Another etiquette regarding books which deserves attention is: A student of knowledge should maintain (a list of) selected points of benefit for each of his books. This means that if someone reads a book and he doesn’t feel that he will remember or be able to recall what he read later – even if he is young – he should select points of benefit from this book and write them down in a special notebook. Or he can make references to them in the preface of the book, such as in a page at the beginning of the book. So he makes something that resembles a table of contents, however, it is specifically catered to him since these points of benefit that apply to him may not apply to others.
So they are specifically for you when you need to reference something you learned from this book at a later time. Two nights ago, I took the book al-Fadl-ul- Mubeen fee Sharh al-Arba’een of Jamaal-ud-Deen Al-Qaasimee from its place in my library. It had been almost ten years since I last read the book, but when I opened it up to its first page, lo and behold, I found the points of benefit in the book that I had written down a long time ago. And there were many, many points of benefit of which I had forgotten almost ninety percent of them. So instead of reading the book over again, all I had to do was look at this point of benefit and that point of benefit and so on.
One of the points of benefit found in the book, for example, was the author’s discussion on the difference between the ‘Aalim and the ‘Aarif and the reason why the Sufis renounced the word ‘Aalim in favor of using the word ‘Aarif and why they say the ‘Aarif so and so and not the “‘Aalim” (i.e. scholar) so and so. This is one of the points of benefit found in this book.
Another point of benefit in the book was an excellent and firm quote from Ibn Hazm found in his book al-Fisal on the meanings of the (verbs) qadaa (to divinely ordain) and qaddara (to divinely pre-decree). At the end of the quote, Jamaal-ud-Deen Al-Qaasimee says: “And this is the most brilliant of what was said concerning the meaning of qadaa and qaddara and what has the most right to be accepted.” And it is just as he said. Perhaps I will relate that to you at a later time.
These points of benefit that you record at the beginning of the book are very important. If you refer to the book some time after reading it, you will find these points before you. This means that when you read a book or a group of books, you should select points from them, which you feel are beneficial and useful to you and annotate them at the beginning of the book in the first page. So it will take the form of an index with brief phrases describing the point of benefit (and the page number where it can be found).
There is no doubt that this is extremely important for a student of knowledge. If you are able to make a special notebook in which you can place selected points that you may need, then this is important and you will definitely refer to it later on in time. It is not proper for you to read a book just like this and say that this (one-time) reading is sufficient because after one or two months or maybe after a year, you will forget what you read.
But if you write down (the most important points of) what you read, you can refer back to it years later and find that the points of benefit are available for display before you, as the saying goes: “Understanding is contingent – it comes and goes, whereas writing is recorded.” Write down what you have understood or record what you have learned from the book.