Today I want to talk to you about something near and dear to my heart.
This post is not a reading list or a review of my favorite books. This is a call to remind me and you how important reading is to our deen. We are the inheritors of a message that began with the word “iqra”. We are the people for whom, the act of teaching an illiterate person to read, was enough to buy your freedom from slavery. We are the people who compiled, preserved and disseminated thousands upon thousands of books while much of the world was still in darkness.
I recall being told stories about how revivals of Islamic learning and practice were started by the dissemination of “manuals” of Islamic practice. Not just to men, but often to women. A friend of mine once said that when her mother was young, many brides were given copies of Bahishti Zewar as a gift to improve their Islamic knowledge. In the history of Islam, it has been books that have both enraged and saved us.
I know that when I was still new to Islam, wandering around the Islamic bookshops was one of my favorite things to do. I loved to browse the books and compile wishlists. There seemed to be an ocean of knowledge available to me and I was so eager to dive in.
But, as with many people, life got in the way. I got busy and then disinterested. Eventually even reading the Quran became a scarcity. I gave up. Pretty soon, novels and secular books overtook my Islamic books.
I have nothing against novels or secular learning. I think they both play a crucial role in the development of any human being. Fiction teaches us to imagine, to dare to dream. It can be used to teach important moral lessons and to ask important questions about the human condition. In fact, the best fiction is that which does just that. It examines what it means to be human, even if none of the characters are human themselves.
But where did my habit of improving my deen escape to? How did I give up such an important part of my reading habit?
Despite having the Kindle app on my phone I couldn’t seem to find the time.
Well, there is no such thing as finding the time. You make time. You set a goal and then you pursue it. Again, it doesn’t have to be an impressive goal. Just ten minutes will do. But, what matters is that you start.
Rememer that a person who takes the time to acquire and put into practice that kind of knowledge becomes more beautiful and beloved to Allah swta than all of the Queens (or Kings) of the world with all of their jewels. A person who honestly devotes some part of his or her day to reading with the intention of gaining knowledge or being encouraged in her religion is really doing themselves a favor. Because, like prayer, Allah swta doesn’t need our efforts to be Allah. It is we who need these efforts so that we can be abd’ Allah.
So remember to do some reading this Ramadan, and every day after it, inshallah. Right now I am reading From My SIster’s Lips by Naima B. Robert if you are interested. May Allah grant us all hidaya wal shifaa. Ameen.