Setting the noble goal of reading more Islamic literature is only the first step in a very difficult journey filled with odd translations, authors with four names, and an abundance of knowledge. Here are some tips to help us all turn non-fiction books into page turners.
Pick one Islamic book and set it on your nightstand, your kitchen counter, or download it onto your phone. Then read one hadith or page daily during breakfast, your daily commute, lunch, or right before bed. This way you can pace yourself and retain more information by allowing for time to digest the content.
A lot of mosques (like Toronto’s Jaffari Center) have mailing lists set up for newsletters or daily hadiths. Spend a couple of minutes to sign up and receive fun-sized pieces of Islamic knowledge to help keep you connected on a daily basis. This way you can enjoy Islamic writings without committing to a long book or compilation.
Challenge your sibling, best friend, child, or spouse to a 3-week informative competition! Everyday both of you have to share one interesting piece of knowledge related to the religion. I tried this one out with my fiancé and it brought us closer to our religion and each other! (There was no one winner but if there was, it would have been me.) So start flipping through Kamil e Ziyarat, scrolling through Nouman Ali Khan’s Facebook posts, or searching the Qur’an for beautiful verses and you’ll both come out as gold medalists.
Sometimes the only reason we read is for inspiration, motivation, or a rejuvenation of faith. Start a quote wall with snippets from the companions, the Qur’an, and historians that can serve as daily reminders for why we love this religion. Just keep a stack of index cards, markers, and sticky tac near your reading area so you can jot down quotes and put them up in no time. If you want to Ibn Ba-totally kick this up a notch, try using different colored markers for different subjects (i.e. red for forgiveness, blue for jurisprudence, green for humility, purple for repentance, etc.).
If you’re living in a home with your family or friends, place a journal in a central location. Everyone has the chance to jot down a new Qur’anic verse or hadith they enjoy when they find one. You can each take turns writing in the journal every few days or leave it open to anyone – including guests! Whenever someone feels a bit disconnected or needs help, they can turn to the book for support. As a bonus, try color-coding the book in the same way you might color-code the quote wall.
If keeping yourself accountable is difficult, write a blog or an article where you share your thoughts, responses, and critiques regarding whichever book you’re reading. After starting, you’ll feel compelled to keep posting which will motive you to continue reading. Plus, being able to use your own perspective to analyze a book and make connections can facilitate a deeper understanding of the content. So pick a witty WordPress address and get rid of your reader’s block with a reading blog.
Historical, well-known, classic Islamic books seem like the best place to start when it comes to religious reading but it’s not all rainbows and Snickers bars once you actually start the first chapter. Most of the time these older pieces of literature tend to be difficult to read and incredibly lengthy. Try starting off your reading habit with an Islamic book that interests you. For example, if spirituality is your cup of tea try out The Heart of the Qur’an: An Introduction to Islamic Spirituality by Lex Hixon. If you’re more of a coffee person start with Daniel Pipes’ In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power. Just pick a book that you genuinely care about and branch out from there. I personally started out slowly with this short book of hadiths.
Make a list and check it twice! Having an actual log of all the books you want to read is an easy way to push yourself to start reading. The satisfaction you get when you finally cross something off your list is enough to push anyone to flip open a book.
Religious books tend to be pretty focused in terms of overarching themes. Pick two or three books that cover varying topics and read whichever book is most interesting to you in the moment. Now I know a lot of people, including myself, don’t enjoy having more than one book open at a time but nonfiction can be very heavy and keeping an open mind (and bookshelf) allows you to avoid dry spells. It’s better to jump books than to stop reading altogether.
By Lina Meghji