How to Treat Your Books Well by Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Sa’īd Raslān
This article (originally titled: Treat Your Books Well by Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Sa’īd Raslānحفظه الله ) was sent to my email box many years ago. Till now I can’t explain how I got to the mail but… we subscribe to many sites these days you know, AlhamduliLLaah.
I read the article and I benefited greatly from it. Unfortunately (rather fortunately), today the site is no more available online and so is this great work. I have seen it as a duty to save this great work from extinction.
We have added some headings to the work to increase its readability. Whatever additions from PristineCreed will be italicized.
O Allaah! Make this beneficial; in this world and the hereafter for the Sheikh, the translator, the pristinecreed crew, our dear readers and all those who take time to share it. Aameen
How to Treat Your Books Well by Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Sa’īd Raslānحفظهالله
By mountain of knowledge
Books are the instruments of knowledge, and the Salaf would have the best and most complete manners when dealing with their books, and they would exert all the effort they could in collecting them.
As a student of knowledge, one should strive to collect and gather the books that he needs, whether by purchasing, renting, or borrowing them. They are the instruments by which he learns, and he shouldn’t limit his share of knowledge and understanding to merely collecting and gathering them, as is the case with many of those who ascribe themselves to Fiqh and Hadīth. And how excellent is the one who said:
If you are not a sharp memorizer * Then your collection of books is of no benefit…
Manners of Lending and Borrowing Books
It is encouraged to lend your books out to those who will not damage them. Although a group of the scholars discouraged this, one should still do it since it is a form of assisting each other in gaining knowledge, and considering the virtue and reward of lending out books.
The borrower should thank the lender and reward him with good, and he shouldn’t keep the book with him for too long without a need for it. Rather, he should return it to him if he has obtained what he needs from it, and should not keep it stored with him if the owner requests it. He is not allowed to add footnotes to the book without the permission of the owner, nor is he allowed to write anything near the introduction or conclusion unless the owner approves. He should not lend it out to anyone else, and should not leave it with anyone else unless there is a need to do so. If he wants to copy a portion or all of it, he shouldn’t write while the paper is on or in the book. He shouldn’t leave an open pen on it, and he shouldn’t run a pen over the pages of the book.”
And al-Khatīb (may Allāh have Mercy on him) reported that Wakī’ said:
The first blessing of Hadīth is that you lend out your books.
Whoever is stingy with his knowledge will be tested with one of three things: he will forget and be unable to memorize, or he will not benefit from it, or he will find himself losing his books.
And it is disliked for the borrower to keep books from their owners, and he must return them to their owners as quickly as possible…
Yūnus narrated that Yazīd said to him that az-Zuhrī said:
O Yūnus, beware of the treachery of books.” So, Yūnus asked: “And what is the treachery of books?” He said: “That you keep them from their owners.
al-Fudayl bin ‘Iyād (may Allāh have Mercy on him) said:
It is not from the actions of the cautious or the scholar that you take a man’s hearing and books and keep them with you. Whoever does this has wronged himself.
And a number of them refrained from lending out their books because of this phenomenon of keeping books from their owners, as Sufyān (may Allāh have Mercy on him) said:
Do not lend anyone any of your books,
and ar-Rabī’ bin Sulaymān said: “al-Būītī wrote to me:
Memorize your books, because if you lose one of them, you’ll never be able to replace it.
“And if one is writing something from the book or pulls it out, he shouldn’t spread it on the floor in an open fashion. Rather, he should put it between two other books or objects, or the well-known folding chair used for books in order not to damage the binding of the book. If he places it in an elevated location, it should be on a chair, a bookshelf, etc. It is best that the book not be placed directly on the ground in order to avoid getting it dirty or wet. If he places it on a piece of wood, he should place some cloth between it and the book to prevent the cover from becoming altered or decomposed.
How to Organize and Arrange Your Books
One should pay special attention to how he organizes his books, and should do so in accordance with the virtue, importance, and significance of each book. So, he should place the noblest book above all the others, and then work his way down gradually. If his library contains the Noble Qur’ān, it should be placed above all the other books, and what is best is that it be placed in a sack and nailed to a clean, pure part of the wall that is within reach. Then come the books of Hadīth, such as ‘Sahīhal-Bukhārī’ and ‘Sahīh Muslim.’ Then come the explanations of the Qur’ān, then the explanations of Hadīth, then the books regarding the principles (usūl) of the Religion, then the principles of Fiqh, then Fiqh, then grammar and language, then Arabic poetry, then general poetry.
If two books in the same field are equal in virtue, he should place the one with more Qur’ān or Hadīth content higher than the other. If they are equal in this regard as well, he should place the one with the more virtuous author higher than the other. If they are equal in this as well, he should place the older and more widely accepted of the two higher in his library. If they are equal in this regard as well, he should place the one that is more authentic and trustworthy.
If one borrows a book, he should immediately give it back if the owner requests it. If he purchases a book, he should flip through its beginning, middle, end, and table of contents. He should flip through its pages and evaluate its apparent authenticity and benefit if he doesn’t have enough time to read it in detail.
Manners of Writing and Copying
If one copies something from the book in his handwriting, he should begin with ‘Bismil-Lāhar-Rahmānar-Rahīm’ (In the Name of Allāh, the Beneficent, the Merciful). If the book beginswith an introduction that contains the praise of Allāh or peace and blessings upon His Messenger, he should write this out after the basmalah. He should then write what he wants from the book.
Whenever one writes the Name of Allāh, the Exalted, he should follow it up with a description of exaltation, such as Ta’ālā (the Exalted), Subhānah (Glorified is He), ‘AzzawaJall (the Mighty and Majestic), Taqaddas (free from imperfection), etc.
Manners of Making Prayers for the Prophet (peace and commendations of Allaah be upon him), Pious Servants and Angels When Writing
Whenever he writes the name of the Prophet (peace be upon him), he should write after it ‘as-Salātuwas-Salāmu ‘alayh’ (prayers and peace be upon him), and he should also say this with his tongue. The habit of the Salaf and those who came after them was to write this out fully and unabbreviated – even if it was repeated many times on the same line – as opposed to what the backwards authors of our times do, writing ‘SAW,’ ‘PBUH,’ or ‘SAWS,’ and all of this detracts from the rights he has upon us (peace be upon him).
If one comes across mention of a Companion – let alone the major ones – he should write ‘Radī Allahu ‘anhu’ (may Allāh be Pleased with him), and he is not to invoke peace and blessings except for the Prophets or Angels, except in following them.
If he comes across mention of one of the Salaf, he should write ‘RahimahuAllāh’ (may Allāh have Mercy on him), especially when referring to the major, well-known, leading scholars of Islām (may Allāh have Mercy on them all).
Manners of Writing Foot Notes
And there’s no problem in writing footnotes, points of benefit, and important notes in the borders of the books he owns, and one shouldn’t write except the important points related to that particular book, such as a point of confusion, a parable, an example, a mistake, etc. But, he shouldn’t crowd the book with strange and detailed secondary matters, and shouldn’t add so many footnotes that it darkens the pages or wastes too much space in the book.
One should not write between the lines. Although some did this by writing in red between the lines, it is better to leave this totally.”
The Manners of the Student of Knowledge by Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Sa’īdRaslānحفظه الله pages 67-69
كتاب آداب طالب العلم للشيخ محمد سعيد رسلان حفظه الله