The Moral Vision

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This anthology of articles by Maulana Wahiduddin
Khan is designed to illustrate the science of life
which the author has derived from one of the basic
principles of the Qur’an: “Every hardship comes
with ease.” (94:56). In his view, failure in life is a
common occurrence, but that coupled with a
positive attitude, it can be transformed into success.
Failure, on the other hand, coupled with a negative
attitude is again failure. The author gives examples
from daily life. Supported by relevant quotations
from the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet
Muhammad, to show that there is no end to the
possibilities of success in life for the individual who
can take a lesson from failure. He also cautions that
life’s tribulations must be faced with patience,
perseverance and compassion.
All the articles in this anthology have appeared
from time to time in Al-Risala.

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The Moral Vision

  1. 1. The Moral Vision Table of ContentsTABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents................................................................2Publisher’s Note ...............................................................10Human Potential ..............................................................11Moon Mission ...................................................................14Our Potential is our Wealth.............................................16The Life Force ...................................................................18Motion and Direction.......................................................21Hasten Slowly...................................................................23Having the Courage to Err ..............................................25The Order of Nature ........................................................27Working Together ............................................................29Working on the Individual..............................................32Idleness..............................................................................34The Making and Breaking of History.............................37Some Make Themselves, Others Make History ............40 ~2~
  2. 2. The Moral Vision Table of ContentsEducation ..........................................................................42The Psychology of Success ..............................................44Per Ardua ad Astra ..........................................................46Try, Try, Try Again ..........................................................49Our ‘Turnkey’ Civilization ..............................................52Getting off to a Good Start. .............................................55Planting the Tree of the Nation.......................................58Bearing Fruit .....................................................................61Good Egg...........................................................................63Road Block ........................................................................65Unlocking the Gates to Success.......................................67Working Together ............................................................70In the Nick of Time...........................................................73The Human Personality...................................................75Concentration ...................................................................78A Shaft of Light ................................................................80 ~3~
  3. 3. The Moral Vision Table of ContentsNarrow-Mindedness........................................................82Another Day! How Wonderful .......................................84When One is Broken in Two ...........................................86Destined for Great Deeds ................................................88In Giving We Receive.......................................................91How Do You Win the Nobel Prize?................................93Gerard of Cremona ..........................................................95Trust is Golden .................................................................98The Secret of Success......................................................100Reading the Signs ...........................................................103Aiming Directly at the Target .......................................105Teacher Tree....................................................................108Starting from Scratch .....................................................110Admitting One’s Faults .................................................113No End to Possibilities...................................................114Perseverance ...................................................................117 ~4~
  4. 4. The Moral Vision Table of ContentsWorking in Unison.........................................................119Unforeseen Circumstances ............................................121Capability and Alertness ...............................................123Talking Tall .....................................................................126A Life-time of Devotion.................................................128Right Man—Right Results.............................................130Man’s True Purpose in Life ...........................................132The Bigger the Better......................................................136No Half Measures ..........................................................138The Learner-Teacher ......................................................140The Beginning of a New Era .........................................143Super Performers............................................................145The Purpose of Life ........................................................147Reciprocity ......................................................................151Through Fire and Water ................................................153Patience, Perseverance and Compassion .....................155 ~5~
  5. 5. The Moral Vision Table of ContentsWhat Must Be Known Before One Can Understand ..157Disadvantage Turned to Advantage ............................159Reply without Reaction .................................................161Finders, not Losers .........................................................163Disunity: The Enemy’s Weapon ...................................166An Eye for a Talent.........................................................168Labour of a Lifetime.......................................................170Quiet Endeavour ............................................................173Overcoming Handicaps.................................................176The Virtues of Dependability........................................178The Japanese Experience ...............................................180The Law of Nature .........................................................184The Root Cause of Riots.................................................186Going Places on Home Ground ....................................188Learning from Mistakes.................................................190Nightly Preparation for a Mighty Task........................192 ~6~
  6. 6. The Moral Vision Table of ContentsAccepting Defeat ............................................................195Total Involvement ..........................................................197Progress in the Long Haul.............................................200The Greatest Asset..........................................................202All the Blood of One’s Body..........................................205After Being Broken.........................................................207Recognizing Oneself ......................................................209Social Behaviour .............................................................213Life’s Labours are Never Lost .......................................218An Economic Pearl Harbour .........................................220Having One’s Share .......................................................224Message Without Words ...............................................226Working One’s Way Up ................................................229Warding off Danger .......................................................231Aiming High...................................................................234The Flight of the Bee ......................................................237 ~7~
  7. 7. The Moral Vision Table of ContentsTeaching the Teachers....................................................239Keeping Calm in the Face of Adversity .......................242Seeking the Right Alternatives......................................245In Giving We Receive.....................................................249Beware of Negative Thinking .......................................251Ducking Below the Waves.............................................254Constructive Temperament...........................................256Perseverance Pays ..........................................................258Ease Always Comes After Hardship............................261Making the Extra Effort .................................................264Big-Heartedness .............................................................266There is Always a Way ..................................................271Proceeding with Caution...............................................273The First Emigration ......................................................275Muslim Journalism.........................................................277A Practical Solution........................................................280 ~8~
  8. 8. The Moral Vision Table of ContentsThe Will to Unite ............................................................282Doing One’s Bit...............................................................285Broken Pledges ...............................................................287Dreams and Success.......................................................290Ethics and Technology...................................................292The More Hurry, the Less Speed ..................................294God Helps Those Who Help Themselves ....................296Negligence: A Moral Deficiency ...................................301A Lesson from a Tiger....................................................304Realizing One’s Own Shortcomings.............................307Character Builds the Nation..........................................310How to Lead, Even in Defeat ........................................312History Speaks................................................................315THE MORAL VISION ...................................................317 ~9~
  9. 9. The Moral Vision Publisher’s NotePUBLISHER’S NOTEThis anthology of articles by Maulana WahiduddinKhan is designed to illustrate the science of lifewhich the author has derived from one of the basicprinciples of the Qur’an: “Every hardship comeswith ease.” (94:56). In his view, failure in life is acommon occurrence, but that coupled with apositive attitude, it can be transformed into success.Failure, on the other hand, coupled with a negativeattitude is again failure. The author gives examplesfrom daily life. Supported by relevant quotationsfrom the Qur’an and the sayings of the ProphetMuhammad, to show that there is no end to thepossibilities of success in life for the individual whocan take a lesson from failure. He also cautions thatlife’s tribulations must be faced with patience,perseverance and compassion.All the articles in this anthology have appearedfrom time to time in Al-Risala. ~ 10 ~
  10. 10. The Moral Vision Human PotentialHUMAN POTENTIALIn the Ohio University of the U.S.A. there is adepartment known as the Disaster Research Centre.It was established in 1963, and has so far studiedover one hundred different calamities affectinghuman beings on a vast scale. It was discovered thatat moments of crisis, an extraordinary new potentialdevelops in people which saves them fromsuccumbing to disasters and their aftermath. In1961, for example, Texas was struck by a severecoastal tempest, but less than half of the inhabitantsopted to vacate the area. Over 50 percent of themhad the confidence to stay on in spite of the stormwarnings issued to them four days in advance.Subsequently, in 1971, a big dam was weakenedconsiderably following an earthquake, whichseriously endangered the lives of 70,000 people, butat that very critical time only 7 percent of thepopulation chose to leave their hearths and homes.Such research has also revealed that the victims ofsuch disasters still maintain high hopes for thefuture. The citizens of the two affected areas ofTexas, having witnessed the destruction caused by ~ 11 ~
  11. 11. The Moral Vision Human Potentialhorrible floods, were interviewed about what theyfelt were their future prospects. Surprisingly, lessthen ten percent expressed apprehension andmisgivings. The rest of them, irrespective of thelarge-scale destruction, were hopeful about theirfuture. The above-mentioned institute concludedthe report of the research it had conducted ondisasters by saying, “The reality of events suggeststhat human beings are amazingly controlled andresilient in the face of adversity. Perhaps heroism,not panic or shock, is the right word to describetheir most common behaviour in times of disaster.”The Creator has endowed His creature man withextraordinary capabilities, one of which is hiscapacity to plan his life anew with tremendousvigour, even when threatened with totalannihilation. Man can do more than compensate forhis losses. The discovery of this natural, hiddenpotential in man serves to teach a great lesson, thatis, that no individual, whether singly or as part of agroup, who suffers trials and tribulations, shouldever waste a moment’s time in lamenting andgrieving over his losses. Instead, he should pressGod-given capabilities into service to reconstructhis life. It is quite possible that the very ~ 12 ~
  12. 12. The Moral Vision Human Potentialcircumstances in which he seemed to be headingtowards complete annihilation, could serve tounfold a new and brighter phase of his existence. ~ 13 ~
  13. 13. The Moral Vision Moon MissionMOON MISSIONAmerican Astronaut, Neil Armstrong, stepped on tothe moon for the first time in July 1969. The momenthe set his foot on the moon, the control mission inAmerican received these words uttered by him: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”Armstrong and his two colleagues were selectedfrom amongst the top 30 astronauts of the U.S.A. Hepossessed to a very high degree all those qualitieswhich were necessary for this difficult, historicmission—extraordinary skill in flying, intelligence,strength, ability to absorb information, mental andemotional balance and the courage to acceptchallenges unhesitatingly. Once selected, he had toundergo rigorous training, for instance, having toremain in deep water for long periods so that hewould become used to weightlessness. So that hecould deal with every possible emergency, he didelaborate courses in astronomy, space flight, rocketflight, the physics of the moon, etc.— all with thehelp of computerized space data. ~ 14 ~
  14. 14. The Moral Vision Moon MissionThe 3100-ton Apollo 11 seemed a giant. It was ashigh as a 36-storey building, having 8 million partsand 91 engines installed in it. On the top was thecomparatively small machine, the Columbia, inwhich the astronauts were seated to set off on theirhistoric journey.The space machine was duly blasted off, circling theearth for two and a half hours. Then its speedincreased to 403 miles per minute and on reachingan altitude of 3000 miles the Columbia separatedfrom the rest of the machines. It was so equippedthat the seating space for the astronauts was only asmuch as in an ordinary taxi. Finally they alightedon the moon from where they gathered 46 poundsof moon-earth, leaving equipment worth 5 Lakhpounds behind them. They also left their footprintson its surface, which hopefully will remain intactfor half a million years.It was only after such highly elaborate preparationsthat the “small step” could be taken which wasgoing to result in such a “giant leap” for mankind”. ~ 15 ~
  15. 15. The Moral Vision Our Potential is our WealthOUR POTENTIAL IS OUR WEALTHPsychologists have estimated that man puts to useonly ten percent of the abilities with which he isborn. Professor William James of HarvardUniversity has very aptly observed, “What weought to be, we are not ready to be.” In spite of theinborn qualities nature has endowed us with thesuccesses, which should have been ours in thisworld keep eluding us for the simple reason that wequite unthinkingly consent to lead inferior lives.Then, discontented, we put the blame on others fornot giving us our due. But it is inside ourselves thatwe should look if we are to find the reasons forlife’s deficiencies. Constantly viewing others withenvy and a sense of grievance will lead us nowhere,and can turn us into our own worst enemies. Thefact should be faced fairly and squarely that it isonly if we exploit our own potential to the full thatwe shall meet with success. Any other course willlead to failure.It is essential, however, to determine at the outsetwhether our efforts are directed at worthwhile ~ 16 ~
  16. 16. The Moral Vision Our Potential is our Wealthobjectives. Without proper direction our potentialwill be wasted.In ancient times and even up to mediaeval times,gold being greatly prized, one of the greatpreoccupations of the ‘scientists’ of those days wasto convert base metals into gold. Dreams of instantwealth drove innumerable people over the centuriesto superhuman efforts. But all this expenditure oftime, money and energy was in vain, for deathalways overtook them before they could achieveanything. It never seemed to occur to any of themthat these metals with which they worked had adifferent and greater potential than anyone couldever have imagined. Iron, for example, wasconvertible, not into gold, but into machinery, andcould be used as a versatile building material ofgreat strength. In the world of today, westernnations, having learnt these secrets and directedtheir energies towards building up the relativetechnology, have succeeded in acquiring far greaterwealth than mere silver and gold. ~ 17 ~
  17. 17. The Moral Vision The Life ForceTHE LIFE FORCEA creeper growing in a courtyard once had themisfortune to have its roots and branches buriedunder mounds of earth and rubble when the housewas undergoing repairs. Later, when the courtyardwas cleaned up, the owner of the house cut awaythe creeper, which had been badly, damaged, andeven pulled out its roots so that it would not growagain. The whole courtyard was then laid withbricks and cemented over.A few weeks later, something stirred at the placewhere the creeper had been rooted out. The bricksheaved upwards at one point as though somethingwere pushing them from below. This appeared verystrange, but was dismissed as being the burrowingsof rats or mice. The riddle was solved when some ofthe bricks were removed, and it was discovered thatthe creeper had started growing again, although ina sadly distorted form. As it happened, not all of itsroots had been pulled out, and when the time of theyear came around for them to grow, life began tostir within them and they pushed their way upthrough the cement to the sunlight. It is one of ~ 18 ~
  18. 18. The Moral Vision The Life Forcenature’s miracles that these tender leaves and buds,which can be so easily crushed to a pulp betweenfinger and thumb, can summon up such strength asto force their way through bricks and cement.The owner of the house then regretted havingattempted to take the creeper’s life. He remarked,“It is just as if it were appealing to me for the rightto grow. Now I certainly won’t stand in its way.”And so saying, he removed some more of the bricksso that it would grow unhindered. In less than ayear’s time, a fifteen-foot creeper was flourishingagainst the courtyard wall at the exact point fromwhich it had been so unceremoniously ‘uprooted.’A mountain, despite its great height and girth,cannot remove so much as a pebble from its flanks.But these tiny tender buds of the tree can crack acemented floor and sprout up through it. Whencesuch power? The source of its energy is themysterious phenomenon of our world called life.Life is an astonishing, ongoing process of thisuniverse—a force which will claim its rights in thisworld, and, even when uprooted, it continues toexist, albeit dormant, at one place or the other and ~ 19 ~
  19. 19. The Moral Vision The Life Forcereappears the moment it finds the opportunity. Justwhen people have come to the conclusion that,because there is nothing visible on the surface, lifemust be at an end, that is just when it rears its headfrom the debris. ~ 20 ~
  20. 20. The Moral Vision Motion and DirectionMOTION AND DIRECTIONA western thinker once commented, “You haveremoved most of the road blocks to success whenyou have learnt the difference between motion anddirection.”One intrinsic quality of activity is movement. Whenyou are walking, driving, riding a bicycle, gallopingalong on horseback or roaring along on amotorcycle, you are moving. But in what direction?Are you moving towards your destination, or awayfrom it? The actual motion in both cases seems to beno different in quality.The great difference between the two is that theformer brings you ever nearer to your destination,while the latter takes you further and further awayfrom it—leaving you where? Nowhere. At least,nowhere worth going. It is direction that is all-important. Even if we only get on to the slow-movingbullock cart or a cycle rickshaw, we shall do betterthan a jet plane which has no sense of direction.Both in our private lives and social existence, it isimperative that we take stock of our means and ~ 21 ~
  21. 21. The Moral Vision Motion and Directionresources and then set off in the right direction, if,sooner or later, we are to reach our destination.Often people launch themselves on careers,plunging headlong into them, without giving duethought to their actual capacities and to whetherthey have any real potential which can bedeveloped. At times they are led astray by trivialconsiderations, ill-founded opinions andoverwhelming emotions, and rush heedlessly intowhatever first comes their way. When the result isnot what they had anticipated, they fall tocomplaining against others, lamenting their lossesand failures and claiming that it was due to theprejudices of others that they had had to sufferfrustrations and that their careers had come tonaught. Had they given more profound thought tothe matter, they would have realised that the faultlay in their own ill-judged planning or even totalaimlessness. Had they started out in the rightdirection, others would not then have had theopportunity to place obstacles in their path and turntheir successes into failures. ~ 22 ~
  22. 22. The Moral Vision Hasten SlowlyHASTEN SLOWLYA young man once came to a venerable master andasked, ‘How long will it take to reachenlightenment?’ The master said, ‘Ten years.’ Theyoung man blurted out, ‘So long!’ The master said,‘No, I was mistaken. It will take you twenty years.’The young man asked, ‘Why do you keep adding toit!’ The master answered, ‘Come to think of it, inyour case it will probably be 30 years.’ (PhilipKapleau, Readers Digest, 1983)A goal can be achieved in the course of ten years,but you want to attain it in just ten days. Thismeans that you want to reach your destination intremendous leaps and bounds. But there is an oldsaying: “The more hurry, the less speed.”A traveller who wants to dash straight as an arrow,without allowing time for twists and turns, willcollide with many obstacles in his headlong flight.Far from reaching his destination faster, he willsurely come to grief and fall by the wayside. Heshall then have to retrace his steps to the startingpoint, heal his wounds and only then set forth ~ 23 ~
  23. 23. The Moral Vision Hasten Slowlyagain. All of this will take time, precious time—timewhich should have been spent on the onwardjourney. Had he proceeded in a normal, unhurriedway, he would have reached his destination all ingood time.Just as it is wrong to delay, it is equally wrong to bein too much of a hurry. All work can be completedin due course. To delay work is idle andirresponsible, but to do it with unseemly andunwarrantable haste is a sign of crass impatience. Inthe world of God, where each event has its allottedtime, both extremes are doomed to failure. ~ 24 ~
  24. 24. The Moral Vision Having the Courage to ErrHAVING THE COURAGE TO ERRTwo friends, Ahmed and Iqbal, both lived in thesame city. Ahmed was a graduate, while Iqbal’seducation had not gone beyond the eighthstandard. It happened once that Iqbal had to go toan office on business and was accompanied by hisfriend, Ahmed. When the business had beentransacted, and they were both coming out of theoffice, Ahmed said to Iqbal, “You were speakingsuch horrible English! With such bad English, Iwould never have dared to open my mouth!” Iqbalwas not the slightest bit disconcerted at being soroundly criticized. Exuding confidence, he said,“Speak wrong so that you can speak right!” Then headded, “Although you are a graduate and I havenot got any degrees, you will soon find that I willstart speaking in English and you will never be ableto do so.”That was twenty years ago. Now Iqbal’s wordshave come true. Ahmed is still at the stage he was attwenty years ago, but Iqbal, astonishingly, hasmade great progress. He now speaks English quite ~ 25 ~
  25. 25. The Moral Vision Having the Courage to Errfluently and no one can fault him on grammar andpronunciation.This daring attitude on the part of Iqbal certainlyproved to be of great advantage to him for, at theoutset of his career, he just owned a small shop inthe city, whereas today, he runs a big factory.The motto: “Speak wrong so that you can speakcorrect,” has obviously in his case been the key tosuccess. This principle on which Iqbal operated hasa bearing not only on language but on all practicalconcerns in life. In the present world, the potentiallysuccessful are those who are possessed of courage,who advance fearlessly and take the initiative in theface of risks. Only those who have the courage toerr will accomplish anything worthwhile in life.Those who are afraid of making mistakes will beleft behind in the race of life, and their ultimategoals will recede further and further into thedistance. ~ 26 ~
  26. 26. The Moral Vision The Order of NatureTHE ORDER OF NATURETry closing your room, going away, and returningafter a few weeks. What do you find on yourreturn?A thick layer of dust all over the room. This is sounpleasant that you don’t feel like sitting in theroom until it has been dusted. Equally upleasant isthe dust blown in your face by a high wind, youfind yourself longing for the wind to drop, so thatthere should be no more irritating dust.But what is this dust that we find so annoying? It isin fact a loose surface layer of fertile soil, the verysubstance which enables the growth of all forms ofvegetables, fruits and cereals. If this soil did not lieon the face of the earth, it would be impossible forus to live on the earth at all.It is this same dust that makes the earth’satmosphere dense enough for water to vaporize,forming clouds which produce torrents of water torevive and replenish the earth. Without rain, therewould be no life on earth, and rain is only possiblebecause of the dust in the earth’s atmosphere. ~ 27 ~
  27. 27. The Moral Vision The Order of NatureThe redness of the sky which we see at sunrise andsunset is also due to the presence of dust in theatmosphere. In this way dust, besides possessingmultiple practical benefits, also contributes to thebeauty of the world.From this straightforward example we can see howGod has placed unpleasant things alongside thepleasant things of life. Just as the rose bush, alongwith its exquisite flowers, also possesses piercingthorns, so also does life contain an amalgam of bothpleasing and displeasing objects. This is the wayGod has created the world. There is nothing for usto do but to fit in with this order of nature that Hehas laid down. Much as we may try, it is impossiblefor us to have things any other way.To complain about things, then, is a fruitlessexercise. If one wants to complain, one is sure tofind plenty to complain about in life. The intelligentthing to do is to forget the unpleasant things whichare a part and parcel of life, bury grudges, and carryon seeking to fulfill one’s true purpose in life. ~ 28 ~
  28. 28. The Moral Vision Working TogetherWORKING TOGETHEROne particular quality of true believers has beenpinpointed in the Qur’an. It is that when they arewith the Prophet—or in other words the personresponsible for Muslims’ affairs—“on a matterrequiring collective action, they do not depart untilthey have asked for his leave ...” (Qur’an, 24:62).Here collective action means any activity involvinga group of people working together. And the“asking of leave” is indicative of the wider spirit inwhich the work is done—a spirit of deepcommitment, like the commitment one feels to somepersonal work.A high degree of motivation is required for a personto become so deeply involved in a task that he willnot leave it until the work in hand has beenaccomplished. Such motivation is inherent in workinvolving personal profit: it is in one’s own interestto see the work through to the bitter end, and so onedoes so. One is moved by a sense of personalresponsibility: if one does not accomplish the taskoneself, who will do it for one? With workinvolving a group of people, on the other hand, one ~ 29 ~
  29. 29. The Moral Vision Working Togethertends to lay the onus on other people. If I don’tcarry on, one thinks, there are plenty of others whowill continue in my place. Seeing that there is nopersonal profit to be gained from the work in hand,one tends to see it as a burden best laid on others’shoulders. Only when one has come to think of thecommon good as one’s own good, of the profit ofsociety as one’s own profit, will one become fullycommitted to collective work. Such commitmentrequires, above all, a deep sense of socialconsciousness; it requires one to be orientedtowards the needs of the community, as anyonewould normally be oriented to cater for his ownneeds.A Muslim is required to possess just such a sense ofsocial consciousness, moving him to throw himselfheart and soul into collective Islamic work,whenever such work is required of him. Then,when he has involved himself in it, he will see itthrough to the final stage. When he takes leave fromthe authority under whose direction he is working,he does not do so in order to desert the cause towhich he is committed; rather, he has some validreason for going away, and will return as soon as ~ 30 ~
  30. 30. The Moral Vision Working Togethercircumstances allow. For this reason the Qur’ansays that, if possible, such requests should begranted. But both the request, and the granting of it,should be made in the correct spirit, with bothparties praying for the other, even as they part. ~ 31 ~
  31. 31. The Moral Vision Working on the IndividualWORKING ON THE INDIVIDUALA man was riding his bicycle one day when all of asudden his brake jammed. Luckily there was a cyclerepair-shop nearby, so he took his bike there tohave it fixed. Thinking that the mechanic would fixthe brake at the point where it was jammed, thecyclist was surprised to see him tap away with asmall hammer at a completely different place.Before he was able to express his surprise, however,the mechanic handed the bike over. “That’s fixed it.You can take it away now,” he said. And off thecyclist rode, with his bike once again runningsmoothly.What was true of this bicycle is true also of humansociety. When there is something wrong withsociety people usually jump to the conclusion thatwhere the malaise lies, there also lies the cure. Butthis is not case. Usually the root of the malaise liesin a different place, far away from the symptoms.Until the cause is removed, the malaise itself willnot go away. ~ 32 ~
  32. 32. The Moral Vision Working on the IndividualFor instance, there might be a lack of solidarity insociety, or one’s people may be the victims ofoppression. Maybe society is beset with anatmosphere of intrigue, with the result that its voicecarries no weight in the world. Detecting thesesymptoms, one who determines to right the ills ofsociety might well think that the cure lies in callingmeetings and conventions in order to bring peopletogether, feeding them emotional speeches andpassing high-sounding resolutions, and so on.But this is not the way to cure the actual ills ofsociety. To do so, one has to work on the cause, notthe symptoms, for usually one will find that while aproblem seems to be afflicting one part of society,the cure lies elsewhere. If there is a lack of solidarity,for instance, the reason for this is the failure ofindividuals to stand together. It is the individual,then, who has to be worked on. Solidarity has to beachieved at an individual level before it can comeabout in society. For it is a law of nature, and humansociety, that for a tree to bear good fruit, it is theseed, not the fruit itself, that has to be improved. ~ 33 ~
  33. 33. The Moral Vision IdlenessIDLENESSThe second Caliph, Umer ibn Khattab, often used toexpress his sense of disillusionment about people hehad come to like, when, on further acquaintancewith them he discovered them to be idle. “Onlearning that he does not work, he appears to me ofno value (he has debased himself in my eyes).”Whichever way you look at idleness, there is nogainsaying the fact that it is a great evil, causing oneto fritter away one’s best talents and leaving oneunqualified to face life. A student who is too lazy tostudy cannot ever hope to acquire knowledge, orhave his critical faculties sharpened in any way, andhis failure in examinations will leave him withoutthe ‘paper’ qualifications which is the ‘OpenSesame’ to good jobs. Without the necessarygroundwork, he will find himself leading a vacantexistence, simply drifting from pillar to post. Evenpeople who have managed to qualify themselvessuitably cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Whenthe period of education is over, it is equallynecessary to be consistently hard-working. Manymake the excuse between the receipt of a degree ~ 34 ~
  34. 34. The Moral Vision Idlenessand entry into a profession that they are waiting forthe right job to come along. But one cannot go onwaiting forever, simply idling away one’s time.Sometimes one inadvertently slips into idle waysbecause there are no economic pressures in one’slife. Those who inherit legacies, or have property orinvestments which bring them some return are aneasy prey to idleness. But this is no existence for ahuman being. Anyone who allows the poison ofidleness to creep into his system might as well bedead.Either one must opt for a regular job, which bringsone a suitable income and keeps one mentallyhealthy, so that one never becomes a financial oremotional burden on anyone else, or, if one isfinancially independent, one should turn one’sattention to higher things, pursue noble ends, serveworthy causes and keep oneself fruitfully occupiedday in and day out. A person with no sense ofcommitment is only living on the fringes ofexistence. He is out of touch with reality and willsoon lapse into utter degeneracy. No really superior ~ 35 ~
  35. 35. The Moral Vision Idlenessbeing has ever been found among the ranks of theidle.As the old saying goes, the Devil finds work for idlehands. ~ 36 ~
  36. 36. The Moral Vision The Making and Breaking of HistoryTHE MAKING AND BREAKING OFHISTORYAccording to B.Tuchman, “history is the unfoldingof miscalculation.” In other words, history usuallydevelops in a manner quite contrary to people’sexpectations. While events are unfolding, observersmay pass judgement on the course they are taking;but the course of history defies all prediction, and inthe end things turn out quite differently from whatpeople had initially expected.To take an example from Islamic history, in the year6 AH the Treaty of Hudaybiyah was signedbetween the Prophet Muhammad and the Qurayshof Mecca. At that time the Quraysh were one inthinking that the Muslims had signed their ownwrit of destruction, for they accepted peace onterms which were clearly favourable to theQuraysh. Yet afterwards it transpired that thisapparent defeat contained the seeds of a greatvictory for the Muslims. The same thing hashappened time and time again throughout history.In 1945, when atom bombs were dropped on thecities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, it ~ 37 ~
  37. 37. The Moral Vision The Making and Breaking of Historyseemed to the Americans as if Japan would lie inruins for several decades to come. Yet this was notto be: now, just forty years after the event, Japanstands at the pinnacle of her economic strength, theleading industrial power in the world.This goes to show that it is not man who fashionshis own history; in truth, it is God who fashionshuman history in accordance with His own will. Itis not people or events who control history, it isGod. History may take place before our eyes, in thematerial world, but the course it takes is determinedfrom the super-natural world which lies beyond ourvision and perception.Those who have been written off as spent forces cantake solace from this fact of history. Experienceshows that sparks erupt from volcanoes that havelain inactive for years. In this world the veryannihilation and destruction of something meansthat it is ready to arise and take its place as a newpower on earth; a force which is spent turns into aliving force.One should never lose hope because of the dismalcourse events appear to be taking. When the pages ~ 38 ~
  38. 38. The Moral Vision The Making and Breaking of Historyof history turn, events may turn out to have beenleading in a direction quite contrary to all ourexpectations. ~ 39 ~
  39. 39. The Moral Vision Some Make Themselves, Others Make HistorySOME MAKE THEMSELVES, OTHERSMAKE HISTORYThere are two types of people in this world—theself-making type and the history-making type. Theaim of those who are self-making is to servethemselves, whereas history-making people seek toserve humanity as a whole.The attention of a self-making person revolvesaround himself. He hovers around those areaswhere his own self-interest is likely to be served;where there is no profit to be gained for himself, hedoes not care to venture. His heart flutters withexcitement when he is set to make some gain, but ifthere is nothing to be gained, no excitement isaroused within him. Personal gain is uppermost inhis mind; he will sacrifice everything in order toachieve it. He abides neither by promise nor byprinciple. Free of the influence of both moralexigencies and the needs of humanity, he can puteverything aside in pursuit of his own ends. Allother considerations fade into insignificance as herelentlessly seeks to fulfill his selfish desires. ~ 40 ~
  40. 40. The Moral Vision Some Make Themselves, Others Make HistoryA history-making person is quite different.Emerging from his own shell, he lives not forhimself but for a higher purpose. What matters tohim is principle, not profit. He cares not whether hehimself wins or loses; what is of importance to himis that his ideal should be served. It is as if he hasdetached himself from his own person and pinnedhis flag to the needs of humanity as a whole.In order to become a history-making person there isone thing that has to be done: one has to stop beingself-making. As soon as a person effaces himself, hebecomes capable of building for the future ofhumanity. Such a person lays personal grievancesto one side. As his own self-interest and ambitionsevaporate before his eyes, he shows no reaction, asif all this were not happening to him at all.It is people such as these who are destined to forgehuman history. They are the ones who, of their ownfree will, are concerned about the rest of humanity;they have no rights to be safeguarded; they haveonly responsibilities, which they dischargewhatever the cost to themselves. ~ 41 ~
  41. 41. The Moral Vision EducationEDUCATIONKnowledge is of two distinct kinds: that which wehave been blessed within the Qur’an and theHadith, and that which we acquire as a result of ourown research and endeavour. The first kindacquaints us with our Lord, and makes plain theissues to be faced in the everlasting world whichawaits us after death. More important, it shows ushow, in the course of our present life, we mayprepare ourselves to meet those issues. The secondkind of knowledge provides solutions to the socialand economic problems which we encounter ineveryday life.It is imperative that Muslims should seek bothforms of knowledge, but they should never losesight of the fact that they vary considerably inimportance. Their primary aim in life should be aknowledge of the Qur’an and the Hadith, while theacquisition of a knowledge of the other sciencesshould come about as a matter of worldly necessity.Without a knowledge of religion, what must bedone in this world to earn an everlasting reward,will constantly elude one’s understanding, and it ~ 42 ~
  42. 42. The Moral Vision Educationgoes without saying that one can never thenconsider oneself a Muslim in the true sense of theword.The secular sciences guide us only in worldlymatters, giving us instruction in the agricultural,industrial and civic practicalities of life. But it is theQur’an and Hadith which set our feet on the path toeternal development. Cleary, it is just as importantfor Muslims as it is for anyone else to study variousbranches of knowledge, but they must distinguishbetween ultimate objectives and adventitiousnecessity. Muslims must not only study the Qur’anand the Hadith, but must be keenly aware that thereal reasons for studying them are very differentfrom those which prompt them to seek worldlyknowledge: they must constantly bear in mind alsothat religious knowledge take moral priority overall other forms of knowledge. ~ 43 ~
  43. 43. The Moral Vision The Psychology of SuccessTHE PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESSThe World champions often possess equal physicalstrength and capabilities, and receive training of analmost equal standard. Then why does one win andanother lose? This question has been a topic ofresearch in America for the past three years. Thereport of the group of scientists working on this hasrecently been published.They chose the top international wrestlers andmade comparisons of their physical strength andpsychological reserves. They found out that there isone marked difference between the winners and thelosers in world competitions. It is not a physicaldifference, yet it plays the most crucial role inwinning or losing a competition. The expertsdiscovered that the winners were moreconscientious and in control of themselves than thelosers. The report is summed up as follows: “Losers tended to be more depressed and confused before competing, while the winners were positive and relaxed.” (The Times of India, 26 July 1981). This applies equally to the ~ 44 ~
  44. 44. The Moral Vision The Psychology of Success broader field of life. In life when two individuals or two groups confront one another, their victory or defeat does not depend so much on material resources as on intellectual and psychological reserves.The conviction that one’s goals are worthwhile, theobservation of discipline with no contradictionbetween words and thoughts, cool thinking, even intimes of crisis—all these are qualities of mind andheart which determine success, and obviate failurein the wider field of life. ~ 45 ~
  45. 45. The Moral Vision Per Ardua ad AstraPER ARDUA AD ASTRA(Through Hardship to the Stars)According to an English scholar, Ian Nash, whospent eleven years in Japan making a detailed studyof the language and nation, what shook theJapanese most profoundly was not upheavals inpolitics, but the great Kanto earthquake, whichdevastated the whole of the most populated easternpart of Japan on the first of September, 1923.Another terrible blow was the reduction of two ofthe great cities of Japan to smouldering mounds ofwaste by the dropping of atomic bombs. This leadto the ultimate defeat of Japan in the Second WorldWar in 1945.One might imagine that any country which hasbeen dealt such shattering blows would never beable to rise again from its ashes. But this is far frombeing true, for Japan has not only rehabilitateditself, but now figures most prominently of all onthe world commercial and industrial scene. Japanhas become a great hive of technological activity inspite of having launched itself on an industrial ~ 46 ~
  46. 46. The Moral Vision Per Ardua ad Astracourse long after Britain, Europe and America. Thisis all the more remarkable, considering that Japanhas none of the natural resources that the olderestablished industrial nations have, buried rightthere in their own soil just waiting to be extracted.In man’s life the most important thing is the will toact. Had the Japanese succumbed to a sense of lossand frustration, and frittered their energies away infutile political protest, their country would havebeen doomed to decline and ruination. But, as itwas, they conquered any sense of victimization theymight have had and set about reconstructing theirnational life with a will and a way. Althoughearthquakes had brought them death anddestruction, they had also galvanized them intobuilding their lives afresh.In such situations of grim affliction, provided onehas the will, all one’s hidden potential and latentfaculties are brought into play. One can think better,plan more successfully and make the greater effortsneeded to bring one’s plans to fruition. One wholacks the will to improve his life is just like an idlingmotor which is going nowhere. ~ 47 ~
  47. 47. The Moral Vision Per Ardua ad AstraExperience has shown also that complacency and asense of comfort can be even greater vitiatingfactors in man’s progress through life thandevastation and despair. This does not mean thatadversity by itself is beneficial. No. It is simply thespark which ignites the fuel of man’s soul anddrives him on to greater things. It is the mainspringof his initiative and the force which propels himrelentlessly forward. In the face of adversity hishidden capacities come to the fore and it is possiblefor him to reach undreamt of heights. But first andforemost there has to be the will to do so. There hasto be the will to stop wallowing in self-pity and toget up and take action.It is not ease, but effort, not facility, but difficultywhich make a man what he is. ~ 48 ~
  48. 48. The Moral Vision Try, Try, Try AgainTRY, TRY, TRY AGAINA young man who was employed as an ordinaryworker in a Bidi factory soon learnt the entire art ofthe business and set up his own factory. He initiallyinvested only Rs. 5000 in his business, but then bydint of fifteen years’ hard work, his businessprogressively increased until it expanded into a bigfactory. One day, narrating his life story to hisfriends, he said: “Just as a young child grows intoboyhood after fifteen years, so does a business. Ihave not reached this stage in one day. It has been afifteen-year struggle.”In truth every piece of work is accomplished in“fifteen” years, be it of an individual or a nation, beit a business or a social service. Those who long fora recipe for instant success are, in fact, living in afool’s paradise. It is all very well to say that a hop,step and jump can take you right to yourdestination. But as soon as one comes face to facewith reality, one realises that this is just an illusion.Glenn Cunningham, a sportsman who becamechampion of the one-mile race, saw the school inwhich he was studying go up in flames. His own ~ 49 ~
  49. 49. The Moral Vision Try, Try, Try Againexperience was terrible. His feet were so badlyburnt that he could not even move his legs. Thedoctors lost all hope of his ever walking or running.They said that only a miracle could save him.Surprisingly Glenn Cunningham’s incapacityexcited in him a new zeal and eagerness to walkand run. All his mental faculties concentrated on hisdecision to walk. So he began to experiment withdifferent kinds of exercises till he hit upon a novelidea. It was to drag himself along by holding on tothe handle of a moving plough. When his feet couldeven so much as rest on the ground, he feltencouraged, and intensified his efforts. Finally, themiracle of which the doctors had so despaired, tookplace. The new technique was a tremendous successand, ultimately, he could not only walk, but couldalso run. Later he entered for a race. He set up anew record and become a champion of the one-milerace. But this grand success was not achieved in afew days. He had to spend “fifteen years” realizinghis goal. Only after a fifteen year stint had it beenpossible for him to become a flat racing champion.In truth, no success is possible in this world withoutworking for “fifteen years.” It is God alone who has ~ 50 ~
  50. 50. The Moral Vision Try, Try, Try Againthe power to achieve instant success. But God hasnot created this world on the basis of instantsuccess. Man must learn his lesson and should notfritter away his time in futile efforts. In this world ofGod, innumerable events are taking place, all ofwhich are based on eternal, immutable laws. Noteven a blade of grass grows here on the ground as aresult of wishful thinking, not even an ant canmanage to live by ignoring the realities of life. Howis it possible then for man to change the divinelaws? The only condition of success is continuouseffort, that is, to make such unflagging efforts, areas essential to achieve the desired objectives in theworld of God according to the law of God. Byfollowing the same principle we can achieve successin this world; it is the same principle which willbring us success in the next world. ~ 51 ~
  51. 51. The Moral Vision Our ‘Turnkey’ CivilizationOUR ‘TURNKEY’ CIVILIZATIONIn the modern, industrial world, the term ‘TurnkeyProject’ has come to be widely used. Ready-madehouses and factories are made today in whicheverything is provided by the seller. The buyer hasonly to turn the key in order to use it. Thebehaviour of certain Muslims of the present daysuggests that they think the world is theirs for thetaking, that God has handed it over to them ready-made and that all they have to do is ‘turn the key’and everything and everyone will be ready to dotheir bidding.Little do they realize how far this is from being thetrue state of affairs. This world, in reality, is one ofvigorous action and keen competition, and noworthwhile position can be attained withoutworking hard on every aspect of the project inhand, and no job is well done unless carried outwith scrupulous care from beginning to end. Ourvery right to live has to be proved by competingwith others. Only when we plunge wholeheartedlyinto the fray, can we hope to attain the place we ~ 52 ~
  52. 52. The Moral Vision Our ‘Turnkey’ Civilizationdesire in this world of cause and effect. There is noquestion of just ‘turning the key’.Muslims of the present day must learn before allelse that they are at the beginning of history, andnot the end. Everyone knows that this is January1986 and that for it to be December 1986, we shallhave to wait twelve months. The earth shall have torevolve on its axis 365 times and only then shall wecome to the end of one year. This is commonknowledge. But Muslims tend to overlook suchobvious facts when it comes to the building of theirnation. They have only just entered the first month,but they want to leap straight into the twelfth. Theymake no effort to lay the foundations of the homesthey keep imagining, but already they want tostand on their rooftops. The very phrasing of theirspeeches and writings gives the impression thatthey have actually attained their objectives.We should remember, first and foremost, that wecan create a nation only if its inhabitants are imbuedwith a sense of purpose and, to that end, we musteducate our people: they must have full knowledgeof both the past and the present if they are to ~ 53 ~
  53. 53. The Moral Vision Our ‘Turnkey’ Civilizationprogress towards an ideal future. We have toinculcate in them the will to work unitedly in spiteof their disagreements. We have to instill in themthe courage to sacrifice their personal feelings andtheir short-term interests for long-term ones. Onlythen will it be possible to fashion history anew. ~ 54 ~
  54. 54. The Moral Vision Getting off to a Good Start.GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START.Here are my entire life’s savings.” So saying, anelderly scholar, who had spent his whole lifereading and writing, in the utmost simplicity placeda cheque for Rs. 10,000 in the hands of his newly-wed daughter and son-in-law. He explained that hehad been able to save this amount out of his meagreincome by living frugally and never wastinganything. “I could have spent all this on lavishwedding celebrations,” he added, “but I preferredto hand it over to you young people so that youcould make a good beginning in life.”The young couple were extremely grateful for thisdecision and lost no time in investing the money ina small business. To begin with they had to workvery hard to make a success of it, and passedthrough various difficult stages. But they never lostcourage, and a time eventually came when they hadconsiderably increased their profits and were ableto live a happy, comfortable life. Knowing, too, thattheir children’s future was assured. But without thescholar’s initial providence, foresight and couragein resisting public opinion, they might never have ~ 55 ~
  55. 55. The Moral Vision Getting off to a Good Start.had the wherewithal to make a start in life at all andmight well have ended their days in penury.One’s wedding is a very serious event in life, notjust an occasion for senseless showing off. It israther a day to shoulder life’s responsibilities asmature, grown-up people and future parents. It is aday for a man and a woman to enter into a ‘firmcontract’ (Qur’an, 4:21), not just an opportunity toimpress friends, neighbours and relatives withone’s spending ability. It is at all events advisablethat the marriage ceremony should be simple andstraightforward, thereby avoiding pointlessexpenditure. Before anyone spends his entire life’ssavings, on gaudy displays—for money, after all ishard earned and difficult to accumulate—he shouldreflect seriously on the above-mentioned incident.All things considered, would it not be better toavoid ostentation altogether and to think of howbest one can help the young couple concerned? Ifthis practice were to become widely adopted, itwould not only benefit young people in general, butwould actually make a positive contribution tonational construction. The millions of rupees which ~ 56 ~
  56. 56. The Moral Vision Getting off to a Good Start.are habitually lavished on short-lived magnificencecould then be channelized into areas of the nationaleconomy which are at present unfairly neglected,thus creating favourable conditions for generaleconomic uplift. ~ 57 ~
  57. 57. The Moral Vision Planting the Tree of the NationPLANTING THE TREE OF THENATIONThe former U.S. President, John F. Kennedy,referring to Lyautey, once remarked: “I once asked my gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. I replied, “In that a case there is no time to lose, plant it in the afternoon...” Chartered Account, New Delhi, 79. (Supplement)The growth and development of a nation is likewisea lengthy affair, and there has to be a tremendousinput at both the individual and national levelsbefore it finally bursts into blossom and finds theposition of honour and glory that it merits in worldaffairs. But to one who points who out that no onecan wait for a national policy to mature if it is goingto take a hundred years, the only answer is: “In thatcase, we cannot afford to lose even a single ~ 58 ~
  58. 58. The Moral Vision Planting the Tree of the Nationmoment. We must plant our ‘tree’ this veryminute”.If it takes a mighty tree one hundred years to reachits full stature, whoever wishes to possess such atree has no option but to tend it for that period. Ifinstead of nurturing it with care and skill, peoplecome out on to the streets and launch a strikecampaign in the name of trees, or gather in someopen place or march through the streets shoutingslogans about it, they will never possess a singletree, less own an orchard.Similarly, you cannot own a house by makingeloquent speeches about the need for one. It wouldbe the crassest stupidity to do so. Neither can anation fortify itself by working miracles only in thefield of politics. In the rarefied world of poetry,revolution can occur as a result of a mere play onwords. A demagogue can make impassionedspeeches and attract great crowds. But real resultscan be achieved only by long-term planning andcontinuing and dedicated effort. ~ 59 ~
  59. 59. The Moral Vision Planting the Tree of the NationNeedless to say, the two great virtues which areindispensable in the struggle are patience andfortitude. ~ 60 ~
  60. 60. The Moral Vision Bearing FruitBEARING FRUITThe business of planting an orchard does not beginwith the holding of an orchard conference. No,indeed. It begins by obtaining seedlings andproviding every single one with such favourableconditions as will enable it to develop its potentialand grow into a fully developed tree. When one hasdone this with innumerable seedlings, one can thenexpect to have an orchard.In this respect, a nation is somewhat like anorchard. Build the individual and you build thenation. If hidden potential is to be developed, ittakes education, encouragement, and the provisionof a proper environment at an individual level veryearly on in the whole process, just as a sapling mustbe put into well prepared ground and given theright type and quantity of nutrients, water, sunlight,etc. If people are properly instructed, while they arestill young and receptive and by people who adopta caring, positive attitude, they develop a healthyawareness of what their commitments to societyshould be and what it means to be part of a nation.If callow youths are to be turned into real men, they ~ 61 ~
  61. 61. The Moral Vision Bearing Fruithave to have the feeling inculcated in them that toachieve positive ends they must continually keepup a peaceful and ameliorative struggle, one whichwill create harmony and eschew conflict, one whichwill solve, and not create problems for their fellowmen.Although we must accept the fact that this is ahighly competitive world, there is nothing toprevent us from endeavouring to cooperate withand encourage cooperation from others. If we standshoulder to shoulder with our fellow men in theface of the most heartless rivalries, there is noobstacle that we cannot overcome, no peril that wecannot face. But if we do not see to it that such ideasare propagated and accepted among people in theirformative years, we cannot expect to find manywho will be willing to cooperate. No matter howbasically good the fruit trees in our orchard are,they will not blossom and bear fruit unless they areconsistently well tended. ~ 62 ~
  62. 62. The Moral Vision Good EggGOOD EGGLook at an egg from the outside. It appears to bewholesome and good. This may be so, but it is notuntil we break the shell that we find out whether itis really good or bad.The same is true of many human beings today. It isnot until their outer shell is pierced that we come toknow the truth about them, Their bodies swaddledin elegant clothes, their ideas couched in eloquentwords, they strike us as being fine creatures indeed.But under the finest veneer there can lurk an ugly,repulsive character. It is not until one gets close andhas dealings with such a person that onediscovers—particularly when there is a clash ofinterest—how uninspiring is the reality. Behind thegentlemanly facade lies a bundle of selfishness,cheapness, affectation, pride, prejudice,exploitativeness and arrogance. Challenge such aperson’s interests, and we see him in his truecolours. No good egg he!In the vast morass of conflict which exists in theworld today, it often seems that it is the hypocrite ~ 63 ~
  63. 63. The Moral Vision Good Eggwho remains supreme, the one who manages toproject himself as the “good egg” to the rest of theworld.But this state of affairs can never last. The time isfast approaching when man will be ushered intoanother world where all hypocrisy will fall away,and all power will rest, not in the hand of man, butof God. ~ 64 ~
  64. 64. The Moral Vision Road BlockROAD BLOCKWhen a road is under repair, a notice bearing thewords “Road Closed” is put up to warn unwarytravellers. But this does not mean that the path toone’s destination is irrevocably barred. There arealways other highways and by-ways—it is just aquestion of looking around for them. Sometimesone can reach one’s destination just as well by zig-zagging through narrow lanes and alley-ways. Theonly difference is that this takes somewhat longer,and one has to keep one’s wits about one tonegotiate narrower roadways and sharper turnings.But arrive one finally does.Life’s journey is very often like this. One would liketo proceed by broad straight routes, moving fastand reaching one’s goal in the most direct possibleway. But, so often such roads are blocked, andachieving success begins to seem a very difficultmatter. But for every major route which is blocked,there are always several minor roads which areopen. It is just a question of having to go aboutthings in a roundabout way. This is particularlytrue if you meet with an adversary and feel that you ~ 65 ~
  65. 65. The Moral Vision Road Blockare unable to confront him head-on. It is then thatyou must find some indirect means of dealing withhim. Often compromise or adjustment is the bestsolution.When in one particular field there seems to be adiscouraging lack of opportunities, one cancertainly search for and find opportunities in someother field. When you fail to find a place foryourself in the front row, you can always make dowith one in the rear, until a place up ahead finallyfalls vacant for you. When you cannot find peopleto extend a helping hand to you, press on fearlesslyand strike out on your own. When you need thingsfrom people to help you on in life and no one seemsready to be generous, stop thinking of howdeprived you are and try instead to earn God’sblessings.For every closed door, there is always anotherwhich is open—but only to those who have the eyesto see it, and the courage to march through it. ~ 66 ~
  66. 66. The Moral Vision Unlocking the Gates to SuccessUNLOCKING THE GATES TO SUCCESSThe guest struggled desperately to open the lock,and as he went on and on twisting and twisting andturning the key, and trying to jerk the lock open, hisvexation finally turned to fury. “This lock isdefective!” he shouted to anyone who cared tolisten. Then he muttered under his breath that hishost had been a fool to buy such a lock. The next tohave his wrath vented on it was the lock-makingindustry, which produced worthless goods, notcaring whether they worked or not and not caringwhether people were put to trouble or not. Theirbusiness was only to make money out ofunsuspecting consumers! By this time he was at theend of his tether and had decided he was going tobreak it open with a hammer. Just then, his hostarrived and tried the key in the lock himself. “Oh,I’m so sorry!” he exclaimed.” I quite forgot I hadchanged this lock, but I just momentarily forgot,and gave you the wrong key.” He then producedthe right key and the lock opened instantly. So theguest’s ire had been quite misdirected and he hadultimately achieved nothing by it except reducehimself to a state of utter exhaustion. ~ 67 ~
  67. 67. The Moral Vision Unlocking the Gates to SuccessHow many latter-day Muslims find themselves inthis sorry predicament, faced as they are with oneimpasse after another, finding areas which theyurgently need to enter, difficult of access, nay,impenetrable, because the way is barred by locks towhich they have the wrong keys. This modern agehas changed the locks to life’s doors, but we stillcarry the same old keys around with us, hopefullyfitting them here and there, staring inincomprehension when locks do not snap open forus, and then frittering away our energies insenseless rage. We curse first of all the lock-makers,then the environment. But it is all to no avail,because you just cannot unlock new locks with oldkeys.Our leaders, in their frustration, have thought fit toidentify certain “enemies of Islam” and to trace alltheir woes to them—as if they were the solepurveyors of these impregnable locks. But in thisworld of God, there is no attitude more insensatethan this. Here, if we feel deprived and thwarted, itis because we are already suffering the punishmentsfor our own negligence and shortcomings. In thisworld, most of our afflictions are due to our failure ~ 68 ~
  68. 68. The Moral Vision Unlocking the Gates to Successto live up to the standard of the times. The day werealize how much we are out of step withmodernity, we shall be in a position to remove allobstacles from our path. We must fit the right keysto the locks on life’s gates, and all avenues will openbefore us. ~ 69 ~
  69. 69. The Moral Vision Working TogetherWORKING TOGETHERIn the days of the steam engine, the engine drivershad no option but to stand at close quarters to ablazing fire. It was all part of being an enginedriver, and without that no train could have run.Much the same thing happens to the individualswho make things go in civic life. They areconfronted by the blazing fire of their own anger atother members of society.They rage at wrongdoers, cheats and shirkers, bothreal and imagined. But just as the engine drivercontrols both the fire which drives the engine andhis own desire to escape from it, so must theindividual in society tame both his own fury and adesire simply to run away from adverse situations.If a society is to hold together and function inharmony, individuals must learn to bear with thosewho oppose and hurt them. There is no group ofpeople in which differences of opinion do not arise;no group in which there are never feelings ofgrievance and resentment. It would, indeed, beunrealistic to expect that everything should be plainsailing. ~ 70 ~
  70. 70. The Moral Vision Working TogetherHow then can people live and work together? How,with seemingly irreconcilable differences betweenindividuals, can society be welded into a cohesivewhole? There is only one-way: people must burytheir differences and agree to disagree. But this canhappen only if people react coolly and rationally indifficult situations where relations are strained andthere seems no way out of the dilemma. It canhappen only if people are fully aware of theirresponsibilities towards others, as individuals, andtowards their community as a whole.This may seem to be asking the impossible. But thisis not so. Every individual does these things in themost natural way within his own domestic circle. Inquite normal families, differences of opinion occuralmost every day, but the bonds of love and kinshipprevail and grievances are all finally buried. It is inthis way that a family holds together. Every home isa practical example of people agreeing to disagree.This spirit of give and take, which is a matter ofinstinct in a family, is something which can emergein a community only through conscious effort onthe part of its members. While it is all emotional ~ 71 ~
  71. 71. The Moral Vision Working Togetherbond that keeps families from disintegrating, it is arational effort which cements society, constrainingits members to hold together despite all differences. ~ 72 ~
  72. 72. The Moral Vision In the Nick of TimeIN THE NICK OF TIMEA medical college professor, putting a studentthrough an oral examination, asked him, “Howmany of these pills would you give to a man whohad suffered a heart attack?” “Four,” replied thestudent. A minute later, he piped up, “Professor,can I change my answer?” “You can, by all means,”said the professor, looking at his watch. “But,regrettably, your patient has already been dead for40 seconds.”Certain matters in life are so critical that theyrequire the appropriate step to be taken without amoment’s hesitation. But an instant decision mustalso be a correct one, otherwise the consequencescould be drastic, and could mean a lifetime ofrepentance.Our moments of decision-making are often verysimilar to our attempts to board a train. Catching atrain requires preparation. We have to pack up ourluggage, making sure we take the right things withus, buy a ticket, arrange transport to take us to thestation and we must, of course already be on the ~ 73 ~
  73. 73. The Moral Vision In the Nick of Timeplatform at the appointed time, otherwise we aresurely going to be left behind. For the train is norespecter of persons. It arrives on time and departson time, and pays no heed whatsoever to tardypassengers. If we are like the medical student whowas caught on the wrong foot because of lack ofpreparation and who was much too late with thecorrect answer, the train of life will go on itsscheduled course and we shall be left standing,wondering what to do next and how to avert thedisastrous consequences of our failure to get onboard. It is, therefore, necessary to be prepared forall eventualities in life. That means assiduouslyacquiring a good education and losing no time ingaining useful experience relevant to our chosenoccupations. It above all requires a mental andphysical readiness to seize opportunities when theycome our way, and to be firm of purpose, neverpermitting one’s energy to be frittered away inpointless vacillation. (116:2) ~ 74 ~
  74. 74. The Moral Vision The Human PersonalityTHE HUMAN PERSONALITYIf from a vessel containing water a single drop isfound to be brackish, it means that all of the liquidis undrinkable. We need sample only one drop toknow with certainty what the rest will be like. Muchthe same is true of the human personality. It is likean over brimming vessel which keeps on sheddingdrops for other people to savour, to find sweet orbrackish as the case may be. Small instances of anindividual’s behaviour and quite short interludes inhis company are generally sufficient to tell us whathis overall personality is like—unless we aredealing with the greatest of dissemblers! Athoughtless remark, an unfair manoeuvre, a failureto give much-needed sympathy or support, adevious transaction—all these are the plainindicators, like those brackish drops of water fromthe larger vessel, which indicate the lack of integrityor callousness of the person you are dealing with.The human personality has the same homogeneityas water. A single human weakness cannottherefore be considered in isolation, as if it were anexception. It has to be looked upon as being ~ 75 ~
  75. 75. The Moral Vision The Human Personalityrepresentative of the entire personality. If anindividual proves unreliable in one matter, he islikely to evince the same unreliability in othermatters; if he is guilty of untrustworthiness on oneoccasion, the chances are that this trait will show uptime and time again.There is only one kind of person who is anexception to that rule, and that is the one whosubjects his own behaviour to constant re-appraisal,who is continually scrutinizing himself forweaknesses and faults and who, once having foundsuch faults, wastes no time in rooting them out.A man who has made a mistake can completelyerase the marks of what is an unfortunateexperience for others by admitting his mistake andbegging forgiveness. Some people are pricked bytheir consciences, but do nothing to assuage theruffled feelings of others, thinking that to do sowould be sheer weakness and would mean a loss offace. Such people can never have healthy socialrelationships and can never win the respect of theirfellow men. They do not realize that a man displays ~ 76 ~
  76. 76. The Moral Vision The Human Personalityhis true mettle when he sees his own wrong actionsfor what they are, and humbly asks forgiveness.It is only he who has learned the art of moralintrospection who will, in the long run, provehimself a person of inviolable integrity. ~ 77 ~
  77. 77. The Moral Vision ConcentrationCONCENTRATIONCharles Darwin (1809-1882) one of most famousthinkers of modern times, (although the writer doesnot agree with his views) played a major part in theintellectual formation of modern man.Darwin achieved this position of eminence in themodern world by dint of exceptionally hard work.The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1984) says of him:“All his mental energy was focussed on his subjectand that was why poetry, pictures and musicceased in his mature life to afford him the pleasurethat they had given him in his earlier days.” (5/495).Such intellectual concentration is vital to peakachievement in any field, be it right or wrong. Manhas to be so engrossed in his work that everythingelse pales into insignificance beside it. Unlesseverything else loses its interest for him, he cannotclimb to any great heights of success. If we examinethe lives of the truly great, we find that they allworked in the same dedicated way. ~ 78 ~
  78. 78. The Moral Vision ConcentrationIn any task of greater or lesser complexity, there arealways aspects of it which present problems whichappear at first sight to be insoluble. Sometimesinnumerable facts have to be marshaled which canbe interpreted only with the keenest of insight.Often a mysterious, elusive factor emerges just at apoint when one thinks that all questions have beenanswered. Such difficulties can be overcome, andsuch secrets unveiled only when one’s totalintellectual capacity is directed towards theunraveling of the mystery. Without the utmostdevotion and one hundred per cent concentration,success will remain forever beyond one’s grasp(125:20). ~ 79 ~
  79. 79. The Moral Vision A Shaft of LightA SHAFT OF LIGHTThe owner of a transport business once foundhimself in weak and vulnerable position because,for technical reasons, he had once had one of hisvehicles registered in the name of another personseveral years before, and that person still held itslicense. The license holder decided one fine day thathe would take possession of the vehicle himself,and that its real owner would have to make do witha paltry sum of money in exchange. The ownernaturally felt that the most dreadful injustice wasbeing done to him and, greatly incensed, he wasdetermined to have his revenge. Night and day helived in a frenzy, thinking of ways and means toeliminate his enemy. Truly he wished to crush himlike an insect. For six long months he lived in thisstate of morbid preoccupation, losing all interest inhis home and his business, and becoming, finally,like the ghost of his former self. Then, one day, hehad an experience which changed the course of hislife. As he was pacing up and down one of thestreets of the town where he lived, lost in black,vengeful fantasies, he heard the unmistakablesounds of someone making a speech before a large ~ 80 ~
  80. 80. The Moral Vision A Shaft of Lightgathering. Curious, and for once drawn out ofhimself, he approached the gathering of people andbegan to listen to the speaker. He was suddenlystruck by what he was saying: “Think well beforetaking revenge, for you too shall suffer thevengeance of others.” It was as if a shaft of brightlight had suddenly penetrated his mind and witheach example that the speaker gave to drive homehis point, he felt himself turn into a new person. Hedecided there and then to give up his negative wayof thinking, in fact, to forget the whole sorryepisode, and to devote his time and energy to hisfamily and his business. The full realization hadcome to him that it was on himself that he hadinflicted suffering and not on his enemy, and that itwas best to leave such matters to God. In beginningto think in this way, he found that; bit-by-bit, hewas once again able to make a constructiveapproach to things and it was not long before hebecame more successful than he had ever been. Inpursuing positive ends he had also attained peaceof mind, and that, for him, had been the mostimportant thing of all. ~ 81 ~
  81. 81. The Moral Vision Narrow-MindednessNARROW-MINDEDNESSAccording to La Rochefoucauld: “Mediocre spiritsgenerally condemn everything that exceeds theirsmall stature.” Perceiving this common humanfailing, a modern poet implores people: “Don’tcriticize what you can’t understand.”The trouble is, people tend to judge matters on howthey affect their own selves. They are quick tosupport anything which improves their ownposition, or at least does not downgrade them inany way. But when something appears threateningto their own position, they oppose it, regardless ofits intrinsic worth.Take, for example, the case of our Arabic madrasahs(schools) functioning in the Indian sub-continent.Generally, they include a course in ancientAristotelian logic in their syllabus. We say “logic,”or that is the name by which this science is known,but it would be more accurate to call it “illogic”.What is taught in the name of logic has nothing todo with true logic. It is not conducive to the logicalpresentation of Islam vis-à-vis modern education. ~ 82 ~
  82. 82. The Moral Vision Narrow-MindednessThe administrative authorities of one such Arabicschool decided unanimously to withdraw all text-books on classical logic from their syllabus. A newcourse in philosophy was to be prepared,conforming to modern academic standards.Unfortunately, however, they were unable toimplement this decision. Why? Because the professorof logic in their institution opposed it tooth and nail.As he was a senior teacher in the school, theadministrators were unable to go against his wishes.One does not have to look far to see the reason forthis opposition. This professor only had aknowledge of classical logic; he had no knowledgeof modern philosophy. He feared that if classicallogic were taken out of the syllabus, he himselfwould lose his status in the institution. He would beleft like a teacher who knew only French, trying toget his point across in a school where the mediumof instruction was Arabic. In this case, it was verysmall-minded of him to allow his own feelings ofprofessional insecurity to stand in the way ofmodernization. ~ 83 ~
  83. 83. The Moral Vision Another Day! How WonderfulANOTHER DAY! HOW WONDERFUL“When you wake up in the morning, jump out ofbed and shout, ‘Great! Another Day!’ you aresuccess.” This was a view expressed by a prominentbusinessman, but it could very well be the scholar,the sage, the ascetic, depending upon how youinterpret success. Anyone, in fact, who regards thenew day with such optimism is surely well-equipped, mentally and emotionally, to tacklewhatever life has in store for him. But, whether weregard the appearance of the new day as one morejoyful occasion for work or not, can we honestly saythat we have ever stopped to ponder over themiraculous aspect of day following night, for alleternity, as a result of the earth rotating on its axisand of the sun’s never ceasing to flood with life-giving light our ever-changing hemisphere? Havewe ever thought of this alternation of day and nightas a totally unique occurrence, and of this all beingpart of the divine pattern which produces suchadvantageous conditions for human existence?Nowhere in the universe, in fact, are there primeconditions such as we have on earth for theemergence and development of life as we know it. ~ 84 ~
  84. 84. The Moral Vision Another Day! How WonderfulOther heavenly bodies are either too hot, too cold,too gaseous, too windswept or too fiery, or can belike Jupiter and the moon, proceeding in theirrespective orbits without rotating on their axes, sothat one half of the globe is permanentlyilluminated while the other is for ever plunged indarkness. The denizen of such a sphere would haveno rising sun to stir his enthusiasm and no peacefulsunset to signal the moment for rest. He wouldhave no periods of vigour and achievementalternating with soothing periods of repose. For thehuman being, accustomed to his diurnal-nocturnalalternation, such an existence would be one of utterstaleness and weariness, with no refreshment everin sight. Yet this pattern, to which all living thingson earth have been attuned from time immemorial,is something which we take for granted, and forwhich we do not consider it necessary to offer upour thanks. But this unique ordering of day andnight is God’s own doing, for the especial benefit ofman, and we would do well never to lose sight ofwhat an extraordinary blessing it is. (116:15) ~ 85 ~
  85. 85. The Moral Vision When One is Broken in TwoWHEN ONE IS BROKEN IN TWOWhen an inanimate object, such as a piece of wood,is broken in two, it remains broken. Never again canit remould itself into one piece. Animate objects,however, live on even after breakages. When onelive amoeba is cut in two, it turns into two liveamoebae.This is surely a sign from God, showing us thewealth of opportunity that God has kept in store forus live human beings in this world. For a humanbeing, no defeat is final, no disaster permanentlycrippling. As an animate being, no human can befinally shattered for, when broken, its every piece iswelded again into a new, live being, if anything,more formidable than before.For a human being, failure is not failure at all, for itonly serves to make one into a more profound,thoughtful person. Obstacles present no hindrance,for they open up new avenues of intellectualadvance. Setbacks do not stunt one’s growth, foreven if one is crushed into many small pieces, each ~ 86 ~
  86. 86. The Moral Vision When One is Broken in Twopiece in its own right has the capacity to form thebuilding blocks of an entirely new being.Such are the never-ending possibilities which Godhas created for man in this world, but it is only onewho is alive to these possibilities who can benefitfrom them, gathering and marshalling his resourcesafter some shattering setback. When he tastesdefeat, he does not lose heart, but prepares himselfto issue a new challenge. He builds anew hisshipwrecked boat, and, aboard it, sets out onceagain on his voyage through life (118:9). ~ 87 ~
  87. 87. The Moral Vision Destined for Great DeedsDESTINED FOR GREAT DEEDSOne always finds two types of people in the world.On the one hand, there are those who wantimmediate reward for all that they do, with theirrecompense exceeding the work they have put in.Then there are those who are not out for anymaterial reward. The knowledge that they havecontributed in some way to a worthwhile cause issufficient reward for them. If they receive norecompense for their efforts, it does not cause themconcern or arouse their anger. They play their part,it does not adversely affect their personalcontribution, so engrossed are they in the cause forwhich they are working.Outwardly, both groups appear the same, but inreality there is a world of difference between thetwo. Besides their superficial similarity, the twohave nothing in common. The first group, onemight say, keep the markets of the world turningover, while the second group turn over new pagesin human history. Such is the extent to which thetwo differ. ~ 88 ~
  88. 88. The Moral Vision Destined for Great DeedsIt is the second group who make meaningful,valuable contributions to the betterment ofhumanity, for it is they who are able to join in acommon struggle, without which no worthwhilework can be achieved in this world. Whenever anumber of people work together for a commongoal, it is inevitable that some should receive morecredit than others. Some are hailed for theirachievements, while others are denied allrecognition. This is true of all movements, whetherpopular or prophetic in nature. There is only oneway for a common effort to prosper, and that is bypeople forgetting about their rights, andremembering only their responsibilities.Unless there is a spirit of selfless struggle amongthose participating in a common cause, it is not onlythose who receive no recompense who will feel ill-treated. Even those who are rewarded for theircontribution will feel that they have not been donejustice. Seldom does the reward a person receivesfor his efforts live up to his expectations. It is a caseof either being satisfied with nothing, or neverbeing satisfied at all. ~ 89 ~
  89. 89. The Moral Vision Destined for Great DeedsThose who are destined to perform great deeds inlife are those who do not seek any reward for whatthey have done; the very fact that they have donesomething is sufficient reward for them. Theknowledge that they have played their part isenough to make them content, even more so thanthose who have been abundantly rewarded for theirefforts. ~ 90 ~
  90. 90. The Moral Vision In Giving We ReceiveIN GIVING WE RECEIVEAccording to Time Magazine of October 17, 1986,her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had long voiced adesire to visit the People’s Republic of China. But aslong as Britain ruled a piece of Chinese territory, thecrown colony of Hong Kong, such a journey wasimpossible. The 1984 Sino-British agreementreturning Hong Kong to China in 1997 provided theprice of admission (p. 22).Returning Hong Kong to the mainland was no easytask, for it amounted to losing a jewel from theBritish Crown, but it was clear that the BritishMonarch’s desire to visit China was notunconnected with Britain’s avidity for trade withthat country and, obviously, the ensuing gainswould be immense. Relations between Britain andChina had been uneasy over the last hundred years,but with the Queen’s historic visit—the first evermade to China by a member of a British Royalfamily—the gates to trade were thrown open. Asuccessful piece of diplomacy, it paved the way toan annual trade agreement of over one and a halfbillion dollars. ~ 91 ~
  91. 91. The Moral Vision In Giving We ReceiveA jewel may have been lost from the crown, but thesubsequent benefits will be enormous. Clearly, wehave to give in order to take. That is the way of theworld. ~ 92 ~
  92. 92. The Moral Vision How Do You Win the Nobel Prize?HOW DO YOU WIN THE NOBELPRIZE?Nobel Laureate Professor Abdus Salam touredseveral Indian cities in 1986, and in one of thespeeches he made (The Times of India, 16 January,1986), he cited South Korea as an example ofextraordinarily rapid national development. Hesaid that about 15 years ago, the gross nationalproduct per capita there was equal to that of India,but that thanks to the efforts the Koreans had made,it was now many times more. Giving the example ofthe team who had come from South Korea toTrieste, in Italy, where he resides, to find out fromhim how Nobel Prizes were won, he said that asimilar spirit needed to be inculcated in the peopleof the Third World. He felt that it was this questingspirit which was the basis for all progress, be it ofan individual or of a nation, and that this was trueof progress both in this world and in the worldhereafter.All too often a process of stagnation sets in in theaffairs of a nation. It would appear that an impassehad been reached. Instead of effort, there is inertia. ~ 93 ~
  93. 93. The Moral Vision How Do You Win the Nobel Prize?When this stage is reached, a nation begins totumble in disarray down the ladder of progresstowards the lowermost rung and it is only theseekers, the strivers, who can pull it upwards fromsuch an ignominious position and set it back on thepath of progress. It is only the questing spirit whichcan put it right back up on the topmost rung of theladder of progress. ~ 94 ~

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