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I used to go to Sunday School when I was little, a childhood experience to which many Muslims can relate. We would learn short chapters from the Quran, lessons about the Prophets, supplications, and other tidbits of knowledge about Islam. At one Sunday School graduation, (think: end of the year party. You were not leaving the school, only moving up a level) there was a cassette tape in my gift bag that I was excited to insert into my walkman. I put on my headphones and pushed down the play button to hear Muslim artist Dawud Wharnsby sing a song called “Afraid to Read.”
The song begins with a story about a girl, an avid reader sitting in her room. There is a book on her shelf she finds intriguing, but she cannot get herself to pick it up out of shyness or maybe a little fear that it will resonate with her in a way she is not yet ready to embrace.
The song later mentions a young man who was out all night and sneaks back into his home at dawn, hoping his parents will not hear him. There is a sense of guilt he feels, and we get an implication that he is dissatisfied with his lifestyle. There next to his head, he keeps that same closed book that the girl too avoided.
This book is the Holy Quran, the words Muslims are supposed to live by. Both people mentioned in the song are at different points in their lives, dealing with their own struggles. Yet clearly, they want to search for more meaning and have an inkling their answers lie within the pages of the Quran. The problem? They are afraid to open this book that is already within reach.
“The wisdom that’s revealed may burrow in her mind.
She’ll be obliged to admit,
She’ll be obliged to submit,
But will she be strong enough to live the truth she finds?
Oh Allah, she’s so afraid to read.”
It is likely we all found ourselves in similar situations at some point in our lives. Maybe we never snuck out of the house to party with our friends all night, but reimagine that as a binge-watching session of your favorite show or clicking one YouTube video after the other and regretfully seeing the clock at the end of the marathon. We all fall into slumps once in a while and feel a need to bring something greater into our lives.
As much as we need that, it can be intimidating. It is easy to waste time and at the end of it say tomorrow will be different. To actually make tomorrow different is another story. The hardest part is getting started. But we must realize when we take that first step to transform our lives into something positive and worthwhile, Allah will make the journey easier for us. He says in the Quran, “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Q. 13:11)
The song then ends with the artist turning inward, admitting he himself will be very afraid to read his book of deeds on the Day of Judgment.
“Every harsh word that I’ve spoken and every time I have lied.
I’ll be obliged to admit,
I’ll be obliged to submit.
Will I have strength owning up to each deed I’ve tried to hide?
Oh Allah, I’m so afraid to read.”
To keep ourselves from this frightening fate, we have to read and change today. Reflecting on those important words in the Quran, modifying our lifestyles, and bettering our habits is guaranteed to be an easier endeavor now than “on that Day the scrolls are laid, with every word and deed displayed.” Yes, it will still be difficult, but this world’s hardships are nothing in comparison to the hardships some will face on the Day of Judgment. We simply cannot afford to be afraid.
Open the Quran. Allow the words on the pages to penetrate your heart. The time is now.