As an act of goodwill, community outreach, and to better inform the public about Islam and Shia Islam in particular, the Boston Jamat donated a selection of books published by the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) to the Boston Public Library (BPL) system in January 2019.

The 39 titles (78 books total) cover topics including Fatimid history, Persian philosophy, and Ismaili poetry. The books are already in circulation and available for the public to borrow. The IIS donation will add to the BPL’s existing collection of 1.6 million items, including books, magazines, and audiovisual materials, currently in circulation.

Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library was the first large free municipal library in the country and the first public library to lend books. Today, the library is the third largest public library system in the country with a central library and twenty-five neighborhood branches which serve over four million visitors annually.

In a letter of acknowledgement to the Aga Khan Council for the Northeastern United States, Melissa Andrews, Collection Development Manager at the Boston Public Library expressed their appreciation for the donation:

“The Boston Public Library provides educational and cultural enrichment free to all for the residents of Boston, Massachusetts and beyond, through its collections, services, programs, and spaces.The Aga Khan Ismaili Council’s generous donation of 78 volumes from the Institute of Ismaili Studies, covering Ismaili and Muslim civilizations, history, and faith, allows us to continue to address our mission.”          

This recent donation of IIS literature is in keeping with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s desire to correct public misperceptions about Islam, understand Shi'i values, and for the Jamat to also become better informed, while being active participants in, and contributors to, “the knowledge society.”

In his Commencement Address to the American University Cairo in 2006, Mawlana Hazar Imam said:

“From the very beginnings of Islam, the search for knowledge has been central to our cultures. I think of the words of Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first hereditary Imam of the Shia Muslims, and the last of the four rightly-guided Caliphs after the passing away of the Prophet (may peace be upon Him). In his teachings, Hazrat Ali emphasized that “No honour is like knowledge.”

Hazar Imam has continued to emphasize the importance of lifelong learning and knowledge in a pluralist society, saying that now, more than ever, we “have a greater obligation to promote intellectual openness and tolerance and to create increased cultural understanding.”

Supporting public libraries and the dissemination of knowledge in civil society is an important step in closing the ignorance gap - within and outside of the Jamat - regarding contemporary as well as historic Muslim cultures and societies.

“This is especially important in recent times in order to balance the one-sided narrative of Muslim societies,” said Afshaan Mazagonwalla, a volunteer who helped with the donation, adding, “It allows us to share a more nuanced understanding of our culture and dispel commonly held misbeliefs."

The Jamat is encouraged to sign up for a free library card at their local public library. To find a library near you, click here. Massachusetts residents can find more info on signing up for a library card or eCard through the Boston Public Library system here.