Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hebrew Quran manuscript from Cochin

A Page from the Hebrew Quran Manuscript
Picture courtesy

I was stunned to see a web page which really fascinated me, it mentions about the one of three existing manuscripts of Quran, the interesting part is that it was from Cochin. Rather than me explaining about the Hebrew Quran manuscript, I would like to quote the words from the page.“In a tour de force of bibliographical sleuthing, Myron M. Weinstein, former Head of the Hebraic Section, using both painstaking scholarship and creative imagination, offers the missing date and even a nineteenth-century provenance. In his "A Hebrew Qur'an Manuscript" in Jews in India, edited by Thomas A. Timberg, Weinstein, in elegant narrative style, leads the reader along a thoroughly documented road, at whose end we are convinced that this Hebrew version is a translation from a Dutch copy which is itself a translation from the French translation of the original Arabic. Weinstein also persuades us that the translator is Leopold Immanuel Jacob van Dort, a Jewish convert to Christianity who was professor of theology in Colombo, Ceylon, and that the scribe was David Cohen, a native of Berlin then residing in Cochin, a city on the southwest coast of India. Weinstein is equally persuasive about the manuscript being written in Cochin in the 1750s or 1760s, probably in 1757, when van Dort was visiting that city, and that is the volume the missionary Joseph Wolff saw in Meshed, Persia, in 183 1, when he encountered a group of Jewish Sufis. Wolff writes:

I met here in the house of Mullah Meshiakh with an Hebrew translation of the Koran, with the following title: "The Law of the Ishmaelites, called the Koran, translated from the Arabic into French by Durier, and from the French into Dutch by Glosenmachor, and 1, Immanuel Jacob Medart, have now translated it into the holy language, written here at Kogen, by David, the son of Isaac Cohen of Berlin."

From Cochin to Meshed to Washington, and who knows where in-between, a hegira from the ends of the earth indeed!

Check it in the below link

That is really an interesting fact isn’t it?  And even I feel proud to be a cochinite as this happened to be in Cochin.

The word Kogen (Kogin or kotzin as been called by Jewish community of cochin for the name Cochin) made me to recall an incident happened in my encounter with the Cochin jewish community.

It was a Tuesday, just after my lunch I received a call from Thaha saying, Joseph Hallegua one of the oldest member in the community wants to meet me to recreate the seal of Pardesi synagogue, I was taken to a 18th century mansion, the residence of Joseph Hallegua. His daughter Yael was there, to whom I seemed to be an alien even though I had met her many times form the ticket counter of synagogue. I think it might be because she saw me from her home.

Joseph Hallegua took me and Thaha to a table and gave me some papers and the seal. The seal was made of bronze and look very antique in nature. I was very much exited to see the seal and was glad to get an opportunity recreate it. The part of me was to draw the exact replica of it. I have done it in course of time Joseph Hallegua asked me, how is studied Hebrew language and I had narrated the story and I finished drawing the outline then started with writing part, Mr Hallegua gave me a piece of paper in which he tried to draw it and I read it but there was a mistake in it and I found it and showed to Mr. Hallegua he didn’t admit it first but after a healthy argument finally I took a photo of the seal in my mobile and I zoomed it and then showed to him he understood it the word in which he made the mistake was Kogin it was written  קוגין   in the seal but Mr.Hallegua told it is כוגן , even later Thaha took a enlarged Xerox copy imprint of the seal and gave him a copy.

The word Cochin is also written as kotzin קוצ'ין , ie instead of gimel they use tzadik, even called by any name Cochin is always Cochin.

 And here i would like to say that printing and issual of Hebrew translation of Quran is been announced by the King Fahad complex in 2007, hope the works are still going or it would have published, any way i would like to get one copy of it, Inshallah.


  1. i landed on this page just after reading about jewish synagogue cochin . i wondered when i found it was built before 400+ years ago .

  2. Hi Thoufeeq remember our chat on Chembitta Palli & the Jewish merchant.Here are the references:
    Chembitta Palli is one of the oldest mosques in Kochi. This mosque is around 700 years old*, and was erected while Sayyid Maula Bukhari was based at Nettoor. The name of the mosque is derived from the copper shingles on its roof. It is believed that a Jew named Shenjourde donated the Sreenandi (Paluthareeyam) of the mosque.
    Islamika Vijnhana Kosham Vol VIII, p 621,IPH Kozhikode,December 2005.
    Tusa Fels ,Patricia. Mosques of Cochin. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing Ltd 2011.

    Sometime between 1520 and 1540, the mosque that is seen today was built. Whether it was built or rebuilt on the foundation of a smaller mosque is up for discussion. The driving force to build the mosque was the scholarly family of Sayyid Bukhari.
    ..................Stories abound about the Bukhari clan.The chief figure was Sayyid Ismail Bukhari,a spiritual leader of the community who died in Hijra 880.Inscriptions date the mosque rebuilding at 926 AH(1548).His son, Sayyid Fakhr Bukhari (Sayyid Maula Bukhari Thangal)is credited with leading the construction.
    ..........The imam of the last forty four years, Al-Haj K.K.Abdul Rahiman Moulavi,tells a story that has been passed down about the timber that was used for the mosque: A local Jewish merchant was so impressed with the knowledge of the Sayyid that he wanted to help in the building of the mosque. He donated all the timbers.
    Some embroider this story by telling how the Jewish merchant then decided to convert after hearing the erudition of the Sayyid’s sermon on Moses.
    Tusa Fels ,Patricia. Mosques of Cochin. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing Ltd 2011. p 32& p 34