This is the key towards useful and beneficial knowledge
By Shaik Kadir
“Read!” is a direct instruction from Allah, our Lord and Cherisher.
Indeed, educated people read – they read anything from fiction to non-fiction books, newspapers and magazines – to reap knowledge. Nowadays, little children as early as three years old are already taught to read. Many mothers read stories to toddlers and babies and even to the baby who is still in the womb. This shows that reading is very important.
Indeed it is so important that though Prophet Muhammad saw was unlettered, Allah urged him to “Read” (Iqra). Muslim scholars understand that the word “Iqra” which means “to read” also means “to recite”, “to study” and “to research” in the realm of education.
Reading is an interesting and important activity for pleasure, knowledge and inspiration.
Muslims must be very honoured to possess a Holy Book – the Quran – that:
• started with the word “Read” (in the very first Revelation),
• has a chapter entitled “Read!” and
• instructs people to read.
The First Revelation
“Read” is a noble instruction. “Read” is the first word of the very first Revelation that Allah sent to our Prophet, Prophet Muhammad saw, through the Angel Gabriel (Malaikat Jibrail).
The Revelation contains the first five verses of Chapter 96, called Iqra (Read!). The very first verse is: “Read! In the name of your Lord and Cherisher who created…” (Iqra, 96:1)
Although the instruction to “Read” was addressed to our Prophet, the instruction is also meant for all people because the Quran is for all humanity, Muslims and non-Muslims. Many non-Muslims have read the Quran and converted to Islam. The instruction indicates the importance of reading for personality refinement and accomplishments as well as for the progress of living and the development of the nation and the entire world.
The Basis of Useful Knowledge
Reading is the cornerstone of education and the acquisition of all kinds of useful and beneficial knowledge. It is also the foundation for studies, researches and investigations for further and new knowledge.
For ordinary people, every literate person, whether he or she is a school student or already working, has to read. Most significantly, the person should read widely, not confining to reading certain specific areas of interest only. One has to read widely to acquire knowledge, instruction, guidance and wisdom.
Benefits of Reading
The benefits of reading include:
1. Pleasure from the storyline of fiction as well as in the usage of words and description and the fun in learning and guessing incidents and events in the stories;
2. Ideas for writing essays and assignments, articles and literary works;
3. Researches for innovations and inventions;
4. Understanding the happenings around us from in-depth reporting and analysis;
5. Keeping informed of national and international events and be in touch with current affairs, thoughts and trends;
6. Knowledge of and accomplishments in fields like technical, commercial, medical, scientific and social; and
7. Thinking clearly and analytically on what is good for the community and country.
Even when a person reads just for pleasure, like reading short stories or novels, one improves one’s general knowledge on various cultures and practices of people and expands one’s imagination and vocabulary.
The important thing is, reading broadens the mind. Reading ought to enable a person to think positively with openness and tolerance towards others, regardless of race and religion.
A former teacher and vice-president of the International Board on Books for Young People, Linda Pavonetti, in her article, “Reading early can make love for books last forever” (The Straits Times, 19 August, 2013), advises teachers, grandparents and parents to read and share books with children. She gave three directives as follows:
- “Demonstrate that you love to read. The example you provide is worth more than anything you say.”
• “Take your children to the library. This is the best and least expensive way to share a wide variety of books to your children. Then, take home some of the books…”
• “Tell stories, recite poetry, read aloud and frequently with your children.”
Journalist Wong Kim Hoh, in his article, “Bullied into reading” (The Sunday Times, 3 November 2013), says that his teacher forced him to buy “The Secret Seven” instead of a picture book with very few words, which he wanted to purchase. He bought the story book as told, but, because of his Hokkien-speaking background, started reading only when he was eight years old. “But it didn’t matter because reading changed my life…In more ways than one, my love of the written word is responsible for my choice of a degree – literature – and profession – journalism.”
Read the Quran
As for teenagers and adults, reading widely enables them to learn the importance of hard work, teamwork, tolerance and harmony, and do away with anything harmful to living graciously – all these are taught by the Quran. Therefore, as Muslims, while we read for enjoyment and knowledge, we must not forget to read the Quran – the Book of Wisdom.
Read the Quran with understanding to benefit from its wide spiritual and worldly coverage. Learning and knowing Arabic has its advantages. However, those who are unable to read and understand the Quran (Arabic), ought to read its translations to get maximum benefit from this Great Book.
Today, with advancement in technology, the Quran is so near to us. Some Muslims have downloaded the Quran to their smart-phones and, in the mosque, while waiting for the solat to begin, read the Quran from their phone screen. This is better than reading messages from friends or dozing off. Make the Quran our companion.
What is important is that reading the Quran is good, reading with understanding is better and putting into practice what is read is best, and this would make a Muslim a better Muslim in his country of residence.
Muslims have a good guidance from Allah to read, understand and practise. This ought to be our habit, a valuable habit. So, “Read in the name of your Lord” for knowledge, wisdom and betterment of life.
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(Article by Shaik Kadir in The Muslim Reader, December 2014 issue)