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Institutions and the cultural output in Algeria

1–The cultural institutions in Algeria

During the late modern period in Algeria, there were numerous cultural institutions that had a role at the time in the flourishing of the cultural movement of Algerian society, for having the task of teaching the individual and forming him. Among those institutions there were:

a.           Mosques: 

 Mosques were considered as the most important religious and core institutions where they do group prayers and it is also where they practice Quran memorization and teach religious obligations and the rest of the sciences that are related to the life of Muslims. Moreover, among those mosques was the Great Mosque where the Malki mufti was based. In addition to the Barani Casbah Mosque that was located in front of the Casbah and was renewed and expanded by Dey Hussein, and where the Casbah workers were praying. There was also the Ketchaoua mosque. 

The second kind of mosques were established by the rich, including the mosque of the Great Muhammed Bey in Mascara. As for the third kind of mosques, there were those that were built by charitable  institutions complementing the actions of the rich and governors. This kind of mosque was modestly built with rocks and plaster with low granaries, and they were numerous.

b.   Zawiyas:

The zawiyas took the lead among the cultural institutions  along with the mosques during that era, and Ibn Marzouk el-Khatib defined it as: “those places made to accompany the incoming and feed the needy people who come.”

The zawiyas were divided into two sections, and each section was playing a specific role. The first section was teaching how to memorize and recite the Holy Quran, and the learners were usually those who already knew the alphabet and some verses of the Holy Dhikr. As for the second section, they taught islamic jurisprudence and dogma, adding to that grammar, linguistic morphology and logic. Besides, the role of the Zawiyas goes beyond teaching, it also participated in the Jihad, which is something that no one can deny or ignore, that is because the zawiyas had a role in making history.

The zawiyas were spread across the entire Algerian territory, and the most significant ones were the zawiyas of the scientific capital cities. There were the zawiyas of the “Mitidja plain” in the suburbs of Algiers city, in addition to the zawiyas of the Kabylie zone and others located in other big cities like Constantine, Algiers and Tlemcen on significant levels that were developed thanks to the literature of its teachers and scholars. It also carried with it unique manuscripts in different sciences that massively contributed to the wide spread of culture and knowledge. As for the  lessons, they lasted the whole day, where the Sheikh of the zawiya did not stop explaining, and it was a kind of a scientific assembly where the Sheikh sits in the middle and the students surround him. 

c.   Quranic schools: 

The Quranic schools were the most spread educational and cultural centers during the Ottoman period, where a big number of Algerians approached it. The Quranic schools were established by scholars and those who memorized the Quran, and the schools were dispersed in most of the Algerian cities and villages. They were also excessively spread in Constantine, Bejaia and Tlemcen cities until they reached dozens of schools where children either boys or girls were learning the Holy Quran and writing it on wooden boards coated with clay, reed pens, and glue from burned wool. People who taught in those Quranic schools were called students in some regions, scholars in other regions, and Sheikhs in some others.

d.   Schools:

Schools were widely spread in all the Algerian cities and countryside. They were established by philanthropists and were funded by endowments that were held by the good souls who donated their properties to build these schools, and the authorities did not have anything to do with it.

Two: The cultural life in Algeria:

a.           The cultural life in the Capital:

Algiers city had known a dynamic scientific movement during the late modern era, and the number of the mosques in Algiers city was estimated at around 100 mosques including 7 big ones. As for the most significant scholars of Algiers city who were in charge of the Fatwa in Algiers, there was the Imam of the Great Mosque who took refuge in al-Fakun the grandson, Said Kaddoura who was deceased in 1066 AH, and who had a big contribution in the scientific movement in Algiers especially when we knew that he was able to establish a zawiya and a school in Algiers from the endowments of the Great Mosque.

Moreover, those who also stood out were the “Algerian Malki Yahia Bin Muhammed” whose origins were Naili, Chaoui and Meliani. He was the Imam of his era in islamic jurisprudence, assets, logic and synthaxe. He was born in Meliana city and grew up in Algiers, where he studied in both cities and was taught by several Sheikhs including sheikh Muhammed Bin Muhammed Bahlul and sheikh Kadua the mufti of Algiers in addition to Mahdi al-Thaalibi and he gained knowledge about Hadith and islamic jurisprudence from them. Furthermore, he wrote many books, including “a footnote explaining Umm al-barahin” by Sanusi , and “ A Rhymed Poem Parsing the Holy Name”” and a book about the origins of islamic jurisprudence. There is also “The Explanation of Facilitation” and a footnote about the explanation of al-Muradi. He passed away on his way to perform Hajj in 1069.

b.   Cultural life in Tlemcen:

Tlemcen city was not very different from Algiers, it was a big cultural base with all the schools established whether by the Beni Ziane or Beni Marin when they colonized the city, including al-Ubbad school, the Great Mosque, the Yakubiya school and the Tashfiniya school. In addition to several mosques, schools, zawayas, and quranic schools that were widespread here and there. Moreover, these schools had contributed to the emergence of many scholars and prestigious families like al-Aqbani and al-Maqqari families, and others… However, Tlemcen city will lose its sparkle especially after the Spaniards came and colonized Oran city and intervened in the affairs of Tlemcen city then accessed the town under the influence of the Turkish. This is what made many scholars leave the country and go abroad, especially to Maghreb al-Aqsa, and among those scholars were Ahmad al-Wansharisi, and Ahmad al-Maqqari.

Despite this situation, the intellectual state had not ceased, but rather continued. The most significant scholars of the contemporary era were probably al-Fakun and Ahmad al-Maqqari author of “The Good Inspiration” who passed away in 1631 AD and who left Tlemcen city due to the previously mentioned circumstances then migrated heading towards Maghreb al-Aqsa where he became an Imam and was in charge of giving speeches and Fatwa in am-Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fés city in 1022 AH.

Moreover, al-Maqqari had many communications and meetings with Said Kaddoura, the Mufti of Algiers city and also with the scholar of Constantine “Abdelkarim al-Fakun”. The most significant scholars of Algiers city who were in charge of al-fatwa in Algiers was the Imam of the Great Mosque who took knowledge from al-Fakun and “Said Kaddoura” in 1066 AH, and who massively contributed in the scientific movement in Algeria, especially that he was able to establish a zawiya and a school in Algiers from the endowments of the Great Mosque.

Furthermore, many of the other families who emerged were known for science like al-Mangakati and al-Mashdali families in Bejaia. Also, Mazouna was known for its great schools that created a big number of scholars like Mussa Bin Issa the author of  “The preamble of Pride” , in addition to Hilya al-Musafir and his son Yahya.

Three: The value of the scientific output and its influence on Algeria during the late modern era:

1– The output of religious sciences: We refer to it as the religious studies and readings, reciting Hadith, knowledge of worship and behavior. The scholars focused on islamic jurisprudence, Tafsir and Hadith, therefore the religious character dominated culture in Algeria during this era  more than the literary or the scientific one. The religious sciences during this era was characterized with imitation, repetition and memorization. Nonetheless the scholars tried to break this pattern including Abdelkarim al-Fakun and Ahmad Bin Ammar where they advocated to put mental diligence over imitation and reciting. Therefore the output of religious sciences was almost limited to Tafsir and some readings of the Holy Quran, in addition to a group of proofs and Ijaza. In addition to the activities of islamic jurisprudence  that taught sections of worship and behavior. We will try to mention some significant intellectuals and scholars in some islamic jurisprudence specialties.

a.           Tafsir:

It has two aspects, Tafsir and teaching. In Tafsir we find Ahmad Bin Ali bahlul, Ibn Lulu’a Tlemceni, Abu Ras Nacer, Said Kaddoura, and Ahmad Bin Amer, whose students gathered around them while they practiced oral Tafsir and dictation for the students. Writing about Tafsir was not very commun, there was Abu Ras Nacer and Ahmad al-Zedjaoui who were known for teaching Quran and the Zouara region was one of the regions known for memorizing Quran  particularly the seven readings, and Mohammed Bin Sula was probably the most famous one in memorization of Quran.

b.   Hadith:

Abdelkarin al -Fakun, Ibn al-Annabi, Ali Bin al-Amine, Yahiya Chaoui, Ahmed al-Maqqari and others.. are those who excelled in the field of Hadith. Ahmad al-Maqqari left many books including “The great victory in Praising the Slipper” ,  “The Muzzle Flowers in the News of the Turban” “A Digest About The Clothes Of An Indigent in Israa and Imamate ” . He initiated in memorizing Hadith, backing it, reading it and teaching it. There were other authors who left books about Hadith, like: Muhammed Bin shagroun, Ibn Ahmad al-Wahrani, Ahmad al-Bouni, Ahmad Bin Ammar and Al-Munawar Tlemceni who wrote the book “The Group of Arguments in Attaching literature, Parts and Books” which is a series of Ijaza and narratives gathered by his student Ibrahimi Siyala Tunisi, and others in the field of Hadith.

The scholars of Algeria left many books about Fatwa, endowment and Faridha and others, also in the science of islamic jurisprudence like the book of Abderrahmane Al-Akhdari who wrote a poem entitled “Al-Dhurra Al-Bayda’a” composed of 500 verse about Faridha and calculation.

c.   The science of speech:

It was equally spread among Algerians at that time the expression of science of speech and the science of Tawhid . Both were considered as one of the most important sciences, therefore Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hassan al-Kamari made a significant explanation on the minor and  divided it into five sections and each section had a segment. Al-Wartilani footnoted the work of Senusi, and Al-Saktani  put a footnote on the minor and an explanation on the middle of the Senusi. Muhammed Bin Al-Tarjaman had a treatise about monotheism entitled: “The Precious Outcome in Confirming the Saying in the attribute of formation

2–The output of mental sciences:

 The output of mental sciences was very little in Algeria even though they were interested in it previously, as they used arithmetics only to understand hypothetical operations and medicine. They did not rely on it to understand the Hadith of the Prophet that indicated anthropology. As for astronomy, it was only to define prayers time, and pharmacy to know about herbs and minerals. Nevertheless, there were some attempts in many sciences, including:

a.           Calculation: 

There was the book ‘Al-Durra Al-Baydaa” by Abderrahmane Al-Akhdari that talked about calculations. Ibn Hamadouche was interested in calculations however did not write any book about it, he rather wrote a poem about algebra consisting of 13 pages talking about fractions. As for geometry, there is no book documented about it except for some insinuations in the journey of Ibn Hamadouche.

b.   Astronomy:

There used to be a significant interest about astronomy demonstrated in the poem “The blackmailed star” by the author Ali Bin Abi Al-Rijal Al-Kiraouani, in addition to the book “A Poem for Students of Astrolabe Science” of the Hebbak and its author was a common reference for long periods of time. There was also Abderrahme Al-Akhdari who put a system and named it aos in astronomy in 939 AH. In addition to several compositions about astronomy, for example: “Black Insights in Knowing the Wisdom of Appearances ” by Abdullah Bin Azzouz Al-Marrakchi and other books about astronomy.

c.   Medicine:

There was a lack of interest in medicine even though it is an omnibus science, and was not properly developed, probably due to people’s interest in transportation sciences and their strong belief in fate and destiny in addition to their resorting to herbal medicine. Nonetheless, there was some attempts and medical initiatives, for example: Abderrazak Hamadouche in his book “The Gemstone Hidden in the Sea of Law” and the book was arranged in four parts: toxins and their treatment, the second about antidotes and pastes, the third one was about diseases, and the fourth was about herbs and medications. Apparently Hamadouche was involved in medicine and pharmacy. In addition, Ibn Azzouz Al-Marrakchi was one of those who mastered medicine, chemistry and pharmacy.

d.   The science of logic:

The most prominent characters of this science were uhammad Bin Yusuf and Muhammed Bin Abdelkarim Al-Maghili, Ibn Hamadouche and Said Kaddoura, in addition to Abderrahmane Kaddoura who made a poem about logic consisted of one hundred and forty three lines entitled: “The Glamorous Peace in the Science of Logic”. Nevertheless, the science of logic was still a more or less neglected science, due to many reasons, like: The interest was more focused on the science of Sufism than the science of logic. The science of logic needed more knowledge and first insights which were not available in the Algerian libraries at the time.

3–Literary output:

The late modern era had a literary and a scientific heritage on a fair level, that consisted of poetry and prose and their multiple purposes. Ahmad Al-Maqqari and Ahmad Bin Ammar Al-Jazairi had gathered abundant science and wide knowledge in their literature. They were also distinguished by their talent and smartness in their writing. Nevertheless, litterature did not reach mental maturity and imagination. Algerians contributed in the field of rhetoric and semantic where Abdullah Bin Abi Kacem Al-Thaalibi explained the poem of al-Hilli a rhetoric explanation entitled: “The lights of Beauty For What Was Mentioned in the Poem Of Beauty” , and Muhammed Bin Muhammed al-Djazairi explained the hidden essence and named it “the  position of the hidden secret on the hidden essence” . Ali Bin Abdelkader alias Ibn Al-Amine was known for his two books, the first one was entitled: “A Letter Later  ” around 1186 AH, and the second entitled: “A Footnote on the summary of Al-Saad”.

We also find in prosody Said Kaddoura who explained the book of “Abi Al-Jaich Al-Maghribi” entitled: “The Healing Ramiza in the Science of Prosody and Ryhme” and Kaddoura named it “ The explanation of the Khazarjiyya poem” . Literary prose also included reading stations, official and brotherly letters, description, reports, condolences, marriage contracts,Ijaza, literary explanations, stories, and speeches that characterize Algerian literature.

The Algerian culture was also characterized with work about literary explanations, like the explanation of Sufi, historical and the works of islamic jurisprudence in addition to literary works, in which we find the explanation of Ahmad Bin Sahnul Al-Rachidi of the poem Al-Akika” by Said El-Mendassi entitled “The Brotherly Flowers Spread Through the Fragrance of Akika”.

It is also noteworthy the rarity of literary prose, even though the cultural Algerian history is rich in historical tales and stories, however they were all oral and only a few were written. For example, Muhammed Bin Mahraz el-Wahrani the author of writing called Makamat and Manamat. However, all the topics were eastern due to his position there. The maqamat of Ibn Hamadouch that were gathered during his trip were three and were obviously written in Maghreb Al-Aqsa. The first one was named Makama Harkaliya in 1156 AH. In the second one he talked about the troubles he encountered during his trip between Tetouan and Meknes. As for the third one, he titled it : “The Current Makama” .

 4–The historical output:

It is noted that the historical output in Algeria during the late modern era was little due to the governors’ lack of interest, as they considered it an independent science. Therefore the historical writings suffered, and the historians disagreed about filling history with glorification, praise, the commemoration of heroic actions, or transportation. The historians were criticized for limiting their output to local dates, translations, and trips, rather than writing about a general history of Algeria that talks about all its news. Historical studies were based on narration and news and did nor reach inquiry and consideration.

As for local history, there are some compositions like: “The Joy of the Viewer in the News of the Entrants of the Spaniards in Oran ” . There was also Abdelkader Al-Mecherfi who exposed Ben Amer tribes with indicating the legitime governance in their collaboration with the Spaniards.

5–The Sufi output:

The spirit of Sufism dominated the scientific life in Algeria which led to an increase of the output of Sufism science. We find many books, letters, poems, that talk about this topic in the form of Adhkar, Wirds, virtues and sermons. In addition to explanations of Sufism poems and Prophetic praises with a spiritual and sufism vision. It was also limited to explaining the previous works, until works were almost far from creativity.  

Authorship in Sufism included sermons, Adhkar, Wirds, and other Sufism elements that were taken care of by Sufi ascetics, most significantly: Ahmad Bin Yusuf Al-Miliani, and Ahmad Ahmad Al-Buni, and Yahia Chaoui who wrote “The sweet Noble” and “Urjuza” by Muhammed Bin Azzuf Al-Burji, in addition to the book “The Letter of the Merid” and “The Rahmaniyya Poem” by Abderrahmane Bash Tarzi.