The waqf of books in Islam
From the beginning of the Islamic period, the waqf of books was regarded as a noble example of “charitable gift” and “good work” deserving great reward from God in the Hereafter and guaranteeing the reputation of the donor who thus attracted the respect of posterity.
On the basis of the Quranic verses, the Prophet Mohammed hadiths (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and the exhortations of religious leaders to Muslims urging them to give their goods to satisfy the needs of their neighbors, the waqf has been, since its beginning, a noble and prestigious gesture since the gift of book was supposed to satisfy the needs of the future scholars of the community.
The great donors were often high-ranking personalities such as scholars, caliphs, sultans, ministers, governors, great generals, great merchants, pious persons, book lovers, and bibliophiles. The book was both a means and a symbol of the scientific, technological and cultural progress of Muslim civilization. Consequently, for many centuries, the Muslims who had the means provided land, buildings and all kinds of equipment for the construction of libraries.
Although the social prestige of book donation and library construction was important, the basic motivation was most often the realization of a work of charity aimed at arousing divine satisfaction. On the other hand, the Muslim community has always been aware that the spread of knowledge and knowledge is a means of safeguarding the works of major religious authorities and Muslim scholars and thus contributing to the progress of the present and the future faith community. Some historians believe that the gift of books was the main factor in the emergence of libraries from the first centuries of the Islamic period. The waqf of books was the most important source of enrichment for the first great libraries of the Muslim world. The extension of libraries, therefore, depended directly on the noble intentions of the donors.
The Quran is undoubtedly the first Book that was the object of a waqf. According to historical documents, in the year 30 AH (652), after completing the project of standardization of the alphabetical transcription of the Koran, the third caliph, Othman ibn Affan offered four (or six, according to some accounts) copies of the Koran to the mosques of the major cities of the time. These Koranic copies were intended “for the use of Muslims”. Historical documents confirm that Ishqq Abu Amr Sheybani (who died in the year 822) gave to the mosques of Kufa more than 80 copies of the Koran which he had copied himself with his hand. If the historical documents do not say anything about it, it seems that the gift of copies of the Koran to the mosques in the two cases we mentioned above was done as waqf. In other cases, the gift of Korans to mosques in the form of waqf was clearly expressed, notably the waqf of Mofzal ibn Mohammad Zobbi (who died in 824) who copied the Koranic text and gave it in waqf to the mosques. “I do it to repent of committing sins by writing profane things,” he said.
Under the caliphate of the Abbasid al-Mutawakkil (died in 861), the waqf of copies of the Koran became so great that the necessity of preserving the Qur’an given in the form of waqf was felt in some mosques. For example, Judge Hareth ibn Meskin had to appoint a librarian at Amr mosque in Cairo to look after their conservation.
As time went by, the waqf of the Koran became an institution in all Muslim countries, and thanks to this practice, the first public libraries appeared in the mosques. Henceforth, the gift of the Koran to the mosques for the use of the faithful became a tradition. This practice appears at a time when the mosque was the main center of public education.
Thus in Isfahan, there were certain waqfs whose income was devoted to the writing of books which were then given to the libraries of the schools. For example, the revenues of two public baths (Hammam Khosro Agha, and Hammam Naghsheh-Jahan) were a waqf devoted to this cause. In some manuscripts of the time, we can find waqf records indicating that these books had been written with the revenues of the said public baths.
Source : extrait Le waqf de livres en islam et le waqf de livres à l’époque des Safavides par Ali Rafi’i* & Mohammad Bâgher Sajâdi Khorâsgâni, traduit par Babak Ershadi http://www.teheran.ir/spip.php?article1222#gsc.tab=0