Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Do not underrate importance and freedom of thought.

 One of the most important distinguishing features between humans and animals is our ability to think and reason.  
Due to our thinking faculties, we are able to be the dominant species on the planet. We have heard words and ideas such as “intelligence”, “cleverness”, “creativity”, “innovativeness” and so on. All these ideas relate to the various ways in which the brain functions.  
The brain if you like, is in a sense like the computer — garbage in garbage out.  In other words, the usefulness of your brain to you and others will depend largely on what you put inside your brain and how actively you use its potential and capability.
Many people think that simply because they live or are able to survive, they are using their brains. I have no better answer than to quote the Quran:
“Many are the Jinns and men we have made for Hell: They have hearts with which they understand not, eyes with which they see not, and ears with which they hear not. They are like cattle, nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning)” (Quran 7:179)
In the above verse, Allah compares some human beings to cattle and says that these human beings are worse off than cattle. Allah says clearly that many human beings are lower than cattle. Why cattle?
Cattle is guarded, fed, and its direction and life is determined by the cowherd. Cows have a heart, eyes and ears and so do human beings. Cows cannot use them to better their lives. Cows do not think and see or hear like humans. Humans have been given the privilege by Allah to use their hearts, their eyes and their ears. Those who do not, Allah says, are worse than cows.
The educated, well-off and powerful among us who follow their “animalistic instincts” for their own desires need ''cattle'' around them to make their desires a reality. They spurn lies albeit sometimes couched in intellectual, religious, and even nationalistic terms. Sometimes they use sentiments. When this fails, they use power and fear and threats. They do all they can to wreck society and the basis of human nature as Allah created to satisfy their selfish ends.
But why must we fall in their trap?
Are we like the cattle being led by the nose by the cowherd? Merely for the miserable hay that is thrown in our way and the cow shack that we are allowed, we are willing to live a life lower than the cattle? 
Even though we know that the cowherd’s main purpose is to milk us and slaughter us? 
If so, why did Allah give us hearts, eyes and ears that are different from the cow if He intended that we should only be led by the selfish cowherd? Why do we insist on degrading ourselves when Allah has elevated us?
Allah has given a way out. He holds us personally accountable. He reminds us:
“And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning)”. (Quran 17.36)
It is now entirely our choice. We can choose to be the human beings that Allah created or we may continue to be lower than the cattle that Allah forbade us to be. 
I believe the weak remain weak and become weaker when they dispense with the powerful blessing given to us by the Creator — the ability to think and reason. An entire society becomes doomed when it collectively frowns upon thinking and diversity of thought. 
It is worse when a minority of powerful men dictate that the bigger majority of ordinary citizens should not be given freedom of thought. The entire society becomes like the cattle in the cowshed totally dependent on the minority cowherd. 
We have to learn to read books beyond our little kingdom that we sometimes wrongly tend to think is the universe.  The world of knowledge is far bigger than what we think or know. 
It may be difficult for some to believe but it is broader than the so called knowledge we think is possessed by the cleverest among us. In current times, it is already difficult to identify who are the truly intelligent ones or geniuses due to the nature of our formal education system and the patronage system that allows only individuals with mainstream-friendly ideas to prosper. 
Anything else is trampled upon and the true thinker may find himself ostracised to languish in solitude. In the land of fools, the thinker is usually treated like a mad man — dangerous to society. 
We fail to recognise the historical truth because we have deliberately been led to deny its significance. Why do great civilisations become great? A study of civilisations — the Roman Empire, Ancient Egypt, Greek Empire, British Empire, the Islamic Golden Age, Chola Dynasty — demonstrates that knowledge, the freedom of thought and discipline played a key role in bringing about their greatness. 
When little men rise to big positions through a flawed, oppressive and corrupt system, society as a whole suffers. Like all other civilisations that fade when the rot sets it, such a society too will fade into oblivion. 
Future generations will naturally become worse because the children now see the little men as icons and idols to be emulated. This vicious cycle will continue unless we understand and recognise oppression of thought and say no to it.
* Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement that encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at
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