Linguistic and Cultural Formalism Part 1

Beliefs & Practices, Education / Saturday, June 12th, 2010

God has bestowed numerous bounties upon man and one of these is his capacity to learn from his past experience. If he strikes his on a path, foot, he tries to find out the cause of it; removes the stumbling block from his way or deflects his steps to avoid it. But if he finds his way impassable or littered with similar obstacles ,he takes to another even and straight path. Whenever he commits a mistake or fails in his venture, he tries to analyse and understand the cause of his failure. He tries to avoid the mistake once committed so that he does not take the wrong track again and so come to grief for the second time. Man’s capacity to analyse cause and effect, to understand the relationship between antecedent and result is undoubtedly a Divine blessing bestowed upon him alone.

It is this distinctive capacity enjoyed by man which distinguishes him from cattle and beasts and has been the sole reason for all man’s progress in the arts, sciences, culture and civilization.

It is not that man never makes a mistake. On the contrary, to err is human. Man is prone to stumbling: it is a legacy inherited from Adam. But it is more praiseworthy acknowledge one’s mistakes, repent, feel sorrow for them and try to make amends. This is the way to retrieve the loss suffered by a man. Sometimes this erring but conscience-smitten man is so repetent, melted and touched that he attains, in a few seconds, those celestial heights of sublimity which can not be achieved by years of toil and tears. Even the angels are then envious of him. The progenitor of the human race also made a mistake. He owned this mistake and fell down on his knees to beg for the mercy of the Most Merciful. In no time Adam rose to that lofty spiritual height of Divine propinquity which he had not enjoyed before committing that grevious error. He cried to his Lord thus:

Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost (Ala’raf: 23).

And what did Adam achieve by his repentance? The Qur’an itself bears eloquent testimony to his marvellous achievement:

And Adam disobeyed his Lord, so went astray. Then his Lord chose him, and relented toward him, and guided him (Ta-Ha: 121-22).

But, unlike Adam, Satan insisted on his disobedience and tried to justify his actions thus:

(Lblis) said: I am better than him. Thou createst me of fire while him Thou deadest create of mud. (Al-A’raf:1)

Mistakes or Blessings

The cultural advancement made by man as also the headway in many other fields of human activity owe their origin no less to the blunders committed by man than to the endeavours guided by his correct decisions. It would, of a fact, be no exaggeration to claim that certain epoch-making achievements were made possible only through mistakes. The history of mankind on this planet lists many such incidents; or, to say it conversely, it is as much a record of man’s errors as of his faultless decisions and right actions. You can cite many such examples from recorded history which corroborate this assertion. The prophet Moses and the Children of Israel safely crossed over to the Sinai and Pharaoh was drowned with his legions in the Red Sea; this because Moses had lost his way on a dark night. The American continent was discovered by Columbus as a result of his mistake in taking a wrong seaway, since what he really wanted was to discover a navigable route to India.

It does not behoove a sensible and prudent man to shut his eyes from a mistake once committed or not to analyse the causes of his failure. Only a fool would repeatedly commit the same blunder or be stung by the same reptile more than once. Further, such behaviour does not befit a believer who has been endowed with Divine guidance and wisdom and who is called upon to make the most of his intellect and experience. To take no lesson from past experience is, as the Qur’an says, a characteristic of the hypocrites. It is really they who never profit by their experience and are tested day in and day out.

See they not that they are tested once or twice in every year? Still they turn not in repentance, neither pay they heed (Al-Tawpa: 126).

Placing reliance in the prudence of the behaviour, the Prophet once said: “A believer is never stung twice by the same reptile.”

Linguistic and Cultural Ignorance

It was only a few days back when in a country with a Muslim majority, with its innumerable mosques and monasteries, and famous as the abode of numerous religious teachers and Sufi saints, a storm of linguistic and cultural prejudice blew up with such a tempestuous rage that it swept away the centuries long, endeavours of all the saints and men of God. Basically, one Muslim killed another Muslim without the least compunction. Human beings were put to death in such a way as if they were snakes scorpions. There was no refuge for those who had once fled to that land to save their lives. Without a heart melted with compassion, without an eye on the edge of tears, ment went hunting after man as one caste one’s net for fish or goes hunting in pursuit of wild game. Neither the chastily of women was respected nor the weak and the old spared nor innocent children shown any compassion. Every torture, every suffering, be it hunger, thirst or a fiery ordeal, was inflicted by one brother on another. The idol of language prevailed upon faith in the United of God and the brotherhood of man; national and racial zealotry smashed the brotherhood of Islam and the Ignorance of the pagan past overcame the unifying bonds of the Muslim faith so completely as it never had in any land and in any age since the advent of Islam. Fr.. in the distant past, one Musalman had never been degraded by another Musalman in this way.

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