Concept of library in Islam

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The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” – (Al-Tirmidhi).

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, God will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge. The inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth and (even) the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man. The superiority of the learned over the devout is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave (no monetary inheritance), they leave only knowledge, and he who takes it takes an abundant portion. – ( Sunan of Abu-Dawood )

It’s the part of Islamic civilisation and culture to build Library. Masjid Nabawi was the centre of all affair including prayers, teaching and learning the knowlegde of the Quran. Ultimately it was the university itself in it. Quran urges the mankind to think, ponder, reflect and acquire knowledge that would bring them closer to God (equal to worship) and beneficial to Humanity. As all source of knowledge is from God. The prophet Muhammad pbuh commanded knowledge upon all Muslims, both men and women (poor/ rich, old/ young) alike even urged them to seek knowledge as far they could reach, and also to seek it all times. It’s the key concept of Islam as well as great incentive for the human pursuit of knowledge.

Ilm (knowledge) is referred in the Quran 750 times. Ranking it as the third most used term after God (Allah – 2,800 reference ) and Rab (the Sustainer – 950 reference) in the Holy Quran.This testifies to its centrality and importance in religious tradition. The first library in Islam was Masjid Nabawi where people used to discuss and ponder over the Quran.

“Recite in the name of your Lord who created “- (Quran 96 : 1)

Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous (96 :3)

Who taught by the pen (96 :4 )

Taught man that which he knew not (96 : 5)

The first verse that descended on the Prophet Muhammad pbuh was Iqra, meaning “read,” opening the door to read, write, and ponder. Thus, Quran clearly establish the true meaning of knowledge and learning. It is also His great favour and mercy that human beings have been taught the art of using the pen and writing to preserve whatever they learn for future reference and teaching. This knowledge accumulated through writing is the important aspect for human progress and advancement. It’s the best way to transfer it to the next generation.

Under the Abbasids, Muslims formed the forefront of civilization. The Abbasids were influenced by the Quran and Hadith such as, “the ink of scholar is equal to the blood of martyr,” stressing the value of knowledge. During this period the Muslim world became the unrivalled intellectual centre for science, philosophy, medicine, and education as the Abbasids championed the cause of knowledge and established Darul Hukama (House of Wisdom) in Baghdad, founded by great Abbasid Caliph Harun-ar-Rashid, which was divided into two sections, one was concerned with the translation work and the other related to the collection of books and housing a big library (Gregorian, 2003a).

By the 10th century, Cordoba had 70 libraries, the largest of which had 600,000 books, while as many as 60,000 treatises, poems, polemics and compilations were published each year in Al-Andalus (Dato, 2005). The library of Cairo had more than 100,000 books, while they library of Tripoli is said to have had as many as three million books, before it was burnt during the crusades (Draper, 1878). The number of important and original Arabic works on science that have survived is much larger than the combined total of Greek and Latin works on science (Swerdlow, 1993).

Throughout Islamic history, knowledge and education was a point of honour, respect and a field Muslims have always excelled in. Muslims built great libraries and learning centers in places such as Baghdad, Cordoba, and Cairo. They established the first primary schools for children and universities for continuing education.

In brief, Building libraries and spread the knowledge is significant aspect of Islam and incomparable with anything in this world for which Islam encourage and inspire man to invest his money, time, energy and make progress basically knowledge encompasses all human activity and goals of his life. Knowledge draws the veil of ignorance. The only way for humanity to flourish is by seeking knowledge. It’s a perpetual charity which benefits human in this world even after his death.

Help each other to goodness and heedfulness…. (Quran 5 : 2)

…If anyone does a good action, We will increase the good of it for him. “Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Thankful”. (Surat ash-Shura: 23)

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