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Asafiyya Library

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Asafiyya Library or State Central Library Hyderabad (founded: 1891) is a well-known library in Hyderabad Deccan, India. It was established during the Asaf Shah Dynasty, which is was it was called “Asafia.” Asafia Library is known for its unique manuscripts as well as printed books in different languages. 'Allama Amini, the author of al-Ghadir, visited the library in his journey to India. After the collapse of the Asaf Shah Dynasty the library was renamed to State Central Library Hyderabad.

History of its Establishment

Asafia Library was established in 1308 AH/1891 CE during the reign of Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Nizam (reign: 1869-1911), a ruler from Asaf Jah dynasty, due to the efforts of Sayyid Hussain Bilgrami and Mulla ʿAbd al-Qayyum in Hyderabad, India. They began to purchase personal libraries. The building of the library began to be constructed in 1932 at the command of Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur (reign: 1911-1948) in Afzal Gunj neighborhood of the city, and was finished in 1936 with an expense of 300 Indian rupees. In that year, the number of the books in the library amounted to 100,000 volumes. After a while, the Deccan government added the library to its governmental collections, with an annual budget.


Since the library was founded during the reign of Asaf Shah or Asaf Jah dynasty, it was named Asafia. However, after the collapse of the dynasty (the Nizam of Hyderabad) in 1956, it was renamed to State Central Library (S.C.L.).


There are many printed books and manuscripts in Asafia Library in different fields in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, English, and local languages of the Indian Subcontinent. In the catalogue of the library’s Arabic and Persian works, there are books concerning Shiite jurisprudence as well as the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, theology (kalam), hadith, rijal (study of the credentials of hadith transmitters), Quranic sciences, literature, philosophy, logic, history, geography, medicine, mathematics, and astronomy. According to Aqa Buzurg Tihrani, Sayyid Tasdiq Husayn Kunturi (d. 1348 AH/1929), a grandson of 'Allama Kunturi, made a catalogue of the books in this library, which he published in 1913-14 in Hyderabad. In his journey to India, 'Allama Amini visited Asafia Library and saw its printed books and manuscripts.

There are a number of rare or unique books in this library, such as manuscripts dating back to eleventh to sixteenth centuries, works with the handwritings of their own authors or their children and students, manuscripts transcribed based on the original manuscripts, as well as books from treasures of kings or libraries of well-known scholars with commentaries and notes on them.

In 1967, over 17,000 rare manuscripts of the library, dating back to eleventh and twelfth centuries, were moved to Government Oriental Manuscripts Library in Andhra Pradesh.

Today, Asafia Library has over 466,000 volumes of printed books in Hindi, English, Persian, Telugu, Tamil, and Urdu, and since 1960 it turned into a public library. The digitalization of the books of Asafia Library was done in collaboration with the Library of Carnegie Mellon University, US.


The first administrator of Asafia Library was Mawlawi Sayyid Ali Haydat Tabatabaʾi. After his death, the administration was undertaken by Mawlawi Tasdiq Husayn, the grandson of ʿAllama Kunturi. He was appointed as the library manager on Rabi' al-Awwal 24, 1314/September 2, 1896 and during his administration, he trained a number of people as bibliographers, librarians, and researchers. Sayyid Tasdiq obtained alternative manuscripts of thousands of books, prepared the catalogues, and published many of them with the aid of his brother in Lucknow and Deccan.

After Sayyid Tasdiq, his son Mawlawi Abbas Husayn, became the library manager. He and his son compiled a catalogue of selected Arabic and Persian books of Asafia Library. Catalogues of Arabic, Persian, and Urdu books of the library are available.

See Also