A copy of the Qur’an translated into Armenian

By Gayane Barseghyan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

YEREVAN — According to research, there has been Armenian matrilineal genetic continuity in the South Caucasus for eight millennia. Armenia is also found on the World Map preserved in Psalm-Book dated 1250, Islamic Map dated 1570 (the origin of this map goes back to the Islamic cartography of the 12th or 13th centuries), World Map of Benedictine monk Beatus (12th century), World Map of Pomponius Mela (1st century; the map was printed in the 15th century), World Map of Herodotus (5th century BC), in Claudius Ptolemy’s Geography (here Armenia Major and Armenia Minor are pictured), Claudius Ptolemy’s “Third Map of Asia” – “Map of Armenia, Virk (Iberia), Colchis and Aghvank (Albania)” (the map was prepared by cartographer Sebastian Munster, engraved on wood in 1540) and other world maps. Armenia is also found on the oldest world map (dated 6th century BC)  the Babylonian Clay Tablet, discovered in Iraq in the 19th century.

Eventually, Armenia fell under the rule of Persian Empire, Byzantine Empire, Arabs, Ottoman Empire, Tsarist Russia. Nowadays the territory of Armenia comprises about 10 percent of the Greater Armenia and the Lesser Armenia that existed thousands of years before.

After overcoming all hardships Armenians continued living and creating literary, cultural and architectural masterpieces in their motherland in peaceful times. So far Armenians not only preserved own cultural values, but also they honored and preserved Islamic manuscripts and Holy Places inherited from earlier periods, when Armenia fell under foreign rule.

First and foremost, the Qur’an has been translated into the Armenian language several times, namely the translation of Qur’an from Arabic into Armenian by A. Amirkhanyan (1838-1913), the translation into Armenian by E. Hakhverdyan (2004/2005/2006) and so on.

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Of special significance are the manuscripts of the Qur’an preserved in the Matenadaran, the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Armenia founded in 1959. It houses not only Armenian, but also foreign language manuscripts (Persian, Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, etc.)

The book entitled Catalogue of the Qur’an Manuscripts of the Matenadaran by V. Ter-Ghevondian, K. Sahakyan, V. Makaryan, M. Khecho, M. Minasian (Yerevan, 2016) lays theoretical background and lists all the manuscript copies of Qur’an dated to earlier ages and preserved by Armenians in the Matenadaran, the repository of ancient manuscripts in Armenia. The book under study consists of Preface, Manuscript Description, Bibliography, Index and Illustrations. It introduces the manuscripts preserved in the Arabic fund of the Matenadaran and it may serve as an invaluable research material for orientalists, Islamologists and historians.

Further, it is worth mentioning that “the manuscripts are written on both Oriental and Western paper, quite an important quantity is written on Modern paper […] in 2013 a fruitful cooperation started between the Yerevan Matenadaran and the Islamic Manuscript Association (Cambridge, UK).”

The Blue Mosque in Yerevan

As far as Islamic Holy Places are concerned, it is worth stating at this point that the Blue Mosque has been preserved in the center of Yerevan. The Mosque was reconstructed through an initiative by the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Armenia with the cooperation of “Mostazafan va Janbazan” fund.

In addition, Gohar Agha Upper Mosque/Yughari Govhar Agha Mosque has been completely restored by Armenians. The restoration of 19th century Gohar Agha Upper Mosque commenced in 2014 and it was completed in 2019 by Armenian-funded Oriental Historical Heritage Foundation in cooperation with Iranian specialists.

Armenian monasteries and churches are being preserved and restored in the Islamic Republic of Iran, hence the full restoration of this mosque was aimed at paying homage to Islamic culture. “Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan, the Primate of the Diocese of Artsakh of the Armenian Apostolic Church, said he highly appreciated the restoration of the Iranian Mosque in Shushi […] This mosque is a religious cultural monument which our friendly Iranian people have built. They are preserving and restoring our monasteries, we must do the same. We are not a nation that tears down monuments” Armenpress reports.

Of special interest is the fact that Gohar Agha Upper Mosque composition bears a close resemblance to a caravanserai dated to the 12th century near Hadrut, as well as the three-vaulted hall of Hagobavank (12th century), Charekavank, Koshik (13th century) monasteries and so on. The three-vaulted hall composition of Armenian church architecture is obvious in comparison to other churches and monasteries. The latter statement was also recorded in the book The Historical-Architectural Monuments of Nagorno-Karabakh by Sh. M. Mkrtchyan (1984/1985).

Some Mosques in Artsakh/ Nagorno-Karabakh did not survive to the 21st century either because of wars and earthquakes or most probably they could have been pulled down during the Soviet Era (before the 1990s) because of anti-religious Bolshevik regime.

The booklet “The Islamic Monuments of the Armenian Architecture of Artsakh” (Yerevan 2010) comprises the findings of the research project carried out by Samvel Karapetian and Ashot Hakobian. The research project sheds light on the Armenian architecture of some Mosques, Islamic Mausoleums and bath houses in Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh.

As the Foreword of the above-mentioned book states, “During the foreign domination of Armenia, outstanding Armenian masons were forced into carrying out different tasks within the construction activity of this or that ruler. Applying their knowledge of architecture, as well as their creative mind and efforts, Armenian masters were compelled to build castles, palaces, mosques, mausoleums, bridges, caravanserais and residential buildings for their foreign lords, all of these structures revealing the influence of Armenian architecture, and bearing the imprint of its traditional features.” (p. 3)

There are similarities between the Islamic monuments in Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian architecture.

Firstly, the mausoleum in the vicinity of Khachen-Dorbatli Village built in 1314 by Armenian architect Shahik Vardapet has identical ornamental reliefs with the church of Yeghvard near Yerevan built earlier in 1301 (the architect is the same Shahik Vardapet).

Secondly, there is a church-shaped mausoleum dated to the 14th-15th centuries near Vanotsa (Jijimli) Village. The mausoleum is completely similar to Armenian church domes.

Not only the above-mentioned mausoleum near Vanotsa (Jijimli) village is church-shaped, but a number of other mausoleums as well. The architecture of the mausoleum of the 14th century near Ivanian (Khojalu) Village, a mausoleum built from the 14th to 15th centuries near Nor-Maragha (Ghezel-Kengerli) Village, a mausoleum dated to the 14th-15th centuries in the neighbourhood of Thumas Village and the mausoleum dated to the 15th and 16th centuries in Yerkatavork (Demirchilar) Village are identical with Armenian church architecture. Moreover, a mausoleum dated to the 1900s near Muradbeklu Village was built by Armenian masons.

Further, the stonework archetype of the mosque dated to 1878-1879 and the bath-house in Vazgenashen (Abdal) Village is found in the 13th century churches of Bri Yeghtsi Monastery near Hatsy village.

The prototypes of the caravanserai of Gharghabazar Village are the monasteries in Mets Arants, Koshik and Yerits Mankants dated to the 13th to 17th centuries.

The mosque of the 17th century in Gharghabazar Village is identical to the uni-nave Armenian church composition.

Interestingly enough, one mosque dated to the 1910s in Gharadaghle Village was built in similarity with the composition of the houses of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh. The latter bears a close resemblance to the widespread composition of houses constructed since the 1860s.

Last but not least, it is of paramount importance to mention about Prophet Muhammad’s Decree to the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem in 626 AD. The Armenian Patriarchate was set up in Jerusalem after Armenia adopted Christianity as state religion in 301 AD and Jerusalem became a pilgrimage Holy Place for Armenians. In 626 AD, being worried about conquests, the then Armenian Patriarch Abraham went to the holy city of Mecca to meet the Prophet Muhammad. At the end of the meeting, the Prophet Muhammad issued a decree.

The Armenian newspaper Azdag in Beirut, Lebanon brought to light Prophet Muhammad’s Decree in the article by Dr. Garbis Harboyan.

Following this, Noravank foundation reported the California Courier column by Harut Sassounian headlined “Prophet Muhammad’s Rarely-Known Decree to the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.”

We will represent Prophet Muhammad’s Decree below from the source “The California Courier” cited by Noravank Foundation:

“I Muhammad, the son of Abdallah, prophet and servant of God, I pay my respect to Patriarch Abraham, I honor him and all archbishops, bishops and priests in Jerusalem, Damascus, and Arab regions, in other words, those people who are subject to Jerusalem, such as Ethiopians, Copts, and Assyrians. I recognize and guarantee their monasteries, churches, educational centers, properties and lands. I, Prophet Muhammad, with the witness of God, and the 30 people around me, I grant my patronage and protection, and I dispense my mercy to the Armenian churches, wherever they may be, throughout Jerusalem, the Holy Tomb of Christ. Sourp Hagop Church, Bethlehem Church, all prayer houses, monasteries, Golgotha road, and the holy sites. I also secure and ensure that my protection also extends to Christian hills, valleys and Christian income-generating institutions. I declare all of this in my name as Prophet and in the name of Muslim faithful.”

A mosque dating back to the 1910s in Gharaghle village in Artsakh

In addition, it should be noted that in his scholarly article abstract Ashot Tsatryan from Yerevan State University states that “in the year 1187 Salah al Din al Ayyubi conquered Jerusalem and exiled all non-Muslims with the exception of Christian Armenians.” The latter statement comes to prove that Armenians were still honored by Salah al Din al Ayyubi according to Prophet Muhammad’s decree of 626 AD.

Thus, the study of the data revealed that Armenians have preserved Arabic Script 2723 Arabic Script Qur’an manuscripts and 611 fragments in the Arabic fund of the rich collection of the Matenadaran, Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Armenia. The volume copies of Qur’an are on Oriental, Western and Modern paper.

As far as the Islamic monuments and Holy Places are concerned, 4 Mosques, 7 mausoleums and caravanserais in Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh bear a close resemblance and are identical with Armenian church and monastery composition (as well as domes and reliefs) dated to earlier periods. Putting two and two together, the data concerning all the afore-mentioned Mosques, Islamic mausoleums and caravanserai recorded within the Research on Armenian Architecture Project (2010), we arrive at the foregone conclusion that some Islamic monuments in Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh possess Armenian architecture, the latter being the brainchild of renowned Armenian architects and masters.

On top of all, two Mosques (the Blue Mosque and Gohar Agha Mosque/Govhar Yughari Agha Mosque) have been completely restored by Armenians in cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, the study of the data comes to prove that all the afore-mentioned Islamic monuments which had survived the centuries have been preserved by Armenians.




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