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Vermondo Brugnatelli

A medieval Ibāḍī tawḥīd in Berber: a preliminary survey*

1. The Berber Kitāb al-tawḥīd


The Ibāḍī treatise known under the title Kitāb al Barbariyya1 contains a Berber commentary on the
legal opinions that Abū Ghānim Bishr b. Ghānim al-Khurāsānī gathered and handed down in two
compilations: the main one is the Mudawwanah, also called Ghānimiyya (in Berber Iɣanmen), while
the so-called Kitāb Ibn ʿAbbād, which takes its name from the main source he drew from,
constitutes a sort of appendix to it.2 Nothing is known about the author of the commentary except
his name (Abū Zakarīyaʾ Yaḥya al-Yafranī) and the fact that he belonged to the Nukkarite branch of
Ibadism. From the existing manuscripts, it is possible to reconstruct the full structure of this huge
text, which consisted of sixteen chapters (“books”) and occupied more than one thousand pages.3
However, only fifteen chapters deal with the juridical matters discussed by Abū Ghānim, while the
first book, entitled Kitāb al-tawḥīd, appears as an independent composition, a sort of catechism on
the tenets of the Ibāḍi creed, not belonging to the original commentary and placed at the beginning,
without any quotation from the texts commented on in the rest of the work. The so-called
“Manuscrit Rebillet”, which preserved 10 chapters of the commentary (from the 2nd to the 11th), did
not contain this introduction, which is preserved in two other copies (Bibliothèque Nationale de
Tunis, Ms.Or. 2550 and a manuscript owned by Ouahmi Ould-Braham).
Up to the end of the 19th century, little was known in Europe about the Ibāḍī catechisms: the first
text was published in German by Sachau in 1899; since then, several other texts of this kind,
containing shorter or longer descriptions of the Ibāḍi faith by different authors, have been
published, both in the original language and in translation. Here is a list of the most accessible ones,
with the authors they are credited to:
•Iʿtiqād al-firqa al-wahbiyya al-ibāḍiyya attributed to ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ al-Tamīmī (d. ca. 759)4:
German translation in Sachau (1899: 62-69), Arabic text in al-Izkawī (2016, I: 548-563);
•Kitāb al-tawḥīd fī maʿrifat Allāh by ʿAbd Allāh b. Yazīd al-Fazārī (second half of the 2nd/8th
century): Arabic text in Salimi & Madelung (2014: 153-198);
•Bāb fī al-tawḥīd by Abū Zakarīyāʾ Yaḥyâ b. al-Khayr b. Abī al-Khayr al-Ǧannāwūnī (6th/11th
century): Italian translation and commentary in Rubinacci (1964); Arabic text in Kitāb al-Waḍʿ
(Ǧannāwūnī n.d.: 2-37);
•ʿAqīdat al-tawḥīd by the sheikh Abū Ṭāhir Ismāʿīl b. Mūsâ al-Ǧīṭālī (d. in Djerba 750 h./1349-
1350), known as the ʿaqida of the Nefousa: Arabic text in Bābāwāʿumar (2001-2002: 333-334);
•Uṣūl al-diyānāt or Matn al-diyānāt by ʿĀmir b. ʿAlî al-Shammākhī (d. 792/1389-90): Arabic text
and French translation in Cuperly (1991: 331-337);
•Matn ʿaqīdat al-tawḥīd, Author unknown, translated into Arabic by Abū Ḥafs ʿAmr b. Ǧamīʿ (IX
cent. h. - XV cent. m.), known as the ʿaqida of Mzab and Djerba: Arabic text and French translation
in Motylinski (1905).

In his study on Ǧannāwūnī’s ʿaqida, Rubinacci tried to reconstruct the bulk of an “original” text, by
comparing it with the two other catechisms known at the time, namely those published by Sachau
(1899) and Motylinski (1905). He was actually able to make a realistic comparison only between
the text of Ǧannāwūnī and the ʿaqida of Mzab and Djerba, given that the creed attributed to ʿAbd
Allāh b. Ibāḍ displays too many differences and seems a work of a later period. Despite Rubinacci’s
belief in the existence of an “archetype”, the tawḥīd-s which were known later develop yet more
different points of the Ibāḍī faith and do not seem to have been drawn from one original source.

The first chapter of the Kitāb al Barbariyya is the only known Ibāḍī tawḥīd in Berber. Other works
of this kind, initially composed in the native language of North Africa, surely existed in the past, but

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all of them were subsequently translated into Arabic and the original Berber texts were lost — as is
the case with the ʿAqīda published by Motylinsky. As far as I know, the only documents that
preserve a Berber Kitāb al tawḥīd are the two manuscripts quoted above. To date, I have been able
to examine only the copy kept in the National Library of Tunis, but some months ago, I was able to
find some other documents among the papers of Auguste Bossoutrot, which provide useful new
material.
Auguste Bossoutrot (Algiers 1856-Carthage 1937) was a French officer who served as an
interpreter in the army and in the justice administration. He lived for a long time in Tunisia devoting
himself to the study of the Arabic and Berber languages spoken in southern Tunisia and Libya.
Thanks to his position, he was in touch with indigenous notables as well as with European
researchers like the philologist A. de Calassanti-Motylinski and the anthropologist L. J. Bertholon.
This enabled him to collect a great deal of linguistic, literary, folkloric and anthropological
materials, aiming at producing scientific publications in different fields. Sadly, during his life he
was able to publish only two articles (Bossoutrot 1900 and 1903), while most of his notes and
studies remained unpublished and constituted an archive which was kept, along with other
materials, in the repository of a research unit of the French CNRS directed by David Cohen (ERA
585).5 Reportedly, this archive also included an old manuscript of the Berber commentary on Abū
Ghānim’s Mudawwanah (594 pages), but today this item cannot be found in the depository where
his papers are currently stored.
Besides other interesting findings,6 a search among Bossoutrot’s papers revealed that he had
prepared a fair copy of the first chapter, transcribed from the manuscript 2550 of Tunis, of which he
also reproduced the marginal notes. Next to it, another page sketched in a similar way, in fair
writing and leaving large spaces between the lines, contains only the first 8 lines of the text. It
presents a number of different readings and was probably copied from another manuscript.7 These
papers written by Bossoutrot are another useful source for the study of this document.

In comparison with other tawḥīd-s, the text is relatively short: in the ms. Or. 2550 it takes up less
than 5 pages (from f.1a to the middle of f.3a) and the copy made by Bossoutrot consists of 13
pages.8 Basically, the language of the text is Berber, but some parts are in Arabic. Owing to a gap
in our knowledge of the Berber theological terminology, some parts are still obscure and a
translation is not always possible.

2. Contents
It is not easy to outline an overall structure of the document on the basis of its content. Some parts
follow a recognizable scheme, but in some instances the link between the issues dealt with seems
difficult to grasp. Some clues, which will be discussed below, suggest that this redaction is a the
result of merging different texts, and this could explain the lack of a consistent structure in the
outcome of this process. On the whole, the text can roughly be divided into three parts.
The first part (f. 1a, ll. 1 to 19) deals with the ḥuǧǧa (‘the proof / argument’) in different meanings:
the ḥuǧǧa of God (Bab-enneɣ), the ḥuǧǧa of the Prophet (Iser),9 and the evidence against/in favour
of men according to their evil or beneficial actions.
The second and longest part (from f. 1a, l. 19 to f. 2b, l. 14) explains in detail the different forms of
the ʾamr (‘the order (of God)’).
A final part (from f. 2b, l. 14 to f. 3a, l. 7) briefly records some points of agreement or disagreement
among scholars concerning the ʾamr.

2.1. The ḥuǧǧa of God


The incipit is sudden, devoid of any introduction aimed at explaining who composed this text, when
and under which circumstances. After the usual basmala with taṣliya, and a blank space intended to
contain an ornate writing of the title, the text starts, abruptly, following the typical question-and-
answer form of catechisms (f. 1a, ll. 2-4):

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Tiweḍ lḥuǧǧeṯ en Bab-enneɣ.
Tiweḍ maḏey? Ǧ leḥkem eḏḏ elwaṣf .
May as-tenwiḏ? Aḏin: “«Qul fa-li-llāhi l-ḥuǧǧatu l-bālighatu» yenna Bab-enneɣ; «ʾinna llāha
bālighu ʾamri-hi» yenna deǧ-emkan iḍen”,

that is to say, according to my interpretation:

The proof of God(’s existence) has come (to us).


In what (maḏey) has it come? In statute (leḥkem) and attribute (elwaṣf).
What have you told him? This (aḏin): God says: «Say “With Allah is the far-reaching
argument”» (Qur. 6:149); in another passage, he says: «Indeed, Allah will accomplish His
purpose» (Qur. 65:3).

The key words of this passage are easily understood since they are Arabic loanwords, having a
particular meaning in the domain of religion: lḥuǧǧeṯ < ḥuǧǧa “proof , evidence”; leḥkem < ḥukm
“statute”; elweṣf < waṣf “attribute, qualification (of God)”.10 Interestingly, other parts of the Kitāb
al Barbariyya use the Berber word asersur as an equivalent of the Arabic word ḥuǧǧa,11 and this
supports the view that this chapter was originally an independent work written by someone other
than the author of the rest of the book and added at a later time as an introduction to the whole
document.
As to the Berber words of this passage, it should be noted that in the Kitāb al Barbariyya, the
Berber verb aweḍ ‘attain, arrive (at)’ usually corresponds to Arabic balagha.12 See for instance:
tiwḍ-aneɣ tmuli ɣef wiser ‘an oral tradition ascribed to the Prophet has come to us’ accompanied by
the Arabic parallel balagha-nā ʿani n-nabīʾ (f. 337b, l. 22 - 338a, l.1).
Finally, as regards the word maḏey, it is formed in the same way as maɣer (‘why?’) i.e. an
interrogative element ma followed by a preposition. The preposition dey is locative and means ‘in’.
Consequently, maḏey would mean ‘in what?’. This is corroborated by the fact that the reply
contains ǧ (probably pronounced [g]), an allomorph of the same locative preposition.

2.2. The ḥuǧǧa of the Prophet


What follows concerns the ḥuǧǧa of the Prophet, an issue that was lively debated at the time of al-
Fazārī’s polemic against the followers of ʿIsā ibn ʿUmayr13 (Madelung 2012 and fc.). Unfortunately,
this part, almost entirely in Berber, is more difficult to understand, and possibly also contains
corrupted words, as shown by the fact that these lines display some differences between the text
preserved in ms. 2550 and the loose page copied by Bossoutrot from another manuscript. The first
lines only can be interpreted with some reliability, on the basis of what precedes (f. 1a, ll. 4-5):

Tiweḍ lḥuǧǧeṯ en wiser


tiweḍ maḏey ? ǧ-eleḥkem, aǧ elwaṣf wel ɣer-s yettaweḍ

‘The proof of prophet(-hood) has come (to us)


In what has it come? In statute, whereas (aǧ)14 an attribute will not (necessarily) come for
him.’

In my opinion, this seems to allude to the fact that the Ibāḍī doctrine considers as an evident proof
the message itself (ḥukm, statute, the essential), independently from other pieces of evidence, like a
miracle or the appointment by previous prophets (waṣf, attribute).
Unfortunately, the lines which follow, where the issue was probably discussed in more detail, are
difficult to understand and I dare not attempt here a translation. However, a reference to the
prophetic status of Muhammad recurs again in the second part of the text, in the paragraphs
concerning the ʾamr, and precisely mā lā yasaʿu n-nāsa ǧahlu-hu ‘what one is not permitted to
ignore’ (f. 1b l. 21 ff.).
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The Arabic expression is translated and explained in Berber:

d “ayisi wel dey-es yetlew unetta ǧ elǧehalt-is” s etmusni en Bab-enneɣ yella fell-as a yessen

it is “what one15 is not permitted to ignore” concerning the knowledge16 of God, which he is
obliged to know.

After a standard description of the oneness of God, His invisibility, His lack of companions and the
reasons for His rewards and penalties (reported and commented on below, § 2.3), there comes a part
concerning the rest of the ǧumla, the summa of what a Muslim must not ignore, namely the mission
of the Prophet and the other articles of faith (f. 2a, ll. 6-8):

Muḥammad ʿalay-hi al-salām d iser-is d afǧun-is, d aysi a t-iḏ-yuzen i ṯiḏett17


et_tmusni,
et_tmettant et_tnekra,
eḏ eleḥsab, eḏ eleɛqab,
eḏ elǧenneṯ et_timsi

‘Muḥammad (PBUH), who is his messenger (iser) and his servant (afǧun); he is what He has
sent in truth (ṯiḏett);
knowledge [of the books revealed] (tmusni);
death (tmettant) and resurrection (tnekra);
the count of actions (eleḥsab) and the punishment (eleɛqab);
the garden of Paradise (elǧenneṯ) and the fire of Hell (timsi).’18

This list is followed by a puzzling excursus concerning the Prophet (f. 2a, ll. 8-9):

wel diy-es a necukkeṯ ewla eḏ Mxemmeḏ en wass-u ewla eḏ Mxemmeḏ en wayesliḏ ezzeman-is

Literally, this passage can be translated as follows:

‘There is no reason for us to raise doubts about it,19 either with Mohammed20 of today (en
wass-u) or with Mohammed of an epoch different from his.’

This strange expression is made more understandable by a subsequent quotation, almost entirely in
Arabic, from a ḥadīth which affirms that a description of the Prophet has already been given in
preceding revelations (f. 2a, 8-16):

Muḥammad al-mukhtār — yenna Bab-enneɣ dey tira timezwarin — lā faẓẓan wa lā ghalīẓan


wa lā ṣakhkhāban fī l-ʾaswāqi wa lā yamshī bi n-namīmati wa lā yuǧāziyu sayyiʾatan bi
sayyiʾatin wa lākinna-hu yaʿfū wa yaṣfaḥu; ummatu-hu al-ḥāmidūna yaḥmadūna: yaḥmadūna
llāha ʿalâ kulli maǧdin wa yuhallilūna-hu ʿalâ kulli nashazin, al-mutawaḍḍiyūna bi ʾaṭrāfi-him,
al-mutawazzirūna ʿalâ ʾawsāṭi-him, lahum fī ʾākhiri l-layli dawīyun ka-dawīyi n-naḥli wa
fiqhu-hum ka-fiqhi l-ʾanbiyāʾi wa ṣufūfu-hum fī l-qitāli wa ṣ-ṣalāti sawāʾun.

«Muḥammad is the chosen one (al-mukhtār) — says God in the ancient writings (tira
timezwarin) — he was not rude [in speech] (faẓẓ) and harsh [in heart] (ghalīẓ) nor clamorous
(ṣakhkhāb) in the marketplaces, he did not go around in defamation and did not repay
misdeeds with misdeeds but pardoned and forgave. His community (ummah) consists of
praisers who praise. They praise God in all his glory (maǧd)21 and say the words lā ilāha illā
llāh on every elevated ground (nashaz); they perform the ritual ablutions in their extremities,
they wrap ʾizār-s over their waists22 (and pray) until the very end of the night buzzing like the
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buzz of bees. Their law (fiqh)23 is like the law of the Prophets and their rows in battle and in
prayer are the same».

The “ancient writings” alluded to are the texts of the Bible, where many commentators underlined
the coincidences between the epithets of the “servant of God” described in Isaiah 42:1 ff.24 and the
descriptions of Muḥammad given in the Quran (3:159 and 42:40).25 This fact is quoted in a number
of different works about the life of Muhammad, for instance Bukhārī’s Saḥīḥ (Book 65, Hadith
4838 ; Book 34, Hadith 77) and Ibn Kathīr’s al-Sīra al-Nabawiyya (1976: I, 327), so that it is
difficult to say where it has been drawn from.

2.3. The properties of God

In the preceding lines, the passage concerning the properties of God also displays some statements
which at first sight are puzzling (f. 2a, 1-3):

Bab-enneɣ iǧǧen
unetta wel yettwecbih
wel yettweẓri
wel yelli unemru-s ula ǧ-iǧenwan ula i tmura
wel yetterrez ʾas ɣef cra
wel yettɛeḏḏeb ʾas ɣef cra
yetterrez af tǧm en tmeǧǧa
yettɛeḏḏeb ɣef yir en tmeǧǧa cra ɣel twaḍenneṯ al-ǧawāriḥ al-khamsa

God is one,
he has nothing similar to him
he cannot be seen
there is no companion (?)26 to him either in the skies or on earth
he does not reward (yetterrez) except for something27
he does not inflict a penalty (yettɛeḏḏeb) except for something
he rewards for good actions28
he inflicts for evil actions something for which the organs of the five senses (al-ǧawāriḥ al-
khamsa)29 are made sick.

The translation of the last lines is tentative, given that the meaning of the Berber lexicon employed
is not yet firmly established. The verb errez, which elsewhere in the treatise means ‘to expend, bear
the cost of someone’s maintenance’ (Ar. ʾanfaqa), seems to be used here in the sense of ‘to reward’,
as suggested by the cognate word arruz ‘reward’, glossed ṯawāb in Arabic (f. 392b, l. 20-21).30 As
for yettɛeḏḏeb, it is clearly a loan from Ar. ʿadhdhaba ‘to afflict, punish, chastise’. The fact that the
penalties are meant to strike bodily organs does not imply a corporalist conception of God. The
doctrine of tashbih is already clearly refuted by the expression wel yettwecbih literally ‘he is not
resembled (by anyone)’, however, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, the anonymous author,
after a list of the five senses, concludes (l. 6):
Bab-enneɣ d anfel en waydin ‘God is different (anfel)31 from this’.

2.4. The “ḥuǧǧa la-ka” and the “ḥuǧǧa ʿalay-ka”

Another controversial issue is tackled in the part dealing with the “evidence” against or in favour of
men according to their evil or righteous actions. It is a passage entirely in Arabic (f. 1a, ll. 12-18),
which recalls the role of human choice in determining the final judgement. The quotation of Qur.
2:286 reveals an acceptance of the doctrine of kasb and iktisāb in the debate on free will, namely
the ‘acquisition’ by man of the actions, respectively good or evil (while the actions themselves
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cannot but be created by God).

wa ʾidhā qīla la-ka «ʿala kam min waǧh kānat ʿalay-hi l-ḥuǧǧa?»
fa-qul: «ʿalā waǧhayn: ḥuǧǧa la-ka wa ḥuǧǧa ʿalay-ka
ḥuǧǧa la-ka mā ʿamilta min khayrin fa huwa la-ka
wa ḥuǧǧa ʿalay-ka mā ʿamilta min sharrin fa huwa ʿalay-ka».
Wa d-dalīl ʿalâ dhālika qawlu-hu taʿālâ : «la-hā mā kasabat wa ʿalay-hā mā ’ktasabat».
La-hā mā kasabat min al-khayri wa ʿalay-hā mā ’ktasabat min al-sharri
la-hā mā kasabat min al-ḥasanāti wa ʿalay-hā mā ’ktasabat min al-sayyiʾāti

And when you are asked: «under how many aspects is the evidence on him?»,
answer: «under two aspects: the evidence in your favour and the evidence against you
the evidence in your favour is what you have done of good, which will be in your favour
the evidence against you is what you have done of evil, which will be against you».
And the evidence for this is the statement of the Most High: «(the soul) will benefit from every
good that it acquired and suffer every ill that it acquired» (Qur. 2:286)32
In its favour will be what good it has acquired, and against it what evil it has acquired
In its favour will be what good deeds it has acquired, and against it what evil deeds it has acquired.

2.5. The ʾamr


The longest part of the text deals with the ʾamr, namely the divine ‘order’. It is described following
a kind of schematic tree, which can be resumed as follows:

[1] masmūʿ / [2] ghayr masmūʿ

[2] ghayr masmūʿ


[2.1] kun ibtidāʾan; [2.2] kun fānin; [2.3] kun iʿādatan; [2.4] kun bāqin
[1] masmūʿ
[1.2] ghayr ilzām
[1.2.1] ʾamru taʾdībin;
[1.2.2] ʾamru tahdīdin;
[1.2.3] ʾamru taḥrīḍin;
[1.2.4] ʾamru takhliyatin;
[1.2.5] ʾamru mubāḥin
[1.1] ilzām
[1.1.1] mā yasaʿu
[1.1.1.1] mā yasaʿu ilâ maǧīʾi waqti-hi
[1.1.1.2] mā yasaʿu abadan mā lam yataqāwalū ʿalâ llāh fī-hi l-kadhibu
[1.1.2] mā lā yasaʿu
[1.1.2.1] mā lā yasaʿu n-nāsa ǧahlu-hu
[1.1.2.2] mā lā yasaʿu n-nāsa fiʿlu-hu
[1.1.2.3] mā lā yasaʿu n-nāsa tarku-hu
As one can see, the basic terminology is in Arabic. This confirms the nature of this document as a
means intended to let the Berbers learn the basic teachings of Ibadism, starting from a conceptual
framework which was primarily conceived in Arabic. Some concepts are translated and/or
explained in Berber, some are not.
The beginning of this part shows a typical formula used in this context (f. 1a, l. 20 - 1b, l. 2)

ɣef mennaw w_wuḏmawen yella al-ʾamr? af sen wuḏmawen: masmūʿ wa ghayr masmūʿ.
ghayr masmūʿ af eqqez wuḏmawen: kun ibtidāʾan wa kun fānin wa kun iʿādatan wa kun
bāqin...
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Under how many aspects is (God’s) order? Under two aspects: (susceptible of being)
heard/perceived (masmūʿ) and not (susceptible of being) heard/perceived (ghayr masmūʿ)33
The order not heard is under four aspects: the order of initial creation (kun ibtidāʾan), the
order of annihilation (kun fānin), the order of restoration (kun iʿādatan), the order of
permanence (kun bāqin)...34

The Arabic terminology is further explained in Berber (f. 1b, ll. 3-6):

kun ibtidāʾan: yenwa-yasen: «uynuṯeṯ!» uynuṯen


wa kun fānin: yenwa-yasen: «efneṯ!» efnen
wa kun iʿādatan: yenwa-yasen: «ekkreṯ!» ekkren
wa kun bāqin: yenwa-yasen: «ebqeṯ!» ebqen
«farīqun fī ʾl-ǧannati wa farīqun fī s-saʿīri» yenna Bab-enneɣ

Order of initial creation: He said «come into being!» and they came into being
order of annihilation: He said «cease to be!» and they ceased to be
order of restoration: He said «rise!» and they rose
order of permanence: He said «take your stand (in Heaven or Hell)» and they took their stand.
«Some will be in the Garden and some in the blazing flame» says God (Qur. 42:7).

The rest of this section follows this pattern for all the branches of the schematic tree. The pedagogic
nature of this text becomes evident when a concept is explained more than once, with one or more
Arabic correspondences and finally in Berber. For instance:

Wa mā maʿnā “lā muntahâ la-hā”? “Lā ghāyata la-hā”.


Wa mā maʿnā “lā ghāyata la-hā”? “Wel tili aymir”
And what is the meaning of “lā muntahâ la-hā”? (It means) “lā ghāyata la-hā” (‘it has no
term’)
And what is the meaning of “lā ghāyata la-hā”? (It means) ‘it has no limit’ (f. 1a, ll. 19-20).

Another example :
Mā maʿnâ “mā lā yasaʿu”? eḏ “mā lā yaḥillu”.
Mā maʿnâ “mā lā yaḥillu”? eḏ “mā lā yaǧūzu”.
Wa mā maʿnâ “mā lā yaǧūzu”? d “a we-nneǧǧur”.
What is the meaning of “mā lā yasaʿu”? It is: “mā lā yaḥillu”.
What is the meaning of “mā lā yaḥillu”? It is: “mā lā yaǧūzu”.
And what is the meaning of “mā lā yaǧūzu”? It is: “what is not licit” (f. 3a, ll. 4-5)

The lack of a consistent shape of this text is probably a consequence of a composite nature: it seems
the outcome of the fusion into one text of elements drawn from different sources, sometimes
imperfectly amalgamated. The most evident sign of this origin emerges from the fact that the
obligations concerning the ǧumla, ‘the summa’ of what a Muslim must not ignore,35 are repeated
twice in two almost identical utterances in a row (f. 2b, ll. 10-14):
tamusni n elǧumelt khamsa:
1.a yessen et_tiḏett
2.yessen tella fell-as
3.yessen zeṭṭam umerẓa-nnes
4.yessen w’ibelɣen telzem-tt
5.wa we-nnebliɣ wel tt-telzim
tamusni n tmusni n elǧumlet khamsa:

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1.a yessen et_tiḏett
2.yessen tella fell-as
3.yessen zeṭṭam umerẓa-nnes
4.yessen w’ukzen telzem-tt
5.wa we-nnukiz wel tt-telzim

Knowledge of the ǧumla (elǧumelt) consists of five:


1. recognize that it is truth
2. recognize that it is compulsory for him
3. recognize that he who deviates from it (amerẓa-nnes = Ar. ḍāll) is an infidel (zeṭṭam = Ar.
kāfir)
4. recognize that he who attained puberty (w’ibelɣen) is bound to it
5. and that that he who has not attained puberty (wa we-nnebliɣ) is not bound to it.
Knowledge (tamusni = Ar. maʿrifa) of the explanation (tmusni = Ar. tafsīr) of the ǧumla
consists of five:
1. recognize that it is truth
2. recognize that it is compulsory for him
3. recognize that he who deviates from it is an infidel
4. recognize that he who understands (w’ukzen) is bound to it
5. and that he who does not understand (wa we-nnukiz) is not bound to it.

It is evident that we have here the result of juxtaposition of materials on the same subject coming
from two different sources: the only slight difference in these lists is the term defining those who
are bound to follow God’s orders, namely those who have attained puberty in one list, and those
who are capable of understanding in the other. Of course, both conditions are closely interrelated.
The process through which obedience to God’s orders is accepted by each individual as he grows
and becomes more and more capable of understanding is also the last issue tackled by this
catechism, which closes the text (f. 3a, ll. 5-7):

Mant elḥuǧǧeṯ eǧǧ mā lā yasaʿu? et_tisla duǧǧ_meẓẓey eḏ elqebul deǧǧ_meqqer.


A ysel i lbullaɣ ennan lā ilāh illā llāh Muḥammad rasūl Allāh al ḏ yessen, yenna al d ybeleɣ
yessen d elferiḍeṯ fell-as yeqbel-teṯ.

What is the argument (elḥuǧǧeṯ) in mā lā yasaʿu? It is the fact of hearing it (tisla) in childhood
(duǧǧ_meẓẓey) and of accepting it (elqebul) as an adult (deǧǧ_meqqer).
He will hear people of legal age36 saying lā ilāh illā llāh Muḥammad rasūl Allāh until he will
learn (it), he will continue to say it, until he will become of age and will know that it is an
obligation imposed upon him (elferiḍeṯ fell-as) and he will accept it.

3. Linguistic remarks
An interesting aspect of this document is its value as evidence of Berber terminology in the domain
of theology. Although the language of this text is Berber, one notices a massive presence of Arabic,
in the form of plain quotations in this language or of loanwords and calques. This is not surprising,
if one bears in mind that the language of Islamic theology was created in the East and all the Berber
texts on the subject had to cope with an already established terminology. The Berber author (or
authors) of this catechism adopted different solutions in order to render the religious and
philosophical concepts in his (or their) native language. In this process of adaptation, different
means can be detected: loanwords, calques, usage of native vocabulary.37
Loanwords are numerous. Among them, nouns mostly keep their Arabic form (presumably with a
dialectal and not classic pronunciation), and do not undergo the opposition of “states” typical of the
Berber morphology: eleḥsab ‘reckoning, count of actions, final judgement’(< Ar. al-ḥisāb),
8
eleɛqab ‘punishment’ (< Ar. al-ʿiqāb), elǧenneṯ ‘the Garden (of Paradise)’ (< Ar. al-ǧannatu),
ezzakāṯ ‘alms’ (< Ar. al-zakāt), elḥeǧǧ ‘the pilgrimage’ (< Ar. al-ḥaǧǧ), ennehi af elmenker
‘prevention of vice’ (< Ar. al-nahy ʿan al-munkar), elǧumelt ‘the Summa’ (< Ar. al-ǧumlatu),
elqebul ‘acceptance’ (< Ar. al-qabūl), elǧehaḏ (ǧǧ_ebriḏ n Yuc) ‘striving (in the way of God)’
(< Ar. al-ǧihād fī sabīli llāhi), elǧehalt ‘ignorance’ (< Ar. al-ǧahāla), lbullaɣ ‘adults, people in
legal age’ (< Ar. al-bullāgh), etc.
Some of these borrowings, probably among the earliest, have been “Berberized”: uẓum ‘fast’ (< Ar.
ṣawm), tẓalliṯ ‘prayer’ (< Ar. verb ṣallâ), twalaṯ ‘friendship, closeness’ (< Ar. walāya), tabrat
‘enmity, distance’ (< Ar. barāʾa),38 tmarat (n elmeɛruf) ‘the promotion (of virtue)’ (< Ar. al-amr bi
al-maʿrūf). A full adaptation to the Berber grammar is noticeable in all borrowed verbs: efen ‘cease
to be’ (< Ar. fanâ), ebeq ‘continue to be’ (< Ar. baqiya), ebleɣ ‘attain puberty/legal age’ (< Ar.
balagha), ɛeḏḏeb ‘afflict, punish, chastise’ (< Ar. ʿadhdhaba).
Still, a number of purely Berber expressions are noticeable, either with a proper meaning or with a
shift or widening of meaning, sometimes according to an Arabic pattern (calque).
Contrary to a deep-rooted stereotype, the Berber language is far from devoid of a lexicon capable of
expressing abstract concepts. The most widespread abstract noun even in contemporary Berber is
the word “truth”, which appears here as ṯiḏett, corresponding to Arabic ḥaqq ‘truth’ (f. 2a, l. 7).
Other Berber terms which are used in this text are: the verb uynuṯ ‘happen’, ‘be new’ to render the
concept ‘ibtidāʾ’ the first appearing of what God creates; the verb ekker, verbal noun tanekra
literally ‘rise’, in order to express the resurrection; tira ‘writing’ verbal noun of the verb ‘write’,
meaning ‘the (sacred) Book’, in this case the Torah but elsewhere in the rest of the work, the Quran;
tǧm, a word found in the phrase tǧm en tmeǧǧa glossed with Arabic ṭāʿāt ‘acts of obedience’39;
tamusni (annexed state etmusni), ‘knowledge’ from the verb essen ‘know’ (like Arabic maʿrifa from
ʿarafa)40 Specific Berber terms are also used for ḍāll ‘he who is misled’ (Berb. amerẓa, lit. ‘he who
breaks (the rules)’), kāfir, ‘the infidel’ (Berb. zeṭṭam, etymology unknown). Moreover, purely
Berber words are: iser ‘messenger, Prophet’, Yuc and Bab-enneɣ ‘God’ (the word for ‘god, deity’,
found elsewhere in the text is ababay, pl. ibabayen).
Some terms are a plain translation of an Arabic term, in some cases made explicit by an Arabic
gloss: timsi ‘fire, hell’ (= Ar. nār); abriḏ n Yuc ‘the way of God’ (< Ar. sabīl Allāh); afǧun-is ‘his
servant’ (= Ar. gloss ʿabdu-hu); tira timezwarin ‘the earlier scriptures’ (= Ar. gloss al-kutub al-
māḍiya). In this chapter, the word aymir ‘limit, boundary’ is used to translate Ar. muntahâ or ġāya,
but in the rest of the Kitāb al Barbariyya, it is also often used in the specific meaning of Ar. ḥadd,
pl. ḥudūd ‘legal punishment’. The latter use of this word is an example of calque.
As far as calques are concerned, some cases display a specialization in a technical sense which
clearly follows the pattern of the corresponding Arabic term. The meaning of the form yetlew ‘it is
permitted’ (imperfective of a verb elew), is inferred from an Arabic gloss yasaʿu. It corresponds to
Tuareg alwu ‘be large, wide; be indulgent’, and its use in the sense of ‘be permitted’ seems a calque
from Arabic, since the verb wasiʿa also shares both meanings ‘be large, wide’ and ‘be permitted’. In
the same way, the Berber verb eǧǧur, which normally means ‘walk, go’ is used here (and in many
other instances in the Kitāb al Barbariyya) with the meaning ‘be permitted’, and this also
corresponds to the double meaning of Arabic ǧāza (‘pass’ and ‘be allowed’). Other examples of
calques are aǧǧaḍ, verbal noun of aweḍ, corresponding to Arabic bulūgh ‘attainment (of
puberty/legal age)’, and uḏem ‘face’, used also in the meaning of ‘aspect (of a question)’, like
Arabic waǧh.
Some constructions reflect a word-to-word translation from Arabic, in some cases made evident
either by a parallelism or by a gloss. So, for instance, a passage in Berber like

«ɣef mennaw w_wuḏmawen yella al-ʾamr?» «af sen wuḏmawen...»

«under how many aspects is (God’s) order?» «under two aspects...» (1a 20-1b l. 1)

is closely parallel to
9
«ʿala kam min waǧh kānat ʿalay-hi ʾl-ḥuǧǧa?» fa-qul: «ʿalā waǧhayn...»

«under how many aspects is the evidence on him?», then answer: «under two aspects...» (f.
1a, l. 12-13)

Likewise, the expression tella fell-as ‘it is compulsory for him’ (lit. ‘it is on him’) is explained by
an Arabic gloss wāǧibatun ʿalay-hi (f. 2b, l. 11).

4. Conclusion
The Berber Kitāb al-tawḥīd, an Ibāḍī catechism placed at the beginning of the commentary on Abū
Ghānim’s Mudawwanah, appears a composite work, resulting from formulas taken from different
sources, partially in Arabic, partially in Berber, merged into one text. As far as the content is
concerned, the issues dealt with recall a series of subjects tackled by Fazārī’s writings, while the
form seems nearer to Ǧannāwūnī’s question-and-answer style. From a socio-linguistic point of
view, this document shows an interesting process of contact between Arabic and Berber: the
theological debate, initiated in the East, and particularly in Basra, developed a series of technical
terms in Arabic, which the inhabitants of North Africa had to render and/or explain in their
language. Accordingly, this text offers both explanations and tentative translations. Many specific
terms were borrowed, but many others were “translated” with appropriate indigenous words or with
calques, which followed the same semantic modifications of the corresponding Arabic words. In the
course of time, Arabic became increasingly widespread among the populations and conversely
Berber became the language of a minority, so that catechisms in this language had to be translated
into Arabic, while the only surviving text has come to us in manuscripts rich in Arabic glosses,
intended to make the text understandable to contemporary readers.41
This paper aims at giving a first report on this interesting document, and some important issues are
still pending: the epoch and circumstances of composition, the name of the author (or the authors),
the meaning of some difficult expressions. Further research will probably shed more light on it, as
well as on the history of the theological debate among Ibāḍīs in North Africa.

References

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al-Saraqusṭī, Abū ʿUthmān Saʿīd b. Muḥammad al-Maʿāfirī, Kitāb al-ʾAfʿāl. Al-juzʾ al-rābiʿ, al-qism
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Qawmiyya, 1980.

12
* I wish to express my gratitude to Wilferd Madelung who kindly agreed to read a draft version of this paper and
helped me to improve it with useful suggestions.
1 For a thorough description of this work and of the existing manuscripts, see Brugnatelli (2016a). In this paper,
Arabic is written according to standard transcription rules, while Berber is written using the standard Kabyle
orthography. The differences between these two systems are as follows: Berber < c > stands for Arabic < sh >, < ɣ >
for < gh >, < x > for < kh >, < ɛ > for < ʿ >, < ṯ > for <th> and < ḏ > for <dh>. What I transcribe <ǧ> may
correspond to either [ǧ] or [g]. Schwa [ə] is represented by < e >, while < ° > renders the sukūn (lack of vowel) of
the Arabic writing system. The forms of some Berber words are conjectural, since the script does not allow inferring
definite information as far as vowels and geminate consonants are concerned. More detailed information in
Brugnatelli (2016b).
2 See Brugnatelli (2017: 132).
3 A list of all the chapters of the complete work can be found in Brugnatelli (2016a: 162; 2017: 127-128).
4 Actually, as Rubinacci has already remarked (1964: 567), this text can hardly be ascribed to him, given that « most
of the theological issues it deals with were debated during the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the hijra, i.e. much later than
ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibāḍ’s times ». The chronology of Ibn Ibāḍ has been recently discussed and re-assessed by Madelung
(2006).
5 After Bossoutrot’s death, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ayyūb (1985) published a complete edition of the “Chronique d’Abū
Zakarīyaʾ” mainly based on the material prepared for publication by the French researcher and kept in the depository
of the research unit. He also edited and translated into Arabic a short monograph on Medenine (Bossoutrot n.d.).
6 One of the most important discoveries is a collection of 33 folktales in the language of Cheninni (Tunisia), a hitherto
undescribed variant of Berber, which I am currently studying and preparing for publication.
7 Some slight differences between the fair copy of Bossoutrot and the ms. 2550 cannot be explained as inaccuracies
and probably depend on the existence of another manuscript from which he copied part of the text.
8 According to the description given by Ould-Braham (2008: 59), it occupies six folios of the manuscript in his
possession (f. 1 to 6), i.e. 11 or 12 pages.
9 Concerning the name of God and the religious terminology in Berber contained in this text, see below (§ 3) and
Brugnatelli (2010; 2013: 274; 2016a: 171).
10 About ḥukm and waṣf in Ibāḍī theology, see Cuperly (1991: 80-81).
11 See, for instance, a gloss in the Kitāb al Nikāḥ (f. 96a, l. 12): asersur <ʾsrsūr> = ḥuǧǧa. See also asersur
<ʾasar°sūr°> = al-ḥuǧǧa (Bossoutrot 1900: 491, 497).
12 In this passage, it is possible that aweḍ has also taken on another meaning of the Arabic root blgh, namely that of
balugha ‘be eloquent’. The Arabic root has been adopted as such in a borrowing, ebleɣ, meaning ‘attain puberty’
(see below). But see also the calque amezwar en weǧǧaḍ (f. 3a, l.1), corresponding to the well-known formula
awwal al-bulūġ ‘the first signs of puberty’.
13 «The first controversial question, discussed at length by al-Fazārī, concerned the proof of prophethood. Ibn ʿUmayr
had maintained that God in His justice is obliged to verify the claim of His messengers to prophethood by a
miraculous sign (ʿalam, āya) or by testimony (shāhid)*. Without such verification, mankind would not be able to
distinguish a true from a false prophet. If God failed to provide such verification, it would constitute an act of
injustice on His part. Against this, al-Fazārī argues that clear evidence for the truthfulness of prophets is contained in
their message itself. God may provide His prophets with miraculous signs, as He did for Moses and Jesus, but He is
not obliged to do so and is not unjust if He does not do so. [*(Note:) By shāhid the prediction of the coming of a
prophet in an earlier prophetic message is meant]» (Madelung forthcoming).
14 The particle *ag, usually written <ʾǧ> has an adversative meaning ‘but’, ‘whereas’ and marks an opposition to what
precedes. For instance: wisi yessareḏ izumal-is iǧǧeṯ tikkelt mamak etteǧǧen yemxalfen yetteɛreḍ-t si wamak
yetɣeym ewmaṣ ɣef tiwa n yefassn-is aǧ <ʾǧ> mayd netta yessireḏ izumal-is careḍ tekkal amma aǧǧ_etteǧǧen
ettuǧrawt-enneɣ wel yuḥil ‘he who washes his privates only once like the dissidents do, he risks that some dirt sticks
on the back of his hands, whereas, if he washes his privates three times, as our companions do, he will not get
soiled’ (f. 7b, l. 16). A possible cognate is Kabyle wanag ‘but’, ‘whereas’, which could contain this particle in its
final part.
15 Medieval Berber unetta, different from netta, pronoun of 3rd person m. singular, is a sort of indefinite pronoun
(‘someone’, ‘anyone’) and is often used as an impersonal subject ‘(some)one’ (like French on, German man).
16 Berber tamusni, usually corresponding to Ar. maʿrifa.
17 Cp. Motylinski (1905: 509 and 518): wa ʾanna Muḥammadan ʿabdu-hu wa rasūlu-hu, wa ʾanna mā ǧāʾa bi-hi
ḥaqqun min ʿinda rabbi-hi ‘que Mohammed est son serviteur et son envoyé ; que ce qu’il a annoncé est la vérité,
émanant de son souverain maître’, as well as Rubinacci (1964: 582): “è servo di Dio e suo inviato. Egli lo ha
mandato con la retta guida e la religione della verità” (‘he is servant of God and his messenger. He has sent him with
right guidance and the religion of truth’), echoing Qur. 9:33. The key words ‘servant’ (ʿabd), ‘messenger’ (rasūl),
‘He has sent him’/‘He has brought it’ (ʾarsala-hu/ǧāʾa bi-hi) and ‘truth’ (al-ḥaqq) appear in the Berber text too: iser,
afǧun, (t-iḏ-)yuzen, ṯiḏett.
18 Cp. Salimi & Madelung (2014: 171-172): «Testifying that there is no God but Allah, the one and only, who has no
associate, that Muhammad is his servant and his messenger, and that what he brought with him is true concerning
death and resurrection, the final count, Paradise and Hell: this is the faith (imān) that nobody is permitted to ignore
in any moment. And this is the ǧumla to which God’s messenger (PBUH) urged his enemy among the infidels, and
this is our ǧumla to which we adhere and to which we urge our enemy among the infidels.» The list contained in the
Berber tawḥīd is more similar to that of Motylinski (1905: 509 and 519), which is longer than al-Fazārī’s and shares
with the present text the ‘knowledge [of the books revealed]’ and ‘the punishment’.
19 The verb cuk(k)eṯ occurring here seems a borrowing from Arabic shakka ‘to doubt’. It occurs again later on in this
chapter, together with the noun eccekk (from al-shukku ‘the doubt’): wiḏisen a yecuk(k)eṯ yekfer: wel dey-sen yetlew
eccekk s deffer tmusni ‘and whoever doubts commits kufr: they are not permitted the doubt after the knowledge’ (f.
2b, ll. 16-17)
20 The name of the Prophet appears here as Mxemmeḏ, with a ‘Berberised’ form: in this old Berber text, even Arabic
proper names are often Berberised, cp. Brugnatelli (2013: 277).
21 A gloss suggests a variant karam ‘noble nature, generosity’ instead of maǧd ‘glory, splendour’.
22 The reading al-mutawazzirūna makes no sense here and should probably be amended to muʾtazirūna or
mutaʾazzirūna ‘those who wrap in a izār (the cloth that covers the pilgrim from waist to knees when he commits
himself to the sacred state of iḥrām)’. This Arabic passage contains other inaccurate writings: faḍḍan and ghalīḍan
instead of faẓẓan and ghalīẓan, as well as the haplography ʾlyl instead of ʾllyl and the vocalization faqh written out
twice instead of fiqh (see following note).
23 The vocalization faqh is a mistake. It was probably originated by a marginal note which states: man faquha faqhan
ṣāra faqīhan. This statement and the rest of the note, difficult to understand because ungrammatical, seem a
corrupted reproduction of the entry FQH from some lexicon like the one by al-Saraqusṭī (1980: 48) or the one by Ibn
al-Qaṭṭā῾ (1941: vol. 2, p. 472).
24 “1Here is my servant, whom I uphold, /my chosen one in whom I delight; /I will put my Spirit on him, / and he will
bring justice to the nations. /2 He will not shout or cry out, / or raise his voice in the streets./ 3 A bruised reed he will
not break, / and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. / In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; / 4 he will not
falter or be discouraged /till he establishes justice on earth. / In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
25 The Quranic passages alluded to are: a bi mā raḥmatin min Allāhi linta la-hum wa law kunta faẓẓan ghalīẓa l-qalbi
lanfaḍḍū min ḥawli-ka... «So by mercy from Allah, (O Muhammad), you were lenient with them. And if you had
been rude (in speech) and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you...» (Qur. 3:159); wa ǧazāʾu
sayyiʾatin sayyiʾatun miṯlu-hā fa man ʿafā wa ʾaṣlaḥa fa ʾaǧru-hu ʿalâ llāhi ʾinna-hu lā yuḥibbu ẓ-ẓālimīna «and the
retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it, but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation - his reward is (due)
from Allah. Indeed, he does not like wrongdoers» (Qur. 42:40).
26 This translation is conjectural, inferred from the context, given that this word is unattested elsewhere.
27 The construction wel ... ʾas is frequently used throughout the whole treatise and corresponds to Arabic lā … illā.
Actually, this expression echoes Qur. 36:54 and 37:39 («and you will not be rewarded except for what you used to
do»), as well as 7:147, 10:52 and 34:33.
28 The Berber word tǧm seems the feminine (plural?) of aǧamuṯ which is glossed ḥasan and ʾaḥsan elsewhere in the
work and is probably a cognate of Tuareg (Ayr) goma, pl. gomaten ‘beauty, beautiful woman’. See also Tuareg
tuggema, verbal noun of a verb meaning ‘admire, agree’ (and ‘be admirable’), corresponding to Kabyle tujjma
‘affection’. Here the text has an Arabic gloss: ṭāʿāt ‘acts of obedience’. In Islam, “good” and “evil” are actually
defined in terms of “obedience” or “disobedience”
29 The basic meaning of Ar. ǧawāriḥ is ‘limbs’, ‘extremities’, but also the ‘organs’ of the human body dedicated to
perception, as a metonymy of the ‘senses’, which are listed in the following lines (f. 2a, ll. 4-5): hearing (samʿ), sight
(baṣr), smell (šamam), taste (ḏawq) and touch (lams). The phrase al-ǧawāriḥ al-khamsa with the same meaning also
occurs in Fazārī’s tawḥīd (Salimi & Madelung 2014: 173, l. 13).
30 The passage where it occurs is: tebbub tmeǧǧuṯ sder Rebbi lɛalamin sen wuḏmawen: tebbub talɣawt, tebbub arruz
‘the action implies (tebbub, Ar. gloss taḥtamilu) two aspects by the Lord of the worlds: praise (talɣawt, Ar. gloss
madḥ) and a reward (arruz, Ar. gloss thawāb)’.
31 In the juridical part of the manuscript, anfel means ‘different opinion’, from a verb ennfel ‘disagree’, ‘have divergent
opinions’.
32 This verse is also quoted in Fazārī’s “Book of predetermination” (Salimi & Madelung 2014: 27). A historical
account of the debate about this question in and outside the Ibāḍiyya is sketched out by Moreno (1949: 305-310).
33 In this context, “not heard” alludes to orders given by God outside of worldly time.
34 Rubinacci (1964: 593): «Si è detto che Allāh si conosce sotto le categorie del necessario (wāǧib), del possibile
(ǧāʾiz), dell’impossibile (mustaḥīl). Quel che è necessario è la Sua divinità, la Sua signoria, la Sua unicità ; quel che
è possibile è la creazione, l’annientamento (ifnāʾ), la resurrezione (iʿāda) ; quel che è impossibile è avere un socio,
una moglie, un figlio».
35 About the ǧumla, see above, fn. 18.
36 The word elbullaɣ already occurs some lines above (f. 3a, ll. 1-2): mā lā yasaʿu yeḥkem af elbullaɣ ‘ what-is-not-
permitted rules (= is compulsory) over those of legal age’. It is clearly a loanword from bullāgh, intended as a plural
of bāligh ‘he who has attained legal age’ (like ṭullāb from ṭālib, etc.), although this plural is not recorded in Arabic
dictionaries.
37 On these specifically linguistic issues, cp. also, more thoroughly, Brugnatelli (2013: 273-280).
38 On the problems concerning the phonetic realization of this word, see note 17 of Brugnatelli (2013: 281).
39 On this word, s. above, fn. 28. In this phrase, timeǧǧa (annexed state tmeǧǧa) is the plural of tameǧǧuṯ ‘deed’,
verbal noun of eǧ ‘do’.
40 In a passage that was probably badly joined from another version (f. 2b, l. 12, see above), the Berber text displays a
repetition of the word tamusni, accompanied by two different glosses, maʿrifa and tafsīr, thus leading to a doubtful
translation ‘knowledge of the explanation of the ǧumla...’ Probably the glosses try to give a meaning to an
accidental repetition, but the Berber word corresponding to tafsīr in the other parts of this work is tumnunt. Cf.:
mant tanettaṯ, mant lmeɛna-s, mant tumnunt-is? = mā hiya, mā maʿnā-hā, mā tafsīru-hā? ‘what is it (lit.: she)? what
is its meaning? what is its explanation?’ (f. 323a, ll. 14-15).
41 The socio-linguistic situation of North Africa through the ages, and the changing relationship between Arabic and
Berber, particularly in the Ibāḍite domain, is analysed in Brugnatelli (forthcoming).