Reaching adequate speed when reading:
Adequate speed in reading depends on the type of material being read as well as the goal behind reading
that material. Reading newspapers about news stories can be done in a fast manner, faster than when
reading deep scientific matters, such as Usool Al Fiqh, for example. Further, the goal behind reading also
affects the speed.
If one intends to understand the text, they must go relatively slow, and if they intend to review memorization
or to read fast, then they increase the speed, to the point that it reaches 600 words per minute. If the intent is
skimming in order to gain a general understanding about the book that one is unable to read at that time, then
the reader can read the first sentence of every paragraph, or some parts from the middle of each page. This
is the case of someone looking for the place of a piece of information that they read before. Or, they can
resort to reading swiftly through the book, in order to decide if they wish to buy it or not. They might have to
increase speed if they wished to know the general idea of the book. In that situation, they would read the title
names and the index, and would choose random pages to read and pass over others through quick perusing.
An example of surveying when reading is what happened to Imaam Ash-Shaafi`i, may Allaah have mercy
on him, when he was asked regarding evidence for an issue of consensus and he surveyed the Qur’aan
three times every night until he was guided to where the evidence was.
If you wish to know if your speed is appropriate or not, then read quietly for five minutes, then count the
words and divide them by five, and if the result is 150 or less, then you read slow, and you must strive to
increase your reading speed. What follows are some advices from some people with experience in this:
• Read five minutes a day, for example, for a month, as fast as you are able, and leave off being preoccupied
with the meaning, for now.
• Expanding the scope of vision when reading, by lessening the time that one stops on a single word.
• Reading should be done silently, without moving of the lips or raising of the voice, without going back to an
ambiguous word, or repeating it, because its meaning will usually become clear through context.
If you follow the previous steps, you will notice an improvement in the speed of your reading. As for speed in
reading in the biographies of the scholars, then it is something amazing. What follows are some encouraging
Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadi, may Allaah have mercy on him, heard Saheeh Al Bukhaari from Ismaa`eel ibn
Ahmad Al Hayri, may Allaah have mercy on him, in Makkah in three sittings, two of which were in two nights.
He used to begin reading at the time of Maghrib and conclude at Fajr prayer. The third day consisted from
after sunrise until Fajr the next day. Ath-Thahabi, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “I do not know of
anyone in our times able to do this.” Perhaps one of the reasons he was able was that time was blessed
during those times. It is also narrated that Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadi, may Allaah have mercy on him,
read Saheeh Al- Bukhaari to Kareemah Al-Marwaziyyah, may Allaah have mercy on her, during the
days of Mina.
Ibn Hajar, may Allaah have mercy on him, read As-Sunan by Ibn Maajah, may Allaah have mercy on him, in
four sittings, and read Saheeh Muslim in four sittings, apart from the concluding sitting, and that occurred in
about two days, for he used to sit from early morning until Thuhr. He read Al-Kabeer by An-Nasaa’i in
ten sittings, and each sitting was about four hours. The fastest timing that he read a book in is that he read
Mu`jam At-Tabaraani As- Sagheer in one sitting, between Thuhr and `Asr. This is a one volume work that
comprises of approximately 1,500 Hadeeth. He reported Al-Bukhaari in ten sittings, each of which was four
hours long. Ibn Hajar, may Allaah have mercy on him, in his stay in Damascus, which was for about two
months and two thirds of a month, read close to a hundred volumes.
We know for sure that we are unable to do such a thing, for our times are not like theirs in blessings, and our
resolve is not like theirs in how high it is. However, the point behind mentioning these stories is to kindle a fire
of encouragement in the souls so that they show more keenness in reading, patience, and steadfastness. We
should also note that the point is that one understands and comprehends, not that they complete many pages
and read entire volumes. There are many that face problems of lack of understanding because of how fast
Being comfortable when reading:
This is what helps in continuity and concentration, and what follows are some advices in this matter:
• Make sure that the light is sufficient, because dim lights tire the eye out.
• The light should be placed in a manner that does not give off any shade on the book or reflect off the book,
there by harming the eyes.
• It would be good for the light to be placed so that the light falls on it equally.
• The best position for reading, as mentioned by people of experience, is that the back should be straight and
upright, the book should be in the middle of the body, and at a 45 degree angle. The head should lean
forward a little bit, so that the eyes look directly at the book, and there should be approximately 30 cm
between the eye and the book.
What has preceded does not mean that a person should only read in this manner, because it might not
always be an option. Our scholars used to read in the light of the moon, a candle, or a lamp. They used to
read while sitting, standing, walking, and reclining. Some scholars of Hadeeth in our times used to read while
standing on a ladder. The point here is to show the ideal state that a person to be in to continue reading for
the longest possible time, since if some people sit in a bad manner, their let, neck, or eyes hurt them, and
they abandon reading. So, knowing a comfortable way of sitting is one of the ways to avoid that.
• It is also beneficial for the person to take rest whenever they feel tired, even if for a few minutes, so that
they can go back to reading once again.
• When feeling weakness in eyesight or pains when reading, one must see a doctor, if that is possible. The
issue might need one to use eyeglasses.
Choosing ideal times for reading:
Reading after exhaustion of one’s mind or body has little benefits and effect. Reading after relaxation is more
beneficial and has a deeper effect. That is why the time directly after waking from sleep is the best of times,
and there is no doubt that reading after sleeping and relaxation is better than when one is sleepy. That is how
the system of studies has been formulated. Reading in the early hours is better and has blessing, because
the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, said: “O Allaah, bless the early times for my Nation.”
However, this preference does not prevent one from reading during other times, if they are able, especially
for the student of knowledge who is zealous. Likewise, most people today cannot read other than at the end
of the day before sleeping, after completing their work and dealing with the needs of the household. So, one
of them does not have a change present itself until after the children sleep and the house is calm. This is the
situation of most employees, so they must do that, and must increase their reading during break times.
Specifying a time for reading in the day, adhering to it, and keenness on not losing it is one of the great
wishes and aspirations that one must try to accomplish.
Choosing an appropriate place for reading:
The reader should be in a quiet place that has good ventilation, and is far from bustle and disturbing sounds,
as well as far from distracting images, such as pictures, bright colors, moving images, and strong odors, such
as the smell of cooking. If you look at how public libraries are designed, you would find that the sitting areas
are surrounded by partitions from in front, to the right, and to the left, so that the reader’s vision is restricted to
their book, and their mind does not disperse or their attention scatter.
One must also point to the fact that the lack of having these opportune areas of reading, such as being in a
packed house, does not prevent one from struggling against themselves in concentration or going to an
Preventing things that busy or distract a person:
The reader must not respond to anyone cutting them off, or respond to anything that is distracting or busies
them when reading, such as answering the phone whenever it rings, answering the door of everyone who
knows, answering any call to do any work, except if they truly must, such as answering one’s parents, or if
they are called to do praiseworthy actions which is more beneficial than continuation in reading. However,
one must quickly go back to their book when the emergency is over, so that their resolve does not slacken
and so that their determination does not end.
One must not mix reading with listening to other sounds, because the heart is one, and it is hard for the
person to combine two matters in their concentration. Discard what the disbelieving Westerners say, as in
that calm music helps one read! Those poor students who are tried and tested by those Westerners sit and
try to revise while listening to music, so, they join two evil things, as in, they earn sins, and lose concentration
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