Publishing: Is Perfection Achievable?

At White Thread Press we strive for perfection in every aspect of book publishing. Sometimes it takes us several months longer to produce a book just because we want it right from every aspect. It may need another edit or proofread, a fact or reference may need re-checking, or we are just waiting for a scholarly review, or it is something associated with the seemingly mundane aspect of typography, or the grayness of the text blocks are not balancing well enough. Readers who appreciate our books may not be able to identify all the little things that go into in our books but probably do appreciate the finished product. Though we strive our utmost, there is always something that could be changed or corrected in the second print. This is probably the case with all other good publishers. The following highlights some important aspects to this dilemma.

Imad al-Din al-Asfahani says,

I have seen that whenever someone writes a book he says the next day, “If this part could be changed it would be better,” or “If this was added it would be appreciated more,” or “If this part was brought forward it would be superior,” or “If this part was left out it would read better.”

In this is an important and critical lesson that defectiveness dominates over mankind (Muhammad Musa, Al-Madkhal li Dirasat al-Fiqh, p. 6). Muzani the student of Imam Shafi’i relates about his teacher’s work the Risala,

“I read the Risala to Shafi’i eighty times and each time we would find errors.” Imam Shafi’i then remarked, “Yes, Allah has refused that there be any book other than His that is completely free of errors” (Bukhari, Kashf al-Asrar 1:4).

A similar account is related from another of Imam Shafi’i’s students Rabi’ ibn Sulayman who says,

“I read the Risala Misriyya to Shafi’i over thirty times and each time he would edit it. He would then remark, “Allah has refused that there be any book other than His that is completely free of errors” (Bayhaqi, Manaqib al-Shafi’i 2:32).

It is related that Imam Malik had originally composed his Muwatta’ of about ten thousand hadiths. He would review it every year and remove some narrations from here and there until it came to be in its current form (Qadi Iyad, Tartib al-Madarik 1:193).

If this is the state of these great and noble Imams  whose works have been universally celebrated then the position of people like us becomes clear. We can only say,

“Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or make mistakes. Lord, do not burden us as You burdened those before us. Lord, do not burden us with more than we have strength to bear. Pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy on us. You are our Protector, so help us against the disbelievers” (Qur’an 2:286).

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