AUGUST 19, 2011

From: Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
To: Sultan Shahin – Editor & Publisher –  NewAgeIslam.com
Subject: I WANT TO DIE AN EDUCATED MAN

My Dear Sultan Saheb,

“In an age like ours, which is not given to letter-writing, we forget what an important part it used to play in people’s lives,” remarked Anatole Broyard, an American writer and an editor of The New York Times. I have always been fascinated with “Letter Writing” ever since I was a young man. I firmly believe that a good letter directly touches the heart of the reader, and not to mention, it ignites thoughts which can linger on for many moons. I wish, I could submit some of my writings in a shape of an article, but for some reason unknown to me, I have, always, been hesitant to do it.

Today’s “NewAgeIslam.Com” caught my eye, especially, a superb article titled, “The Ideology of Thought Control in Pakistan” which was originally published in Dawn on August 1, 2011. On reading the article, my thoughts went straight towards our recent phone conversation about the sorry state of affairs in the Islamic world. The need of the hour as we both agreed upon is to instill positive thoughts and shun a negative one. You alone are putting your time and energy into a noble task of posting thought-provoking articles on our fellow Muslims which are more in line with the true spirit of Islam. With the crowded cyberspace consisting of so many Islamic websites, yours stands out as a refreshing one.

Norman Cousins, an American political journalist, professor and the editor of Saturday Review pointed out: “The prime function of writers is to dig deep into their own times, to search for the root causes of crisis and give them a blazing clarity, to stretch the horizons of men’s minds, and to evoke natural greatness of men in response to great causes.”

With blazing clarity, Maheen Usmani penned her article. Resounding responses from readers across the Indian subcontinent were overwhelming. Three such remarks about her penmanship were rather striking. They were as follows:

Ambijat says: People like Maheen Usmani are Kohinoor of Pakistan.
They must flourish for the cause of humanity.

Vireen Singh says: A great piece by a very enlightened writer. Some
very insightful analysis by relevant examples. Maheen your painstaking
research analysis deserves to be shared widely in Pak.

V. Kurian says: A great article … which will force the masses into some
form of introspection. Kudos to Dawn for publishing this and speaks
volumes about the print media of Pakistan. Finally to the people of
Pakistan don’t shoot the messenger just think about it … it is the
greatest asset of your country the next generation.

Needless to say that countless similar type of articles have already been published, but the only difference is that Maheen Usmami has systematically and explicitly outlined the undoing of modern education in the country of Pakistan. All such critical analysis by a handful of wise Muslims thinkers and writers should never be discarded. Islamic religious scholars must be all ears to hear valid arguments directed against the flaws in the Islamic educational system. No doubt, any attempt to change will be resisted with the usual hue and cry by the ignorant Mullahs who in my mind have been totally responsible for a massive decadence in the educational process of the Muslim youths. It is high time for all Muslims to come to a foregone conclusion that the very cause of the decay should be solely contributed to the Mullahs’ most stupid belief: “Follow Markaz, what they are saying; don’t implement your thoughts.”

Well there you go, Sultan Saheb. The crux of the problem that is plaguing the “Islamic Educational System” boils down to “Don’t Implement Your Thoughts.Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla, High Priest of the Parsis, Karachi of undivided India, summed up in his book “Our Perfecting World, (1930) in a very simple sentence: “Thought decays and dies when attempts are made to enforce standardization and uniformity.” Majority of the curriculum in the Islamic madrassas, and also in the primary and secondary schools in the Islamic countries are strictly confined towards standardization of thoughts that breeds prejudice and extremism. Little wonder that the ultimate result of such an educational system has not been able to produce any powerful thinkers in the Islamic world at large.

Norman Cousins wrote a brilliant article titled, “Does Anyone Have Time to Think?” (March 26, 1955) which should be read by all the intellectuals hailing from the Islamic world. As always, I am backing up my humble thoughts with the wisdom of wise men so that there can be a much deeper understanding in grasping the spirit of my message. In addition, I will also relay “Thought In Bondage” by Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla which is equally enlightening. Persecution of thoughts have been rampant in the Islamic world. I alone have experienced it not only in the recent days, but in the yesteryears too. Any thoughts that challenge the status quo are instantly quashed with mean spirited words. In fact, I was absolutely floored by reading a sentence recently posted on the website by a seasoned Muslim veteran to another: “Will you please ask Mr. Lodhia to take care of his house and leave the Muslim world.” Something terribly has gone wrong and we must try to displace such a demonic mind-set. Come to think of it, such a thought coming forth during this Holy Month of Ramadan is all the more shocking, so to speak.

Candidly speaking, I was sheerly delighted to realize that Maheen Usmani quoted Alvin Toffler, an American writer and futurist. Talking about this outstanding thinker who is admired by many leaders around the world, I must share with you the time I spent with Maulana Wahiddudin Khan on a Christmas Day – December 25, 2010. Dr. Saniyasnain Khan, his son insisted upon me to be his house-guest. The very next day right after my lunch with Maulana Saheb, I flipped through the pages of “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffer which was in Dr. Saheb’s library. His elder daughter Sadia Khan read out the paragraph to Maulana Saheb. I know that you will appreciate my thoughts in extracting a few paragraphs from the book as follows:

One winter night I witnessed a poignant quiver run through a seminar
room when a white-haired man explained to a group of strangers what
had brought him there to attend my class on the Sociology of the Future.
The group included corporate long-range planners, staff from major
foundations, publishers and research centers. Each participant spieled
off his reason for attending. Finally, it was the turn of the little man in the
corner. He spoke in cracked but eloquent English: “My name is Charles
Stein. I am a needle worker all my life. I am seventy-seven years old,
and I want to get what I didn’t get in my youth. I want to know about the
future. I WANT TO DIE AN EDUCATED MAN!

The abrupt silence that greeted this simple affirmation still rings in the
ears of those present. Before this eloquence, all the armor of graduate
degrees, corporate titles and prestigious rank fell. I hope Mr. Stein is still
alive, enjoying his future, and teaching others, as he did us that night.

When millions share this passion about the future we shall have a society
far better equipped to meet the impact of change. To create such curiosity
and awareness is a cardinal task of education. To create an education that
will create this curiosity is the third, and perhaps central, mission of the
super-industrial revolution in the schools.

Education must shift into the future tense.

My referring these three paragraphs of Alvin Toffler was to enlighten Maulana Saheb to reinforce in his future writings “The Desire To Learn. Unfortunately, we Muslims are stuck in the “Past Tense. We have no inclination to learn as to what it means to shift into the “Future Tense. It takes “A Great Thinker,” like Alvin Toffler to highlight an example of one Charles Stein. In the Islamic seminar such a query from an older person will not be paid any heed let alone allow to stir the minds of the younger ones who are routinely being controlled by the Mullahs from different school of thoughts. “Thou Shall Not Think” mantra successfully drives our “Present Tense. In other words, “The Whole Thing Has To Be Completely Rethought” says Alvin Toffler. Click and listen to him on YouTube:

All in all, keep up the good work, Sultan Shahin Saheb. You can be rest assured that one well-wisher named Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia will always be on your side. May Almighty Allah give you strength and courage to carry on with your monumental task to help open the eyes of our fellow Muslim brethren through the writings of a few Muslim intellectuals across the Islamic world. Knowing the prevailing condition of suppressing the thoughts of the so-called “Progressive Muslim Thinkers, the least you and I can do is to remain proactive in encouraging, promoting and circulating the right message of Islam.

May Almighty Allah bless you for all of your good works.

Warmest personal regards,

Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia

_________________________________________________________________________________________

DOES ANYONE HAVE TIME TO THINK?

We in America have been concerned for some years with the lot of underprivileged peoples throughout the world. But we have yet to do anything for one of the most
underprivileged peoples of all. Ourselves.

We have more food than we can eat. We have more money per person that anywhere else in the world; with just 6 percent of the population we hold 80 per cent of the wealth. We have bigger homes, bigger television sets, bigger cars, bigger theaters, bigger schools. We have everything we need, in fact, except the most important thing of all – time to think and the habit of thought. We lack time for the one indispensable for safety of an individual or a nation.

Thought is the basic energy in human history. Civilization is put together not by machines but by thoughts. Similarly, man’s uniqueness is represented not by his inability to make objects but to sort them and relate them. Other animals practice communication; only man has the capacity for comprehension. Displace or eliminate thought, and the species itself has a little claim on survival as dinosaurs with the four-foot skulls and the pea-sized brains. The impotence of the brute alongside the power of the sage is represented by thought.

Consider where we in America stand today. We have been told and we have told ourselves that we have the responsibility to lead. We are asked to keep freedom alive; we are asked to find some way to prevent a war that would incinerate one billion or more human beings and twist and deform the rest. It is not a simple task. Leadership today requires not so much a determination to smash the fellow as an understanding of the lessons of human experience. It requires a profound knowledge of the diseases of civilizations. It requires ability to anticipate the effects of actions. In short, it requires thought. But who is doing the thinking? Who is giving sustained and incisive thought to the most complicated and dangerous problem in the age of man?

Next question: Does anyone have time to think? Does the President have time to think? The daily calendar of an American President, with its endless appointments and gladhandling chores, not only excludes sustained thought but creates the kind of staccato, jangling pattern of mental activity that leads to a demand for surecease rather than study. A day on the golf links thus become a useful cathartic for eliminating congested impressions and helping a man to retain his sanity, but it doesn’t necessarily provide the occasion for concentrated and consecutive thought.

If the President has no time to think, then who? Almost everyone in Washington spending so much from being strategical that almost no one is being historical. There are so many movers and shakers that there is hardly any room for thinkers.

This is not a political party matter; the churning and flailing easily cross party lines. Washington does not exist in terrible isolation. Washington can only be a reflection and a projection of the national character and temperament. If officeholders are too busy to think, do they differ from the business executive, college president, teacher, man on the assembly line, or housewife?

The paradox, of course, is that we are busy doing nothing. Never before has so much leisure time been available to so many. Leisure hours now exceed working hours. But we have a genius for cluttering. We have somehow managed to persuade ourselves that we are too busy to think, too busy to read, too busy to look back, too busy to look ahead, too busy to understand that all our wealth and all our power are not enough to safeguard our future unless there is also a real understanding of the danger that threatens us and how to meet it. Thus, being busy is more than merely a national passion; it is a national excuse.

The real question, however, concerns not the time or lack of it we provide for thought, but the value we place on thought. What standing does thoughtfulness enjoy in the community at large? What great works of contemporary literature assign importance to thought or make heroes of thoughtful men? Action, accumulation, diversion – these seem to be the great imperatives. We are so busy entertaining ourselves and increasing the size and ornamentations of our personal kingdom that we have hardly considered that no age in history has had as many loose props under it as our own.

Everyone seems to agree, from the President down that we have to find some way other than war to protect ourselves, support the cause of freedom of the world, and serve the cause of man. But who is giving any consecutive thought to an “other way”? We ask the world’s people to spurn the idea of communism, and we back up this advice with the offer of guns, but what revolutionary idea do we ourselves espouse? War in Asia seems all too imminent but we talk about it as though it is some unpleasant little business at a distance instead of the curtain raise for a war in which the big bombs will be dropped on America just as surely as they will be dropped on the enemy. Meanwhile, we are told by government that there is no real defense against atomic attack, after all. Surely, all this requires some thought.

This nation of ours will not reproduce itself automatically. The meaning and the wonder of it will not be sustained by momentum alone. If we have something worth saying, as we have, somewhere in our national culture or economy we shall have to find a proper place for thought.

There is no point in passing the buck or looking for guilty parties. We got where we are because of the busy man in the mirror.

Norman Cousins
PRESENT TENSE – An American Editor’s Odyssey
March 26, 1955

_____________________________________________________________________________________

THOUGHT IN BONDAGE

The conservative mind is wedded to the status quo, and anyone who attempts to disturb it by innovation is regarded as an enemy of society. It does not stop to consider whether a new thought is true or false, logical or illogical. Everything that has existed must be right, and is right. One persistent trait of the human mind is its tendency to the dogmatic assertion of its accepted beliefs. Everyone arrogates to himself the right to think for everyone else, complacently believing that everybody else’s duty is to believe. Man refuses to believe that there can be another side to any opinion which he espouses. To him his side is the only side, and he resents bitterly any suggestions that his view can be challenged or disputed. The bigoted person thinks that whatever he believes is the truth, and that whatever is contrary to it is, not only false, but pernicious. Descartes advocated doubting and testing conventional beliefs before arriving at convictions. The credulous person does not doubt, because doubt disturbs and plunges the mind into the painful struggle for knowledge. Credulity, on the other hand, calms and pacifies the mind. And the credulous person prefers the peace of mind with ignorance to mental exertion leading to knowledge. There is nothing so absurd that the credulous person will not believe.

As long as it has been possible, man has freely used the sword to silence the other side. As it is with individuals so it is with corporate bodies. A caste or a church holding certain fixed ideas, accepted as true, rises as one individual unit to wage war against new ideas which seem to be at variance with these old and cherished possessions.

There are always some persons of unusual mentality, endowed with imagination and originality, who think their own thoughts, and create ideas in advance of those that are current among their fellows. They create and further knowledge and stimulate human progress. They are the great enlighteners of mankind. But they are out of harmony with the life of their times. Society has always dreaded contact with persons endowed with such gifted minds. It has opposed and obstructed, banished and ostracized both such thinkers and their thoughts, and has striven to neutralize their influence. The millennium which opened about 1000 B.C. and closed with the advent of Jesus, witnessed the most marvelous spiritual and intellectual ferment in the history of mankind. It was the period that gave way to the world the majority of its prophets. The spiritual and ethical, philosophical and intellectual heritage of this bright period has remained unexcelled in the annals of human history. Generations of mankind have been bred and brought up upon thoughts and ideas of the master-spirits and master-minds of this wonderful age. Yet their creators, the immortal benefactors of humanity were not all honored and loved in their days. Not all of them die peaceful deaths; some of them, in fact were done to death. Thus did the zealots stab Zarathushtra in Persia, and crucified Jesus in Judea a thousand years later. The Athenians forced Socrates, their most upright man, to drink the hemlock. Aristotle saved his life by fleeing from Athens, even when advanced in years. At a later period Bruno was burnt, because he found God permeating the whole cosmic system. Thus many an able thinker was done to death, because he had thought ahead of his time. Ideas have often taken root in the soil soaked with the blood of the thinkers who have died for them.

Some of the noblest minds throughout the world were obliged either to recant their statements or destroy their manuscripts, to escape torture and death. Many of them veiled their writings and utterances under the guise of orthodoxy, or hedged themselves in hypocrisy by showing outward conformity to the opinions of the champions of otthodoxy. Avicenna was persecuted by the Moslem Church for his Aristotelian leanings, and Mohammedan history abounds in instances of the persecution of thought. When Bruno was imprisoned on his first charge of heresy, that there are many more worlds besides ours, he recanted. It was in the second occasion that he refused recantation and faced burning at the stake. Copernicus did not venture to publish his work until the close of his life. Galileo recanted his opinion that the world moves and that the sun is the center of the universe, and declared his belief in the Aristotelian teachings that the sun revolves about the earth, as the real center of the universe. When in danger of being charged with heresy, Hobbes burned his papers and sought to appease the Church by confessing that the study of the spiritual world was beyond the capacity of man. Descartes did not venture to publish his book which aimed at proving the world a machine. Kant found one of the important works suppressed when he had grown old in teaching philosophy. It shattered his health which was generally weak, and, discontinuing his lectures at the university, he withdrew from society.

Thus have many great thinkers been compelled to keep back their knowledge from mankind. Priceless have been the sacrifices that men of thought have been obliged to make to ignorance and bigotry. Genius was obliged to do its work stealthily and secretly. Writers had to resort to the conventional disguises in wiring to save themselves from the fury of the zealous orthodox. Thinkers suspected of leanings, towards heterodoxy saw their books burned, their property confiscated, or a social ban put upon their families. Also, when the passion for persecution was violent, their eyes were scooped out, they were subjected to excruciating tortures in dungeons, they were killed and their bodies thrown to dogs, or they were made to ascent the pyre to roast a leisure on a live fire.

Whenever authority has dominated free thought, intellectual vigour has declined and literary activity has found no expression in original thought, being obliged to content itself with writing commentaries and interpreting thought of the past. Thought decays and dies when attempts are made to enforce standardization and uniformity.

Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla, Ph.D, Litt.D
OUR PERFECTING WORLD

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Year: 1930

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: