‘There will thus remain only one feasible option for broadening one’s horizons and mind, and becoming more objective and tolerant. It is this: that people should put down their mobile phones, and turn off the net and the TV, and spend at least an hour every day in silent, solitary, and systematic reading. Reading—that which is worth reading, of course—takes people out of the confines of their natural myopia and parochialism and enriches them immeasurably. It can transport people to past times, distant places, wondrous experiences and unexpected emotions. It can stimulate the imagination, sharpen the mind, strengthen the memory, induce contemplation and inculcate noble sympathies. It allows people to sit and listen to the most brilliant minds, teachers, ideas and speeches that have ever existed, no matter what languages they—or we—actually spoke or speak. It can take people to necessary escapes, relaxing fantasies, to imaginary worlds or, by contrast bring them face-to-face with bitter truth and make them mindful of the inexorable, eternal present moment. In short, it can teach people priceless knowledge about themselves, about the world and about reality itself.
Moreover, many of the world’s classics of spirituality, philosophy, science, history and literature are made available in attractive, accurate and affordable editions in series like Penguin Classics (despite their terrible translation of the Qur’an) and Oxford World Classics, for very little money. Many religious jewels are available completely for free on the internet by sites like Altafsir.com and the Gutenberg project. Quality reading is thus easy, cheap and of inestimable value. Aristotle says ‘the right aim of education . . . is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought’ (Nicomachean Ethics 1104a-b).
Consequently, making a commitment to self-motivated, broad, lifelong learning—not only religious learning, but learning that which ‘makes the pupil like and dislike what he ought’—means striving to acquire the right education, no matter what school or college one attended (or attends). This can easily be achieved at the expense of internet and entertainment time, and indeed the discipline of controlling these modern pleasures is in itself of enormous value. Moreover, in reading; in beneficial knowledge; in wisdom; in reflection, there may also lie lurking some of the solutions to the looming problems mentioned above. Reading certainly helps individuals, but it may also help the whole world and derail dystopian trends of the present and the future, and God knows best. It is no accident that the first word revealed of the Qur’an was: Iqra’! (Read!) (Al-‘Alaq, 96:1). Indeed—although it is not obvious from looking at Muslims nowadays—traditional Islamic civilization, having no clergy as such or clerical institutions or castes, was entirely based on the written word: first God’s (in the Qur’an), then the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings, and then all beneficial knowledge. Indeed, the only prayer for ‘more’ in the Qur’an is: . . .‘My Lord, increase me in knowledge.’ (Ta Ha, 20:114).’
bin Muhammad, H.R.H. Prince Ghazi. A Thinking Person’s Guide to Our Times (pp. 122-123). Turath Publishing.