How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity

How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity
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King Fahad National Library has been playing a key role in ensuring that present and future generations continue to benefit from Islam’s contributions to civilization. (Supplied)
How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity
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King Fahad National Library has been playing a key role in ensuring that present and future generations continue to benefit from Islam’s contributions to civilization. (Supplied)
How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity
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King Fahad National Library has been playing a key role in ensuring that present and future generations continue to benefit from Islam’s contributions to civilization. (Supplied)
How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity
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King Fahad National Library has been playing a key role in ensuring that present and future generations continue to benefit from Islam’s contributions to civilization. (Supplied)
How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity
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A view of the King Fahad National Library in Riyadh. (Supplied)
How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity
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King Fahad National Library has been playing a key role in ensuring that present and future generations continue to benefit from Islam’s contributions to civilization. (Supplied)
How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity
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Updated 15 May 2020

How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity

How Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library is preserving Islamic history for posterity
  • Institution in Riyadh holds more than 6,000 rare and original manuscripts and over 73,000 transcripts
  • Kufic Qur’an, written on deer skin and dating to the 9th century CE, is among the library’s collection

RIYADH: The big truth about history is that it inevitably fades into the past, but history can also be captured and preserved for posterity.

In fact, it can be housed and lovingly nourished and tended to withstand the onslaught of time.

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad National Library has been undertaking this endeavor for the past three decades, playing a seminal role in the preservation of Islamic heritage and ensuring that present and future generations continue to benefit from Islam’s contributions to civilization.

Established in 1990 in Riyadh, the library is home to more than 6,000 original manuscripts — many of them rare and ancient, including the exquisite Kufic Qur’an, dating to the 9th century CE — and a total of 73,000 paper and electronic transcripts.

“The King Fahad National Library has been interested in preserving manuscripts and heritage since its establishment in 1989, to a point where a royal decree has been issued to the library for the preservation of manuscripts,” Abdulaziz Nasif, the head of the manuscript department, told Arab News.

“The library estimates the manuscript’s value and sets its price when we receive it. Regarding the possession of manuscripts, we welcome everything that is presented to us and everything that is worth owning.”

FASTFACT

  • King Fahad National Library has 6,000 original manuscripts and nearly 73,000 photocopied transcripts, with 7,000 of them digitized for online readers.

The Kufic Qur’an at the library, distinguished by its Kufic calligraphy, has one of the oldest scripts in Arabic, a highly angular form of the Arabic alphabet used in the earliest copies of the Qur’an. 

It originated in Kufa, a city in southern Iraq, an intellectual hub during the early Islamic period, now known as Baghdad, the capital of Iraq.

“It’s not written on paper but on deer skin,” Nasif said. “Having holy verses written on leather is a form of honoring the text. But the cover is new.”

The Kufic Qur’an was bought from the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula almost 20 years ago and recently rebound to increase its longevity.


AL IGNAA LITALI AL INTIFAA 
Written by Moussa bin Ahmad bin Al-Hijjawi in 968 AH. 
Transcriber: Abdullah bin Suleiman bin Ahmad. 
Font type and transcription date: Naskh, Friday 16 Shawwal 1901 AH 
Observation: An important copy in two volumes, on the sidelines of which are many clarifications. The edges of its first pages are damaged and restored with adhesive tape. ​​​Black ink was used for writing and red was used for the heads of chapters. It has a modern binding. 
Number of sheets: 177+149 Sizes: 30.5x20 cm
Number of lines: 29
Saved under: 699/ Al-Ifnaa

The library has other Qur’an manuscripts written in ancient script, besides special books such as the poetic works of Al-Ahnaf Al-Akbari, a famous poet in Baghdad who died in 995 CE.

It also has a copy of Ibn Daqiq Al-Eid’s book “Ahkam Al-Ahkam,” written in the late-14th century. Al-Eid is counted among Islam’s great scholars in the fundamentals of Islamic law and belief.

In addition, the library also owns “Yatimat Al-Dahr,” a book by Abu Mansur Al-Thaalibi, a writer of Persian or Arab origin famous for his anthologies and collection of epigrams.

Once the library acquires a manuscript, a rigorous and exacting approach to its conservation and maintenance is adopted.

“Each manuscript is first sent to the restoration and sanitization department and then returned to our department to be indexed,” Nasif said.


HOLY QUR’AN WRITTEN IN KUFIC SCRIPT IN THE 3RD CENTURY HEJIRA
Holy Qur’an, written on vellum (the skin of animals). Its writer took care to present it in a delicate and beautiful manner. The Qur’an manuscripts were produced on horizontally oriented vellum, a common form for such Qur’ans and eras.
It was written in black ink. Short vowels are marked in red ink. The letter
Hamza is written is yellow ink and the shaddah in green ink.
This Qur’an begins with verse 50 of Surah Al Imran and ends with
the end of Surah Abasa.
The two existing binding covers date back to a later time.
Number of papers: 165 Dimension: 25 x 17.5 cm Number of lines: 17 Archive No: 2500/library

However, not every manuscript is sent for restoration “because, sometimes, it can ruin (it),” he said.

The restoration is followed by the indexing process, which is a thorough exercise.

Nasif explained: “To fill the index card, we use information that is listed on the first page, starting with the title, the author’s name, the manuscript’s sizes (height and length), the transcriber’s name (the person who wrote it), and what is written at the end of the manuscript, so that we are able recognize one manuscript from the other having the same specifications.”


AL-MUWATTA
Al-Muwatta narrated by Mohammed ibn Al-Hasan, compiled by the Imam Malik ibn Anas
Date: 179 Hijri
Name of the reproducer: Abdulqader bin Mohammed Al-Qurashi Place of Reproduction: Al-Azhar Mosque
Type of script and the history of reproduction: Naskh, Thursday 10 Rabih Al-Thani, 719 Hijri
A precious copy written by the modern Hanafi jurist, Abdulqader Al-Qurashi, author of the book “Tabaqat Al Hanafiyah.” There is an interview on the original audio and the date of the transcription is the date of the interview. The copy is internally divided into ten parts, written in black ink.
Number of papers: 123 Dimension: 17.5 x 26 cm Number of lines: 21 Archive No: 193/Fatwa

Given the age and pricelessness of the manuscripts, their preservation methodology — which is at the core of library’s mission — is equally critical.

“Manuscripts should be kept in cold temperatures, to prevent insects and bacteria from surviving, because they can damage the paper and even the animal skin that was used in some manuscripts,” Nasif said.

The manuscripts are sterilized every year or every six months to prevent their deterioration.

The age of digitization places its own demands on repositories of knowledge such as libraries with their physical wealth of history, and the King Fahad National Library is keeping pace with these demands.


HOLY QUR’AN
Copy of Sherif Al- Mu’min bin Mohammed Naseer Al-Qummi, Naskh Al-Majood script, Shaaban 122. 
Decorated with intense adornment of geometric and floral motifs. Gold roundel verse markers, text panels within gold and polychrome rules. Surah headings in red ink over a golden background.
It is decorated in a colorful botanical form surrounded by a gilded frame and decorated with a repeated plant unit. 
Number of papers: 270 Dimension: 17 x 26.5 cm 
Number of lines: 14 
Archive No: 369/Library

It is working to complete the digitization of all its manuscripts. “Most of the transcriptions are still on microfilm but we are working on digitizing them on CDs and hard disks,” Nasif said.

The library also enables researchers, history lovers and general readers to access its precious collection though a range of electronic services.

Users can log in and browse through the vast collection and place their requirements. Researchers can request a specific manuscript, a rare book or a photograph to aid in their work.



DIWAN ABI TAMMAM
For Habib Ibn Aws Al-Ta’i, known as Abi Tammam, Type of script and the history of reproduction: Accurate vowelized naskh, 7 Ramadan 1065. 
A similar and corrected copy written by Mohammed Jalabi bin Mohammed Agha, alias Qazdaghly, on which colophon has attribution to Mohammed bin Omar Al-Ardi Al-Halabi.
There are some comments in his handwriting. There is another colophon with attribution to Yahya Khaled, a teacher at Ared school. It was written is black ink and the poems with red ink.
Number of papers: 175 
Dimension: 13 x 20.4 cm 
Number of lines: 29 
Archive No: 382/Library Diwan Abi Tammam
Gift from King Salman

The service is available to all members of the community from within and outside the Kingdom.

King Fahad National Library has also obtained microfilm photographs of one of the most important Arabic manuscript collections in US libraries, the Princeton University Library.

It also possesses 1,140 photocopied manuscripts on film slides from the Library of the Jewish University.

Last but not least, the manuscripts of the Riyadh Library “Dar Al-Iftaa” — a total of 792 documents — were transferred to the King Fahad National Library on the orders of King Salman when he was the governor of Riyadh and general supervisor of the library.

Decoder

Kufic Script

Kufic script is one of the most recognizable and exquisite scripts of Arabic calligraphy. Developed between the seventh and 10th centuries, it was preferred by early Muslims to record the Qurʾan and for architectural decoration.

FASTFACTS

King Fahad National Library

It has 6,000 original manuscripts and nearly 73,000 photocopied transcripts, with 7,000 of them digitized for online readers.


King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims
Updated 14 April 2021

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

RIYADH: King Salman on Tuesday offered his best wishes to the Muslim world on the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan. 
The comments came as the king chaired the weekly government meeting virtually. 
He also instructed that pilgrims be given the best possible services during the holy month, which for a second year will be observed under strict protocols to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus. 


Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks

Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks
Updated 14 April 2021

Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks

Saudi Culture Ministry issues guide to acquiring national artworks
  • The guide consists of six main chapters, and also includes methods for maintaining and restoring art

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has published a guide for government agencies and institutions wishing to acquire artworks created by Saudi artists.
The guide falls under the framework of a royal order directing government agencies to acquire national artworks and handicraft products for their headquarters, according to a directory prepared by the culture ministry.
Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said the order, which was based on directives from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, provided the greatest support for the visual arts sector in the Kingdom, and for the nation’s artists.
He said the guide provides basic information, including the processes of procurement, acquisition, art collections, restoration, maintenance and preserving the integrity of artworks, in a way that guarantees the creation of a national art market and fosters relations between the artist and the buyer.
The guide consists of six main chapters, and also includes explanations on the importance of respecting intellectual property rights.


Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown

Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown
Nazaha has continued to ramp up crackdowns on corruption, fraud and bribery in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 13 April 2021

Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown

Nazaha oversees 176 arrests in Saudi corruption crackdown
  • The pair had opened commercial records and bank accounts before handing them to expatriates in return for a monthly fee

JEDDAH: Saudi authorities have arrested 176 citizens and expatriates, including government ministry employees, for alleged involvement in corruption.
In a statement, the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) said those arrested include employees of the defense, interior, national guard, finance, health, justice, municipal, rural affairs and housing, education, transport, information, and human resources and social development ministries, as well as workers from Saudi Customs, the General Authority of the Red Crescent and the National Water Co.
Charges leveled against the employees cover bribery, abuse of power and forgery charges. They were arrested in 971 inspection raids carried out by Nazaha teams in the last month.
Arrests were made following investigations into 700 people suspected of corruption. Nazaha said that legal procedures are being completed before the accused are referred to courts.
The authority called on Saudis to report suspicious activities involving financial or administrative corruption by contacting the toll free number 980, the email @nazaha.gov.sa or the fax number 0114420057.
Nazaha has continued to ramp up crackdowns on corruption, fraud and bribery in the Kingdom over the past year. Recent activities include the arrest of 65 Saudis and expats in February this year, 48 of whom were government employees from seven different ministries. Charges included bribery, abuse of influence and power, as well as fraud and forgery.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Arrests were made following investigations into 700 people suspected of corruption.

• Charges leveled against those arrested include bribery, abuse of power and forgery charges.

“Nazaha is standing up against financial and administrative corruption,” Majed Garoub, a lawyer, told Arab News. “The crackdown on corruption is a reality and we’re witnessing its success every time we hear the good news of these arrests.”
In March, two Saudi citizens were sentenced to 28 years in jail and fined up to $3.47 million after an investigation exposed their roles in an organized crime gang that laundered money overseas.
The pair had opened commercial records and bank accounts before handing them to expatriates in return for a monthly fee. They allowed expats to invest in their commercial unit, use their bank accounts, and deposit money they had obtained illegally and transfer it abroad.
In November last year, Nazaha arrested 22 people after seizing more than SR600 million ($160 million) in what was described as “the largest case of corruption in the Kingdom.”

 


Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan

Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan
Updated 14 April 2021

Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan

Worshippers flock to Grand Mosque in Makkah as dawn breaks on Ramadan
  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic fails to dampen the true spirit of the holy month

JEDDAH: The holy month of Ramadan is a favorite of Muslims as they focus on their inner well-being, faith and connect with their roots, religion and family.

Around the world, people prepare for the month with great passion. The most common preparation begins with grocery shopping, subtle decorations in homes and quiet corners designated for prayers, among other things.
Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia highlight their joy by sharing meals with friends and family. However, because of coronavirus health restrictions, they will not be able to enjoy its full effect this year.
Taking lessons learned from an isolated Ramadan last year, people in Saudi Arabia are instead focusing on self-care before to achieve the holy month’s main purpose: Growing closer to God through prayer and devotion.
However, people do miss the usual festivities during the month due to the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, this month generally witnesses hustle and bustle not only in markets and eateries but mosques also become full of worshippers who want to utilize this month effectively for their spiritual growth.   

Ramadan makes social distancing a bit harder to bear since it’s the month in which we feel like sharing meals the most.

Hamna Khan

This is the second Ramadan since the beginning of the pandemic. Due to the health precautions, the situation is no longer the same, as people have to be very careful.  
Hamna Khan, a Pakistani expat living in Jeddah, told Arab News: “Ramadan makes social distancing a bit harder to bear since it’s the month in which we feel like sharing meals the most.”
Palestinian student Rahaf Burchalli saw the humor of the situation, saying that her family will be putting hand sanitizer on the dining table as an appropriate addition.
For many Muslims, the month of Ramadan means going back to religious habits, such as praying on time, dedicating a part of the day to reciting the Qur’an and doing as many good deeds as possible.
Although the experience in 2021 will be different, given the nationwide curfew in place this time last year, restrictions still remain to curb the spread of coronavirus, leaving many people with more time on their hands.

It is important to organize oneself, as the routine in Ramadan is different than the rest of the year.

Rahaf Burchalli

People are planning different activities and chores to use this spare time efficiently by engaging in productive activities.
For Khan, the extra time will be spent decluttering her house for Ramadan so that it becomes easier to clean for Eid. “Since the month means a lot of time spent with food, I make sure that preparations are done ahead of time before Ramadan.”
Burchalli, on the other hand, said that her pre-Ramadan preparations are psychological, rather than physical. “The heart begins to get ready and feels reassured for the beginning of my favorite month of the year. The decoration comes after that and I think that it is essential to enter the atmosphere of Ramadan.”
She added that her preparations also involve spiritual practices such as “organizing my sleep, eating and worship times.
“It is important to organize oneself, as the routine in Ramadan is different than the rest of the year,” she said.


Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground

Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground
The Saudi Journal of Philosophical Studies (SJPS) was launched by the cultural platform Mana, which was set up two years ago. (Supplied)
Updated 14 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground

Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal breaks new ground
  • Philosophers from outside the Arab world contributed to the first issue, specifically from Germany and the US

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first philosophy journal has been issued, with its editor-in-chief saying that the country was witnessing a “tangible philosophical renaissance.”
The Saudi Journal of Philosophical Studies (SJPS) was launched by the cultural platform Mana, which was set up two years ago.
According to its editor in chief, Sarah Al-Rajhi, the principal aim of the journal was to help researchers in the Kingdom, the Arab world and the West to publish their work without any financial cost and in line with accurate scientific standards.
“Philosophy indicates the position of knowledge within any culture,” she told Arab News. “It is no secret that Saudi Arabia is currently witnessing a tangible philosophical renaissance that should have culminated in the launch of a refereed academic philosophical journal. At Mana, we aim to train researchers in philosophical writing and create a kind of accumulation in this regard. We do this on our online platform, and more systematically in our peer-reviewed journal.”
She said that the SJPS advisory board included 12 leading thinkers and philosophers from the Arab world and the West, and that this number was appropriate because each member represented an orientation and school of thought.
The scholars were chosen on the basis of precise criteria, the most important of which were their research, their recognition by the scientific research community, their “abundant philosophical production” and their geographical distribution.
The advisory board includes members from Saudi Arabia, the US, Australia, the UK, Senegal, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria.
Al-Rajhi said that the SJPS had received a large number of research papers in different languages from many countries since its launch.
“We subjected this research to close referees as the journal has a list of highly qualified referees. We apologized to some researchers whose research did not meet the required publishing standards, and we provided them with the referees’ reports that include important notes and instructions in order to help them address the deficiencies in their research and develop them.”

FASTFACTS

• The Saudi Journal of Philosophical Studies (SJPS) was launched by the cultural platform Mana, which was set up two years ago.

• The SJPS advisory board includes 12 leading thinkers and philosophers from the Arab world and the West.

• Among the open access articles are a paper from the US-Lebanese philosopher Raja Halwani.

• Another article is from Mohamed Mohamed Madian, philosophy professor at the University of Cairo.

Philosophers from outside the Arab world contributed to the first issue, specifically from Germany and the US.
The first edition of the SJPS was applauded by elite cultural figures and entities, including Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. He tweeted the issue announcement, adding: “Such a great step to enrich Saudi philosophical content.”

Such a great step to enrich Saudi philosophical content. Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan
Saudi culture minister

Al-Rajhi, in turn, expressed her gratitude for the support that the Saudi cultural community received from the ministry.
“With your continuing encouragement and support to the knowledge and cultural movement in Saudi Arabia, the future will even be brighter with more and more steps,” she replied.
She said that some of the journal’s articles were free to access for readers on the Mana platform and that issues would also be sent to Saudi and Arab universities.
Al-Rajhi, who is the co-founder of Mana, said the journal could contribute to strengthening the Kingdom’s philosophical movement and that the encouragement of academic publishing in the field of philosophy was the pinnacle of this movement.
“To write a philosophical paper in a systematic way that adheres to the accuracy and academic standards in writing, and for the scientific community to read what you write, is a great thing and a beginning that can be both built and expanded upon. Moreover, we believe that the international character of the SJPS allows Saudi researchers to learn about the research output of their colleagues around the world.”
Al-Rajhi explained what distinguished the SJPS from other Arab and international refereed journals. It did not just present research papers, but a variety of content.
“This content included an introductory essay on a philosophical topic, an introductory essay about a philosopher, an introduction to a research project, translations of two valuable texts from English into Arabic, and finally a statistical analysis of the publications of the most important international publishing houses in the second half of 2020.”
She said there was a clear philosophical activity in Saudi Arabia that nobody could ignore and that it was part of the country’s general cultural activity, adding that had it not been for the “official institutions’ support of this activity, it would not have appeared this way.”
The next desired step within the Saudi philosophy community was to teach the subject in the country’s universities as an independent academic discipline, she said.
“We have tried to create a kind of intersection between philosophy and academia, and we are hopeful that it will be a step that paves the way toward establishing the first departments of philosophical studies in Saudi universities.”
Among the open access articles are a paper from the US-Lebanese philosopher Raja Halwani, who is a philosophy professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In his abstract for the “Virtue of Integrity,” Halwani writes there is a powerful argument that integrity is not a virtue because it would be a redundant virtue, or what he calls the “redundancy objection.”
He said that integrity was usually tested when the agent was under pressure or tempted to act against their values. A virtuous person was someone who had virtues, including wisdom, and was able to act properly whenever the situation called for it.
Another article is from Mohamed Mohamed Madian, philosophy professor at the University of Cairo’s Faculty of Art.
He discusses Cornel Ronald West, a prominent left-wing African-American thinker, and his writing focuses on three levels expressing the West’s philosophy: Prophetic pragmatism, the philosopher’s concept of democracy, and the problem of racial discrimination.