4 ways reading pulled me through the pandemic and helped alleviate anxiety

“You read too much”. Someone actually told me that, and I’m ok with it because in my mind, I don’t read enough. From the exploration of newly emerging Arab-American writers to heavy non-fiction political, cyber-psychology or Islamic jurisprudence. It all speaks to my eclectic interests and more than that it has helped me cope with the stresses of the pandemic, being at home, schooling at home, working from home. It’s a lot, and reading has been a space to help clear my mind and take me to another world – or unravel the world we exist within.

Non-fiction book stack

1. Sense of Control

Reading has given me a clear sense of control when everything seems upended. And has been therapeutic. For years, reading for pleasure was put on the backend because there simply was no time. Even though it may sound strange, my time at home is as limited as ever. Running a household, when everyone stays in the house, is a constant 24/7 job (proof? listened to former President Obama’s audio book while doing housework, 20+ hours of it over the last few weeks). Now, even if it is just setting aside 15-30 minutes a day for reading, it is my time. My space and time where my kids know that I’m enjoying my coffee and a book, and they’ll need to figure it out on their own for a bit, and that’s ok.

2. Clarity through Art

Reading through as a fictional character unravels, or develops offers a sense of clarity. How so? Even though it is a fictional character, inspiration comes from the author’s mind. Someone has had these thoughts to create an intriguing personality or a plot that has to be navigated by a fictional character. As a reader, there is a bond of affinity formed with fictional characters. You are moved by their struggles and triumphs. Through these characters, there is an opportunity to unravel your own personal emotion As an educator, I am saddened at the lack of emphasis on the arts because this deprives youth, in a hyperconnected world, an opportunity to connect with themselves through creative expression.

Summer reading in Vermont, land of the Abenaki indigenous people

3. Sense of Overwhelming Potential

Similar to looking at the NYC skyline, reading offers an opportunity to think about all the things that are left to be conquered. Reading offers hope in human potential, even though things might seem bleak now, there is hope. There exists hope in fictional narratives and even hope amidst tragedy because history shows us the resiliency of the human spirit.

Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark amidst the summer sun on the Reading Muslims tote bag

4. Community

Our definition of community has drastically changed – and the implications are great. However, you will find what you seek. I began an instagram page to document the reading, and hopefully encourage more readers within the Muslim community. And to my surprise there was a community of “bookstagrammers” awaiting. It has been phenomenal, discussing ideas with avid readers globally has been refreshing. And the pandemic has moved a lot of events online, which has made typically exclusive functions more accessible to the broader public.

Check it out @readingmuslims on instagram, and I’ve created the Literary Reflections page here on the website as well.

Screenshot of @readingmuslims page on Instagram

Final Reflection from our beloved Prophet (PBUH)

Verily, the angels lower their wings for the seeker of knowledge. The inhabitants of the heavens and earth, even the fish in the depths of the water, seek forgiveness for the scholar. The virtue of the scholar over the worshiper is like the superiority of the moon over the stars. The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets. They do not leave behind gold or silver coins, but rather they leave behind knowledge. Whoever has taken hold of it has been given an abundant share.” [Sahih]

Whoever travels a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise.” [Sahih]

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