TEN ISLAMIC BOOKS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE ( Part 1 )

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I am a firm believer that the written word possesses a certain incalculable power and most of human history bears witness to this simple truth. I find it incredibly telling that of all the things Allah (swt) created, His very first Creation was the pen and His very first command was to Instruct that pen to write. I also think one of the reasons for the decline of modern civilization is our growing disengagement with poetry and books. I am by no means a scholar, or an intellectual, or anyone of significance in the world. But like you, I am on a journey. And though the road is not always smooth or clear, and I often find myself taking unwarranted detours and superfluous deviations, my hope and my prayer is that I somehow keep returning to the path that I know to be true, a path of perpetual reflection and growth. The written word has been and continues to be essential to that journey.

Every ounce of guidance you manage to gain in your life is divinely inspired and decreed. When you start viewing the world in this manner it radically alters your paradigm. Every event, whether joyful or tragic, every relationship, whether fleeting or significant, every phase of your life, is a learning opportunity and serves a purpose. And whatever you read, whether by plan or by chance, also has a purpose. And at least part of that purpose is guidance.

The following is a compilation of the ten books that I have found profoundly instrumental to my understanding and appreciation of Islam, and consequently, my growth as a human being. There are countless books that are from non-Islamic sources that have also been important in this regard, but for now, I’d like to focus on these. My hope is they may inspire, enlighten, provoke, educate and benefit you as they have me.

10. Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America by Dr. Jeffrey Lang.
9. The Book of Assistance by Shaykh Abdallah Ibn Alawi al-Haddad.
8. Healing Body and Soul by Amira Ayad.
7. Don’t Be Sad by Aidh Ibn Abdullah al-Qarni.
6. Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart. By Shaykh al-Mawlud and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.
5. The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali.
4. Timelessness and the Reality of Fate by Harun Yahya.
3. The Way to the Qur’an by Khurram Murad.
2. Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings.
1. The Holy Qur’an.

 

Let’s begin..

10. Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America by Dr. Jeffrey Lang.

I am blessed to have stumbled upon this book early in my journey and it profoundly changed how I viewed Islam. Despite my parents’ best efforts, as a child I found religion to be somewhat formulaic, rigid and antithetical to free thought. My Western upbringing encouraged curiosity and open discussion. Many of the Muslim adults in my early life had a completely opposite approach. I remember many questions about God, my existence and the purpose of humanity crossed my mind and sometimes also my lips. I rarely felt encouraged in this regard. Usually the adult would provide some half-hearted answer and then explain that faith is a matter of the heart, a decision based on intangible spiritual feelings and aided by unflinching submission. Questions of faith, and thus in my context questions about Islam, could not and should not be approached through logic. Lang begged to differ and through this book my young heart found affirmation of what I deeply knew all along: to be a viable life-governing concept, Islam can and absolutely should be approached with curiosity and through reason. Even the title, Even Angels Ask, is itself an affirmation of the fact. When God created man, even the angels were perplexed and questioned Him: “Will you place therein one who will spread corruption and shed blood?” (2:30). The rest of the book documents one man’s humble attempt to answer this question and I found much I could relate to in his story.

 

9. The Book of Assistance by Shaykh Abdallah Ibn Alawi al-Haddad.

This book, which at times reads like a self-help manual and at others like a sincere letter from a friend, is one of the broadest, most comprehensive works I’ve ever read on the subject of what it entails to be a good Muslim. Written nearly nine centuries ago, it is as relevant today as it was then and I find myself returning to it often. Not only does the author manage to be straightforward and concise while dealing with subjects of innumerable complexity and depth, he also successfully intertwines the outer dimensions of worship, such as prayer and fasting, with the inner dimensions, such as sincerity and contentment, continually demonstrating how each is mutually dependent on the refinement of the other. My recommendation would be to take each of the thirty-two short chapters as a daily lesson for reflection and implementation. The content of this book is too heavy to be absorbed all at once.

 

 

8. Healing Body and Soul by Amira Ayad.

One of the features of the modern era is an intense concern with categorization, organization and efficiency. This is a beneficial approach in many regards, most notably in science, mathematics and engineering. It falls short, however, when we start applying it to human beings. When we treat any of the human sciences, be it sociology, psychology or even medicine with absolute rationalism and compartmentalization, we fail to recognize the important linkages between various fields. Nowhere is this more apparent than in mainstream modern approaches to human health. The main purpose of Ayad’s book is to show that the human mind, body and spirit are deeply interconnected and she does this by weaving together insights from the Qur’an, the Prophetic practice, Islamic history and contemporary research. Her proficiency in each of these subjects shines through and the result is a book that is nothing short of a tour de force in holistic health and wellbeing from an Islamic perspective. I learned and benefitted a great deal from this work.

 

 

7. Don’t Be Sad by Aidh Ibn Abdullah al-Qarni.

Once in a while you come across a book that you simply cannot put down. Every page is filled with fresh wisdom and insight, the writing style is fluid and accessible and the content is so relatable that you feel the author is somehow indirectly observing and commenting on the current affairs of your life. That is how I felt when I first read this book on the heels of a personal tragedy and I know others who have had the same experience. This book has been my friend amidst heartbreak and my therapist amidst depression. Al-Qarni’s sensitive understanding of human nature is profound, and his solutions are simple, universal and self-evident. I still turn to this work from time to time when I feel I might benefit from a change of perspective or when my faith needs a gentle boost of inspiration and positivity.

 

6. Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart.
By Shaykh al-Mawlud and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.

Although there are many titles available dealing with this vital subject, of those I’ve read this resonated the most. The first thing that sets this work apart is its’ organization. Each disease is given its own chapter and dealt with in a highly precise manner. The idea is that just as we are all blessed with certain talents, we are also each afflicted by specific spiritual diseases, or at the very least, immoral inclinations. One person may have an issue with arrogance and ostentation but not so much with jealousy. Another may be struggling with a love of wealth but have very little problem controlling their anger. Just as each disease is different, each treatment deserves a separate discussion. The second reason I loved this book is Hamza Yusuf’s brilliantly crafted conclusion, a discussion that creatively connects these centuries’ old religious concepts to the contemporary social problems of today. The diseases of the heart are thus not only the diseases of my heart or your heart, but ultimately the heart of entire communities and societies. For me, this book skilfully brought to life the verse: “Verily Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran 13:11).

 

Insha’Allah to be continued…

In the meanwhile, what about you? Are there any books in particular that illuminated your spiritual journey? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. My top ones include: The Purpose of Creation (Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips), Spirituality in Religion (Hz Shaheedullah Faridi) and Vision for Seekers of the Truth (Syed Muhammed Zauqi).

  2. am very interested with the writing of madam Saada Khan, AM a History teacher at Mwanza Tanzania holding Bachelor degee of education in Arts specifically in history. am Muslim likes to learn more about Islam i will be happy if i learn more from you

  3. Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh Saadia Khan

    I am an aspiring writer from Singapore and am in the process of publishing my own poetry book – Syafakallah, in which I contains 81 poems on my Islamic journey through 59 mosques, in 5 countries over a span of 3 years.

    I would like to appeal for my manuscript to be considered for publishing by you to be spread among Muslims and Non-Muslims alike if it is possible God-Willing.

    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Attached is my book manuscript.

    Regards
    Irfan

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