Printing and publishing in Islamic civilization

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Printing and publishing in Islamic civilization
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In the first verses of the Holy Quran which were reviled to the Holy Prophet Mohammad (S) in “Hira cave” [1] (where He received his first revelation), Almighty Allah (J) commands his apostle to:

“Read in the name of your Lord! Who Created man from a clinging substance. Read, and your Lord is the most Generous, who taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not”. [2]

Islam is the religion of learning, reading, writing, teaching etc. That is why, from the very beginning of the emergence of Islam, the writers and the memorizers of the Holy Quran had the best positions amongst other companions of the Prophet. After the first battle (Badr) between Muslims and pagans the Prophet told the captives that if you teach Muslims (train them to read and write), you will be released, and He also ordered his companions to learn from the pagans how to write and read.

According to these verses of the Holy Quran, Islam is the religion of learning, reading, writing, teaching etc. That is why, from the very beginning of the emergence of Islam, the writers and the memorizers of the Holy Quran had the best positions amongst other companions of the Prophet. After the first battle (Badr) between Muslims and pagans the Prophet told the captives that if you teach Muslims (train them to read and write), you will be released, and He also ordered his companions to learn from the pagans how to write and read.

Due to the importance of education and learning in Islamic teachings, Muslims started to write, collect and publish the Holy Quran, its different translations and interpretations as well as the sayings and traditions of the Holy Prophet (S), throughout the Islamic world, in the earliest centuries of Islamic history. Because, the messages of Islam had to be broadcasted and conveyed to all Muslims in different areas. In the last pilgrimage of the Prophet Mohammad (S), Almighty Allah (J) commands Him to fulfill his mission, saying that:

“ O’ Apostle, Proclaim the Message which has been revealed to you from your Lord! And if you do not, then you would not have fulfilled and proclaimed His Mission. (Know that) Allah will protect you from (the mischievous) men. [3]


Although, historically talking Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz is often credited with inventing the art and craft of printing in The 15th-century, but he was not the first to devise a printing press, because, many centuries prior to that, the Chinese were doing it as early as the 4th century, and the oldest dated printed text known to us is from 868: the Diamond Sutra, a Chinese translation of a Buddhist text now preserved in the British Library [4]. About 100 years later, Arab Muslims were also printing texts, including passages from the Qur'an. They had already embraced the Chinese craft of paper making, developed it and adopted it widely in the Muslim lands [5]. This led to a major growth in the production of manuscript texts.

From the islamic teachings as well as historical sources, it can be concluded that Muslims played a great role in the development of publishing and printing industry throughout the history. In Fatimid Shiite Egypt, some bountiful names of Allah (J), verses of the Holy Quran and prophet's narrations were printed as texts on paper strips, and coppied to meet the mass demand. Several have been found by archaeologists in the course of excavations at Fustat (old Cairo), and the archaeological context has made it possible to date them to the 10th century. The style of Arabic script used varies between late Kufic and different cursive naskh and other styles used in the Mamluk period (13th-16th centuries). One good late example is printed on Italian watermarked paper of the 15th century. So Muslim printing continued for about 500 years.[6]

Finally it could be concluded that based on the Islamic teachings, Muslim states and governments established many seminaries and universities in ancient Iran, Egypt, Turkey and India during the past Islamic centuries. In these universities and seminaries textbooks and sources had to be written and published. Due to these facts, hundreds of books were written by Muslim scholars and published between the students in different countries. Now Muslims have an honorable cultural and civilizational heritages that helped europeans develop the printing and publishing industry in the west during recent centuries.

Finally it could be concluded that based on the Islamic teachings, Muslim states and governments established many seminaries and universities in ancient Iran, Egypt, Turkey and India during the past Islamic centuries. In these universities and seminaries textbooks and sources had to be written and published. Due to these facts, hundreds of books were written by Muslim scholars and published between the students in different countries. Now Muslims have an honorable cultural and civilizational heritages that helped europeans develop the printing and publishing industry in the west during recent centuries.

 

[1] Hira (Arabic: حراء‎ Ḥirāʾ ) or the Cave of Hira (غار حراء Ġār Ḥirāʾ ) is a cave about 3 kilometres (2 mi) from Mecca, on the mountain named Jabal al-Nour (Hill of Illumination), in the Hejaz region of present-day Saudi Arabia.
[2] Surah al- Alaq: verse 1-5.
[3] Sura Al-Ma'idah: verse 67.
[4] See “http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/highlights/tour/diamond.html”
[5] See FSTC (10 January, 2003), "The Beginning of the Paper Industry" http://www.muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?articleID=329
[6] http://www.muslimheritage.com/article/muslim-printing-gutenberg

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Do not let your brother be stronger than you are in your amity for him.