- Islam and knowledge
- Through knowledge we realize equality
- Power of forgiveness
- Need to be gentle in judging one another
- Man’s obligation to nature
- Incident of Indian chief of Seattle
- Environmental crisis
Today we stand on the crossroads. While there are large sections of our population who are still groping in darkness, illiteracy and ignorance while the efforts being made, on the other hand to eradicate this curse of ignorance are woefully feeble and dismally inadequate.
It is the outcome of this struggle that is being waged for overpowering the curse of ignorance and conferring on our people the gift of knowledge, however, which will decide whether we are to rank amongst the Third World to be pitied or patronized as the powerful nation’s fancy.
Undoubtedly we are all aware of what the curse of ignorance implies. The Holy Qur’an links ignorance to darkness on a vast abysmal sea; calling it a “Layer upon layer of darkness. When he holdeth out his hand he scarce can see it. And he for whom Allah Hath not appointed light, for him there is no light” (Sura 24, Verse 40). In the Bible, it is said in a similar vein, “God said let there be light and lo! There was light”. The light here being attributable to knowledge. Hence the exhortations of the Prophets for acquiring knowledge. The acquisition of knowledge, according to the Prophet of Islam, is a duty cast on every Muslim. “Acquire Knowledge”, he said, ‘for it enables the possessor to distinguish right from wrong it lights the way to heaven, it is our companion when friendless’, it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is a weapon against enemies and an ornament among friends. By virtue of it, Allah exalteth nations and maketh them guides in good pursuits and giveth them leadership, so much so, that their footsteps are followed, their deeds are imitated and their opinions are readily accepted and held inviolable”.
It is when knowledge is acquired that we discover that we are fundamentally all alike. We are, as an Arab Proverb says, “all sons and daughters of Adam” or as the Chinese say; “All crows are black the whole world over”. God has put us into tribes and nations, merely that we may be able to identify each other. But we need each other and to overcome our problems we must work together. Blaming others for our problems serves no purpose. Indeed it is this tendency to deny personal responsibility for what is wrong, and point the finger to the other race, class or nation, which is the true obstacle to constructive action. “The noble art of losing face,” as somebody once said, “may one day save the human race and turn into eternal merit what weaker minds would call disgrace.”
Dalai Lama once said. “Tolerance, forgiveness and peace can only be learnt from your enemy. When meet your enemy that is the golden opportunity to experiment how much you practice what you say. So, our enemy is our ultimate teacher.”
Millions saw the picture of the Pope conversing with his would be an assassin in his cell. This challenged the world to consider the reality of forgiveness.
The Magazine subsequently published a remarkable issue devoted to the power of forgiveness. The conclusion reached was something as follows:
“Those who do not forgive are those least capable of changing the circumstances of their lives. No to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control. Forgiveness does not look much like a tool for survival in a bad world. But that is what it is.”
Forgiveness and Generosity, this is the prescription for a cure to moral bankruptcy in all its forms whether of hate, violence or corruption. It is the awareness of this principle, which is the key to peace.
I believe we should not, as human beings, mistrust the instincts with which the Divine Creator has endowed us. We should try to be kind instead of cruel. We should try to be gentle in judging one another and be gentle with ourselves. Trusting our instincts to help wisely, we should choose well instead of evil. Good people make good nations. Good nations will not make war with each other nor will they hate and envy each other but knowing how much benefit will occur if they work together with friendship and goodwill knowing that they are also not perfect. Thoms Jefferson beautifully summed up the true position in this behalf when he said: “I tremble for my country when I remember, “that God is just”. The citizens of each country should not condone national behavior which if their compatriots exhibited in their dealings with one another they would not condone. They must stand up for righteousness and fairly. This attitude is referred to in the Holy Books as “hungering and thirsting for righteousness”. I firmly believe that there is no other path to a better world, a more peaceful world except the path of thirsting for righteous. This is the path, which leads to understanding, goodwill and amity. It becomes the key to peace.
Another important aspect that man must also not forget is that he owes an obligation to nature. He must utilize the resources of nature wisely and must strive constantly to secure a balance between consumption and conservation, mindful always of the collective good. If he abandons the principle of wholeness dis-equilibrium occurs in the harmonious balance between man and nature. Here I am tempted to quote the memorable reply given by the Indian Chief of Seattle in 1854, a hundred and thirty-four years ago, to the offer of the White Chief of Washington, to buy their land. He said, inter alia.
“How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The Idea is strange to us.”
“If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them.”
And went on to add:
“We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.”
“The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children.”
“We know that the white man does not understand our ways. He kidnaps the earth from his children. His father’s grave and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and, leave behind only a desert.”
“The air precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath.”
“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to a man. All things are connected.”
The concluding words are indeed timeless.
“This we know the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood, which unites one family. All things are connected.”
“Whatever befalls the sons of the earth? Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.”
Hence the dire necessity for man to work for the principle of wholeness and to thirst for the principle of oneness and to try to live also in harmony and with nature.
Today the dire interaction of man with nature is so extensive that the environmental question has assumed alarming proportions. While the scientific and technological progress of man has invested him with immense power over nature, it has also resulted in the unthinking use of the power. If man is able to transform deserts into oasis, he is also leaving behind deserts in the place of an oasis.
As men of goodwill we must all realise that unless the damage caused by the massive interference of man into the environment is not controlled and arrested not only will man’s quality of life deteriorate gravely but the survival of humanity will itself be in jeopardy and man’s life will be “nasty, brutish and short” devoid of contentment and of peace.
Who can understand the virtue of knowledge better than the gifted habitants of this great cosmopolitan city of Karachi, where the Lotus flowers bloom in such abundance? Lotus, as you all know, is knowledge personified. To the dwellers of this great city the truth of the theme of this address “knowledge is the key to peace”, is almost self-evident. In this city of high education & culture, the tolerance, accommodation and understanding which is exhibited for the viewpoints of others for their faith, for their beliefs and for their attitudes, is quite exemplary. True knowledge is the realization of the truth that all other things in the world are temporary and fleeting. It is only love, affection and concern for each other, which is really eternal.
Let us all dedicate us to spreading the light of knowledge far and wide. Let us make our Sub-continent the haven of peace. Let us resolve today to live in peace and amity with one another.