Islamic library in Deoband has books on other religions

Islamic library in Deoband has books on other religions

The library inside the imposing building that houses the most important centre of Islamic education in the country and the largest institution for studies in Islamic sciences in the sub-continent, Darul Uloom, stands out as a symbol of communal amity.

Said to be one of the biggest libraries in the world as far as collection of books and manuscripts on Islamic sciences and history was concerned, it also has the Vedas, Guru Granth Sahib, Vishnu Samhita and the Bible in Urdu.

Mohammed Shafique, in charge of the library, enthusiastically explains about the collection of the books and manuscripts in the brightly lit halls and rooms. The library still followed the old system of cataloguing, though the work of digitisation had been under way. “We have around two lakh books here on different subjects and in different languages….some of them are 1,000 years old,” Shafique told Deccan Herald as he walked from one hall to another.

  Shafique, who joined the library barely eight months back, said that it had books and manuscripts in 16 languages, including Persian, Pashto and other foreign languages besides almost all the Indian languages. The library has Manusmriti (the most important and most studied ancient legal text among the many on Hinduism) and Ramayana (Hindu epic on the life of Lord Rama) are also on the shelves.

One can find hand-written books, which are more than 100 years old. Many books had been written by the scholars of the seminary.  The uniqueness of the library lies in its collection of ancient manuscripts, Shafique says. The holy Quran is there in different shapes written by different hands and in different styles, the staff of the library says. Many of them are said to be hundreds of years old.

 Shafique showed a copy of the Quran written by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. “This is in only 24 verses and is original…it is said to be written around 400 years back,” he explains. “We have the Quran written in 54 pages….and also in only 30 pages,” he says.
The huge library contains books on 76 subjects written in Arabic, French, Turkish and many others.

Shafique showed a copy of the letter said to have been dictated by Prophet Muhammad and addressed to the then King of Egypt Muqawqis. According to the Islamic history he was a ruler of Egypt and had corresponded with the Prophet. Since its inception in 1866 Darul Uloom had undergone considerable expansion with the passage of time necessitating the need to expand the library as well.  “We currently have eight rooms of different sizes,” Shafique informs. Though the library was presently in the old building, a new one was under construction and was expected to be completed in the near future.

 “We currently follow the old system of keeping the records of the books…it is old no doubt but it is effective,” he says with a smile. “The students are not allowed to take the books out…they can read them in the library,” he points out.

Shafique says  that the work of digitisation was also under way. “We have introduced bar coding system and several thousand books have already been coded,” he adds. Preserving the old books and manuscripts was not an easy task, he concedes but says that all necessary measures were taken to ensure that they remained safe for the benefit of the future generations. One could also see people engaged in the work of changing the covers of the old books and binding them afresh inside the library.

Verses of the Quran and Hadith (collection of reports quoting what the Prophet said on any matter) were also kept in a glass under the trees inside the campus of the seminary and the students could be seen reading them.

 Senior clerics at the seminary say that when the Darul Uloom Deoband was established, the old “Madaris” (religious schools) in India had almost become extinct. For the last one century, the seminary has been considered an incomparable teaching institution for the religious education of the Muslims not only in the sub-continent but also throughout the Islamic world, they say.

Besides the Al-Azhar University at Cairo, Egypt, there was no such institution anywhere in the Islamic world that might have acquired so much importance in point or antiquity, resorting, centrality and strength of students as the Darul Uloom Deoband had, they pointed out. Students from across the world come to the seminary, which has been the centre of both Shariah (Islamic laws) and Tariqah (order of Sufism), for studying Islamic sciences.

The seminary, which often hits the headlines for its fatwas (religious decrees) on issues concerning Islamic way of life, was the only symbol that had brought Deoband, a small and dusty town in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, about 500 km from Lucknow, on the world map as far as Islamic education was concerned.  

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