Sweet Memories

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In Memory of My Late Father, NazirAhmed Daud Satia (1947 – 2013)

 

Here in Blackburn was where his life started,

He wasn’t just a man, he wasn’t just a father, but so ever kind-hearted;

Principled, firm, full of awe and his beauty shone through,

With a voice so strong, every word spoken true.

 

In India, is where his life began,

His move to England was Allah’s plan.

Justice was his strength, his aura so majestic,

Community work, joining ties, his charity and courage were fantastic.

His sincerity, selflessness, humility and much more,

Such men are rare, that’s for sure.

 

Memories of Abba, I will cherish forever,

I pray in Jannah we will be together.

His aura and character sticks in my mind,

His laughter and smile it was one of a kind!

 

You are now far from our sight

Your beauty disappeared like the day covered by night.

Thank you for a lifetime of lessons I will never forget,

It only seems like yesterday when your sun finally set.

 

The next stage of your life has been set to begin,

Allah elevate your status and resurrect you without a single sin,

We miss you deeply and wish you all the best,

Allah bless you with every stage of success.

 

I won’t be sad, I won’t shed a tear,

I know the angels await you, they proclaim: “Do not be sad and do not fear.”

I pray you rest forever in peace and harmony, I pray you will never have pain or ache,

Know for sure, we all love you deeply for Allah’s sake.

 

Your son, indebted to you forever (Five years on).

19 Rabiul Awwal 1440

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Imam Bukhari RH

by Shaikhul Hadith Mufti Ebrahim Saheb Desai 

https://jamiat.org.za/imam-bukhari-his-famous-al-jaamius-sahih/

1. Name
Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ismail ibn Ebrahim ibn Mugira ibn Bardizba Al Ju’fi Al Bukhari.

2. Birth and Lineage
Born on Friday (after Jumuah) 13 Shawwal 194 A.H. Passed away on Friday 1 Shawwal 256 A.H. (the night before Eid-ul-Fitr) (Hadyus Saari – pg.477).

Bardizba was a fire worshipper. His son Mugira accepted Islam on the hands of Ju’fi the governor of Bukhara. That is why the name Ju’fi appears at the end of his name. There is not much mention about Imam Bukhari’s grandfather, Ebrahim. However, his father, Ismail, was a muhaddith and Ibn Hibban has rated him in the 4th category of reliable muhadditheen. He has narrated from Hammad ibn Zaid and Imam Malik. Abu Hafs Kabir says that he was present at the time of Ismails death when he heard him say: “I do not have a single dirham of doubt in my earnings.”

3. Abilities (Remarkable Memory)
When Imam Saheb was 11 years old, he was once at the lesson of Imaam Daakli and Imaam Daakhli narrated the following sanad: Sufyan from Abu Zubair from Ebrahim. Imaam Saheb said that this sanad is incorrect because Abu Zubair did not narrate from Ebrahim. When it was checked up, Imaam saheb was correct. (Hadyus Saari pg.478).

Hashid bin Ismail mentions that Imam Bukhari (R.A.) in his youth use to come to the Mashaaikh of Basra but he never used to write. After 16 days, we rebuked him for not writing down the notes (Ahadith). After a while, he said: “You have rebuked me enough – bring your kitabs.” Haashid says: “We brought our kitabs and Imam Saheb mentioned each and every hadith with their sanads and also corrected our kitabs and said: “You think I’m wasting my time!” (At that time there were over 15 000 Ahadith taken from those Mashaaikh of Basra) (Hadyus Saari pg.478).

Once Ishaaq bin Raah-weih mentioned that I know the 70 000 Ahadith mentioned in my book like I’m looking at them. When this was mentioned to Imam Bukhari (R.A.), he replied: “You are astonished at that, perhaps in this time and age, there are such people who know 200 000 Ahadith as mentioned in the kitaab (by this Imam Saheb was referring to himself) (Hadyus Saari pg.487).

Once when Imam Bukhari went to Baghdad, the muhadditheen got together and took 100 Ahadith and mixed up their sanads (chain of narrators) and matan (text). Thereafter 10 muhadditheen were appointed to present ten of these Ahadith each to him incorrectly. When each Hadith was presented, he replied each time with these words: “I don’t know this Hadith.” After all the Ahadith were presented to him, he mentioned each Hadith as it was narrated by those ten muhadditheen and then mentioned the correct version of each one (Hadyus Saari pg.486).

Abu Azhar (R.A.) says; “Once when Imam Bukhari (R.A.) came to Samarkand, 400 muhadditheen got together and mixed up the sanads of Iraq with Yemeni sanads and the sanads of the Haram with the Yemeni sanads in trying to make Imam Saheb commit a mistake, but not one mistake was taken out by anyone of the 400 muhadditheen.

4. Ustaads
Imam Bukhari (R.A.) said he has more than 1000 Ustaads. He knows the chain of narrators of every Hadith from every Ustaad. Ibn Hajar has categorized Bukhari’s Ustaads into 5 groups:

  1. Tabi’een
  2. Contemporaries of Tabi’een but did not narrate.
  3. Heard from elderly Tabi’een.
  4. Narrates from his colleagues who were his seniors.
  5. Narrates from his juniors.

5. Students
90 000 people have heard the Bukhari Shareef directly from Imam Bukhari (Hadyus Saari pg.491).

6. Sacrifices
Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi alaih) invested his money of inheritance from his father’s estate and he should receive 500 dirhams monthly. All this used to be spent in attaining knowledge.

When he went to Adam ibn Abi Ayas there was a delay in receiving money – he ate grass, after 3 days somebody gave a bag of coins.

He got sick, his container of food was shown to doctors, they said this is like the Raahibs. Imam Bukhari did not eat curry for 40 years. When people insisted, he accepted to have bread and sugar as curry.

7. Piety and Character
Imam Bukhari said: “From the time I knew backbiting is haraam I never spoke ill about anyone.”

The need once arose for Imam Bukhari (R.A.) to travel by sea. He had with him 1000 ashrafis (gold coins). While on the ship, he met a person who became very close to Imam Saheb. One day (while on the ship) that person began shouting when asked the reason for the shouting he mentioned that he had a thousand Ashrafis that were missing. While every passenger on the ship was being searched, Imam Bukhari (R.A.) threw his 1000 Ashrafis into the sea. After all the passengers on board were searched and the money not found, the people began rebuking that person. When the journey ended that person came to Imam Bukhari (R.A.) and enquired as to what he had done with the money. Imam Bukhari (R.A.) replied that he had thrown it into the sea. That person asked why he had borne such a huge loss. He replied: “Are you not aware that my entire life has been devoted to the Ahadith of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and my authenticity is very renowned. I was not prepared to lose what I had earned my entire life because of a few gold coins.” (Zafrul Muhassileen – pg.103)

Whilst practising archery, the arrow hit a bridge and damaged it. He asked the owner for forgiveness and offered to repair it.

Abu Hafs Kabir sent goods to him which he promised to sell to somebody at a certain price. Others offered a higher price. He refused.

Imam Bukhari (R.A.) mentioned: “I did not write any Hadith in this book before taking a bath and performing 2 rakats and I deduced this kitab from 600,000 Ahadith in 16 years.

8. Imam Bukhari’s Mazhab
1). According to ibn Taimiyyah (R.A.), Imam Bukhari was a mujtahid and an independent Imam.

2). Allama Taqi’uddeen Subki has regarded him as a Shafi because he was the student of Humaidi, who was a Shafi. This conclusion is not correct because then Imam Bukhari should be regarded as a Hanafi in view of Ishaaq ibn Raahwa – Imam Bukhari’s Ustaad being a student of Abdullah ibn Mubarak and Abdullah ibn Mubarak was a Hanafi.

3). Ibn Qayyim (R.A.) says Imam Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawood were strong followers of Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal.

After studying and closely looking at Imam Bukhari one will realise that Imam Bukhari did not follow any one Imam, he has his independent views on many issues, therefore Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri (R.A.) and Sheikh Zakaria (R.A.) have the same view as that of Allama Taimiyya that Imam Bukhari is a mujtahid.

Hazrath Moulana Fazlur Rahman is of the opinion that Imam Bukhari’s Usools (fundamental principles) is not known, it is difficult to regard him as an independent Imam and Mujtahid.

My humble view is that not knowing the Usool of any Imam is not a criterion to disqualify him from being a mujtahid, just as there were many other mujtahids other than the famous and commonly known 4 Imams. Their usools are not known, but they were mujtahids or else it would mean that there were only 4 mujtahids in this Ummat. Yes, one may say that since the usools of Imam Bukhari are not known, he cannot be followed, just as we cannot follow for eg. Sufyan Sawri, Sufyan Uyaina, etc. etc.

9. Demise
Imam Bukhari very frequently became a victim of differences and disputes and he breathed his last in that condition. He was expelled from Bukhara 4 times.

1st – When he issued a ruling that foster relationships are effective even by drinking goat and sheep milk. This was in his early days. There is speculation whether this incident is true or not.

2nd – Many Ulama of Bukhara held the opinion that Iman is not makhlooq, because of that those Ulama had to leave Bukhara. Imam Bukhari was also amongst them.

3rd – After his experience with Imam Zuhli in Nishapur, Zuhli wrote to the Ameer of Bukhara complaining about Imam Bukhari which resulted in his expulsion.

Concerning the dispute with Imam Zuhli in Nishapur – When Imam Bukhari came to Nishapur he was very warmly welcomed and Imam zuhli, who was also the Ustaad of Imam Bukhari, encouraged the people to benefit and listen to ahadith from Imam Bukhari. Once somebody asked the question whether Kalamullah is makhlooq or not. Imam tried to evade the question but upon insisting he answered that Kalamullah is not makhlooq but our reciting the kalamullah is maqluq. People did not fully understand this and made an issue that Imam Bukhari says that “lafzi bilquran maklooq.” Imam Zuhli said, He (Imam Bukhari) is a bid’ati and no one should go to him. People left Imam Bukhari (R.A.) except Imam Muslim and Ahmad ibn Salama. Zuhli did not allow any person who subscribe to Imam Bukhari’s view or associated with him to sit in his lesson. Imam Muslim and Ahmad ibn Salama chose to be with Imam Bukhari. A few days later Imam Bukhari left Nishapur and went to Bukhara and was expelled from there. This was the third time he was expelled from Bukhara. There is some speculation that when Imam Bukhari began having discourses in Nishapur, Zuhli’s discourses were not largely attended hence Zuhli initiated Imam Bukhari’s removal from Bukhara. And Allah Ta’ala knows best

4th – Imam Bukhari was called to Bukhara and he received a very large reception. Ameer of Bukhara, Khalid Zuhli asked him to come to his place and teach his children Bukhari Shareef. Imam Bukhari refused and Khalid then used people to make objections on Imam Bukhari’s beliefs and thus he was finally expelled from Bukhara. Imam Bukhari cursed Khalid and within a month Khalid was dismissed and imprisoned.

After Imam Bukhari was removed for the fourth time by Khalid. He went to Khatang (today Khaja Abad) by his relatives. Abdul Quddus (R.A.) says that I heard Imam Bukhari making dua in tahajjud: “O Allah, the earth has become narrow for me despite its spaciousness, therefore call me to you.”

Gaalib ibn Jibraeel says – I was in Khartang when people of Samarqand sent a messenger to propose and invite Imam Bukhari to Samarqand. Imam Bukhari got ready to go and after walking about 20 steps he felt weak and lied down and breathed his last. This was on the night of Eid – 256 A.H. After his death, musk scent emitted from his grave. His opponents came to the grave to make tawbah. Upon his death, 2 persons saw a dream in which he made ziyarah of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and the Sahaba (radhiallahu anhum) and they were waiting for somebody. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said that they are waiting for Imam Bukhari.

10. IMAAM BUKHARI AND THE HANAFIS

Imam Bukhari’s family and friendly ties with Abu Hafs Kabir’s family.
Imam Bukhari was a student of Abu Hafs Kabir, he made sima of Jami Sufyan from him. Even after that Imam Bukhari and Abu Hafs Sagheer (Kabirs son) were contemporaries and colleagues in studying. It is obvious that because of Imam Bukhari and his family being close to Abu Haf’s family (Abu Hafs used to render financial help to Imam Bukhari) he was aware of the fiqh of the Ahnaaf.

In fact he first studied all the books of Abdulla ibn Mubarak who was a student of Abu Hanifa and member of the fiqh shura committee of the Ahnaaf.

However later in life when Imam Bukhari came into contact with Imam Humaidi and Nuaim Khuzaaie, who were very strongly opposed to the Ahnaaf – he too was influenced by their anti-Ahnaaf attitude.

11. Writings and Other Compilations
Imam Bukhari wrote many kitabs besides Bukhari Shareef (Al Jamius Sahih). Hereunder are some books which are written by Imam Bukhari

  1. Al Aadaabul Mufrad
  2. Juz – Raf-e-Yadain
  3. Juz – Qiraat-Kalful-Imam
  4. At-Taareekh-Al Kabeer – Al Awsat-As Sageer
  5. Kitabul Ashribah
  6. Kitabul Hibah
  7. Mabsoot
  8. Kitabul Ilal
  9. Kitabul Wuhdaan
  10. 10. Af’aalul Ibaad

11. ABOUT HIS BOOK AL-JAMIUS-SAHIH

Motivating factors of compiling Bukhari Shareef,
There were many books written on hadith but there were mixtures of Sahih and Daeef ahadith. Imam Bukhari felt that there should be a compilation of only Sahih ahadith. Once while sitting in the gathering of Ishaaq ibn Raahwai he (Ishaq) expressed his wish that a book of Sahih ahadith be compiled, when he heard this, his feeling of compiling such a book was strengthened and this was later consolidated with a dream wherein he (Imam Bukhari) saw a dream that he was waving away flies from Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) with a fan. The dream was interpreted as Imam Bukhari will sift out the fabricated Ahadith form the authentic Ahadith.

The dominant purpose of compiling Bukhari Shareef from the motivating factors was to compile and gather only Sahih ahadith. Apart from that, Imam Bukhari designed and brightened his book with other aspects as well, for eg., he would deduce fiqhi aspects from the hadith, he would express the authenticity of the hadith by presenting another sanad (chain of narrators). He also explains the meaning of many ahadith etc. It is due to the above factors that the hadith in Bukhari Shareef are not in a subject or topic sequence. However, Imam Muslim has arranged and compiled his book according to a topic sequence.

13. Specialities of Bukhari Shareef
1. It is the first book compiled only on Sahih ahadith.

2. It took the author 16 years to compile his book. The tarajims (topics) were prepared at the Rawdhah Mubarak.

3. Abu Zaid Mirwazi Shafi, who was a very fond shafi was sleeping in the mataaf area when he made ziyarat of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wasallam) who asked him, why do you not make research and read my book. Abu Zaid asked: “O Prophet of Allah which is your book?” Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) replied the book of Muhammad ibn Ismail ie. Bukhari Shareef.

4. When reading at the time of difficulties and hardships, matters are made easy.

When read in a boat it does not sink.

5. There are 22 Sulusiyyaats in Bukhari Shareef. However, Darami has more sulusiyyaats than Bukhari Shareef.

14. Conditions of Choosing a Hadith
Muhammad Maqdasi says that the conditions of choosing a hadith in Bukhari Shareef are not mentioned by the author himself. The muhadditheen have pondered and studied the book and deduced these conditions, presuming they were the criteria set out by the author. Tahir Maqdasi says that the conditions of choosing a hadith in Bukhari Shareef are:

  1. The narrator is unanimously reliable. Here a question may arise as to why is there discussions on the reliability and authenticity of many narrators in Bukhari Shareef. Ibn Humam has answered this that certifying a narrator as reliable or unreliable is not absolute (qat’ie). A muhaddith certifies according to his understanding and research.
  2. The chain of narrators must be an unbroken one (itti’saal – see page five).
  3. If two narrators narrate from every narrator it is better but not a condition.
  4. Haakim, author of Mustadrak says it is a condition of Bukhari Shareef that there always be two narrators from a narrator. This is not correct. The first and last hadith indicates that even narrations with one narrator is accepted. In fact, there are about 200 such ahadith in Bukhari Shareef. Ziya Maqdasi has prepared a book Galaaibus Sahihain on this matter.

Hereunder is a more clear explanation as to what type of narrators are chosen by Imam Bukhari.

Imam Zuhri has five Islam & Muslims of students:

  1. Very reliable in memory and authenticity and always or for a very long time stayed in the company of Imam Zuhri.
  2. Also very reliable but stayed lesser than the first group.
  3. Stayed with Zuhri but were criticized by some.
  4. Did not stay with Zuhri and were criticized by some.
  5. Weak and unknown narrators.

Imam Bukhari took narrators of the first category, seldom would he take from the second category. Imam Muslim would take from the third category as well.

Abu Dawood and Nasai would take from the third category.

Tirmizi from the fourth category, Tirmizi is more superior to Abu Dawood because he discusses the reason a hadith is weak, etc.

Imam Abu Dawood uses the fifth category to support and consolidate. (Read after the section on itti’saal.)

A question arises that if according to Imam Bukhari, the chain of narrators must be an unbroken one, why are there ahadith-e-muanan (hadith with an-an).

According to Imam Bukhari for a hadith muanan to be under the category of unbroken chain of narrators, the narrator and from whom he is narrating must be contemporaries and must meet at least once.

In order to clearly understand the above, the following must be understood:
The narrator and from whom he is narrating, if they are not contemporaries, such a narration is named as Irsaale Jali.

If they are contemporaries but they did not meet, this is called Irsaale Khafi.

If they are contemporaries, met but narrates something he did not hear, this is Tadlees.

According to Imam Bukhari, the two must meet at least once. According to Muslim, merely being contemporaries is sufficient. Imam Bukhari views this as a possibility of being Irsaal, hence the narration will not be of an unbroken chain (muttasal).

One may raise an objection that according to Imam Bukhari, meeting once is sufficient, but still, there is a possibility of non-narration. The answer is that we are discussing a narrator who does not practice Tadlees. A mudallis’s narration is not muttasil, hence disqualifies from being accepted.

In the light of the above discussion, it is clear that Bukhari shareef is more superior to Muslim or any other book on hadith. Dare Qutni says:

The statement of Abu Ali Nishapuri: “There is no other kitaab on the surface of this earth more sahih than Muslim Shareef,” is opposed by Nishapuri’s Ustaad, Imam Nasai, who said there is no better book than Bukhari Shareef.

However, it must be noted that the superiority of Bukhari Shareef over Muslim Shareef and other books of ahadith is on a general basis, not that every hadith of Bukhari Shareef is more superior to any hadith in any other book of hadith.

15. The Topics (Taraajim) of Bukhari Shareef

  1. Sometimes the purpose of Imam Bukhari is not literal. He says something and means isharatun-nas or dalatun-nas.
  2. Imam Bukhari does not repeat a topic if so the purpose is different.
  3. Generally, the topic is like a claim and the ahadith follow it as proof, but in many instances, he means to explain the meaning of the following hadith.
  4. A tarjuma sometimes has two meanings, clear and unclear. People think and assume the clear meaning, hence they experience difficulty in reconciling the topic with the hadith, whereas the unclear meaning is the purpose of Imam Bukhari.
  5. Sometimes there is no link between the topic and hadith quoted under it, but the hadith with that link is nearby, if not further in the kitab, or maybe it is not in Bukhari Shareef, because it does not conform with the conditions of Bukhari Shareef.
  6. Sometimes with the topic, Imam Bukhari quotes sayings of sahaba and tabi’een (radhiallahu anhum), but those sayings have no direct relevance.
  7. Sometimes there is a baab but no hadith under the baab. The reason for this is that the hadith is somewhat related to the previous baab, just like the fasal of the fuqaha. Imam Bukhari’s purpose is also probably to sharpen the brain, that one ponders in the hadith and deduce some valid point.
  8. Sometimes there is a tarjama but no hadith under it. This is of different types:
    Either there are verses of quran after the topic, or the verses are part of the topic. In the above two, the verses are sufficient substantiations. However if there is a topic and no verse or hadith, the reason is either that the hadith is not in conformity with the conditions set out by Imam Bukhari or the hadith is mentioned elsewhere and to avoid exact repetition, he did not mention it or for sharpening the brains, that one ponders over a hadith to substantiate.
  9. Sometimes a topic is mentioned twice, the purpose of the second is to elaborate on the first one.

10. Sometimes such a topic is mentioned that does not need any explanation but he brings it to refute an opinion of some muhaddith. This is common in Bukhari Shareef against Musannaf Abdur Razzak and Ibn Abi Shaiba.

16. Repetitions in Bukhari Shareef
Generally, Imam Bukhari repeats a hadith but with a different chain of narrators or different words. However, there are about 21 or 22 places in Bukhari Shareef wherein there are exact (sanad or words) repeated. This is indeed a very negligent number in comparison to the vast number of ahadith in Bukhari Shareef. However, where a hadith is repeated but with a different chain of narrators or different words, the benefits of reporting them are:

  1. When one sahabi narrates a hadith, that same hadith is narrated by another sahabi, the purpose of quoting the other sahabi’s narration is to remove the misconception of non-familiarity (garaabat).
  2. One narrator quotes the hadith short, the other complete, Imam Bukhari quotes both as narrated by the narrators.
  3. A hadith is narrated with different words, for every change of word he brings a different topic and repeats it.
  4. If there are two possibilities in one narration, of broken and unbroken chain of narrators (muttasil and ghair muttasil) Imam Bukhari quotes both possibilities to indicate that the irsaal does not prevent the itti’saal’s acceptance.
  5. Similarly, if there are two possibilities, of dependant (mawkuuf) and complete (marfu) narrations.
  6. In some chain of narrators, if there is an addition, Imam Bukhari brings both versions to show that both are correct.
  7. One narration is muanan, the other chain expresses meeting, Imam Bukhari brings both to remove doubt.

17. Important Books related to Bukhari Shareef

  1. Aini (762-855 A.H.) – He wrote his sharah (commentary) over a period of 27 years. This sharah consists of 25 volumes. In this meanings of the words in the hadith are given and the link between the topic (baab) and hadith and many other aspects.
  2. Fathul Baari (Ibn Hajar Asqalani 773 – 852 A.H.) – This sharah was written over a period of 25 years. It consists of 13 volumes. Before this sharah, Ibn Hajar wrote (Alhadyus Saari) an introduction to Bukhari Shareef and Taghleequt-Taaleeq. After Aini wrote his sharah, Ibn Hajar wrote Intiqaasul I’tiraaz to answer Ainis objections. In Aini and Fathul Baari, there are answers of the same objections by one another. This was also due to some students eg. Burhaan ibn Khizar attending both discourses and informing both of them accordingly. However both the sharah have their own beauties and positive features, but Aini is easier to refer to and understood quickly, due to its concise and orderly fashion.
  3. Irshaadus Saari (851- 923 A.H. Qastalani) – This sharah is also known as Sharah Qastalani. This sharah is a synopsis of the above two sharahs.
  4. Alkawaakibud-daraari (Allama Kirmaani 717-786 A.H.) – The author was sleeping by the kaba and there he was inspired to keep this name for his sharah.
  5. Faizul Baari (Allama Badre Aalam) – Has written the main points from Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiris lessons in Bukhari Shareef.
  6. Alabwaab Wat-taraajim (Hazrath Sheikh Zakariyya) – This is a must reference for Abwaab as well as other important discussions.
  7. Laamiud Daraari – (Moulana Yahya Saheb) noted the points from Hazrath Moulana Rashid Ahmed Gangohi’s discourses of Bukhari Shareef.

 

You may refer to the following books for an in-depth understanding on the issue of Taqleed (following a particular Madhab).

1- The legal status of following a Mazhab by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani

http://www.islamibayanaat.com/EnglishLiterature/LegalStatusOfFollowingAMadhab-MuftiTaqiUsmani.pdf

2- Differences of the Imams by Sheikhul Hadeeth  Moulana Zakariyya (Rahmatullahi Alayhi)

http://www.slideshare.net/IslamicBooks/differences-of-the-imams-by-shaykh-zakariyya-kandhelvi-ra

A Pillar of Justice

An attentive listener, A sincere sympathiser, A generous giver, A considerate thinker, A beautiful soul, A ready giver of love, A noble mind, A deep carer, A nourishing heart, A pillar of justice, A man of principle, A heart of gold, A purified soul, An embodiment of truth, An ocean of knowledge, A wealth of experience, A treasure of advices, A pearl of wisdom, An angel personified…

In Memory of my Late Father – Haji NazirAhmed Daud Satia RH, who returned to Allah on this day, 4 years ago.

new scales

 

You held my hand when I was small, you caught me when I fell,

The hero of my childhood, and of latter years as well.

Every time I think of you, my heart just fills with pride,

And though I’ll always miss you, I know you’re by my side.

 

Not a day passes by, that you don’t cross my mind,

Not all of you departed when you left us all behind.

In my heart there is a place that only you can hold,

Filled with loving memories more priceless than silver or gold.

 

You never looked for praises, you were never one to boast,

You just went on quietly working, for the ones you loved the most.

You were a firm foundation through all our storms of life,

A sturdy hand to hold on to, in times of stress and strife.

 

Remembering you is easy, I do it every day,

Missing you is the heartache that never goes away.

You dwell among the angels now, but you left us too soon,

I can see you gliding across a golden field, above the harvest moon.

 

A thousand words won’t bring you back, I know because I’ve tried,

And neither will a million tears, I know because I’ve cried.

In laughter and in sorrow, in sunshine and in rain,

I know you always prayed for me, so now I pray for you…until we meet again.

 

He wasn’t a hero known by the entire world,

But a hero he was to his little world (his family).

If only you could see me, I’d want you to know this is true,

That everything I am today, is all because of you…

We will remember your values, teachings, morals, justice and principles.

Your beauty internal and external will never be extinguished from our minds.

Allah grant you everything you prayed for and much more, Allah fill the sorrowful void of your loss with Divine Consolation. Ameen.

Ismail Ibn Nazir Satia (One who is in dire need of Allah’s forgiveness, mercy and pleasure)

9th Rabiul Awwal 1439

How to Remember What You Read

https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2017/10/how-to-remember-what-you-read/

“I cannot remember the books I have read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why is it that some people seem to be able to read a book once and remember every detail of it for life, while others struggle to recall even the title a few days after putting down a book?

The answer is simple but not easy.

It’s not what they read. It’s how they read. Passive readers forget things almost as quickly as they read them. Active readers, on the other hand, retain the bulk of what they read.

There is another difference between these two types of readers: The quantity of reading affects them differently. Passive readers who read a lot are not much further ahead than passive readers who read a little. If you’re an active reader, however, things are different.

The more that active readers read, the better they get. They develop a latticework of mental modelsto hang ideas on, further increasing retention. They learn to differentiate good arguments and structures from bad ones. They make better decisions because they know what fits with the basic structure of how the world works. They avoid problems. The more they read, the more valuable they become. The more they read, the more they know what to look for.

Think back to the books you studied in school. Despite the passage of time, most us remember a lot about them. Even if the details are fuzzy, we can doubtless recall the basic plots, main characters, notable themes, and motifs. We didn’t just passively read those books. We actively read them. We had class discussions, took turns reading parts aloud, acted out scenes, or maybe even watched film adaptations. No matter how long it has been since we set foot in a classroom, we all probably remember Animal Farm.

Having a deliberate strategy for anything we spend a lot of time on is a sensible approach. But most people don’t consciously try to get the most out of the time they invest in reading.

For us to get the most out of each book we read, it is vital to have a plan for recording, reflecting on, and putting into use the conclusions we draw from the information we consume. In this article, we will look at a strategy for deriving the maximum benefit from every single page you read.

First, let’s clear up some common misconceptions about reading. Here’s what I know:

  • Quality matters more than quantity. If you read just one book a week but fully appreciate and absorb it, you’ll be far better off than someone who skims through half the library without paying much attention.
  • Speedreading is bullshit. The only way to read faster is to actually read more.
  • Book summary services miss the point. I know a lot of companies charge ridiculous prices for access to summaries written by some 22-year-old with zero life experience, but the point of reading for fluency is to acquire a repository of facts and details. Nuance, if you will. In this sense, you understand a bit more about why things work.
  • Fancy apps and tools are not needed. A notebook, index cards, and a pen will do just fine. (For those of you wanting a simple and searchable online tool to help, Evernote is the answer.)
  • We don’t need to read stuff we find boring.
  • We don’t need to finish the entire book. 

“Every time I read a great book I felt I was reading a kind of map, a treasure map, and the treasure I was being directed to was in actual fact myself. But each map was incomplete, and I would only locate the treasure if I read all the books, and so the process of finding my best self was an endless quest. And books themselves seemed to reflect this idea. Which is why the plot of every book ever can be boiled down to ‘someone is looking for something’.”

— Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

Before Reading

Choose Your Books Wisely
There are no rules when it comes to choosing books. We don’t have to read bestsellers, or classics, or books everyone else raves about. This isn’t school and there are no required reading lists. Focus on some combination of books that: (1) stand the test of time; (2) pique your interest; or (3) resonate with your current situation.

The more interesting and relevant we find a book, the more likely we are to remember its contents in the future.

For older books or those that have been translated, check which version is considered to be the best. For example, the Hayes translation of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is regarded as being truest to the original text, while also having a modern feel.

Get Some Context
A good place to start is by doing some preliminary research on the book. Some books – for example, A Confederacy of Dunces and The Palm Wine Drinkard – have a very different meaning once we know a bit about the life of the author.

For older books, try to understand the historical context. For books written in an unfamiliar country, try to understand the cultural context. Some helpful questions to ask include:

  • Why did the author write this? (Did they have an agenda?)
  • What is their background?
  • What else have they written?
  • Where was it written?
  • What was the political, economic, and cultural situation at the time of writing?
  • Has the book been translated or reprinted?
  • Did any important events — a war, an economic depression, a change of leadership, the emergence of new technology — happen during the writing of the book?

Know Why You’re Reading the Book
What are you reading this book for? Entertainment? To understand something or someone you don’t know? To get better at your job? To improve your health? To learn a skill? To help build a business?

You have to have some idea of what you want to get from the book. You don’t just want to collect endless amounts of useless information. That will never stick.

Skim the Index, Contents, and Preface
Before starting to read a book (particularly non-fiction), skim through the index, contents page, preface, and inside jacket to get an idea of the subject matter.  (This article on how to read a book is a brilliant introduction to skimming.) The bibliography can also indicate the tone of a book. The best authors often read hundreds of books for each one they write, so a well-researched book should have a bibliography full of interesting texts. After you’ve read the book, peruse the bibliography and make a note of any books you want to read next.

Match the Book to Your Setting or Situation
Although it’s not always practical, matching books to our location and circumstances can be powerful. Books will have a greater resonance as they become part of an experience rather than just supplementing it.

When choosing books, take a look at your own situation and decide on genres or authors that might help you overcome any current challenges. Whatever your state of affairs, someone has been in the same place. Someone has felt the same feelings and thought the same thoughts and written about it. It’s up to you to find that book.

For example:

  • Traveling or on holiday? Match books to the location — Jack Kerouac or John Muir for America; Machiavelli for Italy; Montaigne’s Essays, Ernest Hemingway, or Georges Perec for France; and so on. Going nowhere in particular? Read Vladimir Nabokov or Henry Thoreau.
  • Dealing with grief? Read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Torch by Cheryl Strayed,or anything by Tarah Brach.
  • Having a crisis about your own mortality? (It happens to us all.) Read Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life or Theodore Zeldin’s The Hidden Pleasures of Life.
  • Dealing with adversity? Lose your job? Read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations or Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is the Way.
  • Dissatisfied with your work? Read Linchpin by Seth Godin, Mastery by Robert Greene, or Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

If I were a Dr., I’d prescribe books. They can be just as powerful as drugs.

While Reading

You’ll remember more if you do the following seven things while you’re reading.

Make Notes
Making notes is perhaps the single most important part of remembering what you read.

The best technique for notetaking is whichever one works for you and is easy to stick to. You need to create your own system. Some people prefer to record notes on index cards or in a commonplace book; others prefer a digital system. Notes are especially useful if you write on a regular basis, although everyone (not just writers) can benefit from making them.

Start by writing a short summary of each chapter and transcribing any meaningful passages or phrases. If you are unsure how to simplify your thoughts, imagine that someone has just tapped you on the shoulder and asked you to explain the chapter you just finished reading. They have never read this book and lack any idea of the subject matter. How would you explain it to them?

In The 3 Secrets That Help Me Write and Think, Robert Greene describes his notetaking process this way:

When I read a book, I am looking for the essential elements in the work that can be used to create the strategies and stories that appear in my books. As I am reading a book I underline important passages and sections and put notes … on the side.

After I am done reading I will often put it aside for up to a week and think deeply about the lessons and key stories that could be used for my book project. I then go back and put these important sections on notecards.

David Foster Wallace recommends a similar form of active reading (for more, see Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace & Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing):

Not just reading a lot, but paying attention to the way the sentences are put together, the clauses are joined, the way the sentences go to make up a paragraph. Exercises as boneheaded as you take a book you really like, you read a page of it three, four times, put it down, and then try to imitate it word for word so that you can feel your own muscles trying to achieve some of the effects that the page of text you like did. If you’re like me, it will be in your failure to be able to duplicate it that you’ll actually learn what’s going on. It sounds really, really stupid, but in fact, you can read a page of text, right? And “Oh that was pretty good…” but you don’t get any sense of the infinity of choices that were made in that text until you start trying to reproduce them.

Stay Focused
Decide that for the time you will be reading, you will focus on the book and nothing else. No quick Twitter checks. No emails. No cell phone. No TV. No staring into midair. Understanding and absorbing a book requires deep focus, especially if the subject matter is dense or complex. Remember, we are aiming for active reading. Active reading requires focus and the ability to engage with the author. (Focus is hard work. If you’re lost, start here.)

Referring to the time before the internet, Nicholas Carr writes in The Shallows: “In the quiet spaces opened up by the prolonged, undistracted reading of a book, people made their own associations, drew their own inferences and analogies, fostered their own ideas. They thought deeply as they read deeply.”

If you’re struggling to stay focused on a particularly difficult or lengthy book, decide to read a mere 25 pages of it a day. It takes only a few minutes to nibble away at a challenging text. Completing a long book in this manner might take months, but at least you will have read it without getting overwhelmed or bored.

Mark Up the Book
Most of us were taught as children to treat books as something sacred – no folding the page corners, and no writing in the margins, ever. However, if you want to remember what you read, forget about keeping books pristine. I’ve spent a lot of time helping my kids unlearn the rule that books are not to be written in.

In fact, go crazy with marginalia. The more you write, the more active your mind will be while reading.

Jot down connections and tangential thoughts, underline key passages, and make a habit of building a dialogue with the author. Some people recommend making your own index of key pages or using abbreviations (Maria Popova of Brain Pickings writes “BL” next to any beautiful language, for example).

The first time you write in a book can be unnerving, but in the long term, it leads to a rich understanding and a sense of connection with the author.

Billy Collins has written a beautiful poem on the joys of marginalia: “We have all seized the white perimeter as our own / and reached for a pen if only to show / we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages; / we pressed a thought into the wayside / planted an impression along the verge. /… ‘Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.’”

Stop and Build a Vivid Mental Picture
Building vivid mental pictures is one of the most effective techniques for remembering anything, not least what we read. When you come across an important passage or concept, pause and visualize it. Make the picture as salient and distinctive as possible.

Make Mental Links
Books do not exist in a vacuum. Every concept or fact can be linked to countless others. Making an effort to form our own links is a fruitful way to better remember what we read.

Nicholas Carr writes in The Shallows:

The bond between book reader and book writer has always been a tightly symbiotic one, a means of intellectual and artistic cross-fertilization. The words of the writer act as a catalyst in the mind of the reader, inspiriting new insights, associations, and perceptions, sometimes even epiphanies. And the very existence of the attentive, critical reader provides the spur for the writer’s work. It gives the author confidence to explore new forms of expression, to blaze difficult and demanding paths of thought, to venture into uncharted and sometimes hazardous territory.

Keep Mental Models in Mind

Mental models enable us to better understand and synthesize books. Some of the key ways we can use them include:

  • Confirmation bias: Which parts of this book am I ignoring? Does this book confirm my opinions? (Okay, but does it actually affirm your beliefs or are you just seeing what you want to see? If you cannot think of a single point in the book that you disagreed with, confirmation bias is perchance distorting your reasoning.)
  • Bayesian updating: What opinions should I change in light of this book? How can I update my worldview using the information in it? Keep in mind the words of John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
  • Pareto principle: Which parts of this book are most important and contain the most information? If I had to cut 99% of the words in this book, what would I leave? Many authors have to reach a certain word or page count, resulting in pages (or even entire chapters) containing fluff and padding. Even the best non-fiction books are often longer than is imperative to convey their ideas. (Note that the Pareto principle is less applicable for fiction books.)
  • Leverage: How can I use lessons from this book to gain a disproportionate advantage? Can I leverage this new knowledge in a tangible way?
  • Incentives: What motivates the characters or the author? What are they seeking? What is their purpose? Here’s how Kurt Vonnegut described the importance of incentives in books: “When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away – even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”
  • Availability bias: Are the books I have recently read affecting how I perceive this one? How are my neoteric experiences shaping my reading? Am I assigning undue importance to parts of this book because they are salient and memorable?
  • Stereotyping tendency: Am I unconsciously fitting the author, characters, or book in general into a particular category? Or is the author stereotyping their characters? Remember, there is no such thing as a good stereotype.
  • Social proofHow is social proof — the number of copies sold, bestseller status, the opinions of others — affecting my perception of this book? Is the author using social proof to manipulate readers? It is not unusual for authors to buy their way onto bestseller lists, providing social proof which then leads to substantial sales. As a result, mediocre books can end up becoming popular. It’s a classic case of the emperor having no clothes, which smart readers know to look out for.
  • Narrative instinctIs the author distorting real events to form a coherent narrative? This is common in biographies, memoirs, and historical texts. In The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality, Hayden White explains our tendency to meld history into a narrative: “So natural is the impulse to narrate, so inevitable is the form of narrative for any report of the way things really happened, that narrativity could appear problematical only in a culture in which it was absent… narrative is a metacode, a human universal… Narrative becomes a problem only when we wish to give to real events the form of story… This value attached to narrativity in the representation of real events arises out of a desire to have real events display the coherence, integrity, fullness, and closure of an image of life that is and can only be imaginary. The notion that sequences of real events possess the formal attributes of the stories we tell about imaginary events could only have its origin in wishes, daydreams, reveries. Does the world really present itself to perception in the form of well-made stories, with central subjects, proper beginnings, middles, and ends, and a coherence that permits us to see “the end” in every beginning? Or does it present itself more in the forms that the annals and chronicle suggest, either as mere sequence without beginning or end or as sequences of beginnings that only terminate and never conclude? And does the world, even the social world, ever really come to us as already narrativized, already “speaking itself” from beyond the horizon of our capacity to make scientific sense of it? Or is the fiction of such a world, a world capable of speaking itself and of displaying itself as a form of a story, necessary for the establishment of that moral authority without which the notion of a specifically social reality would be unthinkable?”
  • Survivorship bias: Is this (non-fiction) book a representation of reality or is the author failing to account for base rates? Survivorship bias is abundant in business, self-help, and biographical books. A particular case of a successful individual or business might be held as the rule, rather than the exception.
  • Utility: If a book offers advice, does it have practical applications? At what point do diminishing returns set in?

Put It Down If You Get Bored
As a general rule, people who love reading never, ever finish a crappy book.

As Schopenhauer once wrote, “one can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind.” Life is much too short to finish a bad book.

Nancy Pearl advocates the Rule of 50. This entails reading the first 50 pages of a book and then deciding if it is worth finishing. The Rule of 50 has an interesting feature: once you are over the age of 50, subtract your age from 100 and read that many pages. Pearl writes:

And if, at the bottom of Page 50, all you are really interested in is who marries whom, or who the murderer is, then turn to the last page and find out. If it’s not on the last page, turn to the penultimate page, or the antepenultimate page, or however far back you have to go to discover what you want to know… When you are 51 years of age or older, subtract your age from 100, and the resulting number (which, of course, gets smaller every year) is the number of pages you should read before you can guiltlessly give up on a book…When you turn 100, you are authorized (by the Rule of 50) to judge a book by its cover.

Nassim Taleb also emphasizes the importance of never finishing a substandard book:

The minute I was bored with a book or a subject, I moved to another one, instead of giving up on reading altogether – when you are limited to the school material and you get bored, you have a tendency to give up and do nothing or play hooky out of discouragement… The trick is to be bored with a specific book, rather than with the act of reading. So the number of the pages absorbed could grow faster than otherwise. And you find gold, so to speak, effortlessly, just as in rational but undirected trial-and-error-based research.

“The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine percent of them is in a book.”

— Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

After Reading

Most people think that consuming information is the same as learning information. This idea is flawed.

The basic process of learning consists of reflection and feedback. We learn ideas gained through experiences – ours or others – that remain unchallenged unless we make the time to reflect on them. If you read something and you don’t make time to think about what you’ve read, your conclusions will be shaky.

The Feynman Technique
The Feynman technique is named after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. You can think of it as an algorithm for guaranteed learning. There are four simple steps: choose a concept; teach it to a toddler; identify gaps and go back to the source material; and review and simplify.

Think About What You Can Apply
So, you’ve finished the book. Now what? How can you use what you have learned? Don’t just go away with a vague sense of “oh yeah, I should totally do what that author says.” Take the time to make a plan and decide how to implement key lessons from the book.

Reading alone is not enough. We have to contextualize the knowledge. When does it work? When doesn’t it work? Where can I apply it? What are the key variables? The list goes on. If you can take something you’ve read and apply it immediately, it will reinforce the learning and add context and meaning.

Teach What You Have Learned
Teaching others is a powerful way to embed information in your mind. This is part of the Feynman technique.

Upon completing a book, grab the nearest (willing) person and tell them about what you have learned. You’ll have to remove or explain the jargon, describe why this information has meaning, and walk them through the author’s logic. It sounds simple. After you try it the first time, you’ll realize it’s not easy.

If there is no one around who is interested, try talking to yourself. That’s what I do … but maybe I’m crazy.

And if that doesn’t work, write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or post about it on Reddit or anywhere else where people are likely to be interested.

One of the benefits of our virtual reading group is that people are forced to actually think about what they are learning. We ask weekly questions on the assigned reading, and responses are diverse and thoughtful. The jargon goes away and people remove blind spots. It’s incredible to watch. The result is that after reading a book with us, people say “I’ve retained so much more than I would have if I did it on my own.”

It was Schopenhauer who said, “When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process.” To escape this, you need to reflect on your views and see how they stand up to feedback.

Catalogue Your Notes
There are endless ways of organizing your notes – by book, by author, by topic, by the time of reading. It doesn’t matter which system you use as long as you will be able to find the notes in the future.

Having a catalogue of everything you learn from reading creates a priceless resource which can be consulted whenever you need an idea, want inspiration, or want to confirm a thought. Over the years, you will build up a bank of wisdom to refer to in times of crisis, uncertainty, or need. It is hard to convey quite how valuable this can prove to be.

As General Mattis wrote: “Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”

The options for cataloguing your notes include:

  • A box of index cards, ideally organized by topic, author, or time of reading. Index cards can be moved around.
  • A commonplace book (again, ideally organized by topic, author, or time of reading).
  • A digital system, such as Evernote, OneNote, or plain old Microsoft Word. Digital systems have the added benefit of being searchable, which can save a lot of time if you refer to your notes on a regular basis.

Schedule time to read and review these notes.

Reread (If Necessary)

Great books should be read more than once. While rereading them can seem like a waste of time because there are so many other books to read, this is a misunderstanding of the learning process. The best time to start rereading a great book is right after finishing. The goal is not to read as many books as possible; I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work. The goal is to gain as much wisdom as you can.

Rereading good books is of tremendous importance if we want to form lasting memories of the contents. Repetition is crucial for building memories. As Seneca wrote: “You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find a lasting place in your mind.”

There’s no better way to finish this article than with the wise words of Henry Thoreau:

Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them. Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind.