Saturday, 13 December 2014

When Thinking Stops

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

 “Recite, in the name of your Sustainer who created man from a clot of blood.” This is the first commandment of Allah swt to His beloved prophet Muhammad (saw) - to one who could not read or write.


Initiating His message with the word ‘Recite’ speaks volumes of its importance. And since Allah swt  has also said that He has guided many from the Quran and misled many from the same, it is imperative that one has to recite in His Name. Before going further, although the article starts with a verse from Al Quran, it is not intended to make tafseer of the verse(as the author is not a scholar) but merely to highlight the significance of the word 'read' or 'recite'.In human science, reading triggers a process of mental exercise transcending all other efforts (lifting, swinging, walking, etc.) of a human body. From reading, the mind subsequently memorises, understands, analyses and finally creates images of the recited text. These images allow the mind to evaluate on the usefulness of the text and to act accordingly. They are also stored for future references and cross references.

In spite of being relatively small, the brain consumed quite a substantial amount of energy to process these words into images. It has been understood that, at a given time, the energy consumed by a thinking brain is about 20% of the total energy required to maintain all the faculties of the human body. Also, each step of the effort is in itself a skill development process. Memorising, understanding, analysing and pondering are all separate intellectual skills and are of different levels. It is integrated into a system of neural networking termed as thinking.
A person who recites and thinks and, to the end, good actions emanate from his limbs has actually undergone an exclusive process where all other creations are deprived of. A saying goes, ‘I think, therefore I am’.  It is this very intellectual capability that differentiates man from other creations including the angels and jinns.

When Allah swt intended to create Adam (as), there were objections from two main parties namely the angels and Iblis. Given that the angels were made from light and Iblis from fire while Adam was from clay, they hold superiority over Adam. The objection from the angels was more of a concern in nature as past experience had shown the undesirable responses from the jinns. It was a simple ignorance. The angels questioned Allah swt as to why would He create another being that would cause corruption and bloodshed on earth; the mistakes made by the jinns before. Allah swt replied " Verily, I know what you know not". According to some scholars, what the angels initially did not know was the unprecedented bestowing of the intellectual capacity to human being - knowledge and ability to think and evaluate. After Adam (as) displayed his ability, they realised and admitted their ignorance. And on His command, they wilfully prostrated before Adam (as). On the other hand, the objection of Iblis was of self dignity. Up to then, he transcended the angels and lived in the companies of Allah swt due to his immaculate past records. After all he was made from fire while Adam was from clay. The creation of Adam challenged his status. It was too much to swallow. His compound ignorance has caused him to be haughty and refused to prostrate before Adam(as) when he was commanded to do so.

Compound ignorance is an intellectual state in which one is convinced that one knows certain things while in reality he knows absolutely nothing of the matter. This is the worst form as compared to simple ignorance where one realizes the fact that one does not know. Compound ignorance is not about the measure of physical matters but rather related to the ailment of the heart, namely arrogance and egos - the characters described by Allah swt of Iblis.  The power of reciting and triggering the thinking process is an act hence not to be underestimated.

In the advent of technology, the children of the world today have been presented with devices which readily process and display images. (Familiar with the term idiot box?) They spend time on the device endlessly scanning the images. Apparently, the human nation has progressed. After all, there is a saying which goes, “A picture paints a thousand words”. Seemingly, all is well. However, in their zeal to find short term solutions to do things in easier ways, man sometimes bypasses essential steps leading them in a completely reverse direction.

When one adopts image recognition instead of reading, one bypasses the all important integrated process of thinking. The brain has stopped exercising and training itself to memorise, understands, analyse and evaluates. In other words, the most vital organ of the body has stopped functioning in the way it should. Prolonged state of idleness lead to its dysfunctional and underdevelopment and eventually end in idiocy and worst, compound ignorance. In utter disillusion, man thought that he has reached higher stations while in actual fact he has plunged into the abyss. This has great repercussions. When the mind is dead the person no longer thinks. When he stops thinking, he no longer exists as a man and has lost the privilege of saying, “I am”. He has to be associated with “it” – together with the rest of the lower members of the animal kingdom.

Even in the academia, we have witnessed such degeneration amongst the majority of the seekers of knowledge - how they just stopped thinking. Given a task, they do follow the procedure favourably, sometimes with detail and excellence. This is a clear evidence of 'excellent training' in image recognition. However, they failed when they are requested to take an alternative path to achieve the same objective. They recognised the instructions well. But they have lost the ability to think and recreate another path to the solution. A few do try to show some creativity. However, given their dysfunctional processors, the outcome can be quite disappointing and sometimes hilarious.The teachers are not totally to be blamed. Neither are the parents nor the society, nor everyone else. In actual fact, the students have never stopped studying. They have just stopped thinking. Not because they do not want to think. They have simply lost the ability to think. They have lost the ability to think because their brains have, from childhood, spend most of the time scanning images. Reading has become an ancient practice. A poetry book on a table appears like a specimen from the Jurassic period.  Whether it is a conspiracy or a good scientific invention, the box has made them idiots. To make matters worse, now it is not only the television. It has its brethren in the form of personal computers, cell phone, pads and the list goes on. All intertwined in a powerful network of electronic communication called internet.

What does this do to the Muslim?

Firstly, it affects our basic daily practices. Let alone memorising, understanding, pondering over its meaning, we have even stopped reading the Quran. Image scanning is more fun. Reading one page of Quran is more difficult than one day on the ‘YouTube’. Image scanning does not burn the 20% of our energy.

Secondly, in the context of aqeedah - recognising the oneness of Allah swt - image recognition has a reverse effect as to reciting or reading. Some of the Fiqh scholars of the past have instituted that creating certain images is forbidden (Haraam). There are reasons for this. In the past, the believers used to follow their guides (prophets or pious people) while the latter were alive. After their death, rather than continuing with the reciting of the inherited scriptures, the followers would instead create a physical image of their guides. It is intended to remind them of their teachings and to maintain spiritual closeness to them. However, the subsequent generations began to lose sight of the purpose and began physically decorating the image. They replaced the word ‘fear’ by image of long moustache pointing sideways. The word ‘wrath’ by image of teeth with long sharp incisors. They would replace the word of “Rahmah and Barakah” with image of big round belly and bald head. When they ran out of space to fill up the image, they would create another one to supplement other attributes. And eventually they would worship these images rather than turning to Allah swt directly. Hence, polytheism (Shirk) comes into existence. The pagan Arabs never stopped worshipping Allah. But their minds cannot comprehend how God can be One and that He is not ‘on the ground’, i.e. not tangible. The images created by their forefathers were deeply entrenched in their souls and were not easy to undo. Hence, they have Allah – and others, too. Presently, in a similar fashion, imaging has rather a profound reverse effect. Instead of reading and pondering over His words and reflecting His greatness through the mirror of our thoughts and mind, we vainly spend time capturing and filing images. Such images are put up everywhere – on the walls, backgrounds, etc. We unconsciously generate our own idols.

Thirdly, it is a highly sophisticated weapon. Evildoers of higher orders create wars and profit from it. There are three fundamental elements that make up a society, namely, the people, the dwellings and the field to plough. Nuclear weapon destroys all three. It evaporates every matter within its zone and killing the survivors through radioactivity. In the aftermath of the war, in order to make it productive again, everything has to start from scratch. It would require a generation to establish the status quo. To ‘improve’ on the strategy, they work to develop a type of more selective weapon that will just mop out the people while keeping the dwellings and field intact. This is called Neutron bomb. However, even with the dwellings and fields remain undisturbed, eliminating the people will only cause shortage of work force to work the field after the war. Yet, it is still a working progress. The final strategy is to device a weapon that does not destroy the people, its dwellings and field. This weapon is designed only to destroy the mind keeping the other parts of the body intact in order to maintain productions. The mind now operates like a microprocessor driven by software downloaded directly to the brain via sophisticated image processors. This weapon is called electron bomb. You will find them located in every home throughout the world, whether made of stone, wood or clay; in the homes of the laymen or in the homes of the scholars; in the hotels or in the mosque; in the deserts or in the seas. In the pockets of kids and adults. The enemies continuously and patiently create and control these images. Yes, they are patient. They can wait. Over prolonged exposure, the brain loses its ability to think and to be creative. It loses its ability to evaluate what is good and what is bad. It exists as a follower rather than an intellect – religiously following the instructions set by the image makers. The work to create darkness is now complete. Iblis has now been equipped with a complete weapon of mass destruction - a weapon not created by him but by man himself. The enemies are now on the verge of making a final assault on man. His promise to drag along all men along with him to the fire of hell has become a big possibility.

All is not lost. We still have our Allah. Everything belongs to Allah and to Him we shall return. There is no strength and no power except in Allah. And Allah (swt) has put a protective shell for those who are sincere. Iblis has followers among man and jinn. These satanic creatures are our clear enemy. Iblis is only His creation. He is created only to make us worth more than the angels. Let us take positive from the fact that Iblis is deprived of the special gift that Allah swt bestows upon our father Adam(as) i.e. the intellectual capacity. His brain is small. Through history, Iblis knows only one stereotyped way of leading man astray, that is to whisper doubts into one's ears and to assign partners to Allah swt. He is not creative. He may appear sophisticated but in reality it is not his planning. Instead, he rides on man's brain and makes man think and work for him. He is not creative enough to invent a television but he makes men does that job for him. His intellectual level is way too low to perform computer programming but he makes men program for him.  These are among the men that Allah swt has commanded us to seek refuge from.

Restart thinking process, beginning with our children and ourselves. Converse with them rather than allowing them to be deafen and dumped by the idiot box. Keeping them away from your cellphones is a good idea. Train their brain to think and be creative. Unlike other religion, the Quran asked us to ponder over His creation and challenges man to think. Evaluating the countless creations of Allah swt and His systems of the universe will only lead to one thing and one thing only - the recognition of the Oneness of Allah swt. Oral communication has always been the authentic form of teaching and learning. Our prophet Muhammad (saw) could not read and write. Yet, he (saw) is a teacher of the Quran to 125,000 of his companions - the best group of students ever existed, may Allah be pleased with them . The Quran has been from the beginning learned by heart. It was only after our prophet's (saw) death that the compilation into a book began. He did not just make them learned scholars, but also taught them how to learn. Jibrail once came to Nabi (saw)in form of a man. He sat close and facing Nabi (saw) with his knees touching the knees of the Prophet (saw). He asked about Islam. Sahabah (ra) were around. Afterwards, among other things, Nabi (saw) mentioned to the sahabah (ra) that Jibrail also came to teach man the etiquette of sitting in a majlis of ta'alim.   In short, we simply have to come back to the basic practices. Save ourselves from getting fixated to the image processors. Read the Quran. Read the hadeeths. Read the lives of the Sahabah (ra). Read the work of our rightly guided scholars of the past. There are no pictures in them, just texts. Through the guidance of righteous scholars, simple practices of reading, memorising, understanding, and pondering over its meaning will lead us to the recognition of the greatness of Allah swt and purification of our inner self - mind and heart. In order to gain knowledge and understanding of the infinite variants by which Allah swt runs the universe, we need to empty our vessels from pride and arrogance, and fill it with humility, patience, love of Allah and the humanity, remembrance of Allah, thankfulness for the countless favours He bestows upon us and above all, sincerity. These qualities make us easy to think.  However,  acquiring these qualities requires great effort and sacrifice. Effort to redirect heedlessness towards consciousness. It requires us to restructure our excessiveness in image scanning towards a more traditional and natural learning process, i.e. reading. Ad-Deenul-Islam Ad-Deenul-Fitrah. Islam is a natural religion. If the learning process is right, the mind and heart will get right. And when the mind and heart are right, good actions emanates, inshaAllah. When our mind and heart are full of fantasy, there is no more space for reality. This is when thinking stops.