Jasser Auda: “Knowledge Through Travelling and Reading Habits”
In the context of advocating a culture of reading and seeking knowledge, Muhammad Rofiq (Deputy Secretary of the Legal Affairs Committee of Muhammadiyah) interviews Jasser Auda and discusses many issues. When the Maqasid expert was asked about the origin of his reading habits, he explains that his habit of reading started since he was small as he was inspired by his father’s reading habits.
“My father, Allah bless his soul, was a serious reader. Every night he would not sleep before reading a book. He had a huge private library,” said Jasser Auda.
Then, Jasser Auda’s reading habits continued to increase with age. He now also has a large personal library, both paper and electronic books.
“I also have a habit of reading a book or more every day, in my regular days. And I went through professional training in fast reading some time ago. There are techniques for quick reading that you can apply. Certainly, when I realise the importance of a certain book, I read it carefully and focus on the details. But not every book. It takes one to three hours to read a book quickly. You first look at the table of contents, and then skim through what the chapters are talking about. Then, you should focus on the summary or abstract, the introduction and the main topics. Only after that, if interested, you should read each chapter of the book, section by section,” said the founder of the Maqasid Institute.
I asked Jasser Auda if he avoids reading certain books. He replied that he reads books from all genres and disciplines, ranging from philosophy, psychology, history, medicine, art and more. There is no limit on what you can read, he said, except for the moral limits of Islam.
I asked him about the habit of reading books, did he transmit to his children? “Yes, I encouraged my children as they were growing up to read. I would take them regularly to bookshops to choose books they want to read from all sections,” said Jasser Auda.
One of the interesting things Jasser Auda told me was his other sources of knowledge beyond reading.
“My other source of knowledge is traveling. This is my second source of knowledge after reading. When I spend weeks in a country like Indonesia for example, I learn many things even more than reading books. In this trip for example, I learned a lot about food, social habits, language, culture and how the Indonesian people live within the wide spectrum of the Islamic religion. Traveling is one important source of knowledge that Allah has also prescribed in the Koran in addition to “iqra (read)”. He said: “fasiru fi al-ard (travel through the world and learn)”. In this verse Allah asks us to visited many places,” said Jasser Auda who before his visit to Indonesia also visited many places in Malaysia and Singapore.
Then I asked Jasser Auda about how he memorised the Koran.
“I started reading and memorizing Al-Quran since childhood, when I was in Cairo. I learned how to read and memorize the Quran in the mosque of al-Azhar, where my parents used to live nearby. And now I try to keep my recitation of the Quran by continuously listening and repeating what I had memorised. But in my opinion, the best way to keep the memorisation of the Quran is to understand it more. Understanding the Koran is an important step to preserve it. One often get confused about repeated expressions and paragraphs (al-Mutashabih), but we are confused because we do not understand. When we understand more, then we will know why Allah says a certain verse or story in this Surah and says it in a different way in a different Surah, for example,” he said.
Jasser Auda is a Canadian scholar of Egyptian origin. His works in the field of Maqasid al-Sharia has been translated into dozens of languages around the world, and thus he become quite influential among enthusiasts of Islamic studies. *rfq