Sean Murphy, Charge d’Affaires, US Embassy Abu Dhabi, gifts a rare edition of the Quran to Mohammad Ahmad Al-Murr, Chairman, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
During a donation ceremony at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (EAFL, Feb. 1 – 6), the United States Mission to the UAE presented the Mohammed bin Rashid Library with a 1764 edition of an English-language translation of the Quran. It will be permanently displayed in the library’s Treasures of the Library section. The event was organised by the Emirates Literature Foundation (ELF) in collaboration with the United States Mission to the UAE and the Mohammed bin Rashid Library.
The rare two-volume set is a copy from the second edition of the 1764 English language translation of the Quran by English author George Sale. The third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson owned a copy from the same 1764 edition, which was displayed at the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on loan from the U.S. Library of Congress.
This was the first time this treasured exhibit travelled outside of the U.S. Capitol, and it was one of the top attractions at the USA Pavilion. While studying law in 1765, Jefferson, who had a lifelong interest in world religions, bought this version at the age of 22.
Following the return of the Jefferson-owned Quran to the U.S. Library of Congress, the same rare edition Quran translation, which the U.S. Mission to the UAE donated to the MBR Library, was acquired to continue the exhibition at the USA Pavilion.
“We are here today to celebrate the values that shape the United Arab Emirates, tolerance, peace, and harmony; and to witness history being made as this rare edition of the Holy Quran is transferred for the first time since the 18th century to be permanently displayed at the Mohammed bin Rashid Library, the region’s largest cultural centre,” said Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and ELF Trustee.
“We are delighted and honoured to work with the U.S. Mission to the UAE and the Mohammed bin Rashid Library to support the UAE’s mission of preserving Islamic and Arabic heritage and reinforcing its position in society and the world.”
The Treasures of the Library exhibition features a collection of rare and ancient books, atlases, and manuscripts from around the world.
Welcoming the delegation, Mohammad Ahmad Al-Murr, Chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation, said: “I am pleased to welcome you to the Mohammed bin Rashid Library, and specifically to the Treasures of the Library exhibition which houses rare collections dating back to the thirteenth century.”
“The Treasures of The Library Exhibition features unique religious manuscripts, antique atlases, poetry collections, and other valuable items. The collection also includes rare copies of the Holy Quran, early print editions of literary classics, Latin translations of scholarly works from the Islamic Golden Age, and rare Arabic periodicals from the Arab world and beyond.”
Al-Murr added that “the rare, translated copy of the Holy Quran, donated to the Mohammed bin Rashid Library, is a valuable and significant addition to the Treasures of the Library exhibition, complementing a collection of classical literature publications telling the story of decades of knowledge and civilisation.”
He said that the valuable gift of Jefferson’s rare edition of the Holy Quran in the English language reflected the depth and strength of the strategic and cultural relations and partnerships between the two countries.
U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, took his oath of office on Jefferson’s Quran in 2006 and noted it demonstrated that from the very beginning of the United States, there were people who were visionary, religiously tolerant, and who believed that knowledge and wisdom could be gleaned from any number of sources, including the Quran.
Charge d’Affaires Sean Murphy at the U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi said that “the U.S. Mission to the UAE is proud to gift a rare edition English-language translation of the Quran and a map of Arabia published in 1764 that were on display at the USA Pavilion during Expo 2020 Dubai to the Mohammed bin Rashid Library. This exhibit is a strong symbol of respect for religious diversity, and our shared values of religious tolerance and co-existence.”
The donation took place on the first day of the EAFL, one of the world’s top ten literary festivals. It is the Arab World’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, featuring international and regional writers, poets, thinkers and speakers from around the world.
Over the past 14 years, more than 1,800 authors from over one hundred countries have spoken there. In 2022, it reached more than 105,000 people, in person and via live streaming. The aim of the award-winning Festival is to develop a culture of reading as an enjoyable habit in the UAE. By providing an equal platform for international and locally based talents, it continues to build the literary landscape in the UAE and further afield.
Alongside the main programme, the Festival organises an Education programme, reaching students across the seven emirates of the UAE. There are also student competitions, held in Arabic and English, which allow young people to showcase their skills through poetry, short stories and reading.
EAFL is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in partnership with Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture.
The library will also host a workshop on learning the art of script writing in Arabic, with the help of the writer Dr Mamdouh Hamada, novelist and author of several drama works.
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