'Read in the name of your LordÂ…'
Holy Qur'an 96:1
These were the first words revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (may God's peace and blessings be upon him), by God, over 14 centuries ago, emphasising the importance of learning in the Muslim tradition. Thus we welcome the international celebration of reading and books, which is taking place across the world in the form of World Book Day. In the UK and Ireland, this will be celebrated tomorrow, Thursday the 4th of March. Schools and libraries up and down the country are marking this day through activities related to reading. One of the main aims of the day is to share with children the sheer joy of reading.
Unfortunately it is this very simple message which is today very often forgotten as the art of reading is rapidly declining and being replaced with a host of electronic alternatives, such as computer games, play stations, television etc.
Let us take this day as an opportunity to renew both our own and our children's relationship with books and reading.
Below three of our regular contributors share with us their favourite book:
'The Holy Our' an' has been chosen by Claire Ali who is a former Head of Languages and now trains teachers for the Open University. She is currently developing an INSET programme on teaching methodology for Muslim Supplementary Schools.
The only 'book', which will always hold my interest, even with the tiniest excerpt, is the miraculous Qur'an. And in my attempts to learn the language of the Qur'an I finally came across a fantastic publication: 'The Holy Qur'an for School Children: Part 30' by Yahya Emerick. From a linguistic point of view, the transliteration is extremely efficient making accurate memorisation a very real possibility. The English translation is modern and very easy to read and understand, whilst, of course remaining true to the Arabic in meaning. The layout is simple, logical and attractive. But as well as all of this, the book is ground breaking in the way it encourages children to engage with the verses.
Each Surah (chapter) is followed by a creative and engaging task, often incorporating the text of a related Hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad). Children are asked to analyse, suggest, consider, ponder and are, therefore, God Willing, genuinely being developed into the `people who reflect' to whom God refers to so frequently in the Qur'an.
I find this approach most refreshing Â– children are at last being asked to use their own intellect to deduce balanced conclusions from the messages of the Qur'an rather than having these 'ready-made' and thrust upon them.
'Pride and Prejudice' has been chosen by Suma Din, as a confirmed favourite. Suma is a teacher and author..
'Pride and Prejudice' would rank as my all time favourite, for there is far more to it than merely the subjects of pride and prejudice. But then, that's a Jane Austen trait throughout; precision in language that speaks volumes, and appearances being deceiving. This classic is one that will never age for me, having read and re-read it several times.
For those suffering from the serious deprivation of never having read what is probably Jane Austen's most popular novel, the story is one that revolves around the fate and fortunes of the Bennet sisters and their passage to marriage. With wit, humour and remarkably detailed personalities, there is as much social commentary as there is plot, engaging the reader at the turn of every page. The four central characters have varying degrees of pride and prejudice to overcome, whilst the entertainment is on going with the comical characters such as the desperately eager mother, Mrs. Bennet, the unbearable Mr. Collins and frivolous Lydia.
Jane Austen's characters outlived her, and as a loyal fan, I must confess to seeing much of the world through her writing: whether they speak in Urdu or English, there are Mrs. Bennets round every corner, unfortunately lots of Mr. Collins, and well the Janes and Elizabeths of this world are fewer and far between- as for the Darcy's and Bingleys, well twenty first century men still have a long way to go!
Lord of the Rings has surely stood the test of time for Shabana Khan who has held this book as a favourite over the last three decades. Shabana is a practising solicitor.
It is very fashionable these days to be a Lord of the Rings fan Â– everyone is flocking to New Zealand to see the magnificent landscape used for the film and the books are flying off the shelves, but when I first read the book I was just 12 years old. We had a new library teacher, an American, who loved books and recommended it to me. It was a hefty volume Â– all three books in one Â– and when I got home I hid it because my mum thought I already spent too long reading and would have flipped if she had seen this tome on my bedside table! She found it anyway, and demanded to know what kind of book it was Â– obviously I was close enough to puberty for her to be worried about my reading materials.
I explained that it was a fantasy adventure about creatures called hobbits and a ring, which had the power to turn people nasty; she just shrugged and left me to it, probably relieved it wasn't Judy Blume.
Since then I have read it from cover to cover 3 times, usually after a gap of 10 years each time, as a sort of touchstone Â– finding comfort in a traditional tale of good vs. evil, food-loving hobbits with hairy toes vs. the evil masses of Sauron threatening at the gates. The Lord of the Rings has everything Â– epic battles, the struggle of David against Goliath, gentle humour, beautiful descriptions, touching romance and a wonderful variety and depth of characters. It is the reason I love reading and why I have been mesmerised by Peter Jackson's faithful big-screen version. Each time I have read it, I have found something new to beguile me and a different echo in my own life.
The Lord of the Rings is a wonderfully good read and I thoroughly recommend it.