Friday, June 05, 2009

Reading Habit

International Reports on Literacy Research
Malaysia by International research correspondent, Maya K. David

Reading in an Islamic academy

Maya K. David reports an interesting view of reading in Malaysia through the eyes of graduate student Mohd Nazri bin Hamid (2003), who conducted an exploratory study about the culture of reading in an academy of Islamic studies. The purposes of Nazri's investigation were (a) to examine undergraduate students' reading habits, (b) to offer a view of reading according to Islam (especially how Islam influences reading), and (c) to explore ways of encouraging reading in his region of the world.

In carrying out his study, Nazri (2003) randomly selected a small sample (N = 29) from undergraduate students enrolled in Islamic studies at an Islamic academy. First, through questionnaires, he found that the majority of students did not have consistent reading schedules, and the frequency with which they read varied widely, as did their visits to libraries.

Second, Nazri (2003) discovered that interests, friends, classroom assignments, and preparing for lectures most influenced his participants' reading. He found that the principal reason the students read was for exam purposes.

Third, all of Nazri's (2003) participants acknowledged the importance of reading as “a way to improve their lives and for making them respectable and knowledgeable people” (the Quran, Surah 58: Al-Mujadilah [The Disputant], line 11, as cited by Nazri, p. 29). Nazri quoted a number of resources (translated by Maya David) that offer a glimpse into what may be behind the students' uniform responses. These include the following five.

1. Kesempurnaan berdasarkan keagungan dan kerahmatan ilmu berpunca daripada pembacaan yang boleh meningkatkan darjat seseorang (Perfection is based on the glory and grace of knowledge that comes from reading, which can increase a person's status). (Mohd Yusof Othman, 1998, p. 19)

2. Perbezaan yang paling ketara di antara sesama manusia yang lain adalah berdasarkan ilmu yang dimilikinya, kerana lebih tinggi nilai ilmu yang dimiliki seseorang, lebih tinggi pandangan masyarakat terhadapnya. Malah dengan ilmu yang dimiliki dapat memanfaatkan dalam proses membangunkan masyarakat dan negara sekaligus mengangkatkan martabat umat sejagat (The most obvious difference among other human beings is based upon the knowledge one possesses because the more knowledge that one possesses, the more one is respected by society. In fact, the knowledge that one possesses can be beneficial in the process of developing a society and country, simultaneously enhancing the prestige of followers universally). (Mohd Yusof Othman, 1998, pp. 19–20)

3. Daripada firman Allah menunjukkan taraf ilmu membezakan seseorang insan, sekaligus meletakkan golongan ilmuan ditahap yang tinggi berbanding golongan yang berada dalam kejahilan. Bagi mereka ilmu boleh merubah segalanya di samping dilengkapi dengan usaha-usaha mereka mengembang dan mempertingkatkan ilmu semata-mata menunjukkan ketaqwaan kepada Allah Tuhan pencipta dan mengabadikan ilmu bukan untuk kepentingan diri tetapi untuk semua umat terutamanya Muslim (From the divine decree, Allah shows that knowledge gained differentiates mankind resulting in scholars being placed at a higher level compared to those who are ignorant. For scholars, knowledge can change everything. Moreover, this helps to equip and complete their efforts to expand and increase their knowledge by showing their obedience to and fear of God, Allah the creator. This also helps to perpetuate knowledge not for self-interest but for all followers, especially Muslims.) (Ustaz Abdul Aziz Che Yacob, 2002, p. 3)

4. “Bacalah” telah meletakkan Islam sebagai agama berteraskan ilmu pengetahuan. Al-Quran menjelaskan dengan terperinci supaya umat Islam menuntut ilmu bagi memakmurkan kehidupan di dunia dan akhirat. Maka budaya baca sinonim dengan budaya ilmu, kerana membaca adalah jabatan ilmu (“Reading” has placed Islam as the religion that is the essence of knowledge. The Quran explains in detail so that the followers of Islam can pursue knowledge to prosper in their lives here on earth as well as in the afterlife. Therefore, a culture of reading is synonymous to a culture of knowledge because reading is the bridge to knowledge). (Abdul Aziz Che Yacob, 2002, p. 3)

5. Tabiat membaca boleh menentukan maju atau mundurnya sesebuah umat. Umat yang maju dan bertamadun ada anggota masyarakat yang berpengetahuan luas dan sentiasa berdampingan dengan pelbagai ilmu untuk diterokai (The habit of reading can determine the success or downfall of followers. Followers/religious communities that are developed and civilized have members of society who possess wide knowledge and want to explore and open up new frontiers of knowledge. Since knowledge is obtained from mainly reading, Islam stresses the importance of reading so that its followers can improve society, and since ignorance [kejahilan] is considered a sin it is compulsory that knowledge be acquired). (the Quran, Surah 58: Al-Mujadillah, line 11, as cited by Nazri, p. 29)

6. Nazri (2003) extrapolated from his participants' responses internal and external factors for their reading habits. The former includes their tidak apa (apathetic) attitude toward reading. Reading is often seen as burdensome and is used only for instrumental purposes (i.e., to earn good grades or a degree, or to qualify for a high-paying job). Further, Nazri inferred that his participants do not appreciate academic reading but, instead, are interested in reading popular culture material, such as gossip columns. Maya David added, “Islam would regard such popular reading material as useless because it does not develop self-knowledge.”

7. Nazri (2003) considered economics the primary external factor that influences reading habits in Malaysia. Parents in the lower economic strata, he believes, see reading as a means to pass examinations and to advance economically. Nazri supposed that parents should encourage pleasurable and morally fulfilling reading and equates this with good reading habits. Furthermore, Nazri stated that academic publishers contribute to poor Malaysian reading habits by mostly printing books that are solely designed for examination purposes. Nazri also criticized the national education system because of its emphasis on examinations, which influences teaching approaches, student learning, and perceptions about reading.

8. As mentioned earlier in this report, this is a small exploratory study and should not be generalized to wider populations. Nevertheless, what is interesting is that reading is strongly supported by Islam as an activity that benefits the community and the reader, not only in this world but also in an after-life. As Nazri (2003) concluded, to be a great and civilized nation and to glorify Allah, one must read.

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