Newsletter: The Real Entertainment

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Booksellers' Desk

Salaam. Dear Reader,

The Malay magazine Hiboran [literally, Entertainment], published in Singapore by Royal Press right here in Kampong Gelam in the 1940s and 1950s, was a popular periodical that featured articles on social issues, current affairs as well as short literary works.

I once asked the late scholar Allahyarham Pendita Muhammad Ariff Ahmad about the name of this particular magazine and what to me seemed to be a discrepancy: how could social issues be ‘entertainment’?

He replied with a smile that our predecessors meant something very different by ‘entertainment’. By ‘Hiboran’ the publisher intended that the magazine excite and activate the mind. What a difference a few decades make for today ‘hiboran’, or rather ‘hiburan’ to use the modern spelling, more often than not means sitting in front of the television or gazing at a screen: more distraction than activation. It bears repeating that we should strive to read actively.

In this year of reading for the book club as well as reading for the bookshop and, yes, for hiboran, I found note-taking to be an indispensable tool. I remember what I read better and I am able to synthesise and link ideas from disparate subjects. So we are very happy to now stock Sönke Ahrens’ How to Take Smart Notes. I believe note-taking to be an important cornerstone of – and do excuse my wielding of an overused phrase – lifelong learning.

As Imam al-Ghazali reminds us in the very first chapter of The Path of Worshippers to the Paradise of the Lord of the Worlds (Al-Minhaj al-’abidin), acquiring knowledge is our duty. In fact he goes further by saying that, “knowledge is like a pole around which everything revolves.”

Knowledge and learning... these are not matters peripheral to our humanity, rather these are axial and essential. To put it another way, we should not view learning to be an activity we engage in ‘when we have the time’, but rather we should look upon learning to be essential, and yes, lifelong.

And as Muslims, we have an added dimension. Our intention for learning beneficial knowledge is so that we may humbly step out of the bitter cold of ignorance into the warm light of Allah’s Mercy, that He may grant us felicity in the next life. Amin

Booksellers' Desk

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