Intralinear Ajami (Type 2)

Manuscripts where Ajami phrases follow Arabic phrases on the same line.

This is the third post in a series on types of Ajami. Read the initial introduction here and find all of the posts here.

“Intralinear Ajami”, in the strictest sense, refers to African language phrases following Arabic ones written on the same line. Similarly to Type 1 (which I reviewed in my previous post), such Ajami, which I call Type 2, is written in a continuous act of writing.

Unlike Type 1, however, but similarly to Type 3 (which is covered briefly in my initial introductory post), such manuscripts provide translations of Arabic into a local language. They have a rigid pattern of alternation between short Arabic noun/verb phrases and their translation into the target language.

This is the most enigmatic Ajami type because the context and intended purpose of this layout are unclear. We do not yet understand why, but this layout is used restrictively for only two types of text.

Al-ʿAqīda in Type 2 Ajami Layout

The most frequent—popularly known as Umm al-Barāhīn ‘The Major Evidence’—is the short theological treatise al-ʿAqīda al-Sughrā (‘Small Creed’) of Muhammad b. Yusuf al-Sanūsī (d. 1486) and various derivatives of text. Sanūsī’s work deals with the oneness of God (so-called tawḥīd), proofs of God’s existence and God’s attributes. (Gutova 2011 is a detailed study of Umm al-Barāhīn translated into Kabyle Berber, which however is not written in the Ajami Type 2 layout.)

It is possible that these manuscripts are related to fixed texts that are often translations from Arabic and transmitted in the oral domain as poems, such as kaɓɓe (‘creed’) texts in Fulfulde, which are largely based on Sanusi’s creed (Brenner & Last 1985).

The following picture shows two copies of Umm al-Barāhīn written in Ajami Type 2 layout with alternating phrases in Arabic (red ink) and Old Kanembu (black ink).

There are striking similarities between the older manuscript from the Mamma Haidara Library, Timbuktu (no one knows how it got there), and a recent one from Dr. Kyari Sherif’s collection in Maiduguri (see the whole manuscript at BOKIM).

Both manuscripts have exactly the same pattern of parsing the Arabic text into smaller units, and they share a large amount of identical Old Kanembu phraseology and grammatical structures, suggesting a remarkable stability of transmission. 

For example, the first phrase in Arabic bi-smi’llāhi ‘in the name of God’ is followed in both manuscripts by identical translation into Old Kanembu ala-be θu-n badinuskī (God-of name-by I.begin) ‘I begin with God’s name’. (Compare it with the same “beginning” formula in the Nupe poem discussed in the previous post of this series.)

Al-Akhḍārī in Type 2 Ajami Layout

The other text written in Type 2 layout is a popular elementary textbook on ritual duties Mukhtaṣar fī’l ʿibādāt al-Akhḍārī of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Akhḍārī (d. 1585).

As of now, however, we are only aware of one copy with intralinear translation in Mandinka (Ngom et al. 2018).

This is the third post in a series on types of Ajami. The next will be on Ajami Type 3 – Systematic Interlinear Ajami Glosses.

Read the initial introduction here and find all of the posts here.


BOKIM – Borno and Old Kanembu Islamic Manuscripts digital collection at SOAS, University of London (

Brenner, Louis & Murray Last (1985), ‘The role of language in West African Islam’, Africa, 5/4, 432-446.

Gutova, Evgeniya (2011), The Sanusi Creed in Kabyle Berber: Manuscript KA 21 from the Lmuhub Ulahbib Library, Leiden: University of Leiden MA thesis.

Ngom, Fallou, Castro, Eleni, & Diakité, Ablaye (2018), African Ajami Library: EAP 1042. Digital Preservation of Mandinka Ajami Materials of Casamance, Senegal. Boston: Boston University Libraries:

Cite this blog post
Dmitry Bondarev (2019, September 5). Intralinear Ajami (Type 2). A-label: African Languages Between the Lines. Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

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