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Do we really need literature in our lives?

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Do We Really Need Literature

In Our Lives?

Literature may not be as important as water, food or oxygen for our lives, but it is surely important for improving the quality of life. It is true that being oblivious to the exposure of literature is not a threat to biological life, yet the refreshing impact of literature on the quality of our lives cannot be denied. Benefiting from literature may be one of the major factors to distinguish human life from animal life. Many benefits of literature have been stated in the following paragraphs to show how it is important for our lives. A few instances have also been quoted to prove the point that literature has profound impact on the quality of life.
For the purpose of this article, I would take the broad definition of literature as being the entire body of writings on any particular subject.
Literature has profound impact on our individual and social lives. The aspects of that impact have been explained in the following paragraphs. First I would explain the need of literature in the lives of the readers.
We need literature in our lives because it expands our minds. For example, ‘The Alchemist’, written by Paulo Coelho, inspires us to keep going despite the hardships coming in the way. It further says that it is always good to have dreams, and one should chase one’s dreams. It enlightens us that it is the persistence that brings fruit. By studying literature, we come to interact with different perspectives of life. Our exposure to these perspectives opens our minds. Thus, expansion of minds is the first advantage that comes to our minds when we discuss different benefits of literature in our lives.
Our interactions with literature make us tolerant toward other cultures and beliefs. Stephen R. Covey states in his famous book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ that we should not only respect the differences but also celebrate them. We not only tolerate different viewpoints but also tend to appreciate others’ beliefs. Study of literature makes us believe that being different and having different viewpoints is not only normal rather it is the real beauty of human civilization. We come to realize that there are different cultures and different belief systems under the influence of particular set of circumstances and religious teachings available in that particular geographical area. Thus, multicultural acceptance is another result of study of literature.
Literature is needed in our lives because it is compilation of experiences of generations. The literary work of any great author lives forever in the form of books even long after his death. The literature on the subject of scientific discoveries and inventions is an example of this fact. Sometimes, any new discovery or invention is not the result of one person’s knowledge and experience. It is because that scientist has benefited a lot from the theories and knowledge of other scientists who had transferred their knowledge to him in the form of books. One invention or discovery, in many cases, is incrementally built upon the experiments conducted by many scientists in different places and at different times. The same is valid for literature on other subjects. In this way, studying literature gives us the opportunity to tap the reservoir of experiences of generations.
We study literature in order to learn lessons from history. It is said that readers are leaders because they can make informed decisions. It is literature that brings to us the knowledge of the past generations. It tells us how they lived and what mistakes they committed and what strategies they adopted to be successful. We can interpret the consequences of our actions from the books of history. History is the mirror of the past which also tells us about the trajectory of future. Thus, study of literature is beneficial if we want to learn lessons from history.
Literature is useful as it inspires the readers to do more, learn more and become more. There is a masterpiece written by Jack Canfield titled as ‘The Success Principles’. This book illustrates 64 principles of success which, if followed in their letter and spirit, can bring success to any person. This book tells us that success is an art and a science too as it is the result of following certain principles. These principles are fundamentals which remain the same for all persons and all professions. The literature on the subject of success tells us that success is neither hereditary trait nor it is by the stroke of luck. It is science that requires dreams followed by subsequent execution of those dreams based on perseverance. Other good literature on the subject is the book written by Napoleon Hill and titled as ‘Think and Grow Rich”. Thus, literature inspires us to be successful in our lives.
Literature builds character. It is literature that invokes values of righteousness, justice, kindness, forgiveness and bravery in our lives. We read stories of great human beings who lived wonderful lives owing to their strong characters. We tend to adopt the same character in our lives. Even some good quotations become the slogan or motto of our lives. The famous quote of Sultan Fateh Ali Tipu, the ruler of the kingdom of Mysore, once said, “It is far better to live like a lion for a day than to live like a jackal for a hundred years.” This famous epitome inspires bravery in us. It hints at living a purposeful life irrespective of its duration. Thus, literature helps in formation of a dignified character.
Another utility of literature in our lives is that it creates awareness regarding social, political and economic rights. Only an enlightened person knows about his rights, and this enlightenment comes through literature. When we study literature, we come to know that the human beings got the rights after a continuous struggle. In the history of mankind, Islam as a divine religion gave a system of rights and duties to its followers. Exposure to this divine literature brought new awareness among the human beings about their rights. Rights of children, the elderly, women and prisoners of war were promulgated. Thus, it is study of literature on the subject of rights that creates awareness among people about their social, political and economic rights.
Development of better writing skills is one of the advantages related to the study of literature. For a person to be a good writer, it is required that he should be a good reader. Reading improves the vocabulary as well as the writing expression of the reader. When we study literature, we come to know about a wide range of vocabulary and the expression of ideas in different writing styles. Prerequisite for a good piece of writing is that the author should have clear ideas and concepts. Thus, studying literature gives us clarity of concepts and exposure to different writing styles. In this way, we can develop better writing skills by studying literature.
These were some of the factors because of which we need literature in our lives as readers. We also need literature in our lives as authors or writers. This proposition has been explained in the following paragraphs.
Literature is a very significant tool for giving expression to the thoughts of authors. When an author gives words to his thoughts, he purifies and clarifies his thoughts first, and then translates those into words. So, clarification of thoughts and concept is the prime function of writing literature in the lives of authors. When one starts writing, many thoughts come to the mind but only the unambiguous and the powerful thought is translated into words. If this tool of writing is not available to us, many of us would feel that our thoughts and feelings are suppressed. Concluding the argument, literature provides effective tool to the writers to express their thoughts.
Writing literature is a medium through which knowledge is passed from one generation to coming generations. The knowledge of generations is preserved in printed form in our libraries. Had this medium been not available, the knowledge of one generation would have lost, and the coming generations would have to take a fresh start in the field of knowledge. By consulting the literature of history, physical sciences, modern branches of knowledge and mathematics, we can have access to the knowledge of all those who contributed to the reservoir of knowledge by the way of writing. It is the writing of literature that not only preserves knowledge but also transfers it to the coming generations.
Writing literature is the most important way for a writer to be alive in the memories of readers even after his death. A famous writer not only gives immortal life to his or her own name but also he keeps alive the characters of his writings –whether real or fictitious. We still read the work of great authors and poets, and we know their names and their way of thinking. These greater authors are alive in the libraries and in the minds of their readers. Another example of the same kind can be given of the historians who wrote history, and owing to their work, we know a lot about the style of governance of different rulers of the past. Giving the finality to the argument, writing literature keeps the names and work of authors and the characters mentioned in those writings alive.
I have thrown light on the need of literature in our lives from the perspectives of both readers and writers. Now I will quote some specific instances where literature changed the course of human civilization and history.
The greatest impact on the lives of mankind came from divine literature. We, as Muslims, believe that Quran is the book of Almighty which was revealed to the last messenger of Almighty- Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him). Holy Quran is divine literature that changed the lives of mankind. The era before the revelation of Holy Quran is called the era of ignorance. The teachings of Holy Quran and Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him) introduced new religion for the guidance of humanity and removed darkness from mankind. It was the impact of Holy Quran and the teachings of Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him) that the companions of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him) became brave, kindhearted and God- fearing. Their hearts were enlightened with the divine guidance. Thus, divine literature has profound impact on the minds of humans up till now and it will continue to have that impact till the existence of life on Earth.
Another example of the impact of literature on the lives of the Muslims of the Subcontinent is the literary services rendered by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. The English rulers thought that the Muslims alone were responsible for the War of Independence which they called Indian revolt and therefore, made oppressive policies for the Muslims. It was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who made efforts to remove this misunderstanding in the minds of the English rulers on the one hand, and on the other, he inspired all the Muslims of the Subcontinent to acquire modern knowledge so that they could compete with Hindus in the field of education , business and employment. He not only laid the foundation of an educational institute in Aligarh in 1870s which, after his death, was upgraded to the level of university in 1920 but also wrote many books to enlighten the Muslims. He wrote the famous book titled as ‘The Causes of the Indian Revolt’ to assert that Hindus and the oppressive policies of the government were equally responsible for the revolt. He wrote another book namely ‘Loyal Muhammadans of India’ in which he gave a detailed account of the loyal services of the Muslims for the British rulers. His literary services include the publishing of the most influential magazine titled as ‘Tahzib-ul- Akhlaq’ in which he narrated the ethical aspects of the Muslim life and advised the Muslims to abandon the conservative style of life and adopt new trends of life. These literary services rendered by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan changed the course of history for the Muslims of the Subcontinent.
Another example that can do justice with the topic is that of poetry written by Allama Muhammad Iqbal. His poetry fuelled the movement for the creation of Pakistan by inspiring the Muslims of the Subcontinent to work with full dedication towards the creation of a new country under the visionary leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He conveyed the message of Muslim brotherhood, self-confidence and glorification of the Islamic culture to all the Muslims. To this day, his work continues to inspire the Muslims throughout the world. He wrote many poems on the subject of freedom, respect for everyone and importance of perseverance. Poetry of Allama Muhammad Iqbal continues to have a huge impact on the minds of readers as it inspires courage, confidence and bravery.
Last but not least, a lot is being written on the subject of happiness, success and richness. Many prominent authors of the present era like Napoleon Hill, Jack Canfield, Stephen R. Covey and Robert Kiyosaki have contributed a lot towards this kind of literature. This literature is changing the minds of the young readers and motivating them to learn and be successful in their lives. ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ series of books written by Robert Kiyosaki gives new perspective on making money, being happy and enjoying richness. Napoleon Hill gave a new concept of richness being inclusive of money, happiness, success and purpose. This literature inspired readers to be persistent in their efforts, learning from their mistakes and materializing their dreams. Undoubtedly, this literature has immense impact on the lives of millions of young readers all over the world.

The writer is a civil servant, belonging to Police Service of Pakistan (PSP).

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