Contributed by Muslim Bhanji
“You are the same today as you’re going to be in five years except for two things, the people you meet and the books you read.”
Hang around thinkers; you’ll be a better thinker. Hang around givers; you’ll be a better giver, Hang around workers; you’ll be a better worker. Hang around a hunch of thumb sucking, complaining, griping boneheads; and you will be a better thumb sucking, complaining griping bonehead.
Now. With that said… how many of you are under sixteen yet? Great. How do you like an idea that you might be driving a Cadillac car when you`re sixteen? I got it for you.
When my son Jaffer was your age, he was quite as excited as you. I said, “Jaffer, do you want be have a car when you`re sixteen?”
“Do you want me to help you buy that car?”
“Yes sir, dad.”
“Alright, son, were going to do it, but the free rides over. No more allowance. I’m going to give you a way to make a lot of money. Here’s the deal. I am going to pick out books for you to read. There will be motivational books, history books, religion books, inspirational books, and every time I give you a book, you give me a book report. Every time I get a book report, I’ll put money in your car fund. Another book report; more money in the car fund. In two years if you read in style, you’ll drive in style. But if you read like a bum, you’re going to drive like a bum.”
Overnight he developed a fantastic hunger for reading. The first book I had him read was Dale Carnegie; ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Now the first day he came down and said, “Dad, dad, there’s a whole chapter in here on smiling and shaking hands.” And he shook my hand, shook my hand – first sign of life in fourteen years. Woohoo! And he smiled at me.
Then I had him read a book named ‘Peshawar Nights` on Shia beliefs and then Quran, Bible and Science’ of Dr. Maurice Bucailleu One
Friday, when we were going to Masjid, I asked, “Jaffer, how are you getting along with Dr. Bucaillés book?”
He said with overflowing enthusiasm, “Dad, dad”, and he softly hit my back. Imagine that, he hit my back for the first time. Then he said,
“Everybody specially high school Muslim students ought to have to read that book.”
“Alhamdulillah”, l said to myself, ‘That was a sign he was beginning to think about somebody other than himself”.
Well, he read 22 books before going to college. Did he buy a car? No. He kept the money to buy more books and instead used my car and my gas. But it was worth it. Then he went off to college, and I got one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Jaffer goes off to college but he writes me a ‘Dear Dad’ postcard every week for four years. You know what I used to do when I would get some of the cards? I would put my head on my desk and cry with happiness. Do you know why? He was thinking thoughts that I never dreamed a young person of his age could think. Thanks to his fantastic craving for reading. Now he didn’t only have the full meaning of the books he read, but he had wise thoughts of his own in his mind. I would like to read you a couple of his cards from college to me.
“Dear Dad, yesterday someone insulted me in front of the whole class. I was furious at first, but then l forgave him. You know why, dad? I remembered Imam Ali`s saying in Nahjul Balagha which l had read just the night before: Imam Ali said: ‘So whoever of you who knows about others’ faults, be restrained by what he knows about his own faults. Love, Jaffer.
Another of his card said: “Dear Dad, I have just finished reading ‘Al-Aamali of Sheikh Mufid.’ This book changed my weekends. Before getting hold of this book, I used to spend it on idle talks, parties and sittings with gossipers in the college. No longer now. In ‘Al-Aamali”, I read that there was an idle jester in Madina who used to cause people laugh by his pranks and jokes. One day that jester came and pulled Imam Sajjad (as)’s cloak to make people laugh. You know Dad, Imam was totally composed and he did not even become angry, except that he said to him: ‘For Allah, there is a fixed Day in which the idle vain doers will be in loss”. Dad, I don’t want to be like this idle jester on weekends. So I joined Islamic Crescent Group from the neighborhood Masjid that visits hospitals every Sunday to distribute fruits, flowers and words of kindness to the sick. Isn’t that a better idea Dad? Salaams, Jaffer.”
After reading this card, I could not control my tears. Does not good reading create miracles? Wish you a happy reading!