Thursday, August 29, 2013

How to identify a liar and avoid becoming part of the rumor chain - Socrates and Islamic view

In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.

One day an acquaintance ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about Diogenes?"

"Wait a moment," Socrates replied, "Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."
'Triple filter?" asked the acquaintance.

"That's right," Socrates continued, "Before you talk to me about Diogenes let's take a moment to filter what you're going to say.. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "Actually I just heard about it."

"All right," said Socrates, "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about Diogenes something good?"

"No, on the contrary..."

"So," Socrates continued, "You want to tell me something about Diogenes that may be bad, even though you're not certain it's true?"

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued, "You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter, the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about Diogenes going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "If what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even useful, why tell it to me or anyone at all?"

The man was bewildered and ashamed. This is an example of why Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It also explains why Socrates never found out that Diogenes was shagging his wife.
[Received in an Email. Quoted on several websites]


We do not need Socrates for teaching us the above. 

  سورة الحجرات  , Al-Hujraat, Chapter #49, Verse #6:

O you who believe! If a Fasiq (liar - evil person) comes to you with any news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done. 

The Messenger of Allaah (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:
It is enough for a man to be (considered as) a liar, if he transmits forward everything that he hears. (Muslim)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sad Ending of Abdullah Yousuf Ali - the Translator of Quran

Sad Ending of Abdullah Yousuf Ali - the Translator of Quran

The Late Obituary of Abdullah Yousuf Ali, the author of the popular translation and commentary of Holy Quran, begins:
"Sixty years ago, on Dec 10, 1953, few in the Muslim world noticed a minor tragedy unfolding in London. The previous day, a sick man was found sitting on the steps of a house in London in a bitterly cold British winter day, and was taken to hospital by police.
On this day, a man whose name was already known around the Muslim world, died a pauper's death, without even a companion by his side. British authorities contacted the Pakistani High Commission in London to arrange his funeral and burial.
Ask any English-speaking Muslim what translation and commentary of the Quran they originally studied, and the chances are that it was the one by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. First published in 1934, it remains to this day the most widely read and quoted English translation of the Quran. "  Late Obituary: Sad Ending of the Translator of Quran .... (read on) [As the link seems not to be working I have copied the material below at the end of my post]

Monday, August 5, 2013

Education as Tazkia: Is a child like a clean slate?

Education as Tazkia: Is a child like a clean slate?

In the academic circles, one often hears the view of a child as "clean slate", meaning there is nothing written on the slate, and unless we make sure that we write something "good", as quickly as possible, others may spoil it by writing on it something which is "not good". There are several renowned scholars in the Muslim world who have adopted the  "clean slate" view of the child from the West without the necessary critical evaluation. 

This "clean slate" assumption about the child seems in serious contradiction to (i) the assertion in Quran "luqad khalaqnal insaan a fi ahsun i taqveem" [Sura Teen], (ii) the concept of tazkia in Islam, implying that the child comes to this world in a pristine and the best of the form and the dunya spoils it, and (iii) at the time of creation “He taught Adam all the names of everything.” (Quran 2:31) lest they can not claim during akhirah that knowledge did not come to them. 

Please note that this "clean slate" assumption of the child as it is understood today has origins from the West [See for example Problems with Bloom's Taxonomy] and has some far reaching consequences on the resulting educational system as explained below. 

The goal of education is the success here and in the hereafter. However, success requires purification of the soul. "In Islam, the ultimate objective of religion and shariah (Islamic law) and the real purpose of raising prophets from among mankind was performing and teaching tazkiah.[2]". "The goal of tazkiya is to return to one’s beginning i.e. as a new-born child, pure and innocent, free from malice, self-conceit and pride. The dunya, however, makes a person’s heart hard and ‘rusty’ and the purpose of tazkiya is to polish the heart and return it to its original state." [3]

The view of a child as a "clean slate" is like considering a child as an "empty glass". This view creates the following imperatives for the educational system:
  1. Unless the slate is written upon, it will remain clean. There is a danger that someone else will come and write on it something that is not desired. Unless the glass is filled, it will remain empty. There is a danger that someoneelse may come and fill it with some undesired fluid which may be poison or acid.
  2. It is the duty of the "state authorities" to write on the clean slate (or to fill the glass). Left alone, the child will become a threat to the law and order.
  3. A child is passive like a clean slate and not an active agency. There is no potential in the child to observe the signs, reflect and seek out the truth and discover the meaning of life. The child has no purpose, has no inherent impulse and drive towards growth and discovery of his relationship with nature. 
  4. The material of this clean slate is inert and its quality (read intelligence) is randomly distributed in a bell-curve i.e. people with very high intelligence and very low intelligence are few, while people with moderate intelligence are in majority. Please see bell-curve assumption about the distribution of intelligence of students
  5.  A child is a resouce, a "human resource" just like land, capital and machinery that needs to be put to the service of the global capitalist machinery. Therefore, schools have the responsibility to make the child malleable enough for becoming a cog in the machinery. School's success is measured in terms of its ability to prepare the "workers" of this machinery. See for instance the criteria for world ranking of educational institutions. An institution's rating goes down if its graduates are not employed and are not drawing higher salaries. 
The educational system formed on the basis of the "clean slate" assumption robs the man from his "human-ness" and gives him the attributes of the "resource-ness". These are dangerous byproducts of the "clean-slate" assumption. 

The concept of "luqad khalaqnal insaan a fi ahsun i taqveem" and the concept of tazkia in Islam guide us towards human being as an active agent responsible for his deeds and actions. The pre-programming for righteousness was built-in to man at the time of creation. The process of education is that of cleansing the adulteration from outside and reverting the soul to its pristine and clean origins. 

A better analogy than the "clean-slate" may be that of a seed. Whereas a slate is life-less, the seed represents life and an active agency. A seed has the potential to become a tree and then that tree has the potential to become a forest. The potential is pre-programmed. The responsibility of the environment is to provide nourishment and nurture it. Similarly, the responsibilty of the education is to provide an enviornment suitable for the growth of a seed. The environment necessary for the growth of a grape seed is different from that of a mango seed which is different from any other seed. One-size-fits-all standardized environment is not suitable for the diversity and growth of different potentials inherent in different types of seeds. 

Unlike a seed, however, a child's potential may or may not be visible even to experts. Each child as he grows has to find his own unique way of realizing the potential and fulfilling the responsibility for which he was sent to the world. Hence the difficulty and the problems inherent in designing a standardized system that is one-size-fits-all system that wants everyone to be exactly like the other. 

See also:
Also check this news item what babies know might freak you out

[1] This blog was triggered by the keynote speech of Mr. Zaid Scheik of and  at the Robotics for Beginners Workshop at L2L Academy on July 21, 2013.
[2] Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-r-Qur'an: Tafsir of Surah Al-Fatiha and Surah Al-Baqara
[3] Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq as quoted in a blog.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mocking Craftsmen and Business People

Mocking Craftsmen and Business People

[This post was published in Daily Dawn in my letter to the editor Mocking Craftsmen 2013-08-13]

I WOULD like to highlight the psychology and social history of the satirical comments doing the rounds in the media and on cellphones about President-elect Mamnoon Hussain’s links to the cloth and food business community of Burnes Road, Karachi.These satirical comments emerged in the minds of the government servant class and take us back to the 1857 War of Independence when the British Raj eliminated land entitlements of the aristocracy.