In the far reaches of the African continent, a man from Senegal sat on the ground in the open air reverently reading a copy of the Holy Quran printed by the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran. This scene drew the attention of former Qatari Interior Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Nasser al Thani, who was visiting the Senegal. Sheikh Hamad Bin Nasser told Qatari Minister of Endowments, Ahmed al-Merri “Look, this is how men should work” in a reference to his appreciation of the efforts exerted by King Fahd – may God rest his soul – in creating the world’s largest Holy Quran publishers in Medina which publish the famed high-quality and durable green-covered editions of the Holy Quran that are available in the farthest reaches of the earth.
I do not know if a scene similar to that which took place in Senegal was one of the reasons behind Qatar’s motives of entering the domain of professional Quran publishing. However, last Tuesday Qatar held a large celebration – which I was honored to attend – in order to mark the beginning of the publication of the “Mus’haf Qatar” [Qatari Edition of the Quran] which was a name selected by Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. This huge project and Quranic achievement took ten years to achieve, and this undoubtedly represents a great achievement by the country, as the honor such an achievement represents is derived from the holiness of the Quran itself. Is there anything greater in the world than the words of God Almighty?
Some people may imagine that it would be an overstatement to describe the publishing of a Quranic edition as a “great accomplishment” as all that such a project requires is to simply establish a contract with a publishing company, especially as the Holy Quran is already available, and the Ottoman style Quranic leaf has been computerized and can be cut and pasted, and financing is readily available. Therefore where is this “great achievement?”
The answer to this question was given by my former classmate at the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University, Dr. Khalifa al-Kawari, who was one of the Qatari officials supervising this project. Dr. al-Kawari recalled that Qatar, in collaboration with the OIC Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture [IRCICA], held an international calligraphy competition to decide who will win the honor of inscribing the new edition of the Holy Quran. Therefore this edition of the Quran is inscribed the most skillful calligraphers, before it was reviewed once again to make sure everything was perfect in terms of calligraphy, design, and gilded ornamentation. This was followed by another phase of revision and correction, before this edition finally began the publication process. The Al-Azhar University collaborated with the Qatari committees that worked for the past ten years to implement this and deserve our thanks and appreciation.
As for the minister who had the honor of witnessing the completion of this task during his time in office, this is Qatari Endowment Minister Ahmed al-Merri, who is unique with regards to his strong dislike of being in the limelight, including this article. I am well aware that people have a tendency to dislike adulation of senior official, and they hate to even hear or read about this. However there is a natural tendency towards praising the normal and modest official who dislike and avoid the limelight. It seems that this is an issue that is inversely proportional; i.e. the more one likes being the center of attention the less people like and praise him and vice versa.
Back to the topic of the article, I would like to stress here that while Saudi Arabia has the rare honor of taking the lead and being the first to publish the Holy Quran via a huge complex whose sole purpose is to publish and circulate the Quran to tens of millions of people around the world, including the Senegalese man mentioned earlier. Qatar, which is most prominently known for its Al-Jazeera channel which has aroused endless controversies, is now seeking to be known in the Islamic world for different things, this time for the “Mus’haf Qatar.” I believe that the Muslims in the East and the West are waiting for their governments to undertake similar pioneering initiatives, although in a different manner, in order to serve Islam, the Muslim community, and Islamic culture and heritage. This is a competition that is open to all.