IQRA LIBRARY: A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
Noor Ahmed, Chairman of the Iqra Library, Islamic Foundation of Greater St.Louis
Islam provided great motivation for the human search of knowledge. The first Commandment that was sent down to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was Iqra, meaning, “read.” The Quran urges humankind to think, reflect, and attain knowledge that would bring them closer to God and his creation.
The Iqra library began as an idea, after 20 years in the making, the library opened its doors in 2009. The Iqra Library’s goal and mission statement has been, “to educate, enlighten, and help eliminate misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.”
The Iqra Library aspires to offer members of the community a safe, accessible attractive place conducive to learning, research and enlightenment about Islam. To provide educational resources about Islam and to foster better understanding of Muslims.
In our American society when we want to learn about something new, or find archived documents about the past, etc., we go to the library. When American presidents leave office, they take on the task of creating presidential libraries to archive and document the events of their time in office. It is their legacy of what their efforts during their time in office left behind. Developing a state of the art library where we could document our path to the current point in our local St. Louis Muslim society and educate Muslims and non- Muslims alike became an obsession for Dr. Noor Ahmed (chairman of the Iqra Library). If records are not kept, the accounting of this journey will be lost.
It was Dr. Noor’s belief, that in order for the library to hold a place of importance, and best serve the St. Louis community, it had to be accessible as its own entity. It had to be a well thought out facility with well-organized space and maintain regular hours. It had to occupy a place of importance and prominence. Dr. Noor believed that the community needed a facility where Muslims, non-Muslims and those interested in joining our faith would find the resources and help to guide them on their path. An Endowment Fund was established in 1998 for this purpose.
The IQRA Library operates under the umbrella of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis with both volunteers and employees.
With 500 patrons, there is no doubt that this place will continue to serve us for generations to come. There are 8,000-cataloged items and we continue to add to our collection and take suggestions to aid the individual in the pursuit of Islamic education and research. The Iqra library has provided, and will continue to provide educational programs to the community including; healthy living, diabetes, dental care, CPR, Stem Cell research, and drug safety.
The Iqra Library also has weekly Islamic Studies class, presented by Dr. Mohamed Hafeez Rahman and classes for understanding Islam (for new and non-Muslims,) presented by Aftab Ahmad.
With youth group classes held by Mufti Asif Umar, the Muslim Youth of St. Louis (MYSTL) storytelling every Saturday, interfaith group meetings, and Muslim scholars always available to help answer questions the Iqra Library makes sure to keep the community together and well informed.
The Iqra Library is often used by Al-Salaam Day School students, for use of the computers and they also have their own section of books for their studies. The library also publishes its Islamic Reflection every 3 months, which focuses on the community and events.
From its concept to its completion as a Muslim library, scholars like Azhar Azeez, Siraj Wahhaj, and Zayd Shakir have expressed their amazement, with how unique and special it is and that such a model exists in the country.
Many people believe libraries are outdated due to the digital revolution and the rise of a gadget-enamored society. The increase of use of technology is perhaps the reason why public libraries are important foundations for bringing together communities and providing a safe place where people can interact, learn and explore. The prophet Muhammad (SAW) commanded knowledge upon all Muslims, and urged them to seek knowledge as far they could reach, and to seek it at all times.
Islam’s deep urge for knowledge and its elevation of scholars brought about the sophisticated book industry and libraries that thrived in the Muslim world within two centuries after the death of the Prophet (PBUH). This clearly reveals the gift Islam bestowed to generations—the collection and spreading of knowledge to remove ignorance and enlighten the minds and souls of humankind.
Therefore, it must be our foremost duty to look after every kind of library, whether private or public and consider it as the fountainhead of knowledge in general and Islamic learning in particular. While these libraries should try to establish and maintain links. We at the Iqra Library want to continue to see the library grow and prosper, so we are committed to continue to update our inventory, to order/renew the materials from home, and become a part of the Limited Library Association.