Summer is a time to ease up and let our minds relax. At the same time, however, summer is a great time to catch up on some non-academic reading, i.e. something other than textbooks! If you are looking for suggestions on how to brush up your religious and spiritual know-how, here is a list of ten Islamic books to read this summer. (Look out next week for a general books-to-read list as well.)
10. Akhlaq al-Aimma (Morals of the Imams)
This book is written by Sayyid Zafar Hasan Amrohi and is nothing less than a life manual for Shia Muslims. It seeks to illustrate the perfection of the Holy Imams (peace be upon them) and present us with role models and examples. Each of the 18 parts of this book has examples from each of the Holy Imams with respect to that category or topic, ranging from piety and humility to hospitality and courage. Available online.
9. The Awaited Savior of Humanity
What do the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt have to say about the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam? About his true followers? About the reign of justice he will establish? Written by Abdul-Rahman Mugahi and translated by Shaikh Saleem Bhimji, this short book is a collection of 40 traditions from the Prophet and his Household about Imam al-Mahdi, containing many eye-opening admonitions and extremely informative pieces of information for his Shias. Available online.
8. Islamic Rulings: Medical Issues
Although this is more of a jurisprudential book, it addresses many vital contemporary questions in regards to modern science and medicine. Translated into English by Shaikh Hamid Waqar, it contains the verdicts of Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei about issues like organ donations, sex change, contraception, and euthanasia. Although this book does address many interesting and thought-provoking questions and issues that might not have occurred to us, make sure to check with your own Marja Taqleed regarding specific Fiqhi inquiries. Available online and in print.
7. Adab as-Salat (Disciplines of Prayer)
What is the purpose of washing ourselves before prayer? What is the philosophy behind bowing? What is the symbolic value of prostration? Written by Imam Khomeini, Adab as-Salat is an extremely engaging and easy-to-read guide on how to practice spiritual wayfaring and truly feel connected to our Lord during our prayers. In addition to explaining the significance and philosophy behind every act of prayer, Imam Khomeini also offers practical tips and advice on how to truly let the spirit soar during Salat. Available online.
6. Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims
This book is a must-read book for every Shia Muslim. Sayed Ali Asghar Razwy poignantly addresses the history of Islam from before the birth of the Prophet until the martyrdom of Imam Ali. But in addition to presenting the Shia version of history, he also addresses and refutes many misconceptions and outright fabrications about the history of this crucial period that are made by other Muslims. Available online and in print.
5. Light Within Me
Light Within Me is a deeply spiritual book that introduces the reader to Irfan, guidance, and spiritual perfection. The book is divided into three parts, with different authors for each: Ayatollah Mutahhari, Allama Tabatabai, and Imam Khomeini. The book's goals is to have us leave behind the daily distractions and focus more on our spiritual knowledge. It also provides a history of Irfan and Gnosticism. The book concludes with the Invocation of Sha'baniyah following the interpretation of Sura Fatiha. Available online and in print.
4. Guiding the Youth of the New Generation
Our youth today are greatly impressed and highly influenced by pop culture which shapes their preferences about what to eat, what sport to play, how to dress, how to talk, and how to appear and behave in a way that is "cool". All this has contributed to increasing the generation gap between parents and elders of our community and our youth. The book Guiding the Youth of the New Generation is where Ayatollah Murtadha Mutahhari focuses on the subject of this generation gap and the mindset of our youth. Available online and in print.
3. Tawheed al-Mufadhdhal
An atheist comes to the city of Medina and tries to misguide the people using false philosophical argumentation. Mufadhdhal, a companion of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him), comes to the Imam and complains to him about how no Muslim can refute the atheist's claims. The Imam holds four sessions with Mufadhdhal, during which he proves to him God's existence using the human body, zoology, geology, and natural disasters. The book is extremely fascinating, and the Imam mentions numerous scientific details that weren't known to modern science until very recently. It is also an excellent resource for those who are interested in countering modern atheistic arguments from a scientific point of view. Available online and in print.
2. Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence)
Considered the most important book of Shia Islam after the Holy Qur'an, Nahj al-Balagha is truly a timeless treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom. Consisting of Imam Ali's sermons, letters, and short sayings, the book is a must read for every believer. According to many scholars, the best way to read Nahj al-Balagha is by going backwards: start first with the short sayings, then go through the letters, and finally read the sermons. Since it takes some time to process the wisdom and literary depth of Imam Ali's words, it is advisable to read it for 15-20 minutes every day instead of trying to go through entire book in a month. Available online and in print.
1. The Holy Qur'an
Of course, the most important book, and one we can never read enough of, is the Book of Allah. In his last will, Imam Ali says, "Remain attached to the Qur'an. Nobody should surpass you in being intent on it, or more sincere in implementing it." Summer is a great time to set up a daily Qur'an reading schedule. Devote at least half an hour every day to reciting the Holy Qur'an and reading the translation and commentary. The recent phrase-by-phrase translation by Ali Quli Qarai is considered the best English translation of the Qur'an from the Shia perspective thus far and is available for purchase online. The Al-Islam Qur'an Portal contains translations by three different translators and the commentary by Ayatollah Mirza Mahdi Pooya.