The first verse of the Quran was ‘Iqra’ which means ‘Read!’. How beautiful is it that the first revelation was the commandment to read? Cultivating a reading habit further expands the horizons of the mind and, with the knowledge gained, we are able to think about the world and its abstract matters better. Here are 3 reasons why we should seek knowledge.
There are many great reads in the world, from the rich tradition of the past to the diverse genres of the trending reads today. Oftentimes, when one starts getting interested in reading, one may not be sure how to start. We may start with the Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet s.a.w. as we explore and uncover the life-transforming jewels. We can also read the Sirah (Historic biography of the Prophet).
However, let us not forget the importance of reading extensively, across different genres. Non-religious knowledge is also fundamentally essential for Muslims and can help us to become better servants of Allah s.w.t.
Here is a list of 10 books to read, arranged in alphabetical order:
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“One day you wake up and realise the big, difficult things that used to stretch you to your limit have now become utterly routine. It isn’t because those things have suddenly become objectively easier. It’s because Allah s.w.t. has guided you to grow and adapt. When you asked Allah s.w.t. ease, He gave you both ease and growth such that you were able to victoriously stand over the difficulties that challenged you.”
Asmaa Hussein’s ‘A Place of Refuge’ is a series of powerful and thought-provoking essays that focus a lot on resilience and strength in the face of overwhelming personal hardship. It includes heartfelt written essays on relatable topics such as Thrive in Grief, The Eyes with Which I See, A Home Near You and Conversations with God. The author mostly anchors the flow of the writing with reflections alongside references from the Quran and the Sunnah. Asmaa Hussein includes stories of the struggles of the Prophets of the past, including our beloved Prophet s.a.w. Learning from the best of creation s.a.w. and seeing how Allah guides them through is definitely eye-opening and grounding. A matter that any soul can relate to because no one is truly detached from hardships in this life.
Why should you read ‘A Place of Refuge’?
Just by looking at the cover of the book, it brings about a sense of longing for a place of security, support and comfort. Day in, day out, we all look for this ideal shelter to soothe our worries and anxiety for the days that follow. As readers flip through this compilation of essays, one will begin to realise that it is the connection with our Creator that brings us true refuge from any hardship and difficulty.
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“Let us be like the trees. Don’t complain when there are storms in your life right now. Stay strong. Ignore the temptation to whine and complain. Every time you endure a storm by standing in faith, God is allowing for your outer and inner muscles to grow muscles of faith. Be resilient.”
Ustaz Mizi Wahid’s ‘Call Upon Him’ is an updated version of the author’s previous book ‘Prayers of Success’. It compiles supplications from the Quran and the Sunnah to inspire Muslims to have strong faith in Allah s.w.t. through their heartfelt sincere supplications. The book is split into two parts that readers from all over the world can relate to; Part 1 on Encouragement, Trust and Hope and Part 2 on Questions About Prayer. It also includes relatable topics such as Make Supplication A Habit, Be Resilient in The Face of Setbacks, Wait in Patience and Accept What He Has Determined For You. Not to forget, clear summaries and specific supplications are included as well to enlighten readers to continue to seek from the Most High.
Why should you read ‘Call Upon Him’?
Every single day, there will always be a number of supplications that one may practise. Eventually, we will slowly learn and realise that in our supplications, we are constantly seeking Allah s.w.t. Not only does the book highlight the supplications to recite in trying moments, but it also shares with readers 21 steps to strengthen our trust in Allah. That is an important aspect to be mindful of whenever we call upon Him because communicating with Allah is crucial in both times of ease and hardship. If any reader feels lost in finding meaning to their supplications, this book will highlight the significance of dua and clarify doubts pertaining to such matters.
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“The wind blows its hardest in an empty space. As the wind blows, the feather is helplessly tossed in the air, turning from one side to the other, carried from one place to another. Like the light feather, the heart is also a vulnerable organ that is unstable and is easily susceptible to outside influences. As the feather keeps flying and turning, so does the heart fly between different emotions, thoughts, and intentions.”
Dr. Ali Albarghouthi’s Heart Therapy is a collection of forty hadiths in tazkiyah (spiritual refinement) and soul purification. The book attempts to revive Islamic spirituality based on the Quran and Sunnah. It is a self-help book that includes practical advice on how to cleanse the heart and bring change into the life of the believer. The book covers forty hadiths surrounding topics such as The Influence Between The Heart and Body, Good Character and the Heart, The Heart and Allah’s Forgiveness, A Reverent Heart and a Satisfied Soul and so much more. Towards the end of the Introduction, readers can find a useful guide to approach the book to maximise its benefits and to encourage readers to take time to absorb its message and actualise its teachings.
Why should you read ‘Heart Therapy’?
Not only does this book collect and present the forty hadiths but it also includes commentaries and explanations according to themes for each hadith. ‘Heart Therapy’ is a form of spiritual awakening and healing of the hearts that helps readers to rediscover the faith they have within. Indeed, there is an urgent need to take great care of the heart, the root of where everything stems from.
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“Every year is a book with the endings torn. There are only continuous beginnings. You start, you start, you start. There is no end. Every good night is a beginning to a new day, every death a beginning to a new life. You write your best stories with the hands you are given with. All else is His.
Humairah Jamil’s ‘Homebound’ is a collection of poems, inspired by the author’s revisit to the holy lands and her life journey, which she has written and compiled over the years. As the author navigates the emotions of love, loss and hope through her words, it brings readers through a journey of the nature of life and taking steps of growth back home to the Creator. There are four parts to ‘Homebound’ namely, To Arrive, Leave Light, On My Way and Back Home. Each part is filled with poetry that is written from the heart to teach the self ways to rise from hurt.
Why should you read ‘Homebound’?
Indeed faith, hope, love and light are the exact four elements seen and felt as readers dive into the poetry. Each word brings about a sense of enlightenment, reminding readers that life is a journey - A journey of return towards God. Some might see the path as bleak but this book enlightens readers that God will always guide us all home no matter where we are and no matter where we come from.
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“We have one last arch-enemy of success in your project of rebuilding your essence: the opinions of others. Opinions are free, but they are not very reliable. People may have any opinion they want, but that doesn’t mean their opinion is correct, that it is true or that you need to follow their advice literally.”
Tomas Navarros’ ‘Kintsugi’, translated by Jennifer Adcock, is a book that emphasises the beauty of embracing imperfections and reminds readers to find happiness the Japanese way. It is titled ‘Kintsugi’, a Japanese term which means golden repair. It refers to the act of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer that represents the history of the object, highlights the cracks and symbolises fragility, strength and beauty. The book has three parts; the Art of the Essential, the Art of Repairing Our lives and the Art of Preserving. Each part discusses theoretical and practical steps towards achieving and honing the art and it ends with the Art of Giving Yourself a New Opportunity.
Why should you read ‘Kintsugi’?
This book helps readers to apply the philosophy of Kintsugi to our lives and learn how to accept our past, overcome doubt and shame, heal and find happiness. Humans are created fragile and are susceptible to breaks and knocks. With broken pieces, damaged parts and emotional scars, readers will find themselves creating meaningful realisations and making them beautiful. Cracks truly are proof, not only of suffering but the strength to endure despite the fragility.
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“If you wake early and don’t try to fight it; get up at dawn or near it, that is a timeless, rare and special moment. Because there is no one else around, time seems to stop or extend. And it is good for you. You will have one of your better days. Better than if you try to go back to sleep, wake up drowsy when the body’s chemical for sleep will flood the system. It is the quiet of it.”
Alan Jenkins’ ‘Morning: How To Make Time’ is a book that shows readers how getting up earlier even once a week or month can free oneself to be more imaginative and to read, walk or write. The author includes interviews with poets, painters, fishermen, chefs, scientists to listen to what they say about the importance of mornings and how waking up earlier can transform one’s life. The author also shares his findings from his own mornings to provide the readers with a window to peek through what it is like to start the day early.
Why should you read ‘Morning: How To Make Time’?
Allan Jenkins also refers to this book as his “manifesto for morning”. Readers will find that this book is a reminder to appreciate the morning time a little bit more and see morning in a different light. It includes useful insights such as seven ways to know you’re not getting enough sleep, benefits to being awake early, the importance of light and how being awake early affects one’s life. Indeed, this book may motivate us to wake up early and seize the morning light.
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“It is a chilling reminder of how important the life of reading is for human beings if we are to form an ever more realised democratic society for everyone. Empathy involves, therefore, both knowledge and feeling. It involves leaving past assumptions behind and deepening our intellectual understanding of another person, another religion, another culture and epoch.”
Maryanne Wolf’s ‘Reader, Come Home’ focuses on theories, technicality, studies, research and analysis of the reading brain in a digital world. It considers the future of the reading brain and our capacity for critical thinking, empathy, and reflection as we become increasingly dependent on digital technologies. The book comprises a series of letters to the readers as the author shares her concerns and her hopes about what is happening to the reading brain.
Image source: Wardah Books
Why should you read ‘Reader, Come Home’?
The book draws on neuroscience, psychology, education, philosophy, physics, physiology and literature to examine the differences between reading physical books and digital reading. It gives deep scientific insights for readers to understand the greatest part of the human being, both the brain and the mind, especially when we are subconsciously evolving with the increasing need for technology and electronic devices as well as the transition of offline platforms into the digital world. A book of intense years of research, the author calls for us to mend our ways before the digital forays colonise minds completely and wipe away the skills of reading and processing knowledge.
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“And once those problems became vivid in the minds of the audience members, their thoughts immediately turned to solutions. You can’t appreciate the solution until you appreciate the problem. So when we talk about ‘tripping over the truth’, we mean the truth about a problem or harm. That’s what sparks sudden insight.”
Chip and Dan Heath’s ‘The Power of Moments’ explores why certain brief experiences can jolt, elevate and change us – and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work. The authors believe that defining moments are created from one or more of the following elements: (1) Elevation; (2) Insight; (3) Pride; (4) Connection. Moments of Elevation are instances that rise above the everyday. Moments of Insights revive our understanding of ourselves in the world. Moments of Pride capture us at our best. Moments of Connection are social which are strengthened by sharing them with others. Defining moments are the ones that endure in our memories and when our lives are measured in moments, creating more of such will help to increase the quality of our lives.
Why should you read ‘The Power of Moments’?
It is filled with remarkable stories and practical insights, providing us with ways to transform ordinary experiences into unforgettable ones; ones that are most meaningful and memorable because of the chances we had at creating them. Such moments may occur occasionally but when we have the knowledge to create them in every stage of our lives or someone else’s, it delivers realisations and transformations. It also includes useful whirlwind reviews at the end of every chapter, acting as a summary of points to recap and reflections on scenarios to help readers understand how certain frameworks can be implemented in the best manner as we work towards creating more defining moments in life.
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“Recalling that Allah has a purpose and a plan in each and every tribulation, leads one to be patient and even grateful to Allah. Remembering that sins will be expiated and rewards will be granted for being patient helps to ease the burden of suffering. The experience will not be in vain, for there are numerous benefits from even the smallest of trials, and the believer hopes to be rewarded by Allah and to earn His good pleasure.”
Dr. Aisha Utz’s ‘The Prick of A Thorn’ presents easy-to-implement coping strategies, in the face of trials and tribulations of life, developed in the light of the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w. This book emphasises that hardships can be beneficial in that they serve to expiate sins, boost spiritual development, purify the soul, and earn great rewards as long as we respond appropriately. It covers topics which may be the answer to the questions of many such as The Nature of This Life, Purposes and Benefits of Trials and Tribulations and Methods of Coping.
Why should you read ‘The Prick of A Thorn’?
Each and every trial and tribulation contains a silver lining. By following the guidelines of the Quran and the Sunnah, to develop virtues such as patience, acceptance, gratitude, and submission, readers will begin to discover wisdom. This book too outlines the path and the means to find solace and refuge from any storm. Although the intensity of any trial and tribulation in different stages of life may vary, its purpose remains the same. How one may approach and cope will determine the quality of the moments of such trials and tribulations.
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“Another major problem with lacking presence and mindfulness is that it communicates a lack of value for the person or action you are physically engaged with or in. The most valuable gift you can give a person is the one thing that you truly possess: yourself at the present moment”.
Mikaeel Ahmed Smith’s ‘With the Heart in Mind’ is an inquiry into the nature of the intellect and how classical Islamic theologians understood the nature and function of the intellect. It uncovers the moral and emotional intelligence of the Prophet s.a.w. The book begins with an introduction to the Most Intelligent, then delves into ‘Aql (intellect), followed by Emotional Intelligence, Moral Intelligence and How EQ Leads to Real Transformation. This beneficial read further highlights the reality of ‘aql in the Quran and the Sunnah, and its perfect manifestation in the life of the Prophet s.a.w.
Why should you read ‘With the Heart in Mind’?
Mikaeel Ahmed Smith asks readers to consider an alternative understanding of intelligence in which the primary function of the intellect is to know God and lead others to Him as well. It provides the readers with the opportunity to study the Emotional Intelligence of the Prophet s.a.w. By doing so, readers can improve the quality of relationships with the people around us and become catalysts for change around us. To take a step further, one may wish to have an auditory companion for the book by tuning in to the Qalam Institute Podcast on Prophetic EQ.