Such was the simple command given to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).
But, there was a dilemma. He was unlettered – he could neither read nor write.
It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom – although they were before in clear error…” (Al-Jumu’ah, 62:2)
He felt the burden of the command. But through guidance and practise, he went on to become a lifelong learner and teacher. Beyond mastering how to recite, memorize and propagate, he (alayhi salam) also inspired countless individuals and communities to transform their lives. They achieved this by learning – through reading and reflecting using pure revelations.
The Muslim reader is like no other.
S/he engages with the reading material to learn and understand; revise and reflect; inspire and propagate. S/he knows that reading is key to individual growth as well as growth of the Ummah at large.
Here are some 3 simple ways for you – the Muslim reader – to build a lifelong reading culture, because it is part of your Islamic heritage. It is at the forefront of the final revelation.
- Surround yourself with books
Reading inspiration does not fall from the sky. You need to be proactive and intentional. If you have access to a library, register and visit often. You can either read at the library or borrow books to read in your spare time; at home, while commuting or waiting for an appointment. Libraries give you the opportunity to chose from a wide variety of reading materials.
Institutions have libraries which you can use as a student. For example, International Open University (IOU) gives its students access to a library with a collection of relevant Islamic books for research and knowledge building.
You can also frequent bookstores, especially looking out for new releases, sales and special discounts. Book festivals and other literary events will give you access to books and inspiration to read.
In this age of technology, Amazon and Goodreads offer some of these services online. The added bonus is that you can read ebooks and audiobooks after an instant download – no travel or shopping hassle involved.
- Read. Read. Read.
Invest in your reading. Assign quality time, energy and attention to your reading. And commit to reading each day even if its one page. This will expose you to new words and ideas; sentence structures and word usage; all adding up to your reading and learning experience.
With regular practice, you will find that reading gets easier. It becomes an enjoyable habit you look forward to. This is such a simple principle yet mostly overlooked. Parents and educators have an opportunity to support their young ones with forming and reinforcing a healthy reading habit.
Jim Trelease, author of the national bestseller – The Read-Aloud Handbook (2001), says, “Reading is a skill – and the more you use it, the better you get at it. Conversely, the less you use it, the more difficult it is.” His research on reading is thorough and convincing.
- Read with others
Reading with others and sharing the experience with them helps in building a strong reading culture. As with team sports and many hobbies, participants can form a rapport and support each other with their individual goals.
Seeing others who are engaged or committed to the reading process helps in building lifelong reading culture and a positive attitude to learning. I have found reading groups very beneficial myself – both online and offline.
Here are some social reading experiences to consider:
– Get a book buddy.
– Participate in competitions.
– Join reading communities/ groups/ clubs.
In such a safe social space, you can talk about your books, reading experiences, recommendations and goals with fellow readers.
You will also get motivation and inspiration beyond trying to fulfill employment requirements, aiming for grades and memorizing jargons. You will not feel obliged to try to impress others or follow obsolete learning principles as some educational institutions and centers promote.
Attention Muslim Reader!
Are you building a lifelong reading culture?
Or have you abandoned reading completely?
Do you only read to pass your assignments or advance in your career?
Have you replaced a superior reading culture with a buzzing digital culture?
Has your priority of gaining pure authentic teachings been overshadowed by short catchy viral updates via YouTube videos and other social media channels?
The command to read came to Muhammad SAW at the prime of his life – 40 years. Nonetheless, he utilized the opportunity fully and was able to learn, grow and progress through this life changing habit.
Although change is not alway easy. But the change he experienced was transformational and much needed after centuries of ignorance and misguidance. Lives were changed, habits reformed and positive feelings nurtured. The spirit of learning was passed onto the companions, mothers of the believers and all those who enjoyed his company.
With sincere attitudes and actions, their learning brought the shining light of Islam into many lives, while freeing them from the dark narrow clutch of ignorance.
A Muslim Reader Is Truly Like No Other
Just like the young companion, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) who learned to read and write at a time when only a few were able to do so in Makkah. You can be among the unique few who read to empower yourself and our Ummah. Abdullah’s passion led him to take in knowledge rapidly in Arabic and even learn the ancient Assyrian language.
You – the Muslim reader – can use ‘Iqra’… ‘read’ as as a secret key for unlocking the potentials of a great muslim mind and building a great Ummah.
Get yourself a book. And aim to nurture a rich lifelong reading culture. Start reading today!