In this month of February, let’s remind ourselves of the value of reading
The world-renowned poet Omar Khayyam said: “Bread and wine will run out of time, a beloved’s black eyes will become dull, but a book is always everlasting if it is of that type.” A good book opens our eyes, expands and develops our wisdom, and helps to enlighten the soul.
In this age, people, especially the youth, are led in fake directions -- sometimes ignorance and sometimes extremism. One study has found that the habit of reading books helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which lead to a decline in memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
The enjoyment that comes from reading a book helps keep our brain healthy.
A maulana once said in a religious sermon that there is another Earth whose door is in Antarctica, and it is controlled by the US, Australia, and other powerful countries. If the audience were aware of science and technology, they wouldn’t believe it.
People are thirsty for knowledge, and this thirst is greatly expanded by reading books. The more we read, the freer we are from misguidance. Inside books, there are treasure troves of unknown information. When we read, we are acquainted with the information contained within -- whether it is religious, fictional, scientific, or academic; books can make us truly knowledgeable, and this knowledge always enriches a person with true guidance.
People need recreation, and it can be earned easily by reading books as this habit increases our power of imagination. We can connect with the whole world through a journey that leads us to jump from one end of the Earth to another.
New images and narratives create a land of imagination where new inventions begin to grow. This is how Bertrand Russell used to make himself happy. Whenever he felt irritated, he would sink into a book and forget everything. Because he realized that the more the gloom, the greater the ability to evade the atmosphere.
Once, Dr Zafar Iqbal was asked about the benefits of reading books. He gave an example -- if someone watches something on television which is shown directly, there is no scope for imagination. But if the same thing is written in a book, the reader has to use their brain to imagine.
Suppose a book talks about the blue sky. The brain usually analyzes it without seeing any picture -- the imagination of the “blue sky” starts here. This is a process that is very relaxing and helpful for the brain. The brain does not develop if this process is not enabled. For this reason, if someone watches television, the process does not happen because the brain is not exercised.
An extremist wanted to kill Dr Zafar Iqbal because of a book title. The person took the decision of killing the writer without even reading the book.
I believe that books not only give information, but also ask different questions and teach us to think. Why do we need to read books? They help us to be OK both physically and mentally.
In 2009, scientists of Sussex University in the UK tested heart rates and observed that certain tasks helped to reduce stress. They noticed that reading books for only six minutes reduced stress levels up to 68%, which is much more effective than walking (42%), drinking coffee (54%), or listening to music (61%).
Being completely immersed in reading can greatly reduce the things that make us uncomfortable or increase our stress levels. Through books, we can reach an unknown world within a moment, and that relieves us of our daily reality and the misery of society. It also reduces our stress and lets us think more positively.
I have found that people who are involved in preaching religion need to have a sound, constructive memory. When they give information, they need to be specific, accurate, and authentic. Here, reading books can help a lot, because when we read, it is important to remember the information contained within it.
When we try to remember all this information, our brain does a lot of exercises. Also, books create new connections in our brains -- thereby increasing our interest to know, to remember, and to deliver accurate information.
Reading books also increases our critical thinking ability. When we read a detective novel or a mysterious story, we try to unravel the mystery before the story ends. This makes our brains faster, and our thinking capacity also increases. This practice helps readers guess what might happen when we circulate information among people. Through reading books, people also learn the value of good human qualities, and develop a sense of self-esteem that cannot be developed otherwise.
“Books are the mirrors of the soul,” said Virginia Woolf.
Moreover, reading books creates a sympathetic mindset. Book lovers have compassionate hearts.
Religion teaches us to be peaceful and tolerant. Are we following this path? Let’s read to know. Let books shine on us with knowledge and make our lives beautiful with various colours, smashing in the walls of our ignorance.
Hasan Al-Mahmud is Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) Fellow, Montana State University, USA. He writes on contemporary issues, education, and literature.