Online Ajami Sources and Resources

Where can one find African languages written in Arabic script on the internet?

One need not go to West African or anywhere else to contribute to research of manuscripts that contain instances of African languages written in Ajami (that is, Arabic characters).

What follows is a list of the most prominent collection of Ajami texts and or resources available on the internet that I could find.

NOTE: An easier-to-read and open-access PDF of this post is available here.

Selected Collections in the West

Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF)

Manuscrits Arabes

Inventory of the Umarian Library (AKA Fonds Archinard, which includes Umar Tal’s collection from 1890):

Catalogue des manuscrits arabes du fonds de Gironcourt (1878-1960):

Arabic Manuscripts from West Africa: A Catalog of the Herskovits Library Collection at Northwestern

Guide to collection (newer introduction than the above link and includes a link to search their catalogue): Most in Arabic. Some Hausa, Fulfulde, Wolof, Dagbani and Gonja. From Northern Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Can be searched but not viewed online.

The ‘Umar Falke Collection

The John Paden Collection

The John Hunwick Collection

The University of Ghana Collection

Collected by Wilks. Photocopies of what he deposited at University of Ghana and used for books on Gonja and Wala in northwestern Ghana.

Selected Collections on the Internet

British Library’s Endangered Archive Program (EAP)

Digital preservation of Wolof Ajami manuscripts of Senegal (EAP334)

Same as BU Ajami Library collection for Wolof. Includes Quran that Jeremy investigated in his article.

Digital Preservation of Mandinka Ajami Materials of Casamance, Senegal (EAP1042; same as BU Mandinka)

Only significant collection of Manding manuscripts that is currently accessible online.

Safeguarding Fulfulde ajami manuscripts of Nigerian Jihad poetry by Usman dan Fodio (1754-1817) and contemporaries (EAP387)

Digital Preservation of Mandinka Ajami Materials of Casamance, Senegal (EAP1042)

Project to digitise and preserve the manuscripts of Djenné and surrounding villages (EAP690)

Trinity College Dublin

Use the digital collections link to search for “Arabic manuscript” and then find the following shelf marks which are online and include Soninke and Mandinka Ajami as identified by Darya: IE TCD MS 3499, 3500, 2179, 2689.

They also have mss with Ajami Hausa: e.g. 2258 and 3335.

Leiden University

Leiden University Library, ms OR. 14.052 (with glosses in Soninke) (

Bibliothèque Universitaire des Langues et Civilisations (BULAC)

Manuscrits arabes (

Twenty-seven digitized manuscripts.

MS.ARA.610bis: Fulani Ajami (names of plants)

African Languages Material Archive (ALMA)

Brief introduction and then exclusively Wolof documents from Ngom’s documentation efforts. Not clear how distinct from the other stuff of his that is out there.

African Online Digital Library (AODL)

Diversity and Tolerance in the Islam of West Africa (

Ajami in the Senegambia

Profiles by Ngom of different Ajami scholars along with texts, transliterations and media files.

Northern Factors in Asante History

Some Wangara interviews and pictures connected to Bobo-Dioulasso and Marhaba of Kong.

Qadiri Community of Buh Kunta

No Ajami

Pluralism and Adaptation in the Islamic Practice of Senegal and Ghana (

A continuation of the “Diversity and Tolerance” project listed above; Includes Ajami documents that can be searched via browse)

Discourses of Muslim Scholars in Colonial Ghana

This gallery consists of English translations of Arabic and Hausa texts written by Al-hajj Umar ibn Bakri, a West African Muslim scholar of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Al-hajj Umar was a member of a Hausa Muslim family from Kano, Nigeria, who resided most of his adult life in Kete-Krachi, a town in what would be in today’s Ghana. His poems, considered some of best examples of Arabic expression in West Africa in this era, comment on European colonial rule, the activities of Muslim leaders, and other topics.

Includes file with approximate translation

Failed Islamic States in Senegambia

English translation of verses from ‘ajami poem of Mohammadou Aliou Tyam celebrating the triumph over and entry into the Bambara capital of Segu in 1861.

West African Online Digital Library

Galleries of photographs, audio interviews, and documents contributed by scholars, with research about best practices for international, multilingual digital repositories. List of galleries with descriptions:


Includes African language interviews and translations that Curtin did.


Potentially interesting photos of typical Jula style mosques etc.

The history and culture of Futa Toro, Senegal and Mauritania:

Africa’s Sources of Knowledge – Digital Library (ASK-DL) at Harvard

Includes Ajami materials for Fulani, Hausa and Swahili. “Bamanankan” is only in N’ko.

West African Arabic Manuscript Database

Started by Charles Stewart

19,000 manuscripts from eleven different collections

Collaboration with Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation

Used to catalogue Northwestern collections

Archive of the Republic of Niger (AREN) at Boston University

This collection includes some Ajami material, including children’s books in Hausa. While cataloging of this collection is a work in progress, a partial listing of books is available here (

The list lists works that are Arabic or Ajami—could search and put into a post

African Ajami Library at Boston University

Often (or always?) overlaps with the EAP collections

Mandinka Ajami Manuscripts (In Progress) [41]

Fuuta Jalon Pular Ajami Manuscripts [25]

Hausa Manuscripts [6]

Philippe Beaujard Sorabe (Malagasy) Ajami Collection [69]

Wolofal Manuscripts, Senegal [27]

The Oriental Manuscript Projet (OMAR)

Digital repository at University of Freiburg in collaboration with University of Tubingen

2,500 Arabic manuscripts from Mauritania

Digitized from microfilms collected between 1979 and 1997

Library of Congress

2003 digital copies from the Mamma Haidara Library and Cheikh Zayni Baye Library in Boujheba, Mali.

Hill Museum and Manuscripts Library

Sign up for account to view for free

Digital copies of Savama-DCI from between 2013-2016

As of November 6, 2018: 7612 digitized but not catalogued from Aboubacar Bin Said Library; 20628 in process of being digitzed from the Mamma Haidara Library

As of November 6, 2018, 1471 from Mamma Haidara Library (2017-02-24) and 1492 from Aboubacar Bin Said Library (2017-07-31) are digitized, catalogued and viewable.

SOAS Digital Collections

Hausa Language Resources

Includes a History of Samory

Borno and Old Kanembu Islamic Manuscripts


Profiles in Nigerien Artisanry: The Artists of Niamey

The Niger Artisans Project consists of 12 candid conversations with artisans working in Niamey, Niger. The artisans featured here fall into a category more closely related to the corresponding Hausa term ma’aikatan hannu, or people who work with their hands. Each interview includes a transcription in Ajami.

Ajami Texts in BU Libraries

A page that includes bibliographies about BU’s holdings related to Ajami for the following languages: Swahili, Hausa, Kanuri, Joola, Fulani as well as a general Ajami references.

BU Library Guide

BU Library Guide

A guide for researchers and students that lists potential Ajami resources that exist online.

Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library Guide

“This guide was created to help researchers locate manuscripts originating from West Africa, written in Arabic or in Ajami – a modified Arabic script used to write African languages. Here you will find information on our holdings here at the University of Illinois; electronic resources available for use; as well as archival holdings both in the United States and abroad.”

Super detailed guide covering manuscripts at Illinois, Electronic Resources and a brief overview of physical archives in West Africa and elsewhere.

Ngom 2017 Article

Ngom, F. (2017). West African Manuscripts in Arabic and African Languages and Digital Preservation. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History.

Expansive article that tries to lay out the history and current state of West African manuscripts.

Cite this blog post
Coleman Donaldson (2019, July 9). Online Ajami Sources and Resources. A-label: African Languages Between the Lines. Retrieved June 14, 2024, from

Author: Coleman Donaldson

Postdoc at the University of Hamburg interested in speech and literacy practices in Francophone and Manding-speaking West Africa.

3 thoughts on “Online Ajami Sources and Resources”

  1. Very useful post!
    Thank your for citing BULAC’s digitized manuscript ; the call number is MS.ARA.610bis and the link provided should be:

    Be warned we have other african language manuscripts in arabic script waiting for digitzation!

    B. Guichard (BULAC)

    1. Hi Benjamin! Thank you so much for chiming in. I’ve added/updated the link and call number for the particular mss cited. I also tried to update the link for the collection in general — it doesn’t seem to be a permanent link; do you have a better one I should use?

      PS – Je suis un ancien étudiant de l’INALCO et j’ai passé un certain nombre de jours à la BULAC 🙂 Je risque de venir bientôt à Paris, peut-être on pourrait se rencontrer pour échanger sur les manuscrits en questions?

      1. Thank you for the answer : no permalink on our Omeka platform yet unfortunately, but we plan to upload our data to Internet Archive next year – permalinks will be available from IA interface.

        Faites nous signe lors de votre passage à Paris bien sûr!

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