Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
Would you please advise on the etiquette of reading Islamic books such as ahadith, Prophet’s Seerah, or other Islamic scholarship? For example, dress, reading position, book location to one’s body/feet, etc.
Are there any clear forbidden or disliked actions concerning how one should read such texts? For example, reading while lying down on one’s back or against a wall, etc.?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
When reading Islamic books, especially the Qur’an and/or the Prophetic narrations, one must have the utmost reverence and respect for the sanctity of what these books contain.
Etiquette of the Heart
This reverence and respect start in the heart, which is the real meaning of etiquette (adab).
Etiquettes of the Limbs
If this inward etiquette is honest and sincere, it will manifest itself in one’s comportment and behavior outwardly.
One should strive to uphold the following etiquettes while sitting with the Sacred books/sciences of Islam:
Sitting in a Manner Expressive of Reverence
The ideal sitting position is the tashahhud position. i.e., the sitting position at the end of the prayer. If one cannot do this, one can sit in any comfortable way. However, they should not recline unless they need to.
To Place the Books in a Respectable Place
While sitting and reading Islamic books, one should put them on a table or carry them respectfully. There are no specific criteria for this. This pertains to the custom one is coming from.
In many cultures and customs, placing books on the floor is disrespectful. Some cultures do not deem this disrespectful, but this is less common.
Many of our teachers also added that people should not carry their books hanging their hands down to their sides. They would encourage us to hold our books above our navels since below the navel is considered the area of nakedness.
Reading in a State of Purification
The great scholar Imam al-Halwani (Allah have mercy on him) said, “I only attained this knowledge through reverence. I have never touched even a blank piece of paper without purification.” [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
It is narrated about Imam al-Sarakhsi that he performed the ablution (wudu) 17 times in one night due to a stomach illness while revising his book’s lessons. This was due to his insistence not to touch his book without ablution.
Placement of books
When stacking books, one should place the most respected sciences at the top: Qur’an, then Hadith, then Tafsir, then Fiqh, then Arabic…
Furthermore, one should not place anything on their books: pens, phones, glasses, or the like.
Books in the Bedroom
If one has any Islamic books in their bedroom, especially the Quran, one should keep them on a high shelf or covered with a respectable cloth. This is due to the possibility of undressing in that room or engaging in private matters with their spouse.
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.