The most daunting of tasks is finding out where to start in learning about one’s own religion. Here we list some of the important books that Muslims in the West should read.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! Converting to a religion is an overwhelming experience. Perhaps the most daunting task of entering a religion for the first time, or wanting to seriously learn about a religion for the first time is the problem of knowledge. Where should we look to learn? What books should we read? What should we start with first?
In this lesson, we’re going to list a few books we think are important and ideal to read when the quest for Islamic knowledge begins. The books will be in chronological order of importance.
BODY OF TEXT
The books we will introduce here, as a reading list, are by no means exhaustive. So let’s start!
The Qur’an is the most important book of Islam. It is the sacred scripture of the religion. The Qur’an does not contain every bit of information in terms of how you need to lead your religious life.
For example, the Qur’an won’t tell you how many rakats you need to pray.
What the Qur’an does contain are general principles on the most fundamental aspects of Islam.
This begins with tawhid or the oneness and unity of God, prophethood, as well as moral principles of Islam. These points are usually illustrated through stories.
The Qur’an is the only infallible written text that we have in our hands nowadays. This, therefore, makes it critical for Muslims as it is the one thing we know that we can fall back on that is 100%, completely error and mistake free.
There are plenty of translations of the Qur’an. Although they all have their particular strengths, we would recommend the Ali Quli Qarai translation of the Qur’an. The language is simple and it offers a phrase by phrase translation of the sacred text.
When reading the Qur’an, we recommend that one have access to a commentary as well. There are a number of them available in English today. The following are some good ones:
- Ayatullah Puya Yazdi’s commentary.
- Al-Mizan by Allamah Tabatabai (although the translation of the commentary is not complete as of the date of this recording)
Nahj al-Balagha is a compilation of Imam Ali’s (as) sermons, letters and sayings. It was compiled by al-Sharif al-Radi around the late 10th century CE.
The book has much value for Muslims. It outlines the theological outlook of Imam Ali (as) to the world. It speaks of God’s Unity in beautiful poetic language, it encourages and inspires trust in God as well as deep reflection on every day social and political issues.
Tawzih al-Masa’il (also pronounced Tawdīh al-Masā’il)
The tawdih al-Masa’il genre of literature are works produced by Marjas or experts in Islamic law who outline in detail the dos and donts of Islamic law. They talk about ritual purity laws, prayer laws, fasting laws, marriage laws and much more. Few of us can become experts in Islamic law, so these books are very handy to have.
Each marja produces his own book. So once you know who you are doing taqleed of, make sure to obtain his tawdih al-masā’il. Most the tawdīh al-masā’il of the Marjas today have been translated to English. If you have questions that are not present in the book, you can always ask your resident Alim, or email the Marja through his website.
Al-Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya (pronounced al-Sahīfat al-Sajjādīyah)
The Sahifa is a book that contains all the major duas or supplications of our 4th Imam, Imām al-Sajjād (also known as Imam Zayn al-ʿAbidīn). Some have seen these supplications as the Psalms of Islam as it has some similarity to the Psalms of David (as) in terms of style.
The supplications are important for the they act as proper examples in teaching us how to supplicate to Allah in different contexts, whether it is a supplication to God based on fear of debt or poverty, or supplicating to Him and thanking Him for all the good He has given us in our lives.
Jamiʿ al-Saadat (The Collector of Felicities)
This is a work written by Allamah al-Naraqi. The work is about spiritual ethics and the religious moral life. It mostly talks about the spiritual diseases that exist inside of us, such as pride, anger, greed, avarice, miserliness and much more. These spiritual disease are what keep us far from God even when we pray regularly and obey the exoteric rulings of Islam.
This work is about disciplining the inner self, the soul, so that our outward religious actions and duties may gain their fullest merit.
Mizan al-Hikma (Scale of Wisdom)
Mizan al-Hikma or Scale of Wisdom is a modern compilation of hadiths regarding spiritual ethics. It was compiled by a scholar called Ayatullah Rayshahri. It contains thousands of hadiths and they are divided into multiple subjects, such as anger, fear of poverty, hope with God, marriage and other important themes. The translation to English is a very good one and is a useful source of inspiration for all Muslims. It contains a number of hadiths on most issues that we face regularly in our daily lives.
Fundamentals of Islamic Thought by Murtada Muttahari
This work takes Islam’s teachings and juxtaposes it with modern challenges to religious faith, including the relationship between science and faith, the role of reason in Islam, theology and other important subjects. The translation is sound and the ideas in it are life changing.
Faith and Reason by Ayatullah Hadavi
Faith and Reason is a book by Ayatullah Hadavi. This book is particularly useful as answers some of the common but tough questions modern people ask about Islam. It provides real answers from a real scholar. The questions that are dealt with in this book include the status of non-Muslims and hell, or whether animals have souls. This book is a MUST read for all Muslims. It is very simple and to the point and contains short answers as well as long and detailed answers.
Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh
Can I read any Tawdih al-Masa’il book?
It is better to read the one produced by your own Marja
How can I make sure that I will understand the Qur’an properly when I’m reading it?
Read it with a credible commentary like al-Mizan by Allamah Tabatabai or Ayatullah Puya Yazdi’s commentary.
Is Nahj al-Balagha written by Imam Ali (as)?
No, it is a compilation of his sermons, letters and sayings by a later scholar called al-Sharif al-Radi who died in the early 11th century C.E
translation of the Qur’an
The Collector of Felicities
Mizan al-Hikma Scale of Wisdom
Same list of books outlined in the lecture.