The History of the Land of the Blacks
On Translating This Monumental Work
I first began translating the Tarikh as-Sudan of Shaykh Abd’r-Rahman as-Sa`di in the spring of 1990. It was when I was informed a year later by Dr. Gregory Maddox of the History Department of Texas Southern University, that Dr. John Hunwick was also in the process of translating the text and had the financial backing of the Ford Foundation and other lucrative institutions that I moved on to other more important translations on behalf of the Jama`at of Shehu Uthman ibn Fuduye` in the U.S..
In fact, I spoke with Dr. Hunwick about the progress of his work at the time, and I was far ahead of him in my translations. However, I decided to forego my work on it and Hunwick promised that he would get me an advance copy of his translations when it was completed. Well some years later his work was completed and published by McBrill and as promised, he sent me a copy to read and critic. I was pleased with his work, however, I was someone taken aback that he did not translate the entire text; particularly those latter chapters that dealt with the mortality of the notables and scholars of the Bilad as-Sudan.
Dr. Hunwick felt that this information was not pertinent to understanding the history of the region. However, I disagreed then and now; because there was a reason that as-Sa`di singled out chapters specifically for the mention of mortality rates among the scholars and notables of the Bilad as-Sudan. The key reason being that social development in the eyes of the author, and indeed in the view of any Muslim is built upon the existence and persistence of the clerical class in Islam. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace once said: “There is a category among men who when they are sound, then the people are sound, and when they have been ruined, then the people will be ruined. They are the scholars and the rulers.”
Shaykh Muhammad Shareef