April 13th, 2007 04:55 EST
Michigan Islamic Center Gets Braille Quran Donated by U.S. Embassy in Tashkent
Washington -- The Kukaldosh Madrassa in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for centuries has prepared young Muslims for leadership roles. Recently, it became one of the few institutions that publish Braille editions of the Quran, which enable the blind to read Muslim scripture. When the madrassa wanted to donate an eight-volume Braille Quran to an American mosque, the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, was a logical recipient. The Dearborn mosque is one of the oldest and largest in the United States.
The Braille Quran was sent ahead to Dearborn and officially presented to the Islamic Center on April 4 by Brad Hanson, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent. Hanson told USINFO the embassy acted as an intermediary to transmit the Quran from the madrassa and people of Uzbekistan “to a worthy American Muslim institution with some ties to Uzbekistan.”
Imam Sayed Hassan Qazwini, accepting the Braille Quran, said there could be no better gift. He gave Hanson a letter of gratitude addressed "to the people of Uzbekistan," for "the most appreciative gift of all, Al Qur'an."
The mosque, located in the suburbs of Detroit near the Ford Motor Company, has hosted a number of Uzbek participants in the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Program. Eide Alawan, director of the Islamic Center’s office for interfaith outreach, said the Braille Quran first was mentioned during the visit of eight Uzbek imams in 2006. He told USINFO, “When we heard that Uzbekistan would like to give us a set of Qurans, we were elated.”
“We are honored to receive it, and we will have a library that will include all areas now,” Alawan said. “We probably won’t loan them out, but anyone wishing to come in here and read them will be welcome to do so.”
Alawan said the Dearborn congregation has members from many countries and traditions, particularly Arabs from Lebanon and Palestine. His own father emigrated from Syria in 1910 to escape an oppressive Ottoman Empire.
Community and interfaith activities are integral to the center. “The Islamic Center of America in its 68-year history has always done work within the interfaith community” and endeavored to overcome “difficult times” through dialogue, Alawan said. It has ties to dozens of Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religious groups in the area.
“Muslims are doing very well in America. They have integrated very well into the system,” he said. “I think it’s because we are a country of immigrants. ... Coming here,” he said, anyone can be “a first class citizen, even if you aren’t born here.” In Dearborn, Muslims are so well assimilated into the community that the new fire chief is Muslim, as are other public officers.
The Kukaldosh Madrassa, known as the Kukaldosh Islamic Secondary Educational Institution, dates back to 1569, when it was founded by Darveshkhon. It is an architectural gem of Tashkent, and has schooled Muslim youth since it began, except during the Soviet period. In addition to religious instruction in the Quran, Hadith and Arabic, the madrassa offers a broad educational program that includes Uzbek language and literature, science, mathematics and computer science.
A few years ago, Kukaldosh Madrassa began publishing Braille Qurans. Braille is an international system of embossed dots which may be “read” by touch and employed in various languages, including Arabic. It was invented in France and refined by Louis Braille in the early 19th century.
However, 600 years earlier, in the 14th century, a blind Syrian scholar, Zain Din al Amidi, devised a similar method by which he could study books through touch. He was a professor at Moustansiryeh University in what is now Iraq.
Brad Hanson said the Uzbek Braille Quran is “practically a unique project in the Muslim world. It is quite an achievement that they can point to with some pride.” He added, “We are very honored and delighted” that the Quran was given and “that it will be used in the United States.”