Be Like Adam's Son: The Visible Events and the Events Inside the Minds

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The contents of our minds, whatever we name them, and all the symbols and ideas we hold most dear to us – they determine what happens to us.

Now what happens to people can be equally deemed good or bad unless we examine the benefits and harm they cause. But how can we perceive that unless we study God's laws which will not change to please us or to please any other people. One of the starting points is to notice that a human may often see good what is bad and see bad what is good. It is very unlikely that a human will come to know himself/herself without comparison and contrast, exactly as we use a mirror to see our face. To begin with, one needs to be less sure of the truthfulness of what he believes to be true. It is the events of history, what happens in the real world – it is by analyzing all that that puts us right. To examine how right or wrong our ideas and thought are, our criterion is the outcome of our conduct, which is based on our ideas and thoughts. And the outcome of conduct can happen in the short-run or the long-run. Moreover, what happens to groups is governed by laws other than what happens to individuals. The life-span of groups is different from that of individuals. Indeed, some events do not show their outcome until after centuries.

I sometimes ask the simple people in our village if they were in a stationary vehicle and there was another vehicle, also stationary, but in the opposite direction; and then if one of the vehicles moved, how did they know which one had moved? And they think of a post or a tree next to one of the cars, or of a third car; they tell me it is by looking at that third object that they can determine which car has moved. And I tell them the point is that when we are involved in a comparison between nations, groups, creeds, etc. we need a referential point outside the contesting groups. This may help us appreciate how badly we need history. As long we think of ourselves and our adversaries we may not be in a position to see with any justice where we stand in comparison with the other. But it is by reviewing many experiences that we acquire this ability to see with some justice.

As I say this I am mindful of many modern philosophies that have reached an impasse; they feel they have hit against a solid wall, being unable to tell the difference between right and wrong, good and bad – a quite nihilistic attitude. Foucault is the glaring example here.

I am also aware of many individuals who say, and they have said it often in my hearing, that history is no more than a pack of lies. They say that as they take history to be what people say about themselves. They forget for instance that the Soviet Union's history is not what it used to say about itself; its history is its outcome. And the world will come to witness what happened to it; it will explode all the falsehood for it or against it. Nor is the history of America what the Americans say about themselves; the reality about them will come out, and history will make note of the outcome of American behaviors. We have the facts about the Pharaohs, and the facts about the Umayyads, and about the Abbasids; We do know how different all their behavior is from when Abraham erected the Ka'bah, [the holy cubic structure of Mecca] together with his son Ishmael! Their deed is open to analysis, to ascertain what good they did to humankind.

History is not how Nietzsche saw it, as the oldest lie! It demonstrates God's greatness, as we review how a human has fared in the world. And those who see nothing about a human but his/her trespasses are far deluded. Those who think of nothing but the mischief and the bloodshed are far too cynical. They do not see the rise and ascent.

Islam deems pessimism to be equal to disbelief (See the Qur'an, 12:87). It is so since when one is despondent, he has no reason to go ahead. You will see it in his eyes. So, why should we see in a human's life nothing but the first few months when it soiled itself, and could not clean itself; a human is more than that. I am aware of the many who think of history as nonsense, but let us go ahead and see better than that. The world is really going up and ahead, and it will not halt; it will keep going and rising. It is as the Qur'an says, "the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of men remains on the earth." (13:17) The facts that seem hard for us to comprehend will come to be understood more fully, with all their details and applications. It is fortunate that a new trend has emerged in historical studies like the annals studies, in which the historians realize that they need to view things in their widest scope, to extend their look as far temporally and spatially as possible. They are coming to view things nearly as well as the prophets saw them. Let us remember what Jesus Christ said. "For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes." (Luke, 6:44) He was speaking of the false prophets and the true prophets, but it is also the criterion for history. The Qur'an has something precious about this, for it describes how what happens to peoples is the result of what goes on inside their souls, and then it asserts, "the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of man remains on the earth." (13:17)

We have another example to ponder. Nothing is clearer than the sun; is not that so? But has not the sun been for so many centuries the object of delusion when people took it to be revolving around the earth, and not the other way round? And men were ready to die, and to send others to death, rather than accept this fact; which turned out to be most evident and obvious. The example is as glaring as the sun is glaring. It must teach us that what we seem to believe to be true beyond any shred of doubt can be false.

From the sun we may now go to history and say that we often are deluded there; we often do not understand the movements of history rightly. If we remember "Let there be no compulsion in religion," (2:256) we may realize that no good can come from imposing ideas and convictions. To feel secure about your convictions, let the others be secure about their convictions, no matter how convinced you are of your own convictions. Is it not a mercy that men have come to accept that they should let others come to live next to them despite all the differences in persuasion. It is a blessing that did not exist some time ago. But, it makes sense, for when you give the other the right to live despite the difference in ideas, you expect the other to give you the same right. It is such a major change, that you can be in error, but we let you be. You have good reason then to expect that the other views you in the same way.

What is inside our minds will determine our conduct, but what we think to be right will not change the facts of the world. This is as it should be, for, as the Qur'an says, "If the Truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, would have been in confusion." (23:71) People still hold that it is the politicians who shape the life of societies through the edicts that they issue. But it is the same as when men were so sure that the sun revolved round the earth. However, there is a difference between the two situations: Whereas the sun and the stars are not influenced by what we think about them, the politicians are happy or unhappy for what we think of them. They will also abandon a certain policy in response to change in their nation's attitudes and ideas. This is important in understanding the law of history and how it progresses. It is vital to perceive how the nations can really direct their politician by merely changing their expectations. It is an entirely different world, that of dealing with things in the way of Adam's son. Conflict that revolves on the axis of persuasion is very unlike that which revolves on coercion.

The point is how to get to the right-guided kind of life. It is ever more tempting to condemn the other and to absolve oneself; while the Qur'an's way is to look inside, to act on the principle that we change what belongs to us, our ways of thinking, our norms, our attitudes, and God will change our condition. It must be fully realized that if in dealing with the world we fail in any endeavor, it is because we do not know enough to have control. Let it be a quite settled fact in our mind that the problem is not having acquired the abilities to solve the problem we confront and not that it is unsolvable.

There is a basis for this in our religious faith: we have to realize that God did not just create the world and that is all. The act of creation is a process that continues until now, and will continue in the future. This links to the principle mentioned above, that "the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of man remains on the earth;" (13:17) that what is good and right will stay, and what is froth and useless will disappear. This fact may be noticed in the Qur'an, but may also be noticed if you walk around and observe how creation was started and has progressed. Remember that there was a time when humans ate human flesh (and a small residue of humankind may still do!) Unless we fully realize how we were in past history, we will not appreciate where we have got, and what the possibilities for the future are.

Do you appreciate how many studies we need in this direction to keep up our growth, and to ensure that we do not regress and ruin what has been accomplished. Men have given great attention to physical health, and have started to give some attention to mental health. Do not believe the claim that the world is getting worse all the time, even when the advocates of such claim support it with certain traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, which are very selectively chosen (and some are not authentic) to support a point. It is unfortunate that our cultural atmosphere is so saturated with despondent notions, among the lower echelons of society as well as among the highest echelons! It is a mistake to keep throwing words in that direction without hesitation. How can one work with any earnestness if one has no hope in a brighter future! The Qur'an teaches otherwise, "anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, shall see it! And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it;" (99:7), and "if any think that Allah will not help him in this world and Hereafter, let him stretch out a rope to the ceiling and cut himself off: then let him see whether his plan will remove that which enrages him!" (22:15) It is to be noted in this last verse that victory is promised in this world.

I have devoted my life to revealing this new world, the rightly-guided world. I have well learned my lesson from Iqbal, the great poet, who imagines himself to be acting for bringing into being that world which he envisions in his dream. He sees himself to be drawing his energy from the words of adhan (the call to prayer) which invigorates him to build up that world which he envisions.

One point noticed by Iqbal is that the Qur'an was for many centuries viewed through the prism of the old paradigm of history, as a series of wonders and miracles, while the Qur'an itself was a harbinger of a new age when humankind would deal with life not on the basis of wonders and marvels, but on the basis of laws. Is it not a major enlightenment perceived by this giant among thinkers? The way of miracles and wonders is the way of dark mysteries, and the way of laws is the way of science and light. And any researcher can see that we are still governed by thinking on the basis of wonders, very often including our brightest minds, and even the secularists! And you see how when we like a politician we attribute some miraculous gifts to him, and when we dislike him we find him to be somehow of Jewish extraction!

A virus can afflict the body with serious disease, so how many mental viruses do we have? How long will it take us to accept the way of Adam's son, when he proved to be an honor to the species of humankind, an honor to Adam who was taught, "the nature of [and naming of] all things." (2: 31) It is more knowledge that can bring us again to the way of right-guided life, and the establishment of righteous life. But for this to happen, we need to give up glorifying ignorance and dreading knowledge.