In the sub-Saharan country of Mali, Abdel Kader Haidara was 17 years old when his father died and he became the custodian of the family’s library—a collection of five thousand manuscripts in Timbuktu and about eight times that many in their ancestral home in Bamba. Not long after, the director of the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research in Timbuktu hired him to collect and preserve manuscripts.
Over the years, Haidara located thousands of manuscripts from as early as the 11th century on diverse topics including Islamic jurisprudence, Korans, theological treatises, conflict resolution, contemporary politics, geography, poetry, and astrology. He struggled to save these priceless manuscripts from the devastating effects of mold, termites, and dust because they had been hidden in holes in the ground, caves, secret closets, and storage rooms. Then Al Qaeda’s presence in the area changed everything. It became painfully clear they would need to save as many of the 377,000 manuscripts under his purview from Al Qaeda’s destruction of everything it considered to be sinful.
Readers will be swept into this gripping recounting of a frantic race by ordinary people against time and jihadists.