Riyadh Newspaper | Dr.. Rania Al-Ardawi: The books are “my clinic” that gather the dispersal of my soul

A visit to a library

Dr.. Rania Al-Ardawi: The books are “my clinic” that gather the dispersal of my soul

Libraries with their owners have stories and situations, as well as anecdotes and sorrows that deserve to be told. “Al-Riyadh” visits the libraries of a group of intellectuals, evokes the memory of beginnings, and follows the passion for collecting the most valuable possessions, and the stages of building libraries.. In this written dialogue we host Dr. Rania Al-Ardawi, PhD in the philosophy of criticism and Arabic literature, associate professor of criticism and literature, and a researcher in issues of thought, creativity and philosophy to talk about her library, which contains more than (60) thousand books and volumes dominated by the sciences of interpretation and hadith, Arabic language and literature, dictionaries, biographies, history, and philosophy Translation, various human sciences, general knowledge, natural sciences and religions, in addition to cultural and specialized periodicals and magazines in both Arabic and English.

I forget my money in the bellies of books

  • At what age did you know the book?

  • My knowledge of the book began with my awareness of reading and writing since childhood, through the interest of my father – may God have mercy on him – in the book.

  • Can you identify some of the beginnings of establishing your home library?

  • I felt the need for my own library when I was almost in the elementary school, as I started owning my own books, and I started collecting them on shelves in my room, which I shared with my sisters, and we exchanged reading stories and novels and used to read illustrated magazines such as “Majid” magazine, and my brother Sheikh Ahmed had his library In which I saw the model that I wanted to emulate, especially when I noticed his interest and care in the books of the noble hadith, and that they would become my corner and my books.

I remember very well that the first book I read in its entirety was about astronomy and the planets, and I was very happy to be able to read it in full, and from it many questions came to my mind about the universe and man in my age range at the time. Reading this book at the time was my achievement when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, perhaps. And I began to think that I should have a library, in which I could collect the books I had read so that I could return to it from time to time. And when books became a collection for me that required a special cupboard for them, I became a small library, which began to grow and expand with the years of study, and I had a great desire to possess my father’s books – may God have mercy on him – especially after his death, and this was done for me, praise be to God.

  • What about book fairs, and their role in enriching your library?

  • I can claim that book fairs are one of the most important sources of my books, and for anyone interested in knowledge and science, they are a very valuable opportunity, not only to buy books, but also to meet publishers and access the vast world of books that you will only discover by walking between the corridors of book fairs. Meeting writers and creators as well as knowledge thieves who may have promoted a commercial book with the intention of quick profit that surprises you with its secrets every time you visit the exhibition. I think that visiting beneficial book fairs is only after completing at least five visits to a single fair in a season. And in the recent period, especially before the pandemic, I made sure to take my students with me to book fairs as much as possible, so that the collective discovery of books and librarians would be useful, and I found in that great benefit when I was watching their choices and the way they searched for knowledge, to develop the tools of my choices as well, in a way that deepens the impact of mutual learning between us. .

  • What are the most prominent turning points that accompanied the growth of your personal library?

  • The truth of the biggest turning point is that I entered the Department of Arabic Language and Literature. With it, I began to search for books that serve this great specialization, and then I discovered that reading in human knowledge with its different paths and diversity is what strengthens the specialist who studies the Arabic language, and not just reading books of specialization, and then I turned to horizontal reading. In knowledge and philosophy with vertical reading in specialized books. Then the second turn when philosophy began to attract me more and more, and I discovered its important role in the formation of the literary critic, and access to philosophy books became a main destination in my reading journey. For my books of my day.

• Tell us about the first books that entered your library?

I remember well my keenness to acquire the books of al-Akkad, al-Manfaluti and al-Rafi’i, books on the interpretation of the Noble Qur’an and the vocabulary of the strange Qur’an by al-Asbahani, then the Lisan al-Arab lexicon, which when acquired I was overwhelmed with happiness and fascination with its volumes stacked before my eyes. Which opened for me the doors of a wide world of stories, fascinating anecdotes, deep scientific and philosophical references, and collections of ancient poetry, especially the Diwan of Al-Mutanabi, Al-Maarri and Al-Sharif Al-Radi.

  • Do you keep manuscripts in your library?

  • Yes, I was given a manuscript from my honorable family, the Holy Qur’an, written by our second grandfather, Muhammad Ali Al-Ardawi, may God have mercy on him. It is a manuscript that is approximately 140 years old. Perhaps it was an old custom at that time for a man to write the Qur’an in his own handwriting to be an ongoing charity for him. In the family there is another manuscript of the Kitab al-Muwatta written by our grandfather Muhammad Ali al-Ardawi – may God have mercy on him – and it is preserved by my brother Sheikh Ahmed, and it has the family lineage document.

  • What about the share of old and rare books?

  • I have a good collection of them. I remember an old copy of Al-Farabi’s Great Musical Book that I got from Azbakia, and James Fraser’s Golden Bough book, the Aleppo edition, which I got from an auction of old books in the city of Durham, which is a rare copy of the book. As well as the Islamic Encyclopedia of Orientalists.

  • Do you have any old or semi-old newspapers and magazines?

  • Yes, and some of them are from the library of the father – may God have mercy on him -, such as old issues of Al-Manhal and Al-Arabi magazine, and some of them I bought from Azbakeya, such as Fosoul fi Literary Criticism magazine.

  • What is the funniest thing that happened to you in search of books?

  • I remember that I once recommended a number of people in separate places to search for a book I wanted out of necessity, and I received three copies of it at one time, and each copy had a gift from the sender, which forced me to keep three of them. Do not be surprised if I see in my library some duplicate copies of books, so they are a copy for teaching, a copy for reading, and a copy for writing my own notes on the book for the purpose of research. He likes to carry wallets of money, which sometimes forces me to put the rest of the money in the belly of the book in my bag, and on one of the occasions of arranging my library I found in one of my books a sum of money of nearly two thousand riyals, and I forgot in which book I put it, and I am still looking for a bank check that I put in a book I bought it from the last book fair in Riyadh, I don’t remember it until now.

I do not forget that once on my visit to a publishing house at the Jeddah Book Fair years ago, I was fascinated by books and forgot myself and slept on the floor in front of the shelves. You may sit on the chair, madam, and I noticed that my cloak had sunk into the dust of the earth, and its edge was adorned with the footprints of passers-by who had unintentionally stepped on it. I laughed reluctantly as I shook off the dust of the seekers of knowledge, and apologized to him by purchasing a large collection of books that charmed my alertness.

  • Since you are interested in books and have a private library, what are the most prominent books that you are keen to read?

  • With my workloads and obligations, I make sure to read a book every week and twice every two weeks. Two things usually guide me to choosing a book: my research needs and my reading mood. Books are my “clinic” that gathers myself amid the daily noise. I do not hide from you recently, I read in a circular motion, meaning that I am circling between several books at the same time, without arranging for circling, and this method guarantees me to spend several books in a shorter time, but it required me to a long path.

  • What do you prefer… the electronic library or the paper one? And what’s the reason?

  • The electronic library today is a necessity and an aid to complete work and research, and it saves effort, money and time, but despite that I prefer the paper library, the smell of paper, the texture of the book, and its presence as a constant companion that strengthens that bond between me and science, and increases my desire to read, and I do not forget the advice of my professor, Dr. Maryam Al-Baghdadi told me in the undergraduate stage that I do not sleep without a book next to me, and I found in this commandment a great benefit, for what is read before bedtime is not forgotten, as well as what is read in the morning is not difficult to understand.

  • Is your library specialized or diversified?

  • It is very diverse, which makes my visitors always wonder, why do you read this and that, and my answer is because without the support of the encyclopedia, the specialization is emptiness, it hesitates what it inherits, and it is incapable of the new formation of knowledge, it is not sufficient in my opinion for the specialist to read in his specialization only, but he needs A diamond of horizontal general knowledge that gives him new research clues to understanding his own specialty. But I am very keen on acquiring specialized books, whether they are treasures of heritage or theses of the era.

  • last word?

  • Thank you very much for this space that the newspaper “Al-Riyadh” gave me. Special thanks and appreciation to Mr. Bakr Hazal for your eagerness and patience. Perhaps I might sum up by saying that the presence of the library in the home is a great blessing, which has proven in the different eras that it is a necessity and not a luxury, and its positive impact on the family and the creation of the thinking mind is a real thing, and with it the building of a knowledge and educational system for all family members will help them to pass the difficulties of life in peace and leave an impact. From light, and how many home libraries brought out a great scientist who benefited the world and contributed to building civilization.

Dr.. Rania Al-Ardawi

Some encyclopedias in the library

A manuscript of the Noble Qur’an written by Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ardawi