Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Issues in Islam: Saudi Government Center Prints 70 Million Qur'ans in 7 Years

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Issues in Islam: Saudi Government Center Prints 70 Million Qur'ans in 7 Years

Article excerpt

Issues in Islam: Saudi Government Center Prints 70 Million Qur'ans in 7 Years

Service to Islam was the foundation upon which King Abdul Aziz based the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One of his first acts as monarch was to recognize the responsibility of the Kingdom for preserving the Muslim heritage and facilitating the annual pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca and Medina.

Since that time, the four sons who have succeeded him each has initiated programs to further the values, culture and tenets of Islam and to support the interests of Muslims around the world.

Since the first expansion of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina was undertaken under the auspices of King Abdul Aziz in 1948, religious endowments, schools and Islamic cultural preservation programs and a host of other projects have been initiated, including completion of more than 4,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia in the last decade alone.

Printing the Holy Words

One of the services that King Fahd Bin Abdel Aziz, who has adopted the sobriquet "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques," has rendered for the Muslim community is establishment of a central complex to print copies of the Holy Qur'an. The facility has produced more than 70 million Qur'ans in different styles, sizes and languages in the seven years it has been operating, all printed in accordance with strict, detailed and demanding stipulations. Prior to the establishment of the complex, copies of the Qur'an were printed by commercial companies, which could not ensure the high production quality achieved by the new complex.

Organizing the Complex

It was obvious from the outset that any facility given the exclusive privilege of publishing the Qur'an in Saudi Arabia would require a sizeable investment in equipment and a highly qualified staff of scholars and technicians capable of performing every step in a lengthy production process. This encompassed research, calligraphy, printing, binding and finally distribution of the Qur'ans, in the large numbers required.

After two years of construction and an initial cost of 486 million Saudi riyals ($129,600,000), the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz Qur'an Printing Complex, on the Medina-Tabuk highway, was a reality.

A Dream Realized

The complex was inaugurated by King Fahd on March 4, 1985, and from the outset was capable of producing up to seven million copies of the Qur'an and 100,000 sets of cassettes of the Holy Book annually. The cassettes present recitals of the Qur'an by respected Muslim scholars for use as guides to the correct method of reciting the Qur'an.

To ensure the accuracy of the copies of the Qur'an printed at the complex, King Fahd appointed Minister of Pilgrimage and Endowments Abdul Wahab Abdul Wasie as chairman of a committee to oversee the facility's operations. The committee followed guidelines set by the version of the Qur'an written in the seventh century by Zaid Bin Thabit and other Muslim scholars by order of Uthman Bin Affan, the third caliph of Islam. This version of the Qur'an, along with guidelines set by later Muslim scholars, was used to produce what would eventually be called Al-Medina Al-Munawarrah (City of Light) Qur'an.

Technology and Investment, Handmaidens of the Revered Qur'an

Before going into print, the committee worked for 14 months reviewing every word in every chapter of the version. …

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