WHY DO PEOPLE write? More specifically, why do some people need to write while others are not interested in writing at all? Is there a special substance in the writer’s veins that makes him different from others in his or her desire to record his responses to life on paper so that they will not be forgotten?
Over a thousand years ago, a Japanese novelist used a character in one of her books to describe what motivates an author:
Again and again something in one’s own life or in that around one will seem so important that one cannot bear to let it pass into oblivion. There must never come a time, the writer feels, when people do not know about this [thing].
In fact, writing does not have to be shared with others in order to be of benefit. Many people use writing as a means of self-discovery and they keep diaries or personal journals to help remind themselves of meaningful events in their lives, to express emotions that don’t have another outlet, and to work through the problems of life.
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A journal is slightly different than a diary in that the latter is simply a record of daily experiences and how one reacts to them, while a journal is concerned with tying one’s observations together in order to reach conclusions about a particular subject or issue. In short, writing in a journal (or “journaling,” as it’s popularly called) is writing with a goal in mind.
When connected to spiritual matters, journaling can take on new significance as one seeks to relate both his joys and struggles to his faith. By keeping a daily journal and looking back through its pages every so often, one can recognize patterns in his or her thoughts and relive periods of intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth that may be otherwise missed or obscured by the passage of time.
Regular features of a Muslim’s journal might include:
- Remembrance of the things that happened during the day that inspire gratitude to Allah;
- Analysis of life events that are seemingly negative, but may actually be blessings in disguise;
- Efforts to understand and relate verses in the Quran to one’s life circumstances and perception of the world;
- Responses to nature and the miracles of Divine Creation.
It is foresightful to get our children used to expressing themselves through writing when they are young so that this important skill is second nature to them by the time they become adults, helping them to become articulate in all areas of language communication. Young people who write today will be the great thinkers and analyzers of tomorrow, conquering hearts and minds with the power of their eloquent, persuasive words.
It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Indeed.
Although there are no specific rules on what one should write in his own personal journal, it makes good sense not to mention others by name nor to write about things that could cause harm to one’s family or friends, if found. Unlike our ideas—which are private in every sense of the word and are known only to Allah unless and until we choose to voice them—writing is a tangible record of these ideas. Keep in mind that there is always the possibility of our journals being discovered by others, even if only after our deaths.
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah observed,
Verily, Allah forgives His servants the evil promptings which arise within their hearts as long as they did not speak about them or did not act upon them. (Muslim)
In another narration, Abu Hurairah reported Allah’s Messenger as saying,
All the people of my Ummah would get pardoned for their sins except those who publicize them… (Muslim)
So a journal is a place for exploration of the heart, mind and soul, but it is not without its limitations and should not work against the writer to become a register of his sins or a place of slander against others. In this sense, a Muslim’s journal is truly a reflection of his or her faith in that he can work within the boundaries of what is allowed by it while still discovering new frontiers that are limitless in scope.
Whether public or private, writing has a special place in the lives of Muslims and can serve to educate others about Islam or to contribute to one’s own spiritual blossoming.