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.
There are many examples and stories narrated in the Holy Quran, such as the account of Prophet Moses in the Quran, the aim of which is not only to amuse us, but as signs for the “percipient” , for “those who think” , for those who “exercise their reason”  or for “those who possess intellect” . Therefore, after reading each story, those thoughtful and insightful people will gain profound lessons from each account that will be used as a guideline in their life.
The story of Prophet Moses (PBUH) has been mentioned in the Quran in more than 30 chapters, and more than 100 times in details, while the stories of most of the other prophets have been mentioned very briefly.
Going through a few verses of the Quran that narrate the story of Moses and his people will help us compare our life and condition in the society, with what happened at the time of Moses (PBUH), and from its lessons, we might be able to make positive changes in our lives.
The status of Prophet Moses (PBUH) in the Quran is very high: “And mention in the Book Moses. Indeed he was exclusively dedicated [to Allah], and an apostle and prophet.” (19: 51)
Before Moses was born, the Pharaoh of the time had a dream, based on which he ordered to kill all the baby boys who were born amongst children of Israel (Bani-Israel) [i] for a specific time . In such situation, Moses was born, and her mother feared his life. God revealed to her: “Nurse him; then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river, and do not fear or grieve, for We will restore him to you and make him one of the apostles.” (28: 7)
The events that happened to Moses as a baby were particular. When his mother leaves him in the river, and water takes him to Pharaoh’s palace, Pharaoh’s wife who, according to Quranic exegesis, had no children or had no sons and was a monotheist woman (who hid her beliefs) convinces Pharaoh to adopt him as their child . God had forbidden Moses to be suckled by any nurse. And therefore, he was returned to his mother and raised by her and Pharaoh’s wife (28: 12-3) .
The most prominent point in Moses’ childhood was that he was raised by faithful women. Quran describes his stepmother as a role model for believers: “Allah cites an example of the faithful: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, ‘My Lord! Build me a home near You in paradise, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his conduct, and deliver me from the wrongdoing lot’” (66: 11).
It shows the importance of the status of mothers and their vital role in raising faithful children.
“When he came of age and became fully matured, We gave him judgment and knowledge, and thus do We reward the virtuous” (28: 15).
Unlike some narratives in the world that introduce Moses as a powerful and reliable man, but not very spiritual , the Quran presents him as one of those virtuous. It means that he had been righteous from childhood until his young age, and therefore, divine judgment and knowledge were given to him as a result of his good behavior.
One of the bold points that should be considered in this part of Moses’ life is his companionship with Prophet Khidhr. Although in most narrations it is said that the part of his life which is referred to in the Quran belongs to his old age, it is more logical to say that this companionship takes place when he was young and still a prince. Since he is being accompanied by a slave as mentioned in the Quran: “So when they had passed on, he said to his lad, ‘Bring us our meal. We have certainly encountered much fatigue on this journey of ours’” (18: 62).
Now, if we accept that his companionship with Khidhr took place at his young age, this also becomes a significant turning point for Moses (PBUH), in which he learned a lot from a prophet.
In the story of his youth, Quran mentions his positive attitude towards people and his support for the rights of the poor and the weak. Based on his beliefs, one time that he wants to defend a person from Bani- Israel, he unwantedly kicks his enemy in a way that he dies.
This act in the Quran is introduced as one of the significant turning points in his life. As when Pharaoh finds out, he sends someone to arrest him, and Moses runs away towards the city of Midian (Madyan) (28: 15-21).
“And when he turned his face toward Midian, he said, ‘Maybe my Lord will show me the right way’” (28: 22).
Moses defends Zipporah and her sisters at a rather medieval-looking well painted by Saraceni
When Moses arrives at the water of Midian (Madyan), he sees “a throng of people watering [their flocks], and he found, besides them, two women holding back [their flock].” He asks the reason, and they reply “We do not water [our flock] until the shepherds have driven out [their flocks].”
And to answer the probable question in Moses’ mind about why two women are doing the hard task of watering the flocks she continues: “our father is an aged man” (28: 23). So Moses waters their flock. “Then he withdrew toward the shade (of a tree) and said, ‘My Lord! I am indeed in need of any good You may send down to me!’” (28: 24) Moses does not even mention what kind of good he is expecting from God. But he leaves everything to God and asks Him to provide him with good .
After a while of resting under the shade of a tree “one of the two women approached him [Moses], walking bashfully. She said, ‘Indeed my father invites you to pay you the wages for watering [our flock] for us.’
So when he came to him and recounted the story to him, he said, ‘Do not be afraid. You have been delivered from the wrongdoing lot’” (28: 25). As he had left the borders of Egypt and he was now safe in Midian (Madyan). At that point, Moses realized that he had reached an insightful and knowledgeable man. The father of two women is Prophet Shu’ayb (PBUH), who, according to the Quran, was the prophet sent to people of Midian (Madyan): “And to Midian, We sent Shu‘ayb, their brother” (29: 36) .
Moses stays with Prophet Shu’ayb for a while. It seems like one of Shu’ayb’s daughters was interested in Moses and his manly behavior as she offers his father “Father, hire him. Indeed, the best you can hire is a powerful and trustworthy man” (28:26). Being powerful and strong as well as being trustworthy are mentioned here as two crucial criteria for employing a person .
Having heard his daughter’s interests, Shu’ayb (PBUH) then said, “Indeed I desire to marry you to one of these two daughters of mine, on condition that you hire yourself to me for eight years. And if you complete ten, that will be up to you” (28:27).
There are a few great lessons in this part of the story of Moses;
1- Unlike what is conventional in many societies, it is not bad for a reasonable girl to choose her husband and offer him marriage (of course, by adhering to correct manners) .
2- The dowry of Shu’ayb’s daughter (which is Moses’ working for Shu’ayb for eight to ten years) seems to be too much, but compared to the life and conditions that Shua’yb provides for Moses is not considerable .
3- This dowry was a necessity for Moses to stay with Shu’ayb and to be trained under his doctrines .
Moses marries Prophet Shu’ayb’s daughter, and they live in Midian for a specific time. Living with a prophet for many years is one of those blessings that were given to Moses to be trained for his primary mission in life.
Although living with Shu’ayb was a great blessing for Moses, he did not aim to stay a shepherd for the rest of his life, since he had seen significant responsibilities for himself to save the children of Israel (Bani- Israel). Therefore, he decided to travel to Egypt with his family .
In the next part of this article, we will follow Moses in his journey of prophethood.
[i] Children of Israel (Bani-Israel) were the generation of Prophet Jacob or Israel (PBUH), who at the time of Prophet Joseph (PBUH), migrated to Egypt and settled there for years. (12: 93-9)
- The Quran, Hijr (15): 75
- The Quran, Ra’d (13) : 3
- The Quran, Nahl (16): 12
- The Quran, Aal-e Imran (3): 190
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 14
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 30
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, pp. 34- 38
- Scott, R. (2014), Exodus: Gods and Kings, 2014, USA
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, pp. 56-58
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 59
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 67
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 70
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 74
Medicine is one of the well-respected fields of science in the holy religion of Islam, to the extent that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) mentioned it along with theological studies as two main branches of knowledge . However, as in any branch of practical science, there are specific moral codes that Islam obliges people who are involved in them to observe.
Accordingly, a Muslim doctor is not only concerned with his/her patient’s bodily health but also is responsible for his/her spiritual side. This is where doctors need medical ethics in their profession to fulfill their job satisfactorily both for themselves and patients, which ultimately brings with it God’s satisfaction and contentment.
The first and foremost responsibility of doctors is to find a cure -if there is any- as fast as possible and to put the needs of their patients above their financial concerns. Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “the one who avoids curing the injury of an injured person, would be associated with the one who caused the injury. Since the injurer intentionally harmed the wounded person, and the one who avoided his/her treatment did not intend to cure him, thus he/she intended his/her destruction” . In other words, if a doctor neglects his responsibility and does not make enough effort to help the patient, he would be the cause of any harm that inflicts on him/her.
In their decision-making also, doctors should follow the codes of ethics. First of all, they should consider the patient’s opinion and then try to offer the best option to him/her, being always observant of his/her wellbeing and satisfaction. Islamic rules and regulations should play an essential part in the decision that doctors make - e.g., in the case of child abortion, euthanasia, etc. Moreover, they should try to be as kind and tolerant as possible toward their patients; the disease is severe enough for patients to make them anxious, add an impatient and rude doctor to that and imagine how they might feel.
Being a doctor, according to Islam, is not only a religious responsibility but also a social and humane necessity and a moral obligation . Therefore, a doctor should do his best to fulfill all those duties and should not be content with the mere financial benefits of the work or the social position that might be attached to his/her job.
Finally, the most important characteristic of an ethical work is to gain Allah’s satisfaction; in other words, if a person did something and his intention in doing it was God’s contentment and not financial matters and earning more money, the given effort would be worthy to be called ethical .
While a Muslim doctor believes in his/her power in curing the patients, he/she knows that the ultimate healer and decision-maker is Allah and all he/she does is in line with His will.
- Bihar ulanvar. Vol. I, p 220.
- Muhammad ibn Yaqub Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi (The Sufficient Book). Vol.VIII. Tehran, Masjed Publication, p 345.
- Morteza Ameli, Medical Etiquettes in Islam, Jame’e Modaressin Qom publication, p 59.
- Morteza Mottahari, Taalim va Tarbiat dar Islam (Teaching and Education in Islam), Sadra publication, 23rd ed. p71.