Learning is a natural ability that all humans as well as animals are endowed with. This capacity to process, remember, deduce, understand, record, summarize, conclude from and articulate large quantities of information is particularly developed in humans. It is what distinguishes them as ashraful makhluqaat (most honorable of Creation). The end result of learning is the acquisition of wisdom, i.e. the ability to perceive holistic patterns, trends, principles and inferences in the knowledge that has been accumulated.
An analogy of this in computer science might be that of a data warehouse in which knowledge (data) is stored and wisdom might be the conclusions drawn by mining that data in various ways. If done properly data mining can result in the analyst seeing the whole picture made by the interconnection of the various events that have been recorded in the data warehouse. It is this capability which leads to the development of the firasa (Islamic intuition) of a believer and ultimately the ennoblement of his character and refinement of his manners.
It is the latter part of learning that one finds so much lacking in today's globalized society. We have huge quantities of data, but we often are unable to make sense of it all and arrange it in our perspective of reality. In short, we have knowledge but no wisdom. So what are various ways a conscientious believer can develop his perception of reality in today's world?
The first thing to realize is that learning is a never ending process. Curiosity and the inclination of learning have been bestowed in all humanity. They just need to be nurtured in the right environment for the full realization in an individual. The ultimate reward in Jannah will not be the tasting of delicious food and accompaniment of perfect spouses but to see the "Face" of God.
I remember in graduate school I read an obituary of a Professor of Mathematics in the university newspaper. He was reported as saying that after death he wanted to see all the proofs of the mathematical problems that he had struggled with all his life. I might be wrong, but I deduce seeing the "Face" of God among other things, to be able to see the complete wisdom and cause of all things which one experienced in life. Thus learning should be a lifetime endeavor cultivated for ultimately a spiritual goal which is the best of reward in the hereafter.
Today, students tend to learn to get their degrees and faculty tends to teach to secure their tenure and support their research. To get real benefit from education, students should learn to learn for the sake of the hereafter rather than the sake of the GPA or even a job offer.
Another aspect of modern learning is that it is disconnected and divided into different subjects for the sake of classifying knowledge. A serious student should realize this and not limit himself to only one subject of specialization. A human, especially a believer experiences many roles and situations in life in fulfilling the obligations he needs to carry out. This balance which is a hallmark of believers, encourages them to constantly explore and learn new subjects as they crop up in their lives.
Today we find professors who do not feel obligated to influence the morality of their students, psychiatrics who have little insight into the spiritual dimensions of the soul, engineers who do not understand the social aspects of the buildings they construct,
It seems that professionals who earn a degree shut themselves off to other streams of learning that would help them realize their full potential if they continue in the path of learning. Thus humility is an essential prerequisite for a life of learning.
For university study, I was advised to keep changing my alma mater for every degree program. This diversity of approaches to learning enhances a person's ability to look at the same thing from different angles.
I believe one should bring the same type of attitude to all learning. Thus one should learn to tolerate people of different backgrounds and methodologies. One should adopt a perspective which one feels is right, but this does not mean one associates with only people who share one's own school of thought.
By studying other people, one develops an appreciation of where they are coming from, even though one may not always agree with them. Today, this flexibility is greatly lacking. We are divided and unwilling to tolerate each other. So those who follow specific schools do not associate with those who consider another . By adopting such an attitude, we are restricting our sources of useful knowledge. Not only should we be open to learn from other believers but we should be open to learn from disbelievers as well.
The nature of knowledge is universal, and thus useful principles that do not conflict with Islam should be picked up from various sources. I recommend studying the value system and good habits of people who have contributed to their societies.
Just as diversity of thought leads to beneficial learning, diversity of experience contributes to it too. A person who has lived, studied, worked and contributed to various societies of the world, can understand the world and the principles of reality much better than one who has lived in one place and only read books.
The same goes for learning languages which provide dimensions to muti-faceted paradigms of reality. The best language to learn is Arabic for it gives the learner access to the thought patterns of the Prophet (SWAS) and his Companions (RA) -- something that is invaluable to believers.
One should constantly learn from the experiences of others as well. Listening to a scholar who understands modernity and constantly travels the globe gives us a better perception of reality than one who does not.
Good documentaries are particularly beneficial sources of learning. They give important insights and can increase faith. The study of history provides us an opportunity to learn principles that work in the phenomenon in life independent of time and the prevalent factors that we are accustomed to in our lives. Thus history provides us valuable avenues of learning.
My personal opinion is that a person learns faster and with deeper insights and perceptions if he spent some time away from his family and community, as this experience gives him independence of thought. One should regularly take out some time of the day to reflect on his day and contemplate about his past to better understand the principles at work in his life.
To make use of the diversity of thought and experiences one must have the correct framework to incorporate this knowledge. That comes from the Quran. I grew up not understanding the Quran, so my solution for it was to purchase a set of audio cassettes of the whole Quran.
There was something special about this set, in that the first recited the Quranic verse in Arabic. This was followed by its translation in English. Then this was repeated for the next verse ... and so on. This format helped me to be impacted by the actual miraculous recitation of the Quran in Arabic while also understanding its meaning in English.
I used to listen to these tapes during all the time my ears were free, e.g. while driving, eating, changing, doing chores, cooking, before dozing off, etc. Soon I found it coloring my mind and soul with the right perspective of things. I did this for an extended period of time and found that I became familiar with Quran Arabic vocabulary, the style of the Quran and the gist of its message all unconsciously without much effort on my part. Later I learnt Arabic and now I do not rely on a translation.
Learning is not much of any use if it is not implemented. The best method of learning is to do projects based on what one learns. By doing so knowledge becomes etched in one's personality giving the learner personal lessons into the subject.
The most beneficial actions are those based on the prophetic example which one should try to implement in one's life as much as possible. It is often after implementing the Prophetic lifesuyte that one gains insight about the wisdom in it. Thus one should seek to implement it whether one understands it or not; whether one feels comfortable with it or not. The Prophet lifestyle allows us to act in the proper pattern that the Quranic framework of thought entails. The best way to consolidate knowledge is to try to live it and teach it to others.
We should approach learning with the proper intention, neither limiting us to one subject, nor perspective of one school, nor experience of one place or time while using the right framework to make sense of everything. By implementing knowledge properly and teaching it to others we can hope to benefit from it in this life where it gives us an inner understanding of different experiences and the hereafter where the secrets of all the mysteries of this life may be revealed to us, God willingly.
Allahhumma alamtana ma anfaana wa anfaana ma alamtana wa zindna ilma.
O Allah! Teach us what benefits us, and benefit us from what you teach us and increase us in knowledge.
Ameen Ya Rabbil Alaameen
It is said that when one gets bitten by a poisonous snake, one often does not die directly by just the venom but by its quick circulation with one's blood to all parts of the body due to the intense fear one undergoes. It is often our negative perceptions to neutral situations that harms us. The solution of coarse lies in focusing on positive aspects of events. Indeed, the Prophet (SWAS) has been reported as saying: "How amazing is the affair of the believer! God does not decree anything for him but it is good for him. If something good happens to him, he gives thanks, and that is good for him; if something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience, and that is good for him. This is not for anyone except the believer" (Muslim).
Often we find ourselves locked in the same routine of life, daily facing the same problems through which God has chosen to test us with. So much so that we find ourselves overwhelmed by our troubles which tend to become exaggerated due to their persistence in our lives. Let us try to remember that issue which caused us sleepless nights in the past. Looking back, it seems so trivial now, so much so that we might not even remember what was it that bothered us so much! Look at the missionary brothers. They go out to travel throughout societies studying what problems people in all walks of life are facing and search for Islamic solutions for them. One thing one has to give them is acknowledgement for focusing outside their own parameters of social life and genuinely caring for others. In doing so God protects them from all sorts of personal phobias.
Other than traveling, one can be free from fear through reading non fiction. The Arabs have a saying, khairul jalees al kitaab which means the best companion that one may sit with, is the book. Indeed the best of books to sit with is the Holy Quraan. In it we find parables and similitudes which we can relate to the problems of our daily life, in addition to the wisdom to guide us through the most difficult of situations. Other non fiction books on social sciences including those of history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, biographies, travelogues, political science, education, economics, religion, etc. provide a wealth of insights which we should use in our decision making. Muslims tend to deliberately ignore studying the social sciences by focusing in specializing in high paying physical sciences fields like engineering, medicine, computer sciences, etc. This results in a society in which the wealthy leadership is ill equipped to deal with major problems it faces as most such problems are social in nature. Care is needed to interpret these sciences from an Islamic perspective as many of their theories are against the Islamic ideals.
Many "successful" individuals in our societies, to whom the others look up to, might have chosen the shortcut of grafting unislamic social solutions to Muslim societies, without thinking about them deeply. No wonder the blessings in our societies are evaporating as we follow others to their lizard holes as the Prophet (SWAS) rightly predicted. This loss of blessings is the cause of the paralyzing fear which we experience while facing our social problems.
The solutions to our problems must come from ourselves, not through some drastic, sudden, irrational reaction to what is happening to us; but rather through analytic, cool-tempered, well thought out, long term policies and courses of action which are grounded in reality and Prophetic wisdom. This work can not just be delegated to our political or religious leadership as was done in the past, but everyone of us should undertake to educate oneself, understand the true nature of the world we live in and come up with an individual as well as a collective response. We must learn not always to follow the crowd but rather to use our minds, develop a perspective and live by it.
If we live in fear and insecurity, we are not the only ones. Perhaps we do not realize that those who we look up to may be in deeper anxieties than us. A drastic action is more likely to make our situation more precarious. It might be wiser to be more grateful for the blessings we enjoy and patiently bear the problems we face, while constantly trying to improve ourselves in our reaction to those problems.
Recently, I read a tweat which said "The problem is not the problem. The attitude to the problem is the problem. That's the problem!"
To be a believer in the natural universal religion, one needs to believe in God in all His Names and Attributes, in the angels, in the divine scriptures, in the prophets, in the Day of Judgement and in predestination. Each on of these are topics in themselves, which a person should study in order to believe in them. These concepts are not dogma as such but are from religious sources – the revelations from God in the Holy Quran and the actions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) – the Sunnah – as that was also inspired by God. The word “Islam” itself means submission to the Truth and these beliefs are part of the belief system that a person must submit to in order to be a believer.
These beliefs do not occur in a vacuum. The Quran contains many rational arguments and repeatedly asks the audience to ponder, use their reason, observation as well as their conscience to decide for oneself whether the beliefs that are elucidated in the religious sources make sense or not.
“Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of God are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.” (Quran 8:22)
“Thus, does God make clear to you His verses that you might use reason.” (Quran 2:242)
“Verily, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the ships which sail through the sea with benefits for people, and what God has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every creature, and in His directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason”. (Quran 2:164)
“He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Verily, in that are signs for people who reason”. (Quran 16:12)
The second Caliph, Umar Al Khattab (RA) said: “The foundation of a man is his intellect, his honor is in his religion, and his chivalry is in his character.”
Islamic philosophers like Algazel wrote the Revival of Religious Sciences in Islam, in which he took a rational approach logically walking through the reader to believe in each of the Islamic beliefs and practices. In his times, the scholars had become obsessed with Greek philosophy and rational arguments. Thus, he went about explaining the beliefs and practices of Islam in clear, rational arguments for his readers. In the Revival of Religious Sciences in Islam, Algazel wrote: “Reason is the source and fountainhead of knowledge, as well as its foundation. Knowledge sprouts from it as the fruit does from a tree, as light comes from the sun, and as vision comes from the eye. How then could that which is the means of happiness in this life and the Hereafter not be considered the most honored? Or how could it be doubted?”
In supporting the validity of the natural sciences, Algazel wrote: “As for natural sciences, they consist of examining the world of the heavens and the stars and the distinct substances that lie beneath them such as water, air, dirt, and fire, and the contingent substances such as animals, vegetation, and minerals, and the causes that alter them, transform them, and blend them. That is like the doctor’s examination of the human body, its primary and secondary parts, and the causes of change in its disposition. Just as it is not a condition of faith to reject medicine, neither is it a condition of faith to reject this knowledge.”
Avicenna believed that as long as Islam is properly interpreted it will be understood to be made up of an area of truth like philosophy, where a person can use his intellectual abilities to rationalize and follow logical arguments. The foundation of his theory was on the strong mutual compatibility of faith and reason. This agreed with the rational claims of earlier Greek philosophers while also being compatible with the principles of Islam.
His studies in philosophy convinced him of the clear supremacy of Islam as a way of life. Averros also studied Greek philosophy and was less inclined to the belief of the mutual compatibility of faith and reason unlike Avicenna. In Incoherence of Incoherence, he attacked Algazel’s criticisms of using reason to explain religion. Nevertheless, Averros did not think that rationality could explain all Islamic beliefs.
It is important to realize that the origin of knowledge is God Himself - Al Aleem – the Most Knowledgeable.
"Behold, your Lord said to the angels: I will create a viceregent on earth. They said: Will you place therein one who will make mischief and shed blood? While we do celebrate your praise and glorify your holy name. He said: I know what you know not" (Quran 2:30).
"And He taught Adam the nature of all things, then placed them before the angels and said: Tell me the nature of these if you are right" (Quran 2:31)
"They said: Glory to You of knowledge we have none, save what You have taught us. In truth it is You who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom" (Quran 2:32)
In Islamic theology, it is God who gave humans the capacity to pursue knowledge by themselves. He taught Adam the "names" of things, implying he gave him reason to pursue independent knowledge. The Quran mentions those who use their reason and those that do not and compares them to the living and the dead or the seeing and the blind.
"Is then who does know that which has been revealed onto you from your Lord is the Truth like one who is blind? Is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition" (Quran 13:19)
In fact, reason is so important that Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) made the pursuance of knowledge obligatory on all believers -- male and female. The purpose of knowledge in Islam is to know God, while the purpose of reason is to help one to come to the Truth. It is important to know the limitations of reason. Reason is not infallible, thus when a someone realizes that Islam is the Truth, he must submit to all of it, whether he completely understands it or not. In Western secular thought reason sits in judgement over the Truth, while in Islam reason is supposed to take you to the Truth and increase you in faith.
"Behold! Abraham said: My Lord! Show me how you give life to the dead. He said: Do you not then believe? He said: Yes! But to satisfy my understanding. He said: Take four birds, tame them to turn to you. Put a "portion" of them in every hill and call to them. They will come to you with speed. Then know that Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise" (Quran 2:260)
The Islamic belief system is an integrated whole in which each part plays a role in supporting and enhancing the other, making complete holistic rational sense. In order to make sense of any of its parts, one needs to qualify for it. Among its qualification is the belief in its basics. Just like one can carry out elaborate proofs in geometry only after accepting certain geometrical laws to be true, the same way one can get to use reason, inductive/deductive logic in Islam after accepting the basics from the Islamic sources – the Quran and the Sunnah.
In the Islamic paradigm of reality, what is present in the unseen (ghaib) and the seen are an integrated whole. About the unseen, the Quran says:
“And He revealed unto His slave that which He revealed. The heart in no way falsified what it saw. Will you then dispute with him concerning what he saw?” (Quran 53:10-12)
Events taking place in the unseen affect the events in the seen and vice versa. In order to understand the unseen, the believer depends on the revelation – the Quran and the Sunnah as he does not have a direct access to the unseen except through true dreams. The seen world, on the other hand, can be subjected to observation and scientific inquiry in light of the revelations. It is through the combination of faith in revelation as well as observation and reasoning in light of the revelations that a believer tries to make sense of the universal reality.
It is through a continual process of studying the revelations, seeking knowledge, observation, reasoning and contemplation that a believer starts to get inner insights into reality while staying within the tenets of his faith. He feels ecstasy, spiritual and mental delight at uncovering truths which embellish his understanding of the complete Truth. Thus, his use of reason, enhances the conviction of his beliefs. It is this interconnected understanding of the whole system of reality that develops wisdom in him.
“He granted wisdom to whom he pleased and he to whom wisdom is granted is granted has received indeed a benefit overflowing. But none will grasp the message except men of understanding” (Qurani 2:269)
Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) has been reported as saying: “When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of religion.”
Thus, Islam is not a religion of blind faith. Having submitted to the Truth, one has the right to use reason in the path to understand things. A believer will develop an insight in to the Truth. His firasa (Islamic intuition) will make him penetrate the mysteries of this life.
The second Caliph of Islam, Umar Ibnul Khattab (RA) has reported the famous saying of the Prophet (SWAS): "Deeds are [a result] only of the intentions [of the actor], and an individual is [rewarded] only according to that which he intends. Therefore, whosoever has emigrated for the sake of God and His messenger, then his emigration was for God and His messenger. Whosoever emigrated for the sake of worldly gain, or a woman [whom he desires] to marry, then his emigration is for the sake of that which [moved him] to emigrate." Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.
Two people might be doing the same actions throughout their lives, yet one will be rewarded and the other punished for them, due to their different intentions. Whatever we do in our life, let’s make our intention sincerely for the One True God. This will remove a lot of stress, misunderstandings, problems and false expectations from our lives. So if we do something good to our brother, we do not do it to expect a favour back or tell about it in our social circle, or remind the person later -- let’s do it for God alone.
Let’s put God first in our lives. So when we have a stable income, before buying that car, let’s travel to His house for pilgrimage. Before having children of our own, sponsor an orphan. Before building our house build a house of worship for His worship.
Whatever we are busy with at each stage of our life let’s dedicate it to God, whether it is studying, working professionally, marrying, having kids, serving parents, upholding ties of kin, friendship or spending wealth.
Let’s do it in a way that is foremost pleasing to Him. While choosing the career for our children, select one that is of service to the natural way of life. How many well to do parents intend to spend their savings on their children to become religious scholars? If we decide to migrate to a different land let’s do it primarily to bring its people back to the natural way of life.
If we dedicate ourselves to God, He will not forget us and will take care of our every need of this life in the best possible manner. And in the Hereafter we are promised a great reward, by His mercy.
Golden Rules of Work
Here are some general rules of work that have helped me succeed in different societies and industries:
1. Do everything from the love of higher principles & values
2. Be driven for long term success - learn to delay gratification
3. Always do the right thing – don’t compromise on ethics
4. Be humble – even an intern can teach you many things
5. Keep learning by doing new things
6. Be cheerful and positive – don’t complain...
7. Respect and sincerely care about others
8. Don’t get entangled in office politics – it’s not worth it
9. Don’t seek leadership positions – but accept challenges if offered
10. Don’t snatch work or credit for work from others
11. Find your heard - people who believe in similar values
12. Develop a vision – keep improving it
14. Don’t let unfair practices stop you from producing good work
15. Keep in touch with people
16. Keep good relations with everyone – not just people of your
17. Don’t blow your own trumpet – let your work and character speak for itself
18. Speak the truth – even if it hurts you
19. Have trust on a Higher Being - not just your abilities and circumstances
20. Strive to live a natural lifestyle – you will be harnessing the power of nature to propel you
21. Learn aspects of your work that complement your specialty
22. Keep track of new trends in your field – attend conferences, workshops, seminars
23. Look out for opportunities to do good work – volunteer and give good advice
24. Take regular time out to contemplate on how you can improve
25. Ask feedback and consult with others
26. Keep a work-life balance
27. Exceed expectations of others in terms of the quality and timing of your deliverables
28. Don’t hide information and resources from others
29. Learn to work with different type of people
30. Make your work be part of the higher goals based on your belief system
If you asked the tortoise how he beat the rabbit in the race they had in the famous fable, he would tell you that he always kept his eyes on his goal and kept working at it. In contrast, the rabbit got distracted. In many ways, life is like that race as well. There are certain goals that need to be achieved by a certain time frame. The most successful people are not those that are the most skillful, but rather those who adamantly pursue their targets and are not distracted along the way. There are many capable and talented individuals who chose to procrastinate and end up becoming losers in life.
The first thing one must realize is what are those goals that one should strive for? Indeed this is the most important of matters. A person must undergo a process of self-realization at some stage in his/her life. The Monarch butterfly migrates each fall from North America to Central America in a journey of over 2,500 miles one way. It hibernates the winter there and returns in the spring. What is most remarkable is that the generation that makes the first trip has died off when the second generation makes the second trip back, yet generation after generation follow the same flight path and hibernate on the very same trees. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch_butterfly#Migration for details. What is most perplexing is how the next generation learns about the detailed mission of its life. As believers we know that Allah (SWT) has simply inspired them to it. It is their instinct to follow a divine plan. Unfortunately, man is the only creation that have been given a free will/independent reasoning and not been left to instinct and therein lies our real test! This is what is referred to as the “trust” in the following verse:
Verily, We did offer the trust [of reason and volition] to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains: but they refused to bear it because they were afraid of it. Yet man took it up - for, verily, he has always been prone to be most wicked, most foolish. (Al Ahzab 33:72).
Each one of us as humans has our own tailored plan that we must discover/reason for ourselves. The earlier this happens, the better. Some undergo self-discovery in their teenage, other in their 20s or 30s. Yet others may have a mid-life crises. A lot of people choose to think about deeper concepts in life only after their retirement. Yet some stumble throughout life without finding answers to basic questions of existence. See “The Enigma of Identity” for details (http://oak-gis.blogspot.ae/2013/09/the-enigma-of-identity.html . Once one knows himself, he/she can better understand the world around him and his/her mission in it. What is interesting that the souls of each one of us have already been etched by the Truth even before our creation! All we need to do is some self-reflection in the correct context to get rid of the veils of delusion that surround us.
And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], "Am I not your Lord?" They said, "Yes, we have testified." [This] - lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, "Indeed, we were of this unaware." (Al Araaf 7:172)
Unfortunately, most of us choose to spend a life of self-delusion or procrastination – heedless of our mission like our rabbit that one day they will catch up with our true purpose. It is the promise of Satan to keep humanity is that state.
[Satan] said, "Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You]." (Al Araaf 7:16-17)
Ask a terminally ill patient, what they could have done when they were healthy. The only difference between us and him is that he has been forced to focus on the End, whereas we are still distracted with our delusions. A wise person is one who realizes that despite his health he is also terminally “ill” as death sits awaiting everyone as we come closer to it day by day. The sooner we begin living with our End in mind, the sooner we will start prioritizing what is really important and start achieving.
There was a Sahabi of the Prophet (SWAS) who on being attacked and killed by the enemies cried out “Fuztu bi Rabbil Kaaba!” (“I have won by the Lord of the Kaaba!”) The enemies were perplexed as how he had won upon facing his death. It is not difficult to understand if we consider it in context of the tortoise’s victory. He had lived with an eye on the End, struggled for it in his lifetime and when he finally reached it he could visualize it. Hence he cried out in joy! How many of us can seriously follow his example?
Perhaps the best aide to keep an eye on the End is the Quran. They say that you can achieve your goals if you can visualize them. The Quran opens up new vistas of the unseen and afterlife in a language and style that makes one visualizes/experience it in this life with little effort. In fact it constantly keeps us on track as we hear it in congregational prayers and read it with understanding. This is why understanding it in Arabic is so important. Without it one cannot visualize its verses “in full color” which is lost in translations. It constantly reinforces its paradigm of Reality, coloring our hearts and minds with the inspiration that come automatically to Mornarch butterflies and all other Creation.
If you have not had the opportunity to discover yourself yet, I invite you to begin the process. Learn about yourself and the context of your existence. You have not been left to blindly wander in life or follow the whims from Satan. Find out your goals and focus on them, keeping an eye on the End. Fortunately, the last preserved message to mankind is with us. Try to understand it and do some self-reflection in its context. Study the Quran formally in courses and be inspired! May we all feel the excitement of reaching the finishing line with satisfaction like the Sahabi who cried out “Fuztu bi Rabbil Kaaba!"
Perhaps thought inspired on sound principles has become the rarest commodity in the 21st century. It is increasingly difficult to reason independently based on reality due to the dominance of global thought rife in its philosophical paradoxes. Think tanks with vested interests make political, academic, social, cultural, economic and moral policies globally. They set the agenda of governments, media, university research, social policy, religious control and economic reforms through international organizations. Media has almost 24/7 grip on humanity's thoughts. Unless one completely isolates oneself, one cannot protect oneself from the influence of their thoughts. At the same time, one cannot develop correct thought to analyze a world which one is isolated from. The strategy to develop inspired thinking for the 21st century needs effort, sacrifice, patience and wisdom.
Bad intentions result in corrupt thinking which results in bad actions which result in bad consequences. Whereas, good intentions result in sound thinking which results in good actions which result in good consequences. To have sound thought we must have "good" intentions. Who defines "good"? our parents? our primary school teacher? our employer? our government? Good intentions are based on a deep understanding of the principles. Thus, to have sound thought, we must constantly be immersed in the Islamic paradigm by studying it from its sources, in a world which constantly streams ideas counter to it. To think properly we need to critically filter our culture, our social trends, our national trends, our media, globally promoted ideas and initiatives, ideas of deviant groups and ideas taught in educational institutes. We need to be global citizens having independent minds rather than minds tainted by nationalism.
By studying with and listening to a genuine Islamic scholars we reinforce our understanding. We must learn Islam academically in courses rather than just practice what our forefathers used to do. By doing this, we can glean principles of reality from it the same way we glean the laws of motion from the academic study of physics. Just like physics has natural principles which help us study aspects of the physical world from an internally valid systematic framework, Islam has natural principles which help us study reality of this and the unseen world. Whereas, western philosophy cuts off the stream of knowledge gleaned from the unseen realm, Islam uses that knowledge to guide intuitive reasoning to understand things more comprehensively. The vision of secular thought is monocular, that of Islamic thought is stereoscopic - using knowledge of both the seen and unseen universe to form it.
Intentions can be kept pure by living fully immersed in the Islamic paradigm and controlling exposure and influence of mainstream ideas which oppose it. This is possible by constantly studying Islam formally, thinking about it, implementing it and teaching it to others. The more we implement and teach Islam, the deeper our thought becomes. When thought is not juxtaposed among Islamic, cultural and secular worldviews it will not be confused. It will be possible to just continue building everything on the Islamic foundation as one learns new subjects of knowledge.
The intentions to acquire beneficial knowledge continuously should be for our higher spiritual development - to develop the light of understanding by which we can see things as they really are so that we positively impact the world. Care should be exercised that the world does not distract us from this mission for the hereafter. We should not covet by it praise,wealth, status, fame and honor. Lives full of meaning might be more enriching than meaningless ostentatious lives.
To understand the 21st century world one needs to understand modern knowledge. It is relatively easy to acquire empirical and analytical knowledge like that of the natural sciences, engineering, computer sciences, mathematics, etc. because they are based on observed/measurable phenomenon of this world and do not conflict much with Islamic principles. We should not try studying the humanities without first studying Islam well. Nevertheless, after studying Islam significantly, we should study the social sciences by using Islamic principles as a criteria to judge the knowledge before we decide to incorporate it in our framework of personal knowledge. Thus knowledge streams from a variety of disciplines can constantly be acquired by such self-learning.
Pure intention and correct knowledge are insufficient by themselves in developing sound thought. They need to be supplemented with good life experiences and keen observation of the phenomenon we experience with our senses. Thought is developed by practicing thinking about one's observations in the context knowledge and life experiences. To enrich thought, one needs to increase variety and depth of one's knowledge and experiences, Thus living in different societies, learning different languages, working in different industries and having a diverse social network is essential for rich thought.
The more one thinks at a meta level about things, the more one's thought develops. Thinking is a muscle which needs to be exercised daily. Writing one's thoughts allows one to think about them systematically and deliberately. One train of thought leads to another connected one. As the thought network develops, one can see trends and patterns of deep realization like it is done artificially in data mining these days. This is the beginning of wisdom. With time, one can develop discerning insight (firasa) which is sudden intuitive understanding.
To see reality as reality, thought must be pure. Pure thought is thought based on the right intentions, correct knowledge, positive assumptions, good character, good speech, good morals, good deeds and good living. Constant effort is needed to keep thought pure by studying and implementing Islam genuinely. Impure thought results in distorted concept of reality causing one to suffer from delusions about aspects of reality. Modern thought lacks such a basis, diminishing humanity's ability to understand reality for what it is.
When most of humanity will be immersed in virtual worlds, sound deep thinking will become increasingly rare. The masses will have reptilian brains that instinctively react immediately to stimuli. They will be controlled by few social architects who see humans as animals and will decide when and what global populations will think and do. The masses will constantly be concerned with personal physical survival. People will become like machines and machines like people.
Among all peoples of the world, only Muslims have the sources and methodology of sound thought development which can restore humanity to humans. Rather than rushing to adopt Western thinking, should not Muslims take the means to reform their own and then teach how to think to the world?
There are many blessings in friendship. In his essay, “Of Friendship”, philosopher Francis Bacon describes a few benefits. Primarily friendship is a source of happiness or as he puts it “… the ease and discharge of the fullness and swellings of the heart…”.The second benefit is clarity of thought which is achieved by discussing issues with friends. Finally he states that a good honest friend is a source of constructive feedback. This idea was stated by the Prophet (SWAS) when he is reported to have said: "A believer is the mirror of his brother. When he sees a fault in it, he should correct it."
The benefits above are universal and apply to all human societies. Let’s see what our Creator has advised the Muslims about such a beneficial institution as human friendship.
“The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those - Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (9:71)
“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you - then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people..” (5:51)
"Your ally is none but Allah and [therefore] His Messenger and those who have believed - those who establish prayer and give zakah, and they bow [in worship]." (5:55)
Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers. And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah , except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination. (3:28)
On the face of it one may think that Allah (SWT) wants the Muslims to only befriend people of their own community and have no friendly relations with the non-Muslims. If one studies the Prophetic way, it soon becomes apparent that this is not the case.
Often we tend to look at friendship as black and white. The “either you are with us or against us” doctrine does not reflect the reality of the full range of possible relationships in a typical human society.
Islamic scholars have tried to categorize human relations. The most general type of human relation possible is Muwasaat. This entails wishing well for all Creation, including all of humanity out of human compassion. After Badr, the Muslims took the kuffar as prisoners of war. They were kept in the Prophet’s masjid and were treated in the best manner. They were given the best food, while the Muslims had to do with little. During the reign of Syedna Omar Ibnul Khattab (RA), the non-Muslims used to receive monthly stipends from the Treasury of the Muslims. The Muslims were not adverse to the kuffar but to their kufr.
The next type of relationship is Mudaraat, where one deals with people of the other communities on a one-to-one basis. These interactions may take place if for example one has a non-Muslim guest or a neighbor or sitting besides them in a flight. Again the Muslims are supposed to show their best behavior in such interactions. A Jew visited the Prophet (SWAS) once and was invited to eat there and sleep in his (SWAS) bed during the night. The next day when he left he forgot his sword which the Prophet (SWAS) kept safe until he came back to collect it later.
The third type of relationship is Muaamalaat, where Muslims associate with non-Muslims on the basis of some work, e.g. as an employer, employee, co-worker, teacher, doctor, librarian, cab driver, etc. The Prophet (SWAS) borrowed money from Jewish money lenders by pawning his belongings to him.
The last category of friendship is Muwalaat, in which people become close intimate friends with each other. They tend to support each other at all cost, even at the cost of their beliefs. It is this friendship, in which one makes the non-Muslims their wali, that the verses above refer to and is prohibited for Muslims. The Prophet (SWAS) said:“A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.” Such type of friendship influences one's likes and dislikes, one's aspirations, one's perspective and ultimately one’s entire way of life.
If a Muslim comes in such close friendship with non-Muslims he will forget his responsibilities as a member of the Ummah, supporting the non-Muslims even if it is against fellow Muslims. Such friends are eager to please each other. If a Muslim condones all actions of his non-Muslim friend, how can he tell him about the deen? He will ultimately weaken and lose his eeman (faith), something that the Shariah is supposed to protect as a principle. Thus such friendships are not allowed.
Islam encourages Muslims to take full benefit of the institution of friendship. They must have compassion for all humanity, deal well with any non-Muslim they come in contact and work with them constructively for common objectives in society in a exemplary manner. But they must reserve the intimate nature of friendship only those on the natural way of life.
The fact that arrogance comes and goes is an indicator of the fact that its roots are not accurately identified and fully eliminated. Feigning humbleness while keeping the embers of past trauma alive and a perception of personal deficiencies, causes one to be dependent on how others react to them. They are not self-assured as to who they are by finding satisfaction in what others do/say to them.
The key to complete elimination of arrogance once and for all so that we remain in our natural equilibrium is to deeply examine the damage done to the psyche in the past and completely extirpating trauma which trigger the arrogance repeatedly. It is necessary to sincerely repent of their arrogance, conduct an internal reform and cleanse their consciousness from these weeds. But the main thing is not to avoid negativity, but to tune in positively, because otherwise this reform of consciousness will not be fully implemented and will be of no use.
An arrogant person creates a fog in his own mind and he needs a cleansing from it, because his reality is different than it should be and it can create problems in life and drive people away! What is needed is a realignment of the mind and a pure desire. A person must realize and move forward with God, if there is faith in correction, then God will help find the right path. This creates positive waves.
The perfect man, not the superhuman, is the position on the road to success. The superhuman according to Nietzsche is already arrogant. One must follow the Prophet and be natural.
In all traditions, arrogance or pride has been described as a major disease of the heart, but in the Islamic tradition we see how it stops personal development by occluding the light of guidance from penetrating the heart. When the heart of a man becomes blind, he uses his gift of choice in a wrong way, causing his arrogance to make him come off the natural way of life, causing corruption.
A proud person competes with the Supremely Great, who is Perfect in all respects. Nobody or nothing is comparable to Him, then how can someone believe they are better than anyone else or give greatness to anyone more than God?
In conveying God’s words, the Prophet (SWAS) is reported to have said:
Grandeur is My cloak and pride is My garment. Whoever competes with Me in one of these two, I will cast him into the Hellfire.
Arrogance causes people to reject the truth even when they realize that it is the truth. They mistakenly believe that they are perfect and they end up looking down on people and despising them.
Without guidance, we misuse our power of choice making wrong decisions leading to the development of many bad traits such as deceit, envy, and anger. Pride is due to the absence of natural self-confidence. Why would we ever want to prove to others that we are better than them? Arrogance sometimes develops when we keep carrying our emotional baggage from our past. We feel inferior to others so we try to look better than them.
The worst kind of arrogance might be that we become deluded that we are better than others because of our knowledge. Our adept use of knowledge and fancy words, makes Satan puff us up. Seeking knowledge for any intention other than self-development is destructive. How can someone acquire knowledge to look good in front of others by winning arguments, while it makes them occluded from the truth, deviating them more and more from the natural way of life?