On a cold winter day, I left the house for work while I really wanted to get back into bed. Cursing the heavy traffic, the crowded subway, and the noisy girls laughing loudly next to my ears, I finally arrived at my workplace, where my colleagues were talking about a thing called “Coronavirus.” At that moment, I never thought the issue might be so important. So, I ignored my colleagues and started to work.
A few days later, we heard about the lockdowns, the increase in the number of deaths caused by Covid-19, aka coronavirus. People were losing their dear ones, and they were afraid to participate in their burials and funerals. I could see with my own eyes the verses of the Holy Quran that say, “The day when a man will evade his brother, his mother and his father, his spouse and his sons, each of them will have a task to keep him preoccupied on that day.” (80: 34- 37)
We experienced days where everyone was worried about him/herself. Trying our best to buy and compile masks, soaps, and alcohol-based cleansers, we still thought that one of those Hollywood superpowers or the armies that save the world during the Armageddon would come and save the world. But, no one could do anything against these small viruses. That was where I could feel these verses of the Quran: “He had no party to help him, besides Allah, nor could he help himself. There, all authority belongs to Allah, the Real. He is best in rewarding, and best in requiting.” (18: 43-44)
Gradually, we stopped fighting the situation. We stopped panicking. We stayed home. Works and businesses were shut down. Schools and universities were closed. Visiting relatives and friends were forbidden. We were given some time for seclusion, some time to contemplate and come up with “what if” questions.
What if going to work and school and university are no more important? What if the isolation continues forever? What if the hospitals won’t let you in, even if you pay a significant amount of money? What if fame and wealth would no more be important?
Do we still care about what to wear in front of others or how to talk to present ourselves as high-class people?
All our routine acts become meaningless. Our social norms and behaviors are questioned. We realize that none of our worldly habits were worthy enough to hurt ourselves or others. Things should change.
In Coronavirus days and nights, we see ourselves so close to death. Any moment we may be diagnosed with Covid-19. When it attacks us, the worldly longings and belongings are not worthy anymore.
If we are influenced by the signs and messages that God is sending us through this disease, we don’t care about collecting more wealth. We don’t think about becoming more famous. The only One left for us is God. He is the one that won’t leave us alone in the hardest situations: the one “who created me, it is He who guides me and provides me with food and drink, and when I get sick, it is He who cures me; who will make me die, then He will bring me to life” (26: 78-81).
By these little viruses, as coronavirus, Allah (SWT) teaches us the most important lessons of life. He reminds us that we were not brought into this world to take the game so seriously since we should keep in mind that “The life of this world is nothing but diversion and play, but the abode of the Hereafter is indeed Life (itself)” (29: 64), and that we live in this world for a small amount of time to be prepared for our real life in the hereafter. So, Allah tells us: “…And whatever good you do, Allah knows it. And take provision, for indeed the best provision is God wariness. So be wary of Me, O you who possess intellects!” (2: 197)
The best provision is not what we keep compiling in our daily life. Money, positions and promotions, university degrees, social popularity, followers and likes on social networks, etc. are not what we have come to this world for. If they become our life priorities, we may become among those that Prophet Noah (PBUH) mentioned them as the one “… whose wealth and children only add to his loss.” (71: 21)
In many chapters of the Quran, Allah tells us the story of people of different nations who disobeyed their prophets, and the punishment of God destroyed them. However, Allah also mentions that to get out of the hardest situations you need to turn toward God: “If the people of the towns had been faithful and Godwary, We would have opened to them blessings from the heaven and the earth. But they denied, so We seized them because of what they used to earn.” (7: 96)
Therefore, the only way to escape the current situation is to return to God and live the way He wants us to live, for the best life in this world and the hereafter.
Returning to God does not mean to pray to him and ask for forgiveness and keep on having the same behavior as we had. To return to God is to try to quit our bad habits, revise our false behaviors, stay away from the forbidden acts, and stay committed to the obligatory commands and orders of Allah.
“Whoever is wary of Allah, He shall make for him a way out [of the adversities of the world and the Hereafter].” (65: 2)
Does the Quran have any direct verses about books? Can the Quran guide us on what kinds of books to read? How can a book that was revealed about 1400 years ago tell us about which book genres are useful and which are not?
In this text, we will study the status of reading books in the Quran and in Islamic teachings.
The first thing about books is the fact that the Quran, the miracle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) is a book. Therefore, there is no doubt that there are no problems with reading books in Islam. But, the question that if there is any limitations in reading different types of books is considerable.
The word book has been used a lot in the Quran and has been used for three different meanings. Yet, all of them are used for a thing that records concepts and meanings and transfers them to the audience. In all different meanings of the book, it has been mentioned as a medium. The three different types of books mentioned in the Quran are as follows:
1- The books that contain religious rules and laws. 
2- The books that record the deeds and actions of people. 
3- The book in which all the events and details of this universe have been written and is kept by Allah. 
Writing books is also an important point in the eyes of the Quran, as books are crucial means of conveying messages and transferring history to the next generations. They are also great means of spreading knowledge, wisdom, science, etc. the status of books and writing are so high in the eyes of Allah (SWT) that there is a chapter in the Quran called “Pen” (Qalam) in which Allah (SWT) swears by pens and what is written by it. 
However, it is also very important that the written content should be useful, based on truth, and produced for the growth and improvement of human beings:
“So woe to them who write the Book with their hands and then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may sell it for a paltry gain. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn!” (2: 79)
This can be a very important lesson and point to all of those who use their writing talent and produce written material for their audience. The above verse shows how enormous the effect of written products are on the readers.
Reading is also a very important point that is mentioned in the Quran. The most unique verse of the Quran that shows the importance of reading is, according to some Islamic scholars, the first verse of the Quran that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP):
“Read in the Name of your Lord who created; Created man from a clinging mass. Read, and your Lord is the most generous, who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know.” (96: 1-5)
The above few verses show how learning knowledge and wisdom is connected to writing and reading. It is by writing that human beings transfer their thoughts and learnings to others, and it is by reading those writings that people learn from others. It is by reading that people think, contemplate, and come up with new ideas which lead to more learning, wisdom, discovery and inventions. Therefore, Allah compares those who seek knowledge and those who do not and asks us:
“… Say, ‘Are those who know equal to those who do not know?’ Only those who possess intellect take admonition.” (39:9)
Despite the importance of gaining knowledge through reading in Islam [i], still we might ask if all the books available in the market are useful, worth reading and lawful (Halal) to read in Islam.
The point is that the Quran does not mention all different book genres and does not discuss each genre in detail. But, it provides specific frameworks that work as a type of criterion. Knowing the criterion helps us to distinguish which books are useful for us and which ones can harm our soul and spirituality.
For example, the Quran is not against stories or novels since the Quran itself is full of amazing stories, some of which are examples or stories . Allah (SWT) claims that He is the best storyteller when He says:
“We will recount to you the best of narratives in what We have revealed to you of this Quran, and indeed prior to it you were among those who are unaware [of it].” (12: 3)
Reading such books will result in many positive effects on our mind and soul. As Imam Ali (AS) says, “The greatest peace is obtained by reading books”. Also, at the times of difficulties and hardships, sometimes one finds no remedy other than taking refuge in books, perhaps to find a way out; As Imam Sadiq (AS) puts, “There will be chaotic days when people would not find peace unless within their books” .
However, this does not mean that reading all types of storybooks, novels or myths are useful. Allah mentions in the Quran that real believers are those who “avoid vain talk” (23: 3). Therefore, books in which we can find parts that would waste our time or those that contain stories, chapters, or lines that may harm human soul and spirituality are not recommended to read. Apart from the books that may harm our soul, reading and learning can be considered as a sign of a Muslim.
[i] “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon Muslims.” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) .
- The Quran (38:29)
- The Quran (45:29)
- The Quran (10:61)
- The Quran (68:1)
- The Quran (39:27)
- Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Hadith no.8126.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol.1, p.52.
- ibid, p.83.
Following the discussions on the concept of responsibility in Islam and Muslims' duties towards other human beings, this article reviews the duties towards the teachers, students, and young and older adults.
Teachers are acknowledged and valorized in Islam. It is said that God, angels, earth inhabitants and even the small ants in their nests and the fish in the seas, all salute the mentors who invite to goodness . Imam Ali (AS) said that whoever has taught me a word has made me “his slave”[i] . Regarding the Islamic resources, the rights of the mentor over the students are:
to be polite and grateful to the mentor, and honor him\her ;
to sit down politely in his\her presence such that to face him\her directly ;
to listen carefully to him\her and forget anything else during the session except what the mentor explains ;
not to answer the questions that the mentor has been asked about and let him\her to reply ;
to lower your voice when talking to him\her  as a means of showing the respect for him\her;
to ask in order to know and not to annoy the mentor or to mock him\her  and then to listen carefully to the answer of the question ;
not to talk and whisper to anybody in his\her presence  otherwise the mentor feels being ignored;
not to talk behind other people’s back with him\her  since this is an unpleasant act which also bothers the audience ;
not to let others insult the mentor or lie about him\her ;
not to reveal his\her deficiencies and to tell others about his\her positive characteristics .
Seeking knowledge is such important in Islam that according to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), trees, winds, clouds, seas and stars, plants and everything that the sunshine falls on, all ask for mercy for whoever seeks knowledge . Also, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) said that whoever seeks knowledge is beloved by God, angels, and prophets and good for them on the judgment day . Of the rights of the knowledge-seekers over their mentor are:
To be kind to them ;
To be humble and flexible to them ;
To know their names and some details about each of them . This helps to maintain a better relationship and consequently to better teach and educate them;
To respect their character and to consider their words and thoughts ;
To equally love them and pay attention to them . In this regard, mentors are almost like judges in Islam;
To teach with serenity and dignity , therefore, his\her lessons impress their mind and soul ;
To be tolerant of them and answer their questions properly ;
To consider and support kindly the newcomers ;
To honestly tell if he\she does not know the answer to a question  instead of saying what he\she is not sure about;
Of the rights of young people over older adults and their responsibility in Islam are:
To be kind to them ;
To be engaged in their education and training ;
To ignore and forgive their mistakes and hide their deficiencies ;
To tolerate them, be patient with them and help them in difficulties ;
If the young people do something wrong because they are naive, the older adults should not reveal that ;
To avoid arguments and conflicts with them .
The responsibility in Islam of the younger people toward the elderly include:
To respect them since they are older than you ;
If they argue with you, do not react unpleasantly ;
If you accompany each other on the way, do not overtake them ;
If they do not know about something, do not humiliate them ;
And, if they ignore you because you do not know something, keep calm and do not react as they are older than you .
[i] The word “slave” here does not mean servant, but is used to valorize the mentor and emphasizes the importance of respecting him\her.
[ii] Knowledge-seeker is used as a more general word than a student to cover whoever seeks knowledge.
- M. B. Majlisi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 61, p. 245
- M. Naraqi, “Jami' al-Sa'adat”.
- Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (AS), “Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq)”.
- “Nahj al Balaqa”, I. 320.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Ilal Al-Shara'I”, vol. 2. p. 334.
- H. al-Daylami, "Irshad al-Qulub", p. 164.
- M. Shoueiri “Jami’ al-Akhbar”, p. 37.
- Al-Shahid al-Thani, “Munya al-murid fi adab al-mufid wa al-mustafid”, p. 190-219.