Dala’il al-Khayrat

dalail_flexi

It was our hope that Allah might turn this tide by helping us bring forth a new edition of Jazuli’s famous manual that would be more beautiful, accurate, and easy for Muslims to use than any previous printing.

The Text

We began in June 2003 with a survey of ninety-five manuscripts of the Dala’il from several countries. Their minor textual variants led us back to the work’s excellent and detailed commentary Matali‘ al-masarrat by Imam Muhammad Mahdi al-Fasi (d. 1109/1698), not the least because of his exhaustive comparisons of major early copies, particularly the Sahliyya recension, read with Jazuli seven years before his death by his disciple Muhammad al-Sughayyir al-Sahli and widely acknowledged as the most authoritative. Perhaps no author can resist a few changes in his work when read aloud to him, and differences between the earliest sources are probably due to this. The Sahliyya however enjoys the greatest celebrity of those copies actually checked with the author, and our edition follows it almost without exception.

By careful comparison of manuscripts and commentaries, we corrected the traditional chapter headings and subtitles, dividing the work into the customary daily portions of halves, thirds, quarters, and eighths or hizbs or “sections.” The practice of naming the hizbs according to the days of the week proved unattested by the earliest sources, and even less probable since they number eight, not seven as do the days of the week. (Two sections are read on the last day of the week.) From beginning to end, we placed the ornaments traditionally used to mark pauses in the recital, based on the rhythm, rhyme, length, and meaning of the phrases.

The Calligraphy

We searched in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco for a calligrapher whose Arabic script could best reflect the beauty, light, and wilaya of the work, while being easy to read. The samples we saw of the naskh script normally used in Arabic handwritten books led us to the Syrian master Uthman Taha, one of the most familiar calligraphers to contemporary Muslims for having written the pages of the Saudi Printing of the Holy Qur’an found in mosques throughout the world. We visited him at home in Medina and found him a man of sincerity and din, who had written out the entire Qur’an twelve times. He produced the 182 large-scale pages of the work — fifty-two by thirty-four centimeters each — in just three months.

The Illumination

We contacted the Turkish artist Necati Sancaktutan to draw the ornaments used for the pauses in the text, and then an Iraqi team of two brothers, Muthanna and Muhammad al-‘Ubaydi, to produce the illumination for the sections, beginnings, and end. They came to Jordan twice, on their first visit providing samples and discussing color and style, and on their second bringing their tools, colors, and gold for the main work, which they completed in approximately fifty days.

Their work was beautiful, but required high-resolution scanning, cleanup, and conversion into digital “pathways” to allow us to electronically color it for printing. Ibrahim Batchelder, an American craftsman specialized in Islamic fine arts and design, helped us with this and many other matters connected with the ornamentation.

The Hadiths

We wanted to clarify to readers the hadiths in a prefatory chapter to the main work that were not authenticated of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), so we produced a detailed report on every hadith in the section, edited it for brevity, and sent it to Uthman Taha to write out for inclusion at the back of the work.

The Ijaza

For the baraka, we also wanted to add a sanad or chain of transmission of the ijaza or spiritual authorization to recite the Dala’il, as we had for our previous Awrad al-Tariqa al-Shadhiliyya [Litanies of the Shadhili Order]. We already possessed personal ijazas for the Dala’il from the late Sheikh Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki of Mecca (Allah have mercy on him) and Habib Mashhur bin Hafidh of Hadramawt, but now sought a higher sanad, meaning one with fewer intermediate links, back to the author. After some weeks, we received the ijaza of the former Queen of Libya, Fatima Shifa’ (may Allah preserve her), who relates the work through the Sanusiyya of Libya back to Imam Jazuli. Upon her authorization, we wrote out an ijaza for readers, forwarded it to the calligrapher, and when it was finished, scanned it and added it to the rest of the work.

The Design

The book’s size, page layout, frames, gold, and colors were designed to match traditional handwritten copies of the Dala’il al-Khayrat from the Near East. The work remained without page numbers because none of the older copies had them, and section titles rendered them largely superfluous. Too, the pages of the Dala’il, like many handwritten copies of the Qur’an and indeed most Islamic manuscripts, were traditionally collated and ordered not with numbers but by using the ta‘qiba system of copying the first word of the left-hand page at the bottom of the righthand page. We followed this system, and also the traditional way of handwriting corrections in the margins and indicating their place in the text with a small pen stroke.

Finally, we commissioned the Iraqi calligrapher ‘Abbas al-Baghdadi to produce the circular medallion of the book’s name that graces the cover and the first page of the work.

The Printing

After many steps to prepare the materials, we printed the work at National Press in Jordan. They were recommended by their proven excellence in color work in previous art calendars and other projects, and by being able to produce a sufficiently opulent imitation of the gold used in the original ornamentation. Our typesetter and computer graphics artist Sohail Nakhooda assured us that he could get the best cooperation out of the staff there in the final steps of combining the many electronic elements of each page.

We bound a few hundred copies in Jordan, but then met with Fu’ad al-Ba‘ayno in Beirut, the largest bookbinder in the Middle East, to see his samples and agree upon the materials to be used for both the rest of the printing, and the deluxe limited edition, with its special handmade oak presentation boxes. Everything was finished by July 2005, twenty-five months after we began, and may Allah be praised.

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