Reading: The Lost Legacy of Muslims

Books – Windows of the Mind
“Books are to the mind what windows are to a home!” Imagine living in a home with no windows. How dark, how stale, how dreary! Windows bring light to a home. Windows bring in crisp air to a stale room. Windows open on to a vast and sweeping landscape. Books do the same for the mind. Books bring light into the mind. Books stir a fresh breeze of thought in a stale mind. Books open new horizons to the mind.

Iqra! – The First Lesson of the Qur’an
Reading is second nature to a Muslim. The Qur’an’s first words: “Iqra!” teaches us the lesson to “Read!” Ever since that day, Muslims lead mankind to the wonderful world of reading, learning and study, which they knew nothing about before this revelation. The Muslim public of the past were avid readers. Muslim authors churned out books by the thousands. Just take the Qur’an; no book in the world can boast of so many commentaries as the Qur’an. Take the biography of the Holy Messengerصلى الله عليه وسلم: no person has been more chronicled than Nabi Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم – [chronicled] even by his non-Muslims admirers. Coming from such a rich literary heritage, it is sad to observe that in our times, Muslims tend to be very poor readers overall. By right, Muslims should be leading the world in reading as they had done in the glorious past. A ‘secret’ of the Muslims’ successes in the past is the fact that they read profusely, thereby producing razor-sharp minds and geniuses of the finest order.

Today, the finest of Islamic literature is available in a bewildering variety of topics in almost all major world languages. Ranging from thick, voluminous works to glossy monthly magazines and even double-sided, single-page flyers – the needs of almost every kind of reader is catered for. As a further service, a big percentage of this Islamic literature is available absolutely free-of-charge or at a very nominal price. Even so, many Muslims just do not have any interest in reading at all.

“No Time” and Other Common Excuses

The most common excuse is “No time!” This is surprising because the very same people tend to have ample time for any of the following activities: reading and digesting the propaganda of daily papers, reading social-gossip magazines, watching TV and videos, playing computer games or surfing on the internet for hours. Time is also available for sports, spectating sports, taking drives, browsing in shopping malls, socialising with friends at clubs or [barbecue] parties. Unfortunately the people that ought to read this message are probably too busy with any one of the above activities so it doesn’t matter to them anyway. However, a plea is made to those who are convinced of the importance of reading to pass this article (or its message) to our ‘busy brethren’. It may just have an effect, one never knows.

The fact that “knowledge is an ocean” and “there is no end to learning” are well-known to all Muslims. Every Muslim has to acquire a minimum level of knowledge of Islam that will enable him to lead a 24-hour and a 365-day life according to Allah’s chosen way of life. “Acquiring knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim male and female” – Hadith. The way every individual goes about doing this is his personal choice. However, Islamic literature is one of the easiest and most effective method of acquiring a sound Islamic education.

A Book: An Easy-Going Companion

A book does not dictate the pace of learning. It has no fixed times. It is not limited or restricted to space or venue. Books do not make any demands nor do they get tired. Books can be studied in the privacy of the home at one’s own leisure and pace. Books are not limited to just one person,; the whole family can benefit from a single book and for many years on end.

Today when a deluge of filthy and unsavory reading material is flooding the homes of the world, it is time that Muslims turned quickly towards good, authentic Islamic literature to fill their homes and adorn their bookshelves. Remember, a vacuum does not remain void for long. It has to be filled sooner or later. Rather than letting it fill with the wrong, let it be filled with what is right and wholesome! Islamic literature is a little candle of light and guidance in the pitch dark night of misguidance outside.

Books bind the family

Books can provide hours of joy for the Muslim family if read as a family unit. It helps to cement the family bond of love and caring. Instead of the home being a ‘motel’ housing ‘strangers’ on their own course of life (the present home atmosphere), it will bring everyone together in a shared activity. It helps to imbue the mind of young and growing children with the wonderful values of Islam. It will also help to rid the home of the evil and negative influences of the twin-terrors: TV and videos.

Five advices

Take note of five sentences of brief advice at this point:

1. Be extra careful about the choice of Islamic literature one reads. Not every nice-sounding title is safe to read. It’s a minefield out there. Always ask the opinion of a learned, trusted, experienced elder [and scholar] before buying or reading anything.

2. Islamic literature always contains an element of Qur’an and Hadith. Great respect must be shown to books of this nature. It must also be studied with respect and dignity, never with outstretched legs or in any disrespectful posture. Also endeavor to be with Wudu. Keep [the book] in a clean, high and respectful place. Do not scratch, tear or mishandle. If worn out, bury [it] with respect.

3. Buying or borrowing a book is one thing. Reading is another. Many people tend to confuse the two. Just having it is not good enough. It has to be read to be useful and beneficial.

4. Set aside time for reading, say 15-20 minutes daily at a fixed time. This will help with self-discipline.

5. Try and establish a little library corner or bookshelf in the home. Also strive to establish a reasonable Islamic library in every Muslim locality. This will be very beneficial, especially for those who are eager to read but cannot afford it.

Invest in a good book today. It should last a lifetime and beyond. If not you, [then] your children or grandchildren might appreciate it some day!

Courtesy of Darul Ihsan