيد الله واحوجهم الراهب الهارب وانيس باسم قسيس في سنة اثنان تسعين والف للاسكندر اليوناني
في يوم عيد القديس مار ميخايل
اول يوم شهر ايار
رحم الله من ترحم على الكاتب الحقير
وعلى والديه واخوته
My involvement in cataloging Syriac and Arabic manuscripts over the last few years has impressed upon me how often and actively Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean scribes (and presumably, readers) used Garšūnī: it is anything but an isolated occurrence in these collections. This brings to the fore questions of how these scribes and readers thought about Garšūnī. Did they consider it simply a writing system, a certain kind of Arabic, or something else? At least a few specific references to “Garšūnī” in colophons may help us answer them. Scribes sometimes make reference to their transcriptions from Arabic script into Syriac script, and elsewhere a scribe mentions translation “from Garšūnī into Syriac” (CFMM 256, p. 344; after another text in the same manuscript, p. 349, we have in Arabic script “…who transcribed and copied [naqala wa-kataba] from Arabic into Garšūnī”). Such statements show that scribes certainly considered Arabic and Garšūnī distinctly.
While cataloging Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, (SMMJ) № 167 recently, I found in the colophon a reference to Garšūnī unlike any that I’d seen before, in which the scribe refers, not to the Garšūnī “text” or “copy” (nusḫa, as in SMMJ 140, f. 132v), but rather to “the Garšūnī language” (lisān al-garšūnī). Here is an English translation of the relevant part of the colophon, with the images from the manuscript below.
SMMJ 167, ff. 322r-322v
…[God], in whose help this blessed book is finished and completed, the book of Mar Ephrem the Syrian. The means for copying it were not available with us at the monastery, so we found it with a Greek [rūmī] priest from Beit Jala, a friend of ours, and we took it on loan, so that we could read in it. We observed that it was a priceless jewel. It was written in Arabic, so we, the wretched, with his holiness, our revered lord, the honored Muṭrān, Ǧirǧis Mār Grigorios, were interested in transcribing it into the Garšūnī language, so that reading it might be easy for the novice monks, that they might obtain the salvation of their souls.
This was in the year 1882 AD, the 11th of the blessed month of June…
SMMJ 167, f. 322r (bottom)
SMMJ 167, f. 322v (top)
This is the second explicit reference I have found where a Garšūnī text is considered more readable to at least some section of the literate population. In this case, the audience in view is a group of beginning monks, and in the aforementioned manuscript SMMJ 140 the transcription from Arabic into Garšūnī was made “to facilitate the understanding of its contents for every reader.”
UPDATE (June 17, 2014): Thanks to Salam Rassi for help on the phrase ʕalá sabīl al-ʕīra.
I’ve mentioned here before the writing upside down of names as a means of cursing, dissociation, or the like (here, here, and cf. here). Today, while cataloging an Arabic manuscript from Mardin — CCM 17, 18th century, which contains accounts of miracles of Mary and other saints — I found another example, this time with “Satan”, and notably, in Arabic script, not Syriac, as was the case with the other examples I’ve pointed out. In this image, you can see al-šayṭān upside down in lines 2, 5, and 7.
CCM 17, f. 47r.