Ideas of some students in dealing with voluminous study books are:
• Using various colors, such as yellow for important things, such as laws that must be memorized, and another color for something that is less important, and so forth. They can also use a numbering system, such as 1 for very important, 2 for important, and 3 for ordinary. This helps in knowledge priorities in studying if the time is short or if they wish to begin or focus on a particular aspect. This is not a new idea, for scholars have used different colors in their books previously. It is transmitted that Al-Haafith Ibn Hajar, may Allaah have mercy on him, said regarding the stages of writing his great book, Al-Isaabah fi Tamyeez As- Sahaabah: “I wrote with red first, then yellow, then in something else that does not mix with it. All of this was before writing the chapter of ambiguous men and women.”
• Numbering the various points, so that they can be accurately remembered and memorized, by placing numbers for the most important points that the author mentions. This enables the reader to concentrate better.
• Referring to page numbers that mention matters pertaining to the matter at hand, such as saying, for example: ‘Refer to such-and-such page,’ or: ‘This issue has been spoken about on such-and- such page.’ This shows comprehension and helps tie between two points.
• Signifying an ambiguous point so that one can ask about it in the future, or writing questions that come to one’s mind while reading any particular matter, so that they can research them. If one comes to meet some people of knowledge in the future, the student of knowledge would have some questions that are prepared that they can ask about.
• Putting emphasis and summarizing an idea or passage in the margin. We find that some versions of some books that the verifier or author places many side titles, and many books of earlier scholars are comprised of chapters, and the author would mention many pieces of information in various subjects. That was due to their memory and how easily ideas flowed from their minds. So, the reader must categorize points in order to render understanding and comprehension easy, and placing side titles helps this aspect. This also enables the reader to be in a state of constantly following up and gathering what they read. Further, placing these titles helps a reader unveil the main idea of the passage or paragraph. In many books, these titles can be placed while reading, such as writing: ‘The linguistic definition,’ in its due place, ‘Terminological definition,’ in its due place, mentioning statements of the scholars, the preferred view, a confusing matter, along with its response, doubts with their answers, the summary, and so forth.
• Try to derive what the author is trying to get at or try to think of the possibilities that they will mention. For example, the student of knowledge, while reading the title of a jurisprudential matter in a book of differing, can try to reach the statements of the scholars before reading them. These attempts will develop the ability of deriving and reflecting regarding the possible views. This helps in building jurisprudential mastery. Likewise, this thinking will help the reader concentrate within the text, and distance him from distractedness.
• Enriching the book through beneficial comments and additions, such as transmitting the authenticity of some Ahaadeeth present in the book through the books of authentication of Ahaadeeth, or adding other pieces of information from another source, such as when the author mentions some ways of reconciliation between two Hadeeths that apparently are contradictory, at that, the reader would mention other ways of reconciliation that they have read before, or they quote from another source. Likewise, if one reads a phrase that says: ‘In this issue, there are other views,’ they would undertake quoting some of these views from their resources or from their memory in the margin of the book they are reading. Likewise, they can track the author in their blunders, or critique an author in some of their ideas, by saying: ‘The author blundered here, and the truth is such-and-such,’ and mention what the scholars have mentioned, and so forth.
Do not pass over correcting printing errors, and they are frequently present in the editions of those who deal in books that do not fear Allaah the Exalted. Likewise, they are present in the books of those who act in conflict with the Hadeeth of the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, who said: “Allaah loves that when one of you does an action, that they perfect it.” This action needs precision and knowledge.
Al-Muzani, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “I read Ar- Risaalah to Imaam Ash-Shaafi`i eighty times, and every time, he would come across a mistake. He said: ‘Stop; Allaah the Exalted has refused that any book be completely authentic and true except His Book.’”
The reader should be humble towards people of knowledge, and should not be hasty in declaring them wrong or correcting them based on their own personal opinion without remnants of knowledge. What are we compared to one of the major scholars, as in, Abu `Amr ibn Al-`Alaa’, who humbly said to the people of knowledge that preceded him: “We are nothing compared to our predecessors, except a seed in the base ofvery tall trees.”
So, one must not be hasty, but rather, should correct things they are sure of, because the reader, sometimes, thinks that something that is not a mistake is a mistake. So, they would correct what is in the book, but their correction is an inherent mistake, and whatever is in the book is true. Patience is from Allaah the Exalted and hastiness is from Satan.
When correcting, it is good to use a thin pen such as a pencil, for example, so that it can easily be erased if the reader comes to know of the mistake in their correction. The correction should be above the word or in the side margin, while pointing to the area of correction with a line or arrow. Correcting mistakes in the book increases the worth of the book to its owner, and makes it their precious copy, causing them to be attached to it more.
Evaluating the book on its cover after reading it by writing some notes would be a general evaluation while mentioning some points against it, regarding what it contains or its style. The educator and caller to Islaam that teaches people is keen on knowing, through this evaluation, who this book can be given to and who is it appropriate for to read.
Summarizing the contents of the book is something beneficial in the previously mentioned evaluation process. It reminds the reader of the contents of the book if they need to go back to it in the future. They can just read the summary and remember many details. Summaries are an art that not everyone is good at, for one must have extensive comprehension skills and understanding of the contents of the book first, then one would judge how big the summary should be, and freeing oneself of the terms of the author to shape your own terms, unless the terms of the author are important and give the needed summary.
Many times, some students are mistaken in what they think of the correct method of summarizing. So, they bring results that are laughable; you find them taking two lines from the introduction, a few lines from here and there, and they do not care of how the terms tie with one another, and how the speech is tied together, then just copy the ending of the author, and that is it.
- Published in THARBIYAA-education