Between baking escapades and YouTube marathons (the luxuries of working from home), I learned something beautiful about reading. Have a listen at Omar Suleiman’s series, “The Beginning and the End.” In one episode, he delves into two verses of surat al-ʿAlaq. “Read, and your Lord is most generous; the one who taught [mankind] by the pen.” اقرأ وربك الأكرم • الذي علم بالقلم
In the bing-bang swiftness of these short verses, a rhetorical nuance escapes us. Or did you notice? His command to read precedes His mention of the pen, and there is something revelatory flowing from this sequence. Those six words alone establish a sunnah of our religion: Read First. Write Later.
Read first for humility: because in reading, you silence your ego to imbibe wisdom from someone else. You lend two ears and an open heart to the more knowledgeable before debating the ḥalāls and ḥarāms on social media. Read first for skill: because let’s be honest, there is no such thing as “happy accidents.” A non-reader does not simply spin magical webs of words with the click-clack tapping against a keyboard. The neophyte must know assonance and alliteration, rhyme-—immediate and delayed-—and metaphor from masters of the craft before composing his own. Read first, as reading is a prerequisite to all great writing.