By Mujeeb Jaihoon
Art and art festivals are a consolation for the disheartened souls. Art is an act of charity; it radiates joy for its audience. Art is a form of prayer; it rejuvenates the broken-hearted. Art has many forms. Yet, the greatest form of art is reading. Reading, the first command of the Quran, is the foundation of all arts.
Every modest home today commands a kitchen to fulfill hunger and prayer rooms for offering ritual worship, living rooms for entertaining guests, and bedrooms for enjoying sleep. Yet, one wonders how many modern Muslim homes have a Reading Room to honor the primordial command of the Quran?
World’s greatest billionaires spend much time reading non-mammonistic material in order to cultivate their knowledge of the world around them. Fostering knowledge of humanities is essential for the overall development of the individual. Economy, after all, prospers on the profitable manipulation of the consumer’s emotional variables. Developing and distributing a merchandise requires in-depth knowledge of the buyer’s minds, including his spiritual quotient.
The Holy Prophet did not leave behind a painting, musical composition, nor theatrical play for his Community to thrive during later less-holy times. The Holy Quran is a Book, one that is best used for Reading. After all, all the world’s major religions prospered based on a Scriptural text.
Islamic Civilization had previously contributed countless literature to the world of knowledge. Presently, however, the lack of reading is a major crisis in the Muslim world, especially in the Middle East. Reading, however, is essential to create a pluralistic community with right-thinking minds – a culture that is much needed in our extremist times.
Speeches and songs fade with the conclusion of the ambient occasion. Social media ‘statuses’ too. The Written Word and its reading habit transcend the torrents of time. The amnesiac minds included. Passionate religious activists should therefore exert as much energy for reading as they do for organizing events.
The Islamic Civilization was not accidentally founded on Event Management. Nor is the Muslim Ummah an Event Management company. Showbiz and Skyscrapers cannot afford to square this existentialist circle. Knowledge and Books alone are the true DNA of the traditional Muslim identity. Its renewal, be it spiritual or economic, can only be based on the revival of the Written Word.
Mosques should be complemented with libraries as well. Arguably, both should be patronized (read, funded), with equal devotion and dedication. Islamists need to squarely face this reality and end pussyfooting with clumsy political and world domination conspiracies.
Sayyid Muhammad Ali Shihab Thangal (1936-2009), the late beloved statesman of Muslim Kerala and an ardent booklover who traced his lineage to Hadramaut in Yemen, was once asked about his greatest loss as he was forcibly pushed to enter public life. ‘My freedom and time for reading books and travel,’ he replied.
The modern Muslim needs to maintain a similar affection for the world of books and reading. For, change is unthinkable without books, the divine repository of knowledge.
Mujeeb Jaihoon is a UAE-based Indian writer whose passion extends beyond the realms of the ordinary. As a prolific traveler, Jaihoon has extensively traveled to cradles of ancient civilizations in various parts of the world. He also serves as director at several educational institutions, besides playing an advisory role in community development projects. He is also a regular speaker on issues pertaining to education and women empowerment, while remaining a vocal critic of wars and injustice.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
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