Not having knowledge is one thing, but formal education alone leads to delusions of grandeur. The mind at the threshold of discovery is tossed by waves of creativity and begins to fantasise about its superiority. It believes that its intellectual state is unique and therefore is deserving of recognition and praise. The lifestyle of such an individual changes to reflect the avant-garde style of his thinking. As a species it seems that we cannot cope with the thrill of our discoveries and insights. Once ordinary people, we become obsessed with establishing the uniqueness of our ideas.
We regard every thought as uniquely ours, even though we are aware that, just like all other things, ideas are interconnected. They do not exist in a vacuum and are at the centre of a web of thoughts. They have ‘ancestors and descendants’. It is possible to find out about the ‘relatives and family’ of a thought as soon as it is uttered. In other words, every thought builds on the intellectual inheritance of previous generations and the scholarly activity of contemporaries. It does not arise out of nothingness. The fantasies of the intellectual prevent him from acknowledging this. He finds it difficult to survive the test of imagination, as there are no limits to the personal glory the mind’s eye can envisage. Nobody can survive this trial and remain sane without the love and fear of God.
The realms of thought, feelings and emotions are more intricate than the branches of science which study visible phenomena. We lay down our defences when we are caught up in the trenches of the soul. Ideas have the ability to carve a place in our minds without any resistance. This is irrespective of the nature and type of thought; whether it is of greatness or inferiority, love or hatred, boldness of desire or the swelling of passion. The mind does not exercise discretion in selecting the thoughts it entertains. Having knowledge, then, is a kind of drunkenness we rush head over heels to experience. We regard it as a sign of high status - something we take pride in. For instance, when a man of letters produces a sentence of unsurpassed beauty which evokes an intense emotion, he finds himself indulging in the sweet deception of self-satisfaction. This leads him to believe that he is unique and his mind swells with feelings of greatness.
Our fascination with our own ideas disconnects us from reality. We see moderation as an ordinary response and reject it in favour of outrageousness. Poets, novelists and artists regard the golden mean as an unworthy maxim. This encourages these individuals to deviate from the natural balanced way of life in favour of practices which gain them publicity but which cause immense damage to the fabric of society. Ordinary people who are swayed by the media tend to follow suit and start imitating these celebrities, whom they regard as idols. This drunken madness tramples over all ethical principles including those which ensured the survival of the human race from the time that mankind lived in caves till the urbanisation of modern times. We are on the brink of social collapse. Anarchy is the result of ill informed and scattered ideas. It is the rejection of fundamental priorities and an attempt to force society to conform to individual tastes. Freedom of expression is being exploited by those wanting to transform society into anarchy governed by basic animal instincts. It is only the ethical ideals and awareness of a Prophet which are immune from its effects. The mind of a Prophet is a repository of the highest intellect of the age.
It is the Prophet who comprehends the effects of the reptilian Self on the individual and society. He understands how it may lead some people to distort the meanings of divine scripture for their own ends. In particular those who aspire to greatness use their powerful intellects to create a hall of mirrors. This results in the complete perversion of human thought, a matrix from which very few escape. In some ways this explains the fact that to this day the human intellect has failed to provide a system of ethics and morality which safeguards the interests of all nations and communities. These intellectuals succeed in undermining the framework of ethics by spreading the virus of immorality in the name of freedom and celebrity. Some of the most despicable acts of deviancy have been institutionalised.
There is nothing wrong with the desire to become cultured. But when you reflect on the concepts being promoted today in the name of culture, you are struck by their backwardness. Humanity has struggled for centuries to develop control over the reptilian Self, yet we are being invited to take a retrograde step and revert back to the moral framework of cave dwellers. Nations who succumbed to this level perished. The thinkers and philosophers of today are the intellectual inheritors of the failed and devastated nations whose archaeological ruins are scattered all over the world. These people long for eternity and for their names to live on forever. When one ponders on the ruins of Babylon, the destruction of Pompeii, the archaeological remains of Mohenjo Daro and Harpa, one asks if the intellectuals and men of letters do not live on. Surely, these societies had such figures in their midst. Is it not ironical that the parchment of a poet, the words of a wordsmith or the name or wisdom of a philosopher did not come to light in the dark cities, the devastated homes, the abandoned dwellings and the dried up wells. Although that was the past, modern Man is not much different. Instead of taking heed from the destruction of these nations he takes their archaeological remains as artefacts to adorn his home or museum.
The ridiculing of the inheritors of sound and balanced reasoning, that is the Prophets, is not a new phenomenon: every Prophet suffered from derision and revilement, deceit and deception. Some were put to the sword by the ignorance of the worldly scholars, while attempts were made to take the life of others. However, the interesting thing is that except for the time of the Prophet Yahya when self-purification and perseverance where revered, society as a whole has always given priority in their cultural life to immoral and lewd actions. The mind of Man was diverted from finding a solution to the question of human happiness. The intellect has not eased Man’s existential concerns or given him any real benefit in life apart from traffic laws!
The mind intoxicated itself and deprived humanity from achieving success and salvation by utilising the only tool at its disposal, that is, the intellect. It caused more damage by providing the blueprint for an impetuous, visionless and unashamed society. Driven by the stirrings of its animal instincts, it stripped human society of its past, of its sleep, of its peace and security, its satisfaction and tranquillity. Intellectual movements diverted mankind from its foremost priority. It seems that the entire human race is in a state of drunkenness and has forgotten its destination towards which they are headed.
Like inevitable fate, all sorts of ill-considered ideas have come to dominate the minds of men who inhabit a universe of facts and figures, blind to the purpose of human existence. This is a catastrophe which has come about because people are imposing the intellectual leadership of these ideas on themselves. There is no room for God in this paradigm. He is the spectre that continues to haunt the intellect of the present age. No matter how hard he tries, Man shudders in terror and dread when he contemplates his end. If death was the end of our existence and there was nothing after that, no life, no accountability, no punishment, then we would be truly free to do what we like. No living creature can escape the shadow of death. The demon of the intoxicated intellect is slowly pushing Man over the edge into the ocean of despair and regret. From time to time a flash of lightening illuminates the way for the seafarer, travelling in a wrecked vessel about to sink, and he perceives the light of religion, but then the light vanishes and he is once again surrounded by the same terrifying ocean, the same intense darkness, and the same horrifying waves.
Translated from Muqaddama-tul-Quran (pp.59-62)
An English Edition of Muqaddama-tul-Quran by Prof.Ahmad Rafique Akhtar