Category Archives: Culture

The Faqir who Read Half the Kalma

The complex of the Jama Masjid, Delhi, a symbol of one of the most glorious times witnessed by the Indian civilization houses the grave of a heretic. The alleged Jewish priest who read half the qalma and got executed by Aurangzeb, the alleged Muslim bigot, Sa’id Sarmad, lies beneath the sacred earth of the great congregational mosque, listening to and crying at, the enormous amount of  pain and prayers hurled at him every day, coming from all faiths and none. Saint Sarmad is remembered as one of the intellectual companions of another heretic, Dara Shikoh, the could-have-been philosopher king of India. Though it is well known that Dara had serious leanings towards comparative study in religions yet what is little known is that a Jewish priest who went about naked had a role in the formation of his intellectual imagination.

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It is claimed by scholars that Sarmad was an atheist and agnostic of sorts who didn’t believe in God and went about naked dismantling the social set up of his times. Ones’ mind wanders to what the “Saint” would have felt at being classified with atheists and at becoming the object of being prayed at and to, the collection of his verses which are known to the world by the name of Rubaiyat-i-Sarmad (1949) gives a slight peek into the working of the mind of this intriguing man. To stay true to the spirit of the time, it would be unjust to take his words literally when Sarmad claims to be a Sufi, a Catholic priest, a Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi, an infidel, and a Muslim at the same time. This might also suggest that the man belonged to all religions and none. And it can be agreed too that the naked fakir was a critical thinker of the highest order. He, when presented before the court of the newly enthroned Aurangzeb, and asked to read the Kalma to save his life, read half of it. La Ilaha, meaning, there is no god. And left it at that and when further questioned about it he claimed that he had till then reached only that stage of knowing god that he knows none and once he knows It he would recite the entire Kalma. This kind of critical spirit was the most dangerous weapon that could have existed, and it still is the most dangerous one to those who want to maintain the status quo and who feed off the ignorance of the minds of the people, be it the political establishment or the religious superstructures, nothing troubles them more than a man who could dare to think on his own without intermediaries. Thus execution of Sarmad was necessary. It would be unjust to not mention how Sarmad writes about his relation with God, his attitude towards God, seems definitely of the order of one of a Sufi in real search of truth, he claims that his poor heart desires nothing but union with the God. But his idea of God, wasn’t the idea that was being shoved down his throat by the orthodoxy.

On reading Sarmad it clearly surfaces that his battle was with the great bearded obnoxious orthodox Mullas who had caused the decay of the innocent minds, he says it clearly, “He who understands the secrets of the Truth, became vaster than the vast heaven; Mulla says, Ahmad went to heaven; Sarmad says, ‘Nay heaven came down to Ahmad”’. In these verses, giving his apparently heretical remark about the contested issue of Prophet Muhammad’s Miraj, he clearly seems disillusioned from the Mullas who do not really as much worry to seek the truth but to gain on their personal level from political establishment and the common ignorant folks.

He also comes close to the stand of Mansur Al Hallaj’s ‘I am the truth’ (An’al Haq) in his quest, he claims, that if your faith is pure than the entire world would be in your control. Thus execution of Sarmad becomes even more necessary than had been the execution of Mansur Al Hallaj, the 10th century mystic who was killed on the grounds that he claimed himself to be the God, because the latter had already found the answer, An’al Haq, and that answer didn’t match the established idea of truth, with Sarmad however the issue is even more dangerous he hadn’t found the truth, he was looking for it. He was looking for answers to believe in the remaining half of the Qalma and that was to come through, through a critical evaluation of every established structure around him, including the political one.

Thus for the survival of the establishment, Sarmad had to die and he was executed in 1660. Sarmad died a death where he was lost also because of the meager amount of information left behind about him; his ideas have been lately rediscovered and rethought about.

The question whether Sarmad was an example of a Saint which wanted to find the God and Truth in it through his own way or if he was a heretic anarchist who aimed at disrupting the established social and political order is a question that needs to be asked, thought and rethought again and again till one can come to a conclusion, but there are serious reasons to believe that he was a man who had had enough of the religious and even spiritual deterioration that had set in during the 17th century India and that is why though he speaks more or less the same things that the great sufi mystics of earlier times say yet he leaves no reason to be associated with them, he claims, “Whether an ascetic or anything else, I’m concerned with the Beloved only(God); Really I have no business with rosary or sacred thread. This woollen cloak (suf) which conceals hundreds of evils under it, I shall never put it on, as it is a disgrace”.

To sum up it needs to be said in defense of the saint who read half the Kalma that his actions were probably motivated by the most serious issue that ruins any society, the decay and rotting of its intellectual class. Sarmad was probably closer to the true idea of God than the idea the people who killed him had, people who killed him claiming he believed in none.

Identifying and brushing up life changing Skills

What are we missing and why are we not able to assess the problems?

In a world where the competitive spirit rules and one ought to pull down the other to rise up the ladder of ‘success’, those with a bit of sensitivity need to stop and  examine why have we reached such a hopeless place. What we never bother to ask are the questions of what success actually is? Where are we as a society heading with such hedonistic ideals? And what we truly need to make world a better place for not just ourselves but for a large number of people around us. We also need to realize how this need of making the world better is not an act motivated by selflessness but is in fact a very selfish act because we need the people around us to be good, for the maintenance and upkeep of a harmonious society. A far sighted vision and an open approach towards things is what we need.

 

Success: A myth?

When we talk about someone being successful, what is it that we refer to? The power. The money, The happiness? To be true, success may have different meanings for different people and these meanings may vary widely. But what we need to wonder is, if these different meanings of success are to be seen as a problem, some people might say they need to be, because with different meanings of success one would not be able to classify the levels of success of different people and would not be able to create a hierarchy. But why is having a hierarchy so important? It is not! It’s just that some people make us think of it is important. Different people have different opinions, views and aspirations and them having different definitions of success seems like a natural phenomenon.

 

How do we succeed?

The key to success is hard work and there is no de tour to success they say apart from hard work and it might be true, but what we need to understand is where we direct our hard work is equally important. Channelizing once potential towards developing a skill is a hard work that promises long term benefits. People might develop inclination towards some things but working hard on that inclination and passion is what transforms it into a skill that would help you succeed. But the sad truth is, we ignore the need to nurture individual skills and passions from a very basic level. By burdening the students with the responsibility of meeting the standards of success set by the society, we are doing a disservice to ourselves. We are leaving no scope for the creativity to take roots and flourish. We are leaving no space to breathe for the ‘round pegs in square holes’.

 

Ignorance of Diversity by our Education System:

There is an inherent contradiction in the Indian Education System, while we expect students to grow and contribute to the society and the nation with their varied skills, we teach all of them the same things for a large part of their student life, these things mostly turn out to be irrelevant in the greater struggles of practical life of these students. While a 12 year old would easily solve complex arithmetic problem, he would not be able to speak a single sentence about himself in front of a small crowd. Yes, it is true that we might not expect all the students to be vocal extroverts, but the point here is the negligence on the part of the teaching elements of the unique ability and talent of each student. This contradiction is explicitly visible to most of the people and organisations but hardly anyone tries to raise their voice against this inhuman practice of forcing on students to learn what they are not interested in and then demoralising and degrading them when they fail to meet the ‘set standards’ of success.

 

Lacunae between what we learn and what we need:

The greatest misunderstanding of the student life which is busted when one wakes up to the harsh morning of adulthood is that their entire childhood marked with Results, Mark-sheets and home works was a lie and these things hardly play any role in the greater struggles of survival and success. It is at this stage that we think about learning skills which would actually help us survive. Skills like Content Writing, IT management, Designing, Communication skills etc. are the skills which have always been ignored in our school lives and if not totally ignored these skills were always overshadowed by the need to study the ‘greater subjects’. However in practical life these are the skills that count the most. And not just that, our education system is in general very averse to progress, most of the courses still teach age old syllabi and hardly any attempt is made to understand and incorporate new researches. May be it is here that we can find a suitable explanation to the pathetic condition of employment of Indian Youth and the slow rate of progress of India as a whole.

 

What possibly can cause such blindness on the part of the Educational System?

Utter lack of interest on part of the Educational Organizations to improve the deplorable condition of Indian Education System is explicitly visible. The reason might be the selfish short sighted vision of most of the elements of the System. While the elaborate educational system provides livelihood to a huge amount of population of the country, the returns from this field might not be equal to the amount of investment being put into it. This affects the national growth adversely in the long run. While illiteracy still looms large as a huge dark cloud over the future of the nation, the means of overcoming it are also not showing promising results. Though we have national level organizations to look after skill development programs but what we tend to ignore is that skill development should be a part of the overall educational system of the country.

 

Degree: A Piece of Paper that creates more problems than it solves:

The paranoia over having a degree is basically because of the promise of livelihood that comes with it. While it is true that basic training is necessary to perform a particular task, and degree acts as a proof of this training, today degrees have become a mere piece of paper which guarantee no skill in most of the cases. This havoc over acquiring degrees has led to mushrooming up of a number of institutes that ‘sell’ these degrees to the students in need and make their own fortunes by charging huge amounts of money. Can we blame the students or even these institutions? No we can’t because the functioning of the state and its organizations makes it impossible for the ‘degree-less’ folks to even  attempt to make any difference no matter how skilled they are. There have been instances where even peons are expected to have a high school degree to get employment. How is one supposed to survive in such situations without giving in to the faulty corrupt system?

 

Skills: Definition and Need:

As we step into the huge world of opportunities we encounter the harsh reality of how ill qualified we are for being of any use in that huge world. What makes us useful are the skills, and skills may have a varied definition but we may say anything that helps us contribute productively to the cause of the development of society can be a skill of importance, it can serve material, sociological, emotional or psychological ends. But it would contribute to the betterment of the society as a whole in the long run. Here we would need to redefine what we mean by skills, they do not just include the qualities we acquire after rigorous training, but also some basic things necessary for survival, they might range from the ability to fix an electric wire to be able to manage information on a large scale. IT management is one of the growing fields these days however we hardly see any institute providing training in this field. Nor do we see any seriousness in the society about the development of skills of content writing or graphic designing or public speaking, when these are the skills which play a major role in shaping of the society.

 

What needs to be done?

In this huge world resonating with material benefits a writer can just try to provoke the human sensitivities of the people in charge. In our society we have already seen a lot of stagnation due to the huge disparity between the skilled individuals and the organizations wanting of such skilled individuals. While the restructuring of the education system would serve a long term greater goal, the immediate action might be to make the skilled meet the organizations in need of skilled people. And for doing that one needs to learn to sell their skills in such a way that it helps the growth of the individual along with the organization it is meant to serve while contributing to the growth of society. Because we don’t realize that the huge population that is often seen as a liability can very easily be turned into an invaluable asset if we concentrate on skill development of these masses.

 

Is the ability to sell your skill also a skill?

When we talk about skills and contribution of these skilled individuals in the long-term development of the society and nation, we mean that these individuals would also use these skills as means of their survival and sustenance. And this in turn would mean that they would need to sell their skill to the potential buyers who would nurture these skills and use them for their benefits. What is relevant here is the gap between the two. And we need to devise a way to bridge the gap between the two and create more opportunities for the skilled. The means to achieving that end is inculcating in the skilled the ability to sell their skills, one other important thing that comes in to play is the confidence of people in their skills and confidence in significance of those skills for the world. Thus what we need to learn is to have confidence in our own abilities to contribute for the betterment of the nation, and to have faith, because we need to accept that skills don’t develop in a day and nor are they recognized in first attempt.

Resilience and tireless effort is the way to developing skills and ascending our own ladder of success.

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