Self-Help Books

I have always thought that self-help books were nonsense, written by people who wanted to make a profit from the insecurities of others.

Last month, however, I stumbled upon an online community who were genuinely trying to change themselves and the lives of the others just because they truly believe in making the world a better place. They believe in themselves, in their work, and they believe that every single one of us can make a difference.

These are successful web designers, programmers, writers, ex-hedge fund managers, past CEOs of dotcom companies or founders of startups. These are people who could have the wealth of the world, but have decided to give it up in totality or in portion, as a means to contribute back to society.

Ironically, in giving up the wealth (in its many forms) that others hoard, wealth gravitates naturally to them.

As I read one free e-book after another, I realized that in many ways, the manifestos and practices of these individuals are echoes of Islamic values.

For example, many of these successful individuals actually go to bed early and wake up at 4am in the morning to spend some alone time. In these moment where the whole world sleeps, they take the time to contemplate on the things they are grateful for, to read and be inspired, to do some simple exercises like yoga in order to clear their mind.

To them, waking up at 4am gives them the best clarity of their own lives and prepares them with the right attitude and mindset for the day. This in turn allows them to be better people – better spouses, better parents, better designers, authors etc.

They understood that to be able to serve others better, they would first need to serve themselves by fulfilling all the rights their own body requires of them.

Comparing this practice, the Prophet Muhammad (s) has long advocated getting up in the last third of the night to perform tahajjud prayers and exercise contemplation. The Qur’an even goes on to say that one of the characteristics of successful people is that they are those who spend the night in prayer.

In fact, getting up at 4am is just one out of the many manifestos and practices that these people uphold which are in line with Islamic teachings.

Many other examples talk about concepts like minimalism which is similar to zuhd, recognizing the different states of the body, the importance of self-contentment or the need to free yourself from being dependent on other people.

The more I read, the more it struck me that Islam is indeed the true manual for man.

Look at it this way:

In order to assemble a rocket, we have to refer to the manual written by the original creator of the rocket. We can refer to manuals written by other people, for the good in them is that perhaps they have simplified, summarized, elaborated or built upon the original manual.

However, these offshoot manuals will never be as complete and comprehensive as the original manual. Only the creator knows the secrets of his creation. These other manuals should only serve as supplements to build the understanding of the original manual.

The same goes with man.

We have been created by Allah swt and He has provided us with the manual on how to operate our lives – the Qur’an and the Sunnah. We can read all the self help books in the world and attain success that way, but these self-help books are only echoes of the real thing.

If we don’t use these books in order to build upon our understanding of the real manual, then we will truly miss the whole purpose of any success we may achieve.

Self-help books are only good insomuch as our ability to relate it back to the Qur’an and Sunnah.

With this new insight, I tucked myself into bed at 930pm last night and made a long forgotten intention to spend the last third of the night in His company.

At 4am, I did my tahajjud instead of yoga, read the Qur’an instead of any other books, spent some time thanking Allah swt for all the blessings He has bestowed upon me and making du’a for the people I love and care for.

By 6am when my family gathered for the fajr prayers, I was awake enough, peaceful enough inside, to truly appreciate our act of facing Allah swt together as a family unit.

And for all of these, I only have nonsensical self-help books to thank for.

Fadhilah Wahid
My name is Nur Fadhilah Wahid. I am a seeker of knowledge, a Muslimah in progress, and a writer. I believe in the magic that can happen when like-hearted and like-minded individuals come together :)

3 thoughts on “Self-Help Books”

  1. Masha Allah! Inspiring, indeed.

    Actually, life is that simple, but man chooses to make things complicated for himself.

    Imagine the inner peace one attains, when they go to bed early to wake up earlier. It makes their day more productive.

    But unfortunately, we often choose to go to bed late, wake up after sunrise, and get our day objectiveless, and the subsequent days remain to serve as repetition of that one day, in which we made the wrong choice.

    Allahu Hafiz :)

    1. I’m wondering though, Ustaz, about some theories I read that different people have different ‘active’ periods of the day. Meaning, some people work better during the late night, while others in the brink of day.

      The people in the former group would thus claim that sleeping early and waking up early would be less productive and beneficial in their lives.

      Is this because they train themselves to be productive in that manner? Is it that the fitrah of ALL man is naturally made to sleep early and wake up early?

      Just wondering what you make of this!

      Jazakallah khayr :)

    2. Theories remain human perceptions, in most cases.
      The good thing about Islam is that, it has given us life manual to turn to, in almost every aspect of the life.

      The common sense in this is that, night is meant for the body to rest, relax and ready itself for the next day. Day time is meant for living and interaction.

      However the more we spare an hour two before Fajr, for any meaningful activity (Tahajjud, Qur’an recitation, Zikr, Du’a in the case of Muslims, and yoga, reading in the case of some non-Muslims), the brighter our day become. We tend to be happy (for no specific reason, SubhanAllah!) and hence, productive.

      You mentioned about habit in your article, Sister Fadhilah, that a little consistency makes it part of our routine, and once we start to minimize it, it becomes non-routine for us. No one (I believe) has the ‘fitrah’ of being more productive for sleeping late, unless they’ve trained themselves to achieve that way.

      The Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alaihi wasallam, would go to bed, immediately after Isha, unless he had something very urgent to attend to, i.e. visitors and important matters to solve. Scholars, have therefore declared that, it’s always healthier, and thus recommended to go to be not later than midnight. The earlier the better.

      Allah Himself, descends the lowest heaven, when it’s the last third of the night, to distribute His Bestowals upon those who ready themselves for, on daily basis.

      Most importantly, if we want success, we must have some time, to spend at night, doing something, supplication essentially.

      Allah knows best.
      Allahu Hafiz :)

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