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Seven steps to make reading a second nature

“Read in the name of your Lord who created. He created man from a clot. Read, and your Lord is the Most Honorable who taught with the pen, taught man what he did not know” was what an unlettered, yet wise man, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was asked … not once, not twice, but thrice!…. after which he was held and pressed by the one who asked him, the Archangel Gabriel. This shows us that reading is not only a divine command but also a blessing from our Creator, God Almighty. If this mandatory order is not practiced, then it is a crime.

Let us learn why reading is so crucial and why we don’t read (at least most of us), and what can be done to fix this undesirable state?

“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Why reading is so crucial?

Let us ask ourselves honestly; how many of us WANT to READ for pleasure, and how many of us HAVE to read to avoid pain? Yes, this question brings back memories of reading for exams and later studying for certifications. However, can we recall picking up a book when we wanted to, not when we had to? Perhaps, a few lucky ones can. Now, imagine that you have a craving for knowledge, and you pick up a book, but, you cannot read! This is one of the sad tragedies in the world today, and this illiteracy rate is growing at an alarming rate.

“Allah makes the way to Jannah easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge.” (Muslim)

Our mind is a repository of idea, information & memories. Whatever content we consume, ends up becoming a part of our personality. We can clearly see the difference between someone who reads and who does not from what they say and how they say it in their daily life. The contrast between readers and non-readers is obvious, as one is often found close to books, while the other is not.

“Acquire knowledge and impart it to the people.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Why we don’t read?

For those of us who cannot read, feel that it is too late to learn. What we miss out is that a lot of valuable content in different forms such as audio books is available which can be consumed to fill the void, and groom the personality.

“Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allah gives wealth, and he disposes of it rightfully, and a man to whom Allah gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

For those of us who can read, we are lazy, instead of reading, we like to be ‘read to’, instead of biting and chewing, we prefer ‘spoon feeding’ and that too of pre-chewed food given to babies. Think about it; what is sitting in front of the television? It’s a one-way flow of information, which in most cases is useless or even harmful. No wonder, it is called TV ‘programming’! Yet, we like to spend time in front of screens more than we like to spend time with books. This turns in to a crime when we just toss our children in front of this ‘one eyed babysitter’ that beams trash for the most part at immature & innocent hearts and minds.

“The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: ‘The best things that a man can leave behind are three: A righteous son who will pray for him, ongoing charity whose reward will reach him, and knowledge which is acted upon after his death.’” (Muslim)

What is the solution?

One of the biggest way of gaining knowledge is by reading. For those of us who cannot get over their addiction to the screens; why not get online to read since we can opt for getting information over the internet – a medium which is more interactive and selective. Following are a few tips;

“He who goes forth in search of knowledge is considered as struggling in the Cause of Allah until he returns.” (At-Tirmidhi)

1) Right Intention – reading and seeking knowledge, which are two sides of the same coin, should be done keeping the pleasure of our Creator, God Almighty in mind, not to impress His creation, as a lot of us fall in to this trap.

2) READ – be it online in the form of web pages, pdf, or e-books, or be it offline like the traditional books, periodicals, scientific journals or bed time stories to our children. We just make sure what we are reading adds value to our lives, and the lives of the young ones.

3) Start gradually and make it a family activity – as an example 15 minutes per day and then progressively develop this habit and maintain it. Children will remind us about the reading time daily and keep us punctual, for example right before bed time.

4) Select the reading material carefully – we need to read divine revelations in addition to the worldly books and be wise in prioritizing them and in assigning time to them. After all, this world is good but temporary and we are reminded that “the hereafter is better and everlasting”

5) Make reading circles and clubs – chances of success are greater if reading is done as a group effort. For a few friends or neighbors, reading circles are a good start. For big groups setting up local clubs in the neighborhood and getting involved in events is a great way forward.

6) Set up libraries – This acts as a catalyst towards the promotion of a reading culture in the local community as well as the society at large. Depending on the environment and circumstances, in addition to home libraries, school libraries, public libraries, digital libraries, mobile libraries – ‘café’ libraries should be setup. These should be decentralized; instead of having few huge libraries, a lot of modest libraries should be scattered around, covering more foot print and having a larger impact.

7) Roadshows – Take this treasure and let the masses know the advantages of reading and befriending books, the techniques available and the existing possibilities. Share if you care.

However, i kept the best for last. In the beginning I described how the wise man, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was commanded to READ…. the same wise man later guided us as to how we should supplicate for knowledge;

“O God, I seek refuge with You from knowledge that is of no benefit, from a supplication that is not heard, from a heart that does not fear (You) and from a soul that is not satisfied.”

I wish each and every one of you a happy reading habit, and I pray that we develop it seeking reward and help from our Creator, God Almighty, and pass the same to our children, family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers!

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