For a Nation that was commanded “Read!” before anything else, it is disappointing to see a certain reluctance for the Muslim masses not only to read more in the general sense (and even those that do read can’t get past a few paragraphs without a good old whinge), but one also notices a distinct lack of taqarrub (getting close to Allah jalla wa ‘alā) through the classical sacred texts of Islam.
Not only does more reading increase our knowledge – which has proved throughout time to be the real permanent source of power in the world – but it also helps us to get more connected and spiritually aware of what Allah jalla wa ‘āla wants and helps us internalise the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Lest it be forgotten, the Muslims have been gifted with “That which is Recited” or known to us more commonly by its Arabic name as “The Qur’ān”. The early pious Muslims would never let their tongues dry from reciting and reading and reflecting deeply about the Qur’ān, gaining direction by it, living a fulfilling life by it, seeking barakah by it, earning ajr by it, seeking assistance in their affairs by it and thereby learning and living the Sunnah with it.
The constant perusal, study and reflection upon the Qur’ān was nothing short of obsessive. It is strange for us in our time to see a positive use of the word “obsessive” but this is one of them. It was the first book they read, the next book they read and the last book they read. Any time of the day, every day. Without fail. It was completely unlike today – where the Qur’ān is either rarely touched willingly, or is only brought down every few years to bless a new shop or put over the head of a new bride – back then it was really the irresistible source of every field of knowledge, and sufficient enough for the people who invested time and effort into understanding it.
As a side note: it is bizarre that some people will unwittingly give more importance to one or two specific modern books about the Qur’ān, reading and studying those few books “religiously” (whilst not generally reading widely from other sources) many times and even memorising it and then – incredibly – declaring love and friendship based upon another’s acceptance of such a book or not, more so than the Qur’ān itself about which they remain totally illiterate about.
Muslims in their relationship with the Qur’ān especially when it comes to deep reading and study of its meanings have always been loyally reverent, but few really treat it as completely relevant. We must be careful of falling into a trap of cultish allegiance to that which has been written by erring men, even if it is about the Qur’ān and Sunnah, whilst not poring over and internalising the Qur’ān directly itself. Of course, one cannot understand the detailed meanings of the Qur’ān without the aid of third party books to explain the difficult or important aspects therein, but one must not take those same works and use them as the ultimate criterion for one’s Islam, whilst neglecting the Qur’ān directly.
That was not the way of our early founding fathers. The reports about their focus on the Qur’ān by the best of generations, are numerous and well-known. And once that focus and clear prioritisation was established, it was then and only then that a (halal) obsession would start with the other key books in our religion.
So, what about those other sources of Islam then, such as the various collections of Ḥadīth of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)? What of the Ummahāt’l-Kutub – basically meaning “the key fundamental texts of our tradition”, or if you prefer literally then “the mothers of all books”? What of the other major texts that have been agreed upon with respect to their acceptance and blessing by the major Imāms of this Ummah?
I would simply like to bring attention to my fellow brothers and sisters the greater need to embrace the collections of sacred Prophetic narrations that can be found in the Ṣaḥīḥayn and the other Sunan. I urge my fellow Muslims to immerse themselves in the continual recital and memorisation of these texts not only to get closer to our religion as Allah ‘azza wa jall desired it for us and as was perfectly practised by our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), but also to internalise the environment around the Prophet and his illustrious companions (raḍyAllāhu ‘anhum) and to really start to understand how we can make compatible the pure lives they spent in the path of Allah and our current time with all of its problems and challenges.
Also, I’d like to assert the worldly benefits seen and experienced first-hand by those who immerse themselves in the seminal texts of Islam. We’ve all heard from the Salaf on their changes of circumstances when they increased in closeness to the Qur’ān and reciting it, and their reciting of the Ḥadīth of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) but seeing the proof for oneself is even more powerful. Personally speaking I’ve seen brothers and sisters suffering various problems and then we’ve advised them to increase in their reading of the Qur’ān who then later come back to me and confirm that their financial and personal matters have eased and become considerably better in some circumstances!
At such times of financial pressure and stress, isn’t this one of the obvious solutions for our Nation? I have found the reading of Ḥadīth to bring barakah and rizq from places that we never thought possible. Food, financial success and spiritual sakīnah descended from only Allah knows where! In our various Maqra’āt – the intensive reading and study of long pieces of text – of the Sunan, we are desperate for attendees to take an amazing quality and quantity of food home to their families that just turns up at the door from places that by Allah we have no idea where it comes from!
I’m not advocating hocus-pocus formulae and/or specific variations and repetitions of known texts in a way that was not known to our early founding fathers, but rather a complete engagement and internal connection to our authentic sources, and just a wider deeper general approach to reading, in a regular fashion as part of our daily methodology so that we don’t lose track of our sources of genuine blessing during the often cursed and empty lives we are forced to live for much of the time in the 21st Century.
And Allah jalla wa ‘ala knows best.
Let me end by quoting some marvellous facts about some of our scholars through Islamic history and their relationship with the major sacred texts. These were people who would read the Qur’ān thousands and thousands of times during their lives. It is through that barakah that they were allowed to engage with other key sources of our Deen. Shaykh ‘Ali al-‘Imran in his beneficial book “al-Mushawwaq ilā’l-Qirā‘ah wa Talab’l-‘Ilm” narrates that:
- Ibn ‘Aṭiyyah (d. 518h) read Ṣaḥīḥ’l-Bukhāri seven hundred times.
- Sulaymān b. Ibraḥīm al-Yamanī (d. 825h) read Ṣaḥīḥ’l-Bukhāri one hundred and fifty times.
- Ibn Kulūtātī (d. 835h) read Ṣaḥīḥ’l-Bukhāri over forty times.
- Abu Bakr al-Tājir (d. 805h) read Ṣaḥīḥ’l-Bukhāri over one hundred times.
- Al-Shīrāzi (d. 803h) read Ṣaḥīḥ’l-Bukhāri upon his Shaykh over twenty times.
- Al-Tawazrai (d. 713h) read Ṣaḥīḥ’l-Bukhāri upon thirty different scholars.
- Al-Burhān al-Ḥalabī (d. 840h) read Ṣaḥīḥ’l-Bukhāri over sixty times and Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim approximately twenty times.
- Al-Fayrūzābādī (d. 817h) read Ṣaḥīḥ’l-Bukhāri over fifty times.
- Al-‘Imrānī (d. 558h) read al-Muhadhdhab over forty times.
- It was said that Ibn al-Tabbān (d. 371h) read al-Mudawwanah one thousand times
- Al-Sijilmāsī al-Jazā’irī (d. 1057h) read Ṣaḥīḥ’l-Bukhāri seventeen times in his lessons, detailing and researching during the entire recital.
- It was also said that al-Walīd al-Fārisī (d. 218h) would study a book a thousand times.
If that doesn’t inspire in you the need to read more, then nothing will.