Four of my books are duly edited and two of them are already published. These four copies have undergone a thorough linguistic screening process and each para had a grave grammatical mistake. My English teacher would have caned me for such mistakes but my readers pardon me because of the value that my writing provides them. I still remember meeting a prominent publisher who told me that even bestselling authors have to get their content corrected from other linguistic experts because sculptors of thoughts may not be technicians of grammar.
Most of our English teachers don’t end up as writers even though their grammar is excellent. The reason for this is that they work on the science of writing and not on the art of writing.
Writing is an ‘Art’ and not a ‘Science’. Therefore, most of our English teachers don’t end up as writers even though their grammar is excellent. The reason for this is that they work on the science of writing and not on the art of writing.If you focus on writing as a science, then it will be difficult to penetrate the hearts of the readers. If you win the heart, then you have won the mind because a large number of decisions are taken on the basis of feelings and not on thinking. Ask yourself why you bought that particular dress and you would say ‘Because I liked it’. ‘
However, in the field of Islamic writing, the science of authenticity is as important as the art of writing. Today, we do have writers but our writing lacks persuasion. As compared to the writings of our Salaf, our writings have less content and weak reasons. In fact, many popular Muslim writers of today don’t even attach authenticity to their works. A writer is like a manufacturing company providing you ready-made thoughts and pursuing you to agree with them. Writers teach people to think their way with each sentence that pen out from their mind, taking the readers a step closer to agree with them. These persuasive writings can be a copy of advertisement or a fiction or a set of “how to” books.
Writers have the capacity to change the thinking pattern of people. Most of the revolutionaries changed the direction of history through writing. Some examples are the revolutions of Hitler and Karl Marx which began via their books. An Islamic writer teaches people to think the Qur’anic way with Creed and Manhaj while motivating them to hold Islamic values. If you read the history of the advancement of Islam, we had amazing writers like Ibn Taymiyah Rahimuhullah, who wrote around thirty five pages a day. Another great example is Imam Naw’vi Rahimuhullah, who wrote so many books in his short life of 46 years that it would take us decades to read all his stuff. These writers were all avid readers and their writing was a result of their passionate reading. Sometimes, I wonder about their reading capacity because in an age when they did not have any printing press or ‘Kindles’, how did they manage to get through those books? Don’t forget that even electricity was discovered centuries after those avid readers died.
“But how does one become such a writer?” an enthusiastic budding Muslim writer once asked me. I responded, “By reading more than what you write.” Your reading should be ten times ahead of your writing. Ibn Jawzi Rahimuhullah, wrote two thousand volumes but he had read around twenty thousand books in his days of studies. Every successful writer began his writing career with reading.
A very convenient and ancient way of destroying a culture was to destroy the source of reading, so as soon as the people were deprived from reading, their own writers would turn to other cultures. When the Mongols were not satisfied after killing thousands of Muslims in Baghdad, they burnt the Islamic Library of Baghdad. Ibn Kathir notes that its smoke was seen from miles away. However, today a new way has emerged to overpower people’s reading power: involve them into junk reading. Junk reading results in junk thoughts, and that develops a junk generation of junk characters. Today, entertainment reading has superseded value based reading; Harry Potter sells more than a book on character building.
Thousands of Muslim houses host Harry Potters and Barbie books on their shelves but you would rarely see an Islamic book that inculcates good values in their collections. Books that promote infidelity and ungratefulness are sold instantly. If you have a look on the shelves of Bookshops, you will find more titles on Dieting, Weight reduction and Beauty being introduced. Instead of reducing weight and giving better looks, these books give their readers more complexes about their looks, shapes and sizes. Romantic fiction novels are more tempestuous in describing sex scenes than movies.
On the other hand, we as a community are losing our reading power. We may have a few people who read hundreds of books, but as a community, we are failed readers. One hundred thousand copies sold by an American writer puts him in the category of “just a good writer” but a few thousand copies sold by a Muslim author puts him in the ranks of a “very successful writer”. As of now, we need more readers than writers.
When I released my first book last year, I was disappointed with the response. My seminar in Mumbai could not even sell 5 copies, even though there were around 300 people in the hall where my book was officially launched. I even distributed a few hundreds of copies for free in order to develop the reading taste of the community. Until this day, only three schools students have sent me their reviews and a letter of thanks, whereas Naomi Wolf and Naomi Klenn, popular Western writers, receive hundreds of letters from their readers every week. My friend consoled me with some hard hitting words, “This is a community that does not even read the Book of Allah; how can you expect them to read your book!“
Despite this, I will continue to write. Ibn Taymiyah’s books are read even hundred of years after his death and so are all the books of Tafasir and Hadith. If you are passionate about writing, you should not give up on writing either!