There’s tons of books to read and never enough time to read them all. So how does one decide what to read and what to skip? One of the best ways to choose the best books to read for the biggest value for your time is to ask scholars. Often they will tell you the best book in any given Islamic topic. They might even caution you against certain books that maybe misleading or harmful. There are also book recommendations from booksellers or librarians and these days there are also reader ratings on a bookseller’s web site. There are many ways to choose. The idea is to get a well rounded education on Islamic topics from a wide range of quality books by a variety of recommended authors.
Frequent bookstores and good libraries if you’re lucky enough to have good libraries where you live. Browsing through the many books is a joy in and of itself, but I digress. If you have good book recommendations from scholars, keep a running list of books to read and a record of the books you’ve already read on each topic. Read from a wide range of categories for Islamic topics such as Aqeedah, Quran/Tafseer, Hadith/Sunnah, Seerah, Fiqh etc. Furthermore, try to read from various authors’ works instead and where possible, read the same topic from at least two to three authors to get different perspectives on the topics.
Develop a good reading habit that you’re always reading one or two or more books at a time. Read in a way that you’re distilling the information contained within them to notes that you can actually read and refer to later on. Find a method that works for you for reading and getting the most out of the books you read and keep at it until it becomes a habit. If something is not working out, try an alternate method. If some book is too difficult to read, move on to the next one. There’s likely a better written book on the same topic.
And Allah knows best.
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I’m trying my hardest to read a book a month. This month I have finished reading Dr. Israr Ahmed’s (May Allah have Mercy on his soul) book Rasul-e-Kamil (in Urdu). Although the book is only about a hundred pages, it packs the essence of the life of the Prophet (ﷺ) highlighting his special purpose in this world. Allah sent him as a mercy to mankind. His character, his example and his being in and of itself was such a supreme example of what Allah wants every one of us to aspire to. He lived a humble life and brought the Message of Allah through the Quran. He also lived the Quran so we have an example to follow.
This book is about the life and times of the last Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This is known as a book of Seerah (or the biography of the blessed Prophet (ﷺ) of Allah). Although I have read a few books on the Seerah already, it is always beneficial to read more. I recommend reading a book on the Seerah once every year. I also recommend everyone read a book of Tafseer every year. This is to keep us connected to the book of Allah (the Quran) and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).
Islam has two fundamental sources. The Quran and the Sunnah. The Sunnah is stored in the collections of authentic Hadith. The Seerah contains the biography of the Prophet (ﷺ) from these two sources. The Quran, Sunnah and Seerah of the Prophet give us the complete context for understanding the message of Islam. Taking any of these sources in isolation will only create an incomplete understanding of Islam. An incomplete understanding is usually an incorrect understanding and can lead people in the wrong direction. May Allah protect us from an incorrect understanding of Islam.
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Reading is a habit that everyone should try their best to acquire. It is one of the easiest ways to gain knowledge that one can do on their own long after having left school. If you’re not reading regularly, you’re doing yourself a disservice. There is so much good reading material out there on every subject for every type of person and interest. Reading is a great way to learn from a large number of people who have taken the time and exerted a lot of effort to write quality books that we can all benefit from.
It is not a difficult habit to acquire and cherish our entire lives. It does require though that we find the right kinds of books to get the most benefit out of them. It is easy to fall into the trap of reading junk. Reading does transform our thinking to varying degrees, depending on what and how much one is reading. It does become quite important therefore to find the useful books and stay away from useless and specially damaging books. Do some research and find good books (reader ratings are a good way to check), get recommendations from your friends & family. Even libraries have recommendations. You can also create a profile on one of the online reading communities (such as goodreads.com or librarything.com or other such resources).
Make reading a lifelong thing, a lifestyle if you will. It doesn’t matter if you go through phases of your life where you’re not regularly reading a lot but always try to be on the lookout for a good book. Make a list of books you’d like to read and try to get those books and allocate time in your life to read them. Your future self will thank you.
Make yourself a goal: read at least one new book every month (or more or less) depending on what you’d like to get out of this habit.
It doesn’t matter which language we read in as long as we are reading quality books. Books provide good perspectives from various people, so try to read books from various authors not just one.
Aside from traditional books, there are audio and eBook options available. I enjoy all types of medium as long as the content is good and well written and in an area that I find interesting. So get out there and read something today!
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I just finished listening to the audiobook version of this recently released biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It’s a brilliant book that everyone should read or listen to.
Isaacson has a unique style of writing which is perfect for biographies. It’s easy to read, understand and follow along. He keeps you interested in the writing by keeping the suspense at just the right level without really making a big deal out of it.
He did a lot of research in writing this book which is probably typical of writing any historically accurate biographical book. However, what is fascinating about Isaacson’s method is his uncanny ability to ask the right questions of the right people making them open up to him.
Isaacson’s integrity to his writing mandated that he let his subject (Jobs) know from the get go that he would not stop at anything. This wouldn’t be huge with most personalities, but Jobs was notorious for secrecy. Granted Jobs had approached Isaacson to write the biography, still it’s a remarkable feat that Isaacson managed to accomplish with writing about Jobs’ personal life in such detail. The book, in my humble opinion, is a masterpiece, not just because of the quality of writing but because of the subject matter.
I would have loved for the book to have more about Jobs’ spiritual life, although there is a fair amount of information in it. I think Isaacson could have collected more material around that aspect of his life. If he collected it, it would have made a more wholesome read to have included more. The religious beliefs and actions don’t say a lot more about him than any other aspects of his life but they do offer a very interesting insight into their existence as a human being.
His background and his unwillingness to call his biological father (although having had a chance run in with him at a restaurant!), I will never understand. Why would he do that? Why do people do the strangest things that they do?
All in a all, Jobs was a fascinating personality we could all learn from. And not just from his positive qualities either.
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