-Charles Scribner, Jr.
Reading can be defined as a process where the mind passes from understanding less to understanding more. A person is forced to think beyond the obvious. Why should we develop and nurture this habit as productive Muslims today? This is so because we “think” from our minds. If our mind knows what to do and that which is the “right” thing to do, then in’shallah our heart will follow soon. Just think. The first revelation to the Prophet(pbuh) who could not read was:
“Read: In the Name of your Lord Who created” (Qur’an: Chapter 96, Verse 1).
Allah knew that the Prophet(pbuh) could not read, yet He sends down this revelation. Why? Since, the Arabs were mostly illiterate, Allah is encouraging them to get an education, so that they can read the Book of Guidance—The Quran and be guided.
This same logic applies to us also. The more we read, the more we will know. Let’s look at how we can develop this habit:
With your children, start as early as possible. Colorful books with short sentences usually motivate them. Parents should develop a daily routine of reading at bed time. Regular trips to libraries and letting them choose a book to read is a good motivating factor.
If you are planning to develop this habit now:
1. Look into yourself: What do you like to do? Read about it! If you like to travel, then read travel books, blogs etc.
2. Analyze your life: Divide your life into four sections: personal, social, spiritual and worship. In each area, identify the areas that need improvement e.g. time management, maintaining relations or increasig khushoo in salah. Read books/articles on these topics.
3. Subscribe to magazines, newspapers and blogs related to your area of interest and profession but be very selective. Subscribe only to those that are informative and precise; don’t sign up for notifications until you are very sure that you would like to keep updated about their latest publications. I visit a lot of sites but have subscribed to only two for notifications.
The Reading Routine
1. Start with reading after Fajr: This time has the most barakah in it. Figure out how much time you can devote to reading after Fajr salah. If the time is little, then read the Quran and a related tafseer note so that you can truly understand. Spend a minute from the time you spend on Facebook or any other social networking site to share this knowledge. Share it with your family at the meal times when you all eat together and with your parents and siblings or friends when you call them.
2. Make a reading-to-do list: Read in different subject areas to broaden your perspectives and manage a list of books you want to read in each area. Add books or articles to this list. Consult others to enquire about recommended books and articles. Sites like Shelfari and Good Reads make this easy and interesting.
3. Create or join a book club: Create or join a book club with people who share the same desire to read and learn. Schedule meetings every 3-4 weeks. You can create an online book club using the ‘Create Group’ option in Facebook or create an email group on Gmail, where in you can share the titles of good books and also websites like kalamullah.com and qsep.com for translated works of authentic books by scholars like Ibn Tamiyyah, Ibn Qayyim and Sheikh Saleh ibn Fawzan ibn al-Fawzaan and others. Discuss what you read. This will allow you to learn from others’ experience and perspectives.
4. Read as a family: Have “Family Reading Nights”. Make them fun for everyone, with a cozy gathering and snacks. Discuss what the members are reading or the books read on a particular topic. Share the interesting points which you liked or struck you as different. If this seems too daunting, then weave these discussions into the talks at dinner time. Remember “the family that reads together stays together!!”.
5. Keep something to read handy: Carry a pocket Quran. If you find carrying a book too much then, with Nook and various apps on the phones now, we can read while waiting for appointments, or anytime when you are free.
6. Create a library at home: Mark out a place in the house where you can “build” a library. Maybe some shelves on the wall in the family room or the drawing room or the study or even the bedroom. Start small and then add to it as much as you can. Say “Bismillah” and get one book and put it in the “library.” Be selective when buying books as space is precious. Exchange books with your friends or book club members. Befriend an owner of a second-hand bookshop, as you may receive good discounts once you become a regular customer. Keep an eye on library sales and book fairs as you will be able to find and buy amazing reads. Make space on the bedside stand for a book that you would like to read before you sleep. Read as much as you can without sacrificing your sleep too much. Replace the book as soon as you finish it.
So what is your reading routine? How have you made reading a family activity? Share your ideas and suggestions and insyallah, we will cultivate and benefit from our love of reading.