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10.Important guidelines for reading[How to read a book-Sheikh Salih Al Munajid]

Removing hard and unknown words should be through using dictionaries and summarized lexicons: Such as Mukhtasar As- Sihaah, which has small publications that are easy to carry around, which mention each word along with its meaning. Further, something more comprehensive is Al-Mu`jam Al-Waseet, and for someone who wants a book specifically for unknown or difficult words that are in Prophetic Ahaadeeth, they can use An-Nihaayah fi Ghareeb Al-Hadeethwa Al-Athar, to know the meaning. The process will take time in the beginning, and the reader will find it difficult, however, after a while it will become customary, and if they come across hard words, they will not need, usually, to look at its meaning another time. In doing so, their linguistic capability will strengthen in stages and with extensive reading.

Learn the fundamentals of the Arabic language: This is an important issue in understanding the material being read. One should know the difference between various aspects in the Arabic language, all of which are important to understanding the meaning. In general, understanding the conjugation of the word is important, and its absence might lead to disastrous mistakes, such as distortion or changing of the meaning. It is also important to precisely conjugate words, as that helps in understanding the various usages of speech, and so forth.
From this, we can know the danger of calling for the use of colloquial language. There is no doubt that it would have a negative effect on understanding the clear Arabic tongue that the Qur’aan and Sunnah are in.
Something that helps in this matter is reading books that are verified in a very good, scientific manner, as well as books that are conjugated with all of the markings on the words.

Reading to Shaykhs or well-versed students of knowledge: Especially in matters of fundamentals of sciences. There are benefits to this, such as:
• Setting specific and set timings for reading encourages continuity and prevents fatigue.
• It also serves as a protection from misreading and making mistakes in reading.
• It serves as protection from misunderstanding.
• It provides the opportunity to ask someone when one is confused.
This is the meaning of the statement of the one who said: “Knowledge used to be in the chests of men, then it was transferred to the books, and its keys are in the hands ofmen.”
The irregular opinions and strange views that become widespread among people many times are only the result of deprivation of the blessing of reading to the people of knowledge. If you are in area wherein you cannot find a Shaykh or student of knowledge, then the least you can do is read with some of your brothers, because a group is further from error that an individual.

One should completely avoid describing themselves as “not loving reading” or “hating books” or that they are quick to fall asleep when opening a book: These types of phrases convince a person that they are indeed as such. This makes the cure harder and more complicated. Rather, a person should make themselves feel that this hardship can be overcome and that it is not going to persist always or remain constant. Also, they should make themselves feel that through practice and struggle, these difficulties will be overcome, that their love of reading is something very plausible, that soon, they will become attached to books and the paths of reading and devotion thereto will become opened for them, and that they have the capability and ability to do so. This method, even if some called it self-suggestion, is tried and beneficial, and is one of the techniques that helps in the cure.

Borrowing books or sharing one book: Likewise, one should frequent charity-based and public libraries if they cannot buy books, in order to counter the problem of soaring prices.

Keenness on reading religious books: That is because they contain what a person needs in their heart, intellect, and body, as well as that religious knowledge which has an aspect of being based on actions that the Muslim must know, such as the characteristics of worship, dealings, and etiquettes. When a Muslim implements what they read, finds benefit and feels the return and effect, it causes them to increase in reading and perusing. This is contrary to books that contain philosophy and intellectual garbage, and do not contain knowledge or blessed implementation, so, they result in dullness and boredom, and drive people away from reading.

Following reading with action: Getting an immediate advantage is what makes a reader feel that they are benefitting from their reading. That is why reading action-based topics such as jurisprudence and following that with action and implementation is one of the important means that one becomes attracted to reading. For example, if you read about Hajj then go to Hajj, you will feel that you benefitted from your reading. Likewise, if you read a book regarding the description of ablution or prayer and you implement that daily, you will feel the love of reading, because its output is real, visible, and quick. Also, if you were to come across an issue or scenario that you have read about previously, in terms of its ruling, you would feel a certain pleasure.

Writing important benefits and beautiful gems: This is something that makes the reader feel as though they are benefitting, and this occurs if they begin gathering whatever grabs their attention and which evokes beautiful reflections in their soul, such as a comprehensive maxim, an emotional story that has an effect, a ruling they were looking for, or an educational aspect or view. After a while, they would have a very valuable collection and a very precious treasure, in terms of these benefits. If they gather and index them, they would be in a notebook, and every time they refer to it, they would consult them, remember, and taste those delicious fruits. There are many books written by scholars that are mere presentation of benefits that they gained while seeking, researching, and reading, and that they collected and wrote. Also, there are many admonishments that they wrote and authored. The people mention the best things they memorize, and memorize the best things they write. It is possible to write the benefit by writing the title and beginning of the benefit, along with the page number, then making a general index thereafter. Yahya ibn Ma`een, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “The ruling forthe one who seeks knowledge of Hadeeth is that they should never part from their scholar of Hadeeth or their pen. Also, they should not belittle anything they hear; they should write it. So, tie knowledge down with writing.”
The student of knowledge should be shrewd, because memory is truly treacherous. Abu Hurayrah, may Allaah be pleased with him, said: “None ofthe Companions ofthe Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, knew more Hadeeth from him than me, except what `Abdullaah ibn `Amr ibn Al-`Aas knew, because he used to write, while I did not.” The tablet that `Abdullaah ibn `Amr, may Allaah be pleased with him, used to write on was called As- Saheefah As-Saadiqah (the Truthful Tablet).
It is also important for the student of knowledge to memorize some of the important phrases, maxims, and summaries and to inform them to others, seeking the Countenance of Allaah the Exalted through benefitting others and making what they have memorized firmer.

Variety in reading and perusing: That occurs by changing the book that they are reading, or changing the topic; it is mentioned that Ibn `Abbaas, may Allaah be pleased with him, whenever there would be any boredom in his class would say: “Bring me the divans of the poets.” Also, Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan, may Allaah have mercy on him, used to rarely sleep at night, and would have notebooks besides him. If he would become bored from one topic, he would look and read into another one. He used to place water besides him that he, may Allaah have mercy on him, would use to remove sleepiness.
Further, reading books that have many details and issues, such as books of difference of opinion, would, perhaps, result in hardness of the heart. At that, it would be appropriate to mix that with some heart softening topics.
Repeating what one reads to make the information stick: Al- Bukhaari, may Allaah have mercy on him, was asked about the reason behind his memorization, and he said: “I do not know of anything more beneficial for memory than desire of a man and constant referral and reading.”
Of the benefits of repeating what one reads is that they benefit new meanings that they did not know before, especially when pondering and reflecting on the Noble Qur’aan, because it has amazing benefits that never cease, and the scholars never become satisfied when reading it. So, whenever the reader reads with reflection and knowledge, they become aware of new meanings.
Repetition of reading books of knowledge makes firm what has previously been memorized, increases new memorization, and opens new fields of understanding. Some have said that if they read a new book or the first time, they feel as though they have acquired a new friend, and when they read it a second time, it is as if they meet an old friend.

Turning to Allaah the Exalted when one’s understanding is closed off: Of the things that alienates a reader from books is that whenever they pass over something they do not understand, what should they do? In the biographies of the people of knowledge, it is mentioned that if their understanding was closed off and they could not understand an issue, or they passed over a hard issue that they found problematic, they would turn to Allaah the Exalted, humble themselves to Him, and ask Him the Exalted to make the matter clear and open what had been closed off. Whenever this would occur to Shaykh Al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allaah have mercy on him, he would call on his Lord and say: “O Teacherof Ibraaheem, teach me, and O You who allowed Sulaymaan to understand, help me to understand.” This is because Allaah the Exalted Said (what means): {And We gave understanding of the case to Solomon} [Qur’aan 21:79] This calling on Allaah the Exalted is one of the reasons that what had been closed off was opened in a hard issue, word, or phrase in the book.

Going back to the people of knowledge to ask about problematic matters: Because Allaah the Exalted Said (what means): {So ask the people of the message if you do not know.} [Qur’aan 16:43] Also, the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, said: “Would they not ask if they do not know? The cure of ignorance is asking.”

It might be wise, sometimes, for the reader to pass over what they cannot understand, and go back to it later: This is so that they do not waste time or feel boredom due to contemplating about something that they did not understand for a long time. They could go back to it or read it in another instance with another type of style, or they could ask and get the meaning clarified. It is not correct to acquit the author always and to insult or accuse the understanding of the reader, because the writer might not have presented the idea in a good manner, or was not given the aid to be clear as necessary, due to their lack of eloquence and ability to express.

Reading the introductions to scientific books: Many times, the terms that the author uses in their book are clarified, so, for example, it is not possible for someone who is reading Taqreeb At- Tahtheeb by Ibn Hajar, may Allaah have mercy on him, for example to be unaware of what “Second; third, fourth, etc.” refer to when mentioning the levels of the narration. Also, one must know the meaning of “acceptable; covered,” and so forth in mentioning the levels of the narrators. They cannot come to this knowledge without prior awareness regarding the terms of the book. If they were to read the introduction of the book written by Ibn Hajar, may Allaah have mercy on him, they would come to know of the meaning, and there would be no confusion and obscurity.
Likewise, in some books of the jurisprudential schools, some authors that wrote have specific terminologies that can only be understood through a definition. For example, it might be a letter that is used, or a number, or when they say: ‘The five narrated it,’ or: ‘The six narrated it,’ for example. It might also be a part of a word, or a word itself, such as saying that a particular Hadeeth is ‘Strange.’ Also, in books of jurisprudence, some phrases such as: ‘They have agreed,’ ‘The two have agreed,’ ‘By agreement,’ and ‘In difference,’ and each school of jurisprudence has its own terminologies that are specific to it. Sometimes, the term might be composed of two words, such as when At-Tirmithi, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “Hasan Saheeh,” or: “Hasan Saheeh Ghareeb,” and when some jurists say: ‘The Shaykh said,’ ‘The explainer said,’ ‘The judge said,’ ‘In difference with him,’ and: ‘In difference of both of them.’
The silence of some scholars about a particular issue in their books might point to a meaning, such as when Abu Daawood, may Allaah have mercy on him, remains silent in his Sunan, when Ibn Hajar, may Allaah have mercy on him, remains silent in some Ahaadeeth in Talkhees Al-Habeer, and when Ibn Abu Haatim, may Allaah have mercy on him, remains silent regarding some narrators in Al-Jarhwa At-Ta`deel.
Some scholars might clarify their terms in the introduction to their books, some during the book, and some at the end of the book. Some terms used by scholars are only known through constant reading and investigation. There are some books that clarify the terms used by authors in their books.

One should be keen on noticing mistyping, distortion, and printing errors: All of this confuses the understanding and changes the meaning. It is the result of the copier distorting some things, of the printing press making an error, or of the heedlessness of the reader. There have been many meanings that are mistaken, as well as much confusion and blindness, and what follows will be some examples of mistyping and distortion regarding which, some scholars have wrote specific books in order to unveil them.
A man came to Al-Layth ibn Sa`d, may Allaah have mercy on him, and said: “What did Naafi` report to you regarding the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, and the one whose father had a story spread about him?” Al-Layth, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “Woe to you, it is regarding the one who drinks out ofutensils made of silver is swallowing Hellfire into theirstomach.” So, because of the spelling in Arabic, all the words were distorted into meaning something else!
Abu Al-`Aynaa', may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “I attended the lesson of some heedless scholars of Hadeeth, and they gave the narration from Allaah the Exalted. He said: ‘Allaah’s Messenger, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, reported from Jibreel, who reported from Allaah, who reported from a man.’ I said: ‘Who is this person that is fit to be the teacher of Allaah the Exalted? They then searched and found that in his paper, it was written, ‘the Exalted.’” So, because of the distortion, the words were changed to give the wrong meaning.
One of the reasons behind mistakes in the past was the absence of dots on the Arabic letters, and lack of precision of words with conjugation. When they put the dots on the letters and placed conjugation, these errors decreased. Examples of what is present in some chains of narration and texts in terms of mistyping is when they change Shu`bah to Sab`ah (because they are spelled the same), news (Khabar) to bread (Khubz), Kharzah to Jazrah, Jareer to Khurbuz, and `Anazah to `Anzah. In a narration, it is mentioned that the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, placed `Anazah before him in prayer. Muhammad ibn Al-Muthanna Al-`Anazi said: “We are an honorable people, we are from `Anazah, and the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhiwa sallam, prayed in our direction!” The true meaning of `Anazah is a spear or a short staff that the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, used to place before him while praying in travel. There are also mistakes in recitation of the Qur’aan that change the meaning, and that render the meaning to be distasteful and reprehensible. There are also many other examples of mistyping and distortion. The intent is that one must be precise and cautious especially in books that have no accuracy checks, verification, or revision done to them.
One should correct the strange and irregular meanings that come to one’s mind as a result of ignorance and lack of knowledge of the intent of the phrase: This is a matter that requires caution and attention. One must quickly research and ask when such matter happens. Let us give some examples, to show what the intent is:
What can some people understand from when the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, said: “Whoever believes in Allaah the Exalted and the Last Day should not give their water to another person’s vegetation.” It is true naivete to understand from this Hadeeth, for example, that the farmer must prevent water from passing to the land of their neighbor! This is a false meaning that the legislation does not condone, since among its principles is that one should show good conduct and be a good neighbor, and that one should not cause harm to anything. When going back to the explanations of the scholars, we find that the intent of the Hadeeth is that one should not have intercourse with a pregnant woman who was impregnated by another man, and that the one who purchased a slave-girl, for example, must be acquitted from her womb through menstruation before having intercourse with her. This is a necessary process to preserve lineage from being mixed.
Another example is what some people understand from the Hadeeth of the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, when he said: “Allaah does not accept the prayer of a menstruating woman unless she wears covering.” Whatever we say the different interpretations are, there is no doubt that Allaah the Exalted does not accept the prayer of the menstruating woman with or without a covering. If the reader goes back to the explanation of the Hadeeth, the confusion will be cleared in knowing that the intent behind the menstruating woman here is the woman that has reached the age of menstruation and is not responsible.

Some beginners would be in confusion and uncertainty when reading some books of jurisprudence, for example, the phrase: ‘The blood money (`Aql) is due on the relatives from the father’s side.’ One of the reasons they would be in confusion is that they would not know the meaning of the word `Aql here, and would think that it refers to intellect. Likewise, the word Islaam is used at times to refer to a type of sale. When a person is aware of this, they do not become confused when such word is used, such as: ‘Islaam is permissible in such-and-such situation,’ and so on.

Overcoming absence of mind and lack of concentration: This is a problem that results in alienating people from reading, and gives them the feeling that they do not benefit anything. You might notice yourself that you complete a page without understanding anything, and that is because the eye works in a systematic and programmed manner, while the heart is inattentive and heedless. Due to the importance of this problem, we must speak about it with some details.

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