Saturday, June 9, 2012

Seven Cs of Seeking Knowledge

Part of a speech by Dr. Tariq Ramadan at the ISNA 2010 Convention on the priority of seeking knowledge, and seven important Cs to keep in mind.
Students, be careful!
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asking "O Allah, we are asking you useful knowledge”.
By meaning this you have to understand that knowledge is but a means. Never worship knowledge.
Use knowledge as a means towards Allah, but don’t start by worshiping knowledge per se. If you are doing this you are going to be used or misled. You know what the Chinese proverb says? “When the wise man is pointing out to the moon, the crazy guy is looking at the finger”; the foolish is looking at the finger.
Worship Allah and use your knowledge in order to worship better. But don’t be obsessed with your non-stop desire to gain knowledge and the idea that if someone has knowledge you are going to respect him not as a means towards Allah but as someone you start to hold as sacred or worshipping. This is wrong.
Scholars are at the Service of Their Communities
The scholars of this community are at the service of their community. Why?
Because they are showing the path towards Allah. We are all here to worship not to serve ourselves or to be served by the community. And the only one who can help the scholars to be like this, and especially you, is really to come to this: to change your attitudes towards your scholars. You have to change your attitude by questioning, by respecting but with a critical approach, because at the end of the day we will have what we deserve. This community will have the scholars they deserve, because if you are not asking for answers, if you are not coming with deep questions you will have superficial answers.
So at the end, the authority of the scholars is at the level of the questioning of the community. So this is the job of at least the students. If you are a student in the United States of America or in North America, you are to come with this critical mind; the critical distance not to be emotional and to try to understand to come with this spiritual intelligence. So this is something which is a challenge for us today. You have to use the skills of questioning to come within the Muslim community and to do the same. 
we are not seeking knowledge to be served. We are not seeking knowledge for our ego
There is a conflict of egos. Can I tell you something? Sometimes when I come to some of these big gatherings like this one, and I’m leaving in 2 hours, but I’m not always happy with myself and I’m not always happy with my brothers and sisters because sometimes I feel that there is some conflicts of egos. And I can tell you something that sometimes makes me sad which is that sometimes I’m talking about following the footsteps of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and I’m feeling that the people who are leaving sometimes may have to come back to the essential of what it means to follow. Because it’s really disturbing that we have to come to this understanding of what it means.
So we are not seeking knowledge to be served. We are not seeking knowledge for our ego. We are not seeking knowledge for making money or having positions. These are not the intentions that are so important. So for all of us, you are coming to this convention here. Some of you are students, ask the vary essential questions from the very beginning: What is your intention? What do you want to do with this? Why are you here? Why are you here while many people can’t come with us, many people are not here and many would like to be with us, you are here, so what are you doing to do with all what you are listening here tomorrow or the day after tomorrow?
There’s something which is the staring point of what we have to do. Can I tell you something that at the level of your freedom here in the west, at the level of your potential access to books, to libraries and bookshops and internet? “We are not reading enough”. We are not involved in education enough. You have books you don’t read.
Be careful, these conventions are dangerous if you take them only to come every year and you think that you have done the job and that by coming here you get some knowledge. This is very superficial. This could be fashion. This could be new trends. You need to come here to nurture your heart and your mind with questions because tomorrow you have to go back to books.
What I’m here for is just to give you the sense that you need more knowledge, you have to come back home, take books and start working. It’s a gathering to give you a sense of the need for more knowledge. Come back home and buy books and try to make your mind. If this is your contribution, the level of literacy even among the people reading in the United States of America, in Europe now is lower and lower every year. The people read less. What is your contribution? You have the Quran saying “Read in the name of your Lord,” you have to read and read many books, but we are not doing that.
So we want superficial commitment to our religion. This is heavy. “We will reveal to you heavy words.” It’s all about knowledge. If you want to change the world, change your mind, build your mind, build your intellect.                    
Muslims Should Go by The 7 Cs
consistency is important coming with our critical mind. Questioning our behavior in the name of our principles
The first one is confidence. Be confident. This is your religion, it’s coming from Allah. Put your trust on Him and just be confident. Confident means don’t react,“when the ignorant address them, they say, "Peace!". My confidence is not my aggressiveness. My confidence is my calm, my tranquility, my well-being. I’m not going to react. This is one: confidence.
The second one is consistency. Consistency means that Islam is great but not all Muslims are great and good. Consistency means that we should acknowledge the failures. We should acknowledge our weaknesses. We should acknowledge that some Muslims are not doing well. So this consistency is important coming with our critical mind. Questioning our behavior in the name of our principles.
The third one is communication. Be vocal in this society. Can I tell you something? We are in societies where critical debates are now being removed from the picture. You have to come in conferences organizing debates, but not only in Islam, debates on anything: Sociology, social problems, racism, or global warming. Organize debates. Be people who promote intellectual creativity. Be people in this society who come up with ideas and creativity. Organize debates in schools and in universities, and not only about Islam, because we give the impression to the people that we only care about Islam and Muslims. It’s as if the others are not important. We have to come with communication.
The fourth C is contribution. Our presence is a gift, we have to contribute.
The fifth C is creativity. In arts, I would like in this room to have people coming and writing novels. Writing poetry. Be able to promote something which is an “American Islamic arts” in this society with our ethics. You have skills. Be involved in this. The Muslim community needs that.
Contestation is the sixth C; to be able to say NO. If you are loyal to your country you have to be critically loyal to your country. There is no blind loyalty. You should be able to say to your government “What you are doing for example in Afghanistan and Iraq and not supporting the Palestinian rights is wrong.” You should be able to say this with confidence.
But when I’m coming here and I can see in one gathering that some of the students can’t ask the questions they want because we are directing the questions, then there is something wrong in our freedom here. When I see that sometimes we are directing the political thinking because we want something to be said and something else not to be said I say “I’m sorry, I’m not going to accept this.” I can tell you this here: I’ll never accept to come to the States if the price to pay is that I have to be quiet on the Palestinian issue. I prefer never to come here then to be quiet on this. Because this is just wrong. Think about it. It’s very easy to show that you are courageous, but to be courageous and to do the job in your daily life is the thing. Never keep quiet on injustices against the Muslims and also against the Tibetans or against the African people in Congo where people are being killed.
The last C is the very essence of our discussion here “Compassion”. Please brothers and sisters at the end of the day all these thoughts should be within an envelope. Forgive and be compassionate. Spread love around you and let the people understand that at the end all what we are trying to do is to spread peace, and that’s something which is always to be said for us. It’s difficult to be a Muslim, but please remain positive.
Keep on the good spirit insha-‘Allah, wa tawakalu `ala Allah.     

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