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.
If you feel you are not doing enough in your life and need to be a more productive Muslim, here we suggest some tips on planning a more productive lifestyle based on Islamic teachings. But before starting to review the tips on how to be a more productive Muslim, we should answer a "WHY" question? "Why do we want to or have to be more productive?"
Merging into life routines can be hugely devastating for human beings. At the same time, many may not even recognize the fact that they are gradually being merged into their habits, and one day, they look back and look over their life, finding it all wasted. To avoid experiencing such hard and disappointing moments in life, Allah Almighty guides us through the Quran and the Islamic lifestyle provided in it.
Allah (SWT) introduces the ultimate goal of human creation as worshipping Him; "I did not create the jinn and the humans except that they may worship Me." (51: 56)
However, it is essential for human beings to understand the meaning of worshipping Allah (SWT). If, by glorifying Him, Allah (SWT) meant that people should spend all their time praying and fasting, then there was no need for all the other rulings and laws that the Quran describes regarding human beings' daily life including social, economic, political, etc. issues.
The meaning of worshipping Allah (SWT) lies in the believers' understanding of the reason behind their behaviors and every single act and thought that they have; that is Allah Almighty's acceptance and satisfaction. It is crucial to keep in mind that worshipping Allah is not limited to praying and fasting, but every act of believers that is done in the way of gaining Allah's satisfaction is counted as worship. That is why He recommends that all our deeds and actions should have a divine tint; "The coloring of Allah, and who colors better than Allah? And Him do we worship." (2: 138)
Therefore, one can easily conclude that living an idle life is far from what Allah has expected from us. Allah (SWT) in the Quran encourages people not to waste even a single moment in their life when He says, "So when you are done, appoint, and supplicate your Lord." (94: 7 – 8)
The above verses show that for a more productive life, people should always have plans for their days, weeks, and years, so when they finish one task, they know what they should do next. Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS) says: "try that your daily time is divided into segments. One part for worshipping your Lord. One part for earning allowed (Halal) livelihood, a part for socializing with trustworthy friends, and another exclusively devoted to Lawful (Halal) pleasure with the family. 
We should still keep in mind that everything may not go exactly as we plan and not get disappointed if our plans do not go very well. Allah (SWT) says:
"Yet it may be that you dislike something, which is good for you, and it may be that you love something, which is bad for you, and Allah knows, and you do not know." (2: 216)
Therefore, keep a "to-do list" of your goals and plans for your years, months, weeks, and days. That will help you find less time in front of the TV, thinking that there is nothing else left to be done.
In the Quran, Allah counts some habits of those prosperous people. If we pay special attention to them, they help us have a more productive life.
Vain talk does not necessarily apply to speaking to others. But any type of futile habit will take away one's prosperity, among which we can name unproductive use of social networks, useless friendships, ineffective discussions, etc.
Being humble and putting effort into reaching a humble character helps us be free from all useless social conflicts. Many people in human history wasted their lives looking abnormally beautiful or earning huge wealth. While the real prosperity belongs to those who beautify their soul, "Felicitous is he who purifies himself, celebrates the Name of his Lord, and prays. But you prefer the life of this world, while the Hereafter is better and more lasting." (87: 14- 17)
Many people pay a lot of attention to their conversations with other people. So much that after each party or gathering, their mind is so busy analyzing what others told them and find out if they meant to humiliate or disrespect them. This habit takes a lot of energy from a person and prevents him/her from being a productive person. Therefore, Allah (SWT) suggests that if one wants to be a real servant of Him, he/ she should ignore all the things that may take away his concentration in serving Allah (SWT).
There is nothing that people can not reach by their imagination and creativity. However, without effort and hard work, nothing is attainable. Through hard work, practice, and persistence human beings can gain what they plan for. Therefore, after planning for your life, and setting your goals that have a tint of God, you have to work hard and "… and once you are resolved, put your trust in Allah…" (3: 159)
Allah also orders people to be careful about the health of their body and soul at the same time when He provides them with sleeping habits: "Stand vigil through the night, except for a little [of it], a half, or reduce a little from that, or add to it, and recite the Quran in a measured tone." (73: 2- 4)
One may say that the above verses apply only to the Prophet (PBUH&HP), but whoever follows these habits will achieve high spiritual levels; "And keep vigil for a part of the night, as a supererogatory [devotion] for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praiseworthy station." (17: 79) Studying the biography of great believers, one can realize that the night watch was one of the most explicit parts of their daily routine.
Allah (SWT) also orders people to watch what they eat, as eating habits have a significant effect on the human body and soul: "Let man consider his food" (80: 24) Having a healthy body and soul will help people to be more productive.
One great habit that can help people have a more productive life, as recommended by Allah (SWT), is reciting the Quran: "…So recite as much of the Quran as is feasible. …" (73: 20)
Reading the Quran and contemplating over its stories, examples and even rulings can help us have a more creative and analytic mind, and this is aside from the miraculous impact that reciting the Quran has on human soul and body "We send down in the Quran that which is a cure and mercy for the faithful…" (17: 82)
In the Quran, Allah (SWT) has always put faith beside practice, which shows the importance of taking action instead of being passive human beings: "By time! Man is indeed in loss, except those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and enjoin one another to [follow] the truth, and enjoin one another to patience." (103: 1- 3)
Imam Ali (AS), in his letter to his son, Imam Hasan (AS), says: "My son! Know that you were created for the Hereafter, not for this world, for extinction (in this world), not for permanence, and death, not for life. You are in an abode from which you must depart, in a place from which you acquire your provisions, and on a path to the Hereafter." 
It is vital to keep in mind that we are not going to live in this world forever. We are here for a short time, and we need to prepare for the real life as mentioned in the Quran: "The life of this world is nothing but diversion and play, but the abode of the Hereafter is indeed Life (itself), had they known!" (29:64). Therefore, if we live every moment of our life knowing that we are traveling to the real world any moment, then we will try our best to make the best out of our time, energy, and talents.
In sum, having a more productive life is a necessity for all Muslims, and to improve one's productivity, planning a life based on the Quran and Islamic teachings can be a great guideline.
- Ibn Shu’bah ,Tuhaf al-Uqul, P. 409-410.
- Allamah Sharif Razi,Nahj al-Balaghah, letter 31.
Coronavirus is a tiny little virus whose power is not comparable to its size. Today, many countries around the world are dealing with this newly emerged virus, gradually finding out ways to fight it back. But as the statistics show, this virus is considerably less fatal than its ancestors, including SARS or MERS, with the death rate of 3.8% . The only thing that worries people is its high-speed contingency and how fast it can transmit from one person to the other. In this global crisis, we, as Muslims, should ask ourselves what our responsibility in this situation is. What does Islam want us to do? Shall we sit and watch and let this molecular size thing defeat us and ruin our society? Of course not. As always, Islam advises us to be patient, take actions, and to find the lesson that is embodied in every hardship. As the Quran says, “Indeed ease accompanies hardship” (94:5). The ease that rests at the heart of hardship is only achieved after we realized this lesson, in this case, strengthening the social ties and reaching out to the essence of humanity.
In what follows, we will have a look at some of our most significant social responsibilities in dealing with any crisis, specifically speaking that of Coronavirus.
Personal hygiene is one of the cornerstones against catching diseases, and as many experts have so far emphasized, it is the most basic protective measure against Coronavirus. Islam is one of the greatest adherents of personal hygiene and continually advises Muslims to follow specific hygienic manners in their lifestyle. Performing Ablution (Wudhu) before each prayer (Salat) or performing ritual bath (Ghusl) are only two examples of the Islamic rules concerning hygiene. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) not only observed his own hygiene and tried to appear neat and tidy in the society, but also advised all Muslims to do the same. He said in a narration, “Cleanliness is a part of faithfulness” .
Now, how does personal hygiene affect our society and the people around us? Well, when you care about your hygiene, the risk of getting any diseases lowers significantly, and even if you become sick, you won’t transmit it to another person. Therefore, we can say that observing personal hygiene is more than an individual precaution, rather an essential social responsibility, especially at the time of epidemics.
So washing hands regularly, maintaining at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing, using masks if you are sick, avoiding handshakes, etc. are some of the most emphasized precautions against this disease .
Another social responsibility that protects us against any disease is keeping our surroundings clean. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said in a hadith, “Allah is pure and loves purity (cleanliness)” .
Therefore, avoid throwing out garbage on the streets, especially the used masks and disposable gloves, since they might be the source of Coronavirus and infect other passersby. Also, disinfect your workplace before starting your job with whatever cleaning products you have to protect yourself and others against this virus.
According to recent studies, people over 60 years and the ones who already have a chronic condition such as diabetics, cardiovascular problems, cancer, or respiratory diseases are at the highest risk in suffering from Coronavirus, and it might affect them fatally.
Respecting and helping the elderly are constantly emphasized in the Islamic tradition. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said, “Respecting the elderly equals to respecting me” . It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that, “A person who doesn’t respect the elderly is not one of us”  and Imam Sajjad (AS) enumerated many rights for the elderly [i]. Respecting the elderly includes many things, such as speaking respectfully, putting them first, especially in critical situations, and helping them to satisfy their needs.
In these difficult days, this is any righteous human being’s responsibility to help out the ones who cannot protect themselves easily. If we have an elderly parent, we should attend to them more than before. We might have elderly neighbors who cannot go out anymore for fear of getting the disease. We can do the shopping for them, buy whatever they need, or check up on them regularly.
The other group, which is highly at risk of getting the Coronavirus is the underprivileged and the ones who don’t have a shelter. This is because they are deprived of the means of protecting themselves against this virus.
As the holy Quran puts, one of the ways of attaining piety is through helping others and giving away (3:92). Also, it is narrated by Imam Ali (AS), “The faithful who help the destitute in the hardships and misfortunes of their life are loved most by Allah” . These and many other hadiths and verses of the Quran, urge Muslims to consider the needy and help them in any way they can.
It is our duty to consider the wellbeing of these people, as well. They might not have enough money to buy antiseptics, or any other hygienic products or may not be able to observe their hygiene properly. We can donate them some of this stuff or take them to some safe places that would shield them against this viral disease.
In Islam, workers have many rights that have to be observed by their employers. One of these rights, according to Imam Sajjad (AS), is to support and guard them against harms .
Therefore, if you are an employer, it is your responsibility to consider the wellbeing of your workers. This could range from disinfecting the workplace regularly, providing the necessary hygienic products, or even sending them home if possible. But this might end up in a financial crisis for the workers as well. So try to consider a part of or whole salary for your workers for this period of obligatory recess.
“Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed hearing, eyesight, and the heart—all of these are accountable.” Quran (17:36)
The message is clear! Do not say or repeat what you are not a hundred percent sure of. From the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, we are faced with considerable media bombarding, especially in social networks, many of which are only speculations or pure lies. The result of spreading this false news is the rise of public anxiety and stress levels, making them more prone to the disease.
You should know that Coronavirus is a newly emerged virus, and the data about its source, symptoms, medications, etc. are not complete and authentic yet. It takes much time for the experts in this field to gather reliable information. Therefore, we should only trust authoritative sources such as the World Health Organization website or other official news agencies and medical experts.
The demand for some essential products may rise considerably when facing epidemics, in this case, Coronavirus. For instance, everyone needs masks, detergents, disposable gloves, etc.
In this situation, some profiteers might go for hoarding these essential products to make them more expensive. Or some ordinary people might buy them excessively to store for themselves. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) condemns the act of hoarding severely and considers the one who practices hoarding an infidel . In another narration, he believes that the hoarder is doomed to poverty and leprosy .
The times of hardships are when we should be more careful about our fellow human beings. Therefore, we should be satisfied with our share of these products and let other people have their own share as well.
Due to its similar symptoms to the common cold, many people would panic when they feel a sore throat, have a runny nose or sneeze, and they rush toward the nearest hospital. And in many cases, their test results are negative.
According to the WHO website, you should, “Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. If you develop fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition” .
Lining up in the hospitals keeps the doctors from attending the ones who have more critical conditions. Moreover, it heightens the risk of getting infected. Therefore, we should avoid going to hospitals unless we have the symptoms mentioned above.
“Behold! Allah’s help is indeed near” Quran (2:214)
At the end of the day, and after considering all these precautions, we should put our trust in Allah and hope in the good fate He had destined us. When we feel our belief in Allah with all our hearts, we would feel less stressed and more positive. This will not only help us to overcome the anxiety surrounding this disease, but also give us the strength to spread this positive attitude in our society. Remember that you should never lose hope in Allah [ii].
[i] “The right of him who is older than you (kabir) is that you show reverence toward him because of his age, and you honor him because he entered Islam before you. You leave off confronting him in a dispute, you do not precede him in a path, you do not go ahead of him, and you do not consider him foolish. If he should act foolishly toward you, you put up with him, and you honor him because of the right of Islam and the respect due to it.” 
[ii] “… Do not despair of the mercy of Allah” Quran (39:53)
- Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- covid 19
- Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol.21, p.257.
- Advice for public
- Muhammadi Reyshahri, Mizan al-Hikmah (Scale of Wisdom), hadith no.9927.
- Muhammadi Reyshahri, Mizan al-Hikmah (Scale of Wisdom), vol.2, p.106, hadith no.10084.
- Imam ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin, Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq), The Right of the one Older than you.
- Ibn Shu’bah, Tuhaf al-Uqul, p.376.
- Imam ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin, Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq), the right of the one who works for you.
- Nahj al-Fasaha, p.293, hadith no. 690.
- Nahj al-Fasaha, p.278.
- Ibn Majah, Sunan ibn Majah, vol.2, p.728.