Libyan artisans restore copies of old Qurans for Ramadan
Old or damaged copies of the Quran are being restored by volunteer groups in celebration of the holy month of Ramadan.
Volunteers in war-torn Libya are working nonstop to mend old or damaged copies of the Quran, Islam's Divine Book.
Khaled Al-Drebi, one of Libya's most well-known restorers of Islam's holy book, is one of the artists who arrive every day at a Tripoli studio to satisfy the demands of the flood of clients during Ramadan.
For practicing Muslims, Ramadan means a month of focused spirituality, where a daily fasting from sunrise to sunset is often joined by prayer and charity, meaning the Quran sales surge.
Al-Drebi told AFP that "the purchase of new Korans traditionally increases before the month of Ramadan, but this has recently changed in Libya."
Since the state stopped printing them, there has been an increase in the cost of Qurans.
Libya has been plagued by conflict for over 10 years, leaving the economy suffering. "The cost of buying (Qurans) has increased, and so the turnout for restoring old Qurans has gained unprecedented popularity," Drebi stated.
Al-Drebi's workshop charged only a few dollars to restore a Quran, whereas new ones could cost more than $20.
The lower cost is only one appealing factor. Older Qurans for many bring a sentimental element to the book.
A sentimental value
"There is a spiritual connection for some customers," according to Drebi, adding how "some say this Quran has the smell of my grandfather or parents."
Abdel Razzaq Al-Aroussi is responsible for sorting the Qurans based on deterioration level. According to Al-Aroussi, the very damaged ones could require more than two hours. The process requires that they be "undone, restored, and then bound," a task that takes "time and concentration."
Mabrouk Al-Amin says working with such a holy book is an "indescribable joy".
Since the workshop's founding in 2008, about 500,000 Qurans have been restored, and more than 1,500 trainees have graduated from 150 restoration courses.
In recent years, an increasing number of women have joined the workshop. According to Al-Drebi, after they were trained, many now have their own workshops.
One female restorer, Khadija Mahmoud, has gone so far as to hold sessions for the blind.
For Mahmoud, who trains women at a workshop in Zawiya, west of Tripoli, restoring Qurans in a women's workshop allows women to find a meaningful way to fill their "spare time".
"A large segment of trainees and restorers are retirees," she said. "For them, there is nothing better than spending their spare time in the service of the Quran."