Respecting and Trusting the Group Intellect: A Critical Component of Faith – Pt. 2
[This is part two of a presentation delivered in April 2004 before visiting dignitaries and leaders from Afghanistan as part of an official U.S. State Department visit. The presentation’s purpose was to compare the elements of democracy established in Islam with the compatible values of representative democracy established in modern American society. The issues of diversity, tolerance, and pluralism are pragmatic characteristics of a more fundamental issue for all: How society values, respects and utilizes its group intellect. The remarks include how our U.S. Constitution and other founding documents reflect Qur’anic principles of leadership and responsible government.]
“By the soul and the proportion and order given to it; and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right…” The Noble Qur’an: Sura Shams, Ayah 7
“O my Lord! bestow wisdom on me, and join me with the righteous…” َThe Noble Quran: Ash-Shu`arā’ Ayah 83
(Con’t -from Part I)…What are some of the actions that typify a loss of faith in the group intellect:
1.Subjugating half of the group intellect by gender and denying them even the right to literacy, much less an education.
2. Subjugating other parts of the group intellect and denying them a voice in the affairs of state based on their color, caste, and religion.
3.Failing to prioritize the allocation of the public treasury to make education affordable at all levels (from pre-school through graduate education) to all citizens.
4. Succeeding to governing leadership by genetic birth right and essentially espousing the de facto declaration that only those who come from my loins are wise and sincere enough to lead.
5. Investing more in prisons than in education.
The list above is not all-inclusive. Are there signs in your masjid that the group intellect can’t be trusted? Are there signs in our national Islamic community life that the group intellect can’t be trusted? Are there signs in the international ummah that the group intellect can’t be trusted?
Now think about the consequences of the actions above. Think about the consequences over time of the wasted human intellect. The UNCF’s familiar slogan is quite appropriate that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” What about a billion minds?
You know, as Americans and as citizens in the West, we pride ourselves on the level of development we have achieved as a nation or civilization. But what are we comparing ourselves to?…The answer, most likely, is we’re comparing ourselves to historical empires or dynasties, or present industrialized countries or the undeveloped nations. Such comparisons have their place.
But, where could we be as a nation if every child had the opportunity to get an education through graduate school? Where could we be if women and ethnic minority populations had equal access to leadership across the spectrum without unfair discrimination?
What is the opportunity cost of the resulting underutilization of the gross intellectual capacity that is simply dissipated because of arrogance and ignorance which by the way feed upon each other? That is, my arrogance won’t allow me to see you as a powerful intellectual capacitor, so I remain ignorant of your abilities and capacity to not only solve problems, to be a creator (small “c”) of new opportunities.
How much further would our society be and the whole world if we had greater respect and appreciation for and trust in the group intellect?
Why “One learned man is harder on Satan than a thousand ignorant worshippers”
“G-d hath not created anything better than Reason, or anything more perfect, or more beautiful than Reason; the benefits which G-d giveth are on its account; and understanding is by it, and G-d’s wrath is caused by disregard of it.” –The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)
Our Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) gave us this paradigm that one learned man is harder on Satan than a thousand ignorant worshippers. How can that be? Worshippers have faith! Faith in Who…faith in G-d. But what makes them ignorant is that they don’t have faith in the greatest gift that G-d has given them for the management of their lives as Khalifa (Vicegerents on the earth)..they don’t have faith in the intellect and not only the individual intellect, but the group intellect–each other…they don’t have faith in the group intellect.
And when you don’t have faith in the group intellect, darkness stays upon the face of the deep and there cannot be light. And the first verse of Qur’an: Read in the Name of thy Lord and Cherisher cannot be fully fulfilled; and the Kingdom will not come and His Will not be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Remember, G-d does not change the condition of a people until they first change what is in their hearts (The Noble Qur’an: Sura Ar-Ra`d, Ayah 11). The change in the heart however is just the beginning stage of change that can remake the world. The beginning stage of faith in our ability to make social change and to create a just balance in society begins with at least a feeling in the heart against wrong and injustice. But we can’t stop there. In time, you have to speak out against wrong and then you have to do something against wrong. And the “you” I speak of is the you plural..it’s you and me. Certainly the social proclamation comes from a single person initially, but true, lasting, and fundamental change comes when the group emerges and coheres for progress based on faith in G-d and faith in one another.
Satan doesn’t want any of us (Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) to have faith in G-d. But I believe we have arrived at the time where Satan is content to let the strong believer have faith in G-d. Satan just doesn’t want you to have faith in one another and in one another’s ability…in one another’s heart and just as important, one another’s intellect.
If we want to be a model family, a model masjid and community, a model nation and global community, then we must dismantle the paradigm that the group intellect is some sort of zero-sum game of “have” and “have nots,” and start comparing ourselves to the model that G-d wants in the group intellect as a true measure of our progress.
Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.
Sincerely & respectfully,
–To be continued.
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