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Importance of reading

 

The Quran stresses the importance of reading, studying, reflecting and investigating.

 

Surah Alaq, the first Surah revealed to the prophet Muhammad SAW begins with the word 'IQRA', read!!!

 

Reading is one of the important means of gaining different kinds of knowledge and of benefitting from the achievements and experiences of others, earlier and later scholars. It is something vital which the person who wants to learn can hardly do without. It is an essential need which is hardly less important that food and drink. Individuals – let alone cultures and civilizations – cannot advance without reading, for reading brings minds to life, enlightens hearts and sets thinking straight.

 

Reading is a skill and an art; not everyone can be good at it. How many people there are who devote a lot of time to reading, yet despite that they gain only a little from that!

 

Look at the great advantage which our forbears gained. For example, al-Hasan al-Lu’lu’i said: “I spent forty years during which I never stood up or slept but there was a book on my chest.” (Jaami’ Bayaan al-‘Ilm wa Fadlihi, 2/1231).

 

Ibn al-Qayyim said: “I know someone who, if he is stricken with a headache or a fever, he still keeps a book by his head. When he comes round, he will read, and when his sickness overwhelms him again he will put the book aside.” (Rawdat al-Muhibbeen, p. 70).

 

Many readers read only with their eyes, not with their minds, and they do not focus their minds and make an effort to understand and research. The reader may let his mind wander all over the place, thinking of all kinds of worries and other business, then suddenly notice that a long time has passed and he has not learned anything worth remembering. For this reason when we recite the Quran we are advised to read with concentration and focus. The Hadith tells us that when we recite the verses of Jannah/Happiness or Jahannam/punishment, then we should express happiness and pleasentness or fear and sadness respectively.

 

Some readers start off with interest and focus, but after reading a few pages they start to get bored gradually, until they lose track of what they are reading. Then they wake up suddenly after wandering in the vast world of their own thoughts that have nothing to do with the book. Taha Hussein said: “Often we read just to pass the time, not to nourish our minds and hearts. Often we read to help ourselves fall asleep, not to keep ourselves awake.” (Khisaam wa Naqd, p. 6).

 

This lack of focus may sometimes lead us to getting mixed-up or gaining confused information, which has the opposite effect, i.e., the results are harmful to the reader instead of being beneficial. This may also go beyond him and harm others.

 

If one possesses the ability to focus, then one has the ability to learn a subject inside-out, and this is the primary means of gaining understanding and a full grasp of a topic. The required level of concentration varies according to the nature and level of the book being read, and also the intellectual level of the reader himself and what he hopes to gain from his reading. The concentration needed to read a specialized academic book is different from that required to read a novel or a book written at a general level.

 

In Islam, the act of learning itself is considered an act of worship, provided that it is within Allah’s limits and with a good motive behind it.

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