Sunday, February 13, 2005

Community Reform III: For the Reading Umma, Book Drives for the Masjid

I got this idea from the Abu Bakr al-Siddique Masjid in Metairie, Louisiana. The imam has decided to post a wish list of some of the books that the masjid needs for its library. This masjid already has a wonderful collection of Qur’ans, Hadith books, dawah pamphlets, and lectures on cassette and video tapes. There is also youth-based literature and old Islamic magazines. But many masajid in the United States and abroad do not have a solid collection of Islamic literature. Unfortunately, a typical mosque may have a few Qur’ans, a sirah and a booklet on Hadith Qudsi. In order to increase our knowledge as Muslims and to make our masajid centers for learning and development, we must invest a little money into its progression. Even at this particular masjid, on closer inspection, while many of the texts were very helpful, some were outdated and falling apart at the seams due to aging and poor ventilation. Ancient Islamic texts are constantly being translated into English and most masajid are not aware of this phenomenon. So, to develop a nice collection or to replenish the masjid library, here is an idea.

Start a list and have everyone write down his/her book request as to what the masjid really needs. Or you can go to an Islamic bookstore website and copy the list of its top 10 or 20 requested books or other media products. That way, you can get an idea of what is popular and what everyone else is reading or listening to. Do not limit your choices. The average masjid is lacking in all areas: biographies of the Sahaba (ra), modern youth literature, poetry, the newer editions of Islamic magazines, women’s studies in Islam, Islam in the West, etc.

After the requests are placed on the bulletin board or in the newsletter (if your masjid has a newsletter, insha’Allah), then you can make your decision as to which book or tape you will buy. It is a great sadaqa to the masjid to make sure that knowledge is easily accessible to the general Muslim (and insha’Allah, non-Muslim) public. And I wouldn’t worry too much about buying more than one copy of a book. Three to five of the same copy would be a desirable limit. The project or library director should be in charge of this for reasons stated as follows…

We all know that people “borrow” stuff from the masjid and it is never seen again. It’s not just the mindset that a borrowed item can be kept out of the masjid for months or even years, its just that there is no system to keep this stuff in order. The “librarian” or project director must keep a catalog of all the books in the masjid. Anyone who wants to borrow an item must ask the librarian if they can and there should be a time limit on how long the item can stay out. The masjid book collection should be managed like a library to prevent theft and “excessive borrowing.” It also means that the materials will have to be kept in a case or separate room for safe keeping. I suggest that the imam not be in charge of this endeavor because the imam has enough responsiblites on his shoulders. There should a system where you can check out a book by leaving your name and phone number for contact information.

Insha’Allah, for the sake of Allah (swt), your masjid will be able to have a nice book collection and to maintain it through the help of its masjid members. We must remember that knowledge is a duty on every Muslim, male and female, and this small charity of buying a book or a tape and can help further us all along on the path of Allah (swt). Dear readers, if you are doing anything similar or have other ideas, please let us know.

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