A Warning About Ordering Arabic Books Online in the US

Recently, the Institute of Islamic Education ordered several shipments of books from national suppliers for its research library. Given the cost of the shipments, each order was a significant investment. I thought I would share our experience with some companies that supply Arabic books in the US.

Make sure that you are aware that often the book you see advertised on the website is not exactly what you will get. The edition of the book they ship to you and bill you for is not necessarily the same as the one you thought you were getting when you placed the order.

Recently, we ordered, amongst other books, the ten volume Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah copy of Kasani’s Bada’i’ al-Sana’i’ . That was the only copy displayed on the site and the one we had in mind when ordering. When the shipment came in, however, the company had sent us the Dar al-Ma’rifah edition, which is in 8 volumes and, although costs less, is not the edition we wanted.

Also, be careful to make sure to save your order confirmation receipt/letter. You may order one copy of a book and be sent two copies instead. That may not be a big deal if the book is a single volume. In our case, the book was 20 volumes (Ibn Rushd’s Al-Bayan wa ‘l-Tahsil in Maliki fiqh) and each copy costs $325.00. You don’t want an extra 20 volumes lying around and be paying $650 unnecessarily. Even if the company is willing to correct the order, at the least you will be stuck with sending back the books and arranging for its shipment.

In summary, its a good idea, especially when the order is large, to:

1. Call the company before and after placing the order to confirm the details of the order.

2. Keep the confirmation letter and print out a copy for yourself.

3. Expect mix-ups.  (They have happened too often now for me to consider them anomalies).

Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to all bookstores out there. I haven’t had any problems with http://www.albalagh.net and I imagine it is because the owners know something about books. Some other stores don’t really seem to know anything about the books themselves (indicative by the fact that you find a lot of books categorized incorrectly on their websites).  Fadak Books has also been relatively good recently, although I have had the editions issue with them on some occasions.

I’d like to hear your experiences with these companies. Which companies do you order books from? What have your experiences been?

16 thoughts on “A Warning About Ordering Arabic Books Online in the US

  1. I generally use Neel wa Furat for most of my Arabic books, and find the price plus postage to usually work out cheaper than ordering from domestic companies, unless I’m incredibly unlucky. I’ve never had a mix-up regarding my orders from them, and they’ve always been delivered promptly if they have them in-stock (or else they notify regarding any possible delay or if they don’t have the actual book).

    I’d consider giving local businesses my custom, but unfortunately, most don’t have the types of texts I need, nor necessarily the best editions of the ones I do.

    Still, though, having to send back $325 worth of books because of their mistake would not be nice… I hope you managed to get it sorted out! I’m lucky in that for most of the multi-volume texts I need for research, I simply keep PDF copies, although would like to purchase hard copies in the near future.

    It sounds like you’re amassing a very solid library, so all the best with it and keep up the great work on your site! :)

  2. I’ve used the Buffalo bookstore a lot (islamicbookcenter.org) and have had a very positive experience with them alhamdulillah. I just wish they would stock more Arabic books.

    • Jzk, Dawood, for the du’as.

      Madania doesn’t have a large collection of Beiruti works,
      unfortunately.

      What is the average rate of shipping for neelwafurat?

      • The shipment is by weight, so it depends on what you’re ordering I guess. But it is tracked delivery with signature etc. and also takes maximum a week to arrive once they have processed it.

        I’ve found that their book prices on the site and postage together often is a little less than, or equals the price from most US and other Western stores for Islamic books. So I just thought it’s something worth mentioning.

        Like I said, I haven’t dealt with them too much, but from the few sites I’ve tried, I’ve been most happy with their service.

      • Oh and just to add, I know neelwafurat has warehouses/suppliers in Egypt and Lebanon, so iA the best of both worlds book wise! :)

  3. I miss the opportunity to buy books in Pakistan for one fourth the price you get them elsewhere. Without exaggeration, a 500 dollar book can be purchased for a little more than $120.00.

    • We just received the Musnad of Imam Ahmad in 52 volumes and Imam Kasani’s brilliant Bada’i’ al-Sana’i’ in 10 volumes from Jarir Books after a mixup with a previous order.

      A person who works with them mentioned Mu’assassat al-Risalah not supplying anymore or being out of business. If true, it’s very sad news.

      • Bismihi Ta’ala,
        As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

        Regarding Mu’assassat ar-Risalah, I was also surprised to hear of their demise. I remember last year I had ordered their printing of Siyar A’alaam an-Nubalaa around this time. After hearing of the news that they no longer were in business, I found out that ar-Risalah basically started deteriorating after the owner passed away around 2002 or 2003. Upon the passing of their father, the two sons then split the company into two. They basically didn’t run the company as their father had for many years and neglected the publishing of the traditional Islamic works. Then in the 2006 Lebanon war, many of their warehouses were destroyed where the prints of various original Mu’assassat ar-Risalah books were being kept. So although the byproducts of Mu’assassat ar-Risalah are still around today in the shape of these two companies, they are nothing like the original. Sad news indeed.

        Wassalaam

    • There are several options for ordering books from Pakistan, none of which are particularly easy or consistently available.
      I personally have to rely on friends and family who travel back and forth.
      Otherwise, Madania or Al Balagh are your best options. They can order at your request at times.
      Lastly, Chicagos Zeenat Emporium orders books from Zam Zam Publishers in Karachi. The owner of Zam Zam can be contacted online and you can ask him to pretty much get any book from any company and he will include it in his yearly shipment to Zeenat.

  4. Assalamu Alaykum

    While the publisher previously known as “Mu’assasah ar-Risalah” is no more operating under that exact name, it wouldn’t be correct to say that their books are no more available or that the quality is no more the same.

    The company has split into two:
    مؤسسة الرسالة الناشرون- This is the one whose quality isn’t on par with the Risalah norm.
    الرسالة العالمية- They are printing the very same books that used to be printed by Risalah in the past and are producing new works, edited by the same Muhaqqiqin who worked for them previously, at the head of whom would be Sh Shuayb Arnaut.

    So, as long as you buy new books from ar-Risalah al-‘Alamiyyah, you should be fine. They are in business and most Risalah books, like the Musnad etc are available from them. I buy directly from them.

    Husain

  5. Has anyone used furat.com to ship books to the US? I’d be interested in hearing about your experience. There are a few editions I’ve only been able to find online there.

  6. Slm, there is an amazing kitaab khana located in LA, I am sure you all know of it…JARIR BOOKSTORE… this place is just ARABIC ARABIC ARABIC! They have a legit online system. VERY jayid. Also ALHUDA BOOKSTORE in Santa Clara, CA. Their Arabic selection is not so great, but their Urdu and English kitaabs are awsome.

  7. asalamu alykum:

    fadak books is one of the best online bookstores to order from. I know the owner personally when he was situtated in the West Coast… he is a Shia brother from Iraq and is excellent in his business dealings and conduct. Every time I have ordered books from him, he always throws in a couple of free booklets free of charge. I have returned books more than once due to various reasons, and his return policy is very flexible. I have never had any problems with returning or getting wrong editions. i highly recommend this bookdealer. The prices however are a different story altogether! Its not ridiculously expensive but a bit pricy. I dont think its possible to find cheap Arabic books in the US. I feel that those who really need the books will pay. Im one of them

    I hope this helps!

    ~Tameem (California)

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