What Am I Reading: A Brief History of Time

I just finished reading the late Stephen Hawking’s best seller “A Brief History of Time”. What a treat that book was! I totally recommend it, if you’re into science, specially physics, chemistry and mathematics. Although you don’t need to know or understand all of the science behind it to appreciate it, it does help. I don’t claim to understand everything he’s written there or agree with everything he put forth, but it was still a treat for the good old brain. It was probably the best book on such mind (and space/time) bending concepts as Einstein’s General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. And if you are at all interested in the mysteries of time travel, black holes and the origins of the universe, among other things!

I started reading Dr. Israr Ahmed’s (may Allah have mercy on his soul) book Allama Iqbal Aur Hum (which is in Urdu) but I found it to be a bit too advanced in the language it was written it. It was Urdu interspersed with Persian on some pages. I found a recorded video lecture on YouTube where Dr Israr is explaining the book! I’m going to watch that first and attempt to read the book again.

I’m now starting to read another book “How to Approach and Understand the Quran” by one of my favorite authors and scholars of Islam (Sheikh) Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo. I have actually met the Sheikh a couple of times as well and sat in one of his classes. I have also read another book of his, “Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi” (two volumes) which was the required text for two semesters in my BA in Islamic Studies, Alhamdulillah. I can’t wait to start the book. InshaaAllah I’ll write about it after I finish reading it.

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Al-Adab Al-Mufrad by Imam Bukhari

Al Adab Al Mufrad by Imam Bukhari

Imam Muhammad Ibn Ismail Al Bukhari Rahimahullah (may Allah have mercy on his soul) is well known as a great scholar who has done a tremendous amount of work in the authentication, preservation and narration of Hadith. His collection of Hadith, the Sahih of Bukhari, is considered to be the most authentic book in Hadith. In fact, Sahih Bukhari has a status as one of the fundamental sources of Islamic knowledge right after the Quran itself. The actual title of which is “al-Jaami’ al-Sahih al-Musnad al-Mukhtasar min Umuri Rasooli-llahi wa sunanihi wa Ayyaamihi”. Imam Bukhari collected a lot more Hadith than are included in his Sahih collection. His compilation of the Hadith about the Character of Muslims in his book called Al Adab Al Mufrad.

Al Adab Al Mufrad book should be taught in every Muslim school to really build the character of Muslims. It is a collection that contains Hadith that address various aspects of everyday to show how one should behave in those common situations and occasions. For instance, it includes our manners when it comes to our parents, our relatives, our daughters, our children, our neighbors, orphans in the community and many more. It also mentions common everyday manners for everyday tasks such as sleeping and getting up, visiting friends and receiving guests and other general behavior. In short it covers how a Muslim should behave individually, with his family, relatives and neighbors, with society in general and so on.

If you have not been taught this book in school, it is easy to start at any age. Find and attend a class in your local mosque if possible. If not, maybe take a class online. Or if you’d like, you can pick up a copy and read it yourself. But it is better to study it under a scholar to get the most benefit of the book.

And Allah knows best.

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Criteria for Selecting Islamic Texts for Study

There is an incredible amount of books on every subject available nowadays. It is very easy to pick up a book on almost any subject, religious or otherwise. Publishing has become very easy and literally anyone can do it. There is really no way to only allow books that contain reliable material to be published. Although, this is not a new concept, but just the sheer amount of content these days is dizzying to say the least. As a student of knowledge, it is vital to be able to distinguish between books that are beneficial and good and books that are harmful and misleading.

This book is really a guide to get students of knowledge to get on the right path of acquiring the authentic Islamic Knowledge to get to a point where you are well read about the religion, understand the foundations of Islam and are equipped with the necessary knowledge to carry on studying throughout your lives on. Life is a journey and we all want to know how Allah wants us to lead our lives according to the Islamic teachings.

How do you tell which books to read and which to avoid? Is there any criteria that we can use to filter out the garbage and focus on the real good stuff? It turns out that there are a few resources available to help us in this regard. Here are some general guidelines:

Find books from recognized “Muslim” publishers
Avoid publishers who regularly publish negative material about Islam
Take the time to look up who the author is and what their background is, where they studied and what else they might have written
Read the reviews online if available on the bookstore web sites such as amazon.com
Take a look at the table of contents to figure out the structure of the book
Read the preface or introduction to see what the purpose of the book might be
Take a look at the references included in the footnotes or in the bibliography

And Allah knows best.

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Reading List for 2018

Reading List for 2018

My goal for 2018 is to read a book every month. Here’s my list of books for the year:

The first three books are by the late Dr Israr Ahmed (may Allah have mercy on his soul). They are in Urdu but since I’m a native Urdu speaker, I enjoy reading and writing and listening to Dr. Israr’s lectures in Urdu.
1-Rasul e Kamil (Urdu) by Dr Israr Ahmed (RA) (read in January)
2-Tanzeem e Islami ki Dawat (Urdu) by Dr Israr Ahmed (RA) (read in February)
3-Allama Iqbal aur Hum (Urdu) by Dr Israr Ahmed (RA) (currently reading for March)

The next three books are by Dr Jeffrey Lang, an American Mathematician and professor who converted to Islam. I have listened to Dr Lang’s lectures and have read the title “Struggling to Surrender” a few years ago.
4-Even Angels Ask by Dr Jeffrey Lang
5-Struggling to Surrender by Dr Jeffrey Lang
6-Losing my religion by Dr Jeffrey Lang

The next three books are by an Austrian convert to Islam. He has also translated the Quran into English.
7-The Road to Mecca by Muhammad Asad
8-Islam at the Crossroads by Muhammad Asad
9-Principles of State and Government in Islam by Muhammad Asad

The next three books are from Dr. Bilal Philips which are considered standard texts on the subjects of Tafseer, Hadith and Fiqh. I have read these as part of my BA degree in Islamic studies but I’m re-reading them this year to experience these gems all over again.
10-Usool At-Tafseer by Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
11-Usool Al-Hadith by Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
12-Usool Al-Fiqh by Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips

The next three titles are from a very dear American author and imam, who is also a convert to Islam, Sheikh Jamal al-Din Zarabozo.
13-How to Approach and Understand the Quran by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo
14-He Came To Teach You Your Religion by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo
15-Purification of the Soul: Concept, Process and Means by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo

I have read some of these books already but I wish to re-read them all over again to relive the experience and hopefully retain more knowledge from them than I did before. I’m hoping to do a systematic study of these books, take notes and write summaries for each of them in order to inspire others to read more, particularly these books that I am reading.

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Finding and reading quality books on Islam

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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Reading A Book a Month

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 As a Habit

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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