By Fatima Asad
I was a bibliophile. My passion for books was that
of a nerd inspiring. I could read a 500 pager in a few hours- still can if I lock my kids in a cage and stop feeding the husband. Go ahead and ask what was my favourite genre. You: “What was your favourite genre?” Thriller. Psychological thriller to be exact. In addition to that of course was the Jane Austen genre. You know one of the reasons I literally gulped down books was because the books I was choosing to read excited me, temporarily drugged me, dragged me away from my busy academic life into an alternate reality- which was not my reality at all. They were easy for me.
All that changed when I started reading non-fiction. You know, the self-help books, the biographies, the how to manuals, the for-Dummies series and journalism magazines. Oh my, what a different world it was now! Mr. Darcy had opted for a minimalist lifestyle whereas Professor Langdon settled down in the wilderness away from the constant hysteria. Suddenly, I no longer had to pretend an alternate reality because I was introduced to the very real dimensions of my own reality.
Another change I noticed was that I could no longer read 500+ pages with ease. These books required me to read and re-read a single page over and over again to really understand and let the messages sink in. Soon, I caught myself actually implementing what I learned in them in my day to day life. Just as I had unconsciously adopted many of the things I used to read in the past- such as thinking that I needed a dashing, Mr. Darcy type man to complete my life- I was adopting small actions that were gradually transforming into life-changing habits.
Here’s the bottom line about reading- it really really matters what you read. The information you allow to enter your mind will impact you most definitely- whether it’s consciously or at a subconscious level.
We all know that reading is imperative to our academic, social, intellectual and spiritual growth, but reading the wrong material can hinder that growth and in fact, reverse it. When I realized that I had been filling my head with useless garbage, I had a panic attack which triggered a desperate need for rehabilitation- at the library, of course. Great, I gave you all this mumbo-jumbo advice, but where do I start? Good question! Here:
1. If you are not reading at the moment, start reading. You really need to read on a regular basis. Make it a part of your routine. Allocate 15 minutes per day for this.
2. If you are an avid reader, examine and reexamine your choice of reading material. Hint: The latest Nishat catalogue does not count. Romeo and Juliet is not a good choice. (If you must read Shakespeare, check out some of his other work)
3. Opt for books that will transform your life for the better. Think big. I am guilty of judging books by their covers but you’ll be surprised when you get out of this habit. Choose titles that scare you. For example, my current favorite: “Wellth: How I learned to build a life, not a resume”. It scared me because I knew that it would tell me to eat healthy and smile more but boy! Was it awesome and effective!
4. At least one of your current readers should be Islamic. Yes, it is possible to read more than one book at a time. I cannot stress this point enough. Books are a great way to learn about your identity and actually turn your reading into an act of worship. We need more Muslims to start brushing up on their “Islamic” knowledge in an increasingly confusing time. My current recommendations:
“Muhammad: How he can make you Extraordinary” – by Hisham Al-Awadi
(one of the best and easy to understand Seerah books)
“Evolution of Fiqh” – by Bilal Philips
Remember, Ramadan is the month to make or break habits. Let reading be one of those new, awesome habits, inshaAllah 🙂