By Tabassum Mosleh |
I was printing some reading comprehension worksheets for my cousin when I came across this story.
There were these six blind men who, having little knowledge of elephants, got very excited when they were informed of one tramping down the road. They requested the rider to let them examine it and, having no sight, went over and touched its various body parts.
The first man touched its huge side and deduced that an elephant was just like a wall. The second one concluded that there was no difference between an elephant and a sharp spear simply by touching its tusk. The third, likewise, by grabbing its trunk felt sure it was like a snake. The fourth, who had embraced its huge leg, declared them all to be fools and said that it was only a pillar.
The fifth snorted and told him to get his sensory nerves checked, because the elephant was like a fan and nothing more. The sixth laughed at their foolishness and told them it was like a rope. After the elephant had left, the six men spent the rest of the day quarrelling and pulling each other’s hair, each convinced that he was the only man who’d got it right.
Which of these six men was right? Well, in one sense, all of them had a portion of the truth, and in another, none of were completely right. But that’s not the point of the story. The point is, were these men justified in self-asserting their superiority over the other men, all based on a shallow study of facts? Of course they weren’t.
The truth stares us in the face, since we all know about elephants. But what if we didn’t know about elephants? Would we have been so sure? Probably we would have been inclined to agree with one of these blind men, perhaps the most eloquent one with his argument?
If we keep this story in mind in all matters in our life, the world can become a very peaceful place to live. It’s especially crucial to understand this concept if you’re studying divine knowledge. It’s so very common to see people grab hold of one portion of the truth and argue with others based on it, often showing extreme rudeness.
The problem here is that, in the past, the seekers of divine knowledge learned things from teachers face to face, and thus absorbed something perhaps more important than knowledge, that is manners. Now we take knowledge from here and there and forget all about common everyday manners, let alone Sunnah etiquettes. I’ll give you two examples.
It was in my overenthusiastic days. I was attending Jumuah at a local mosque, and at the end of the khutbah, the imam made a dua in congregation. Everyone raised their hands except– yes you can guess. So I just sat there feeling extremely embarrassed, and I’m not proud of it. May Allah forgive our foolishness and open our eyes to the truth.
Another one happened to a very good sister who was about fifty years old. Same situation— Jumuah prayer, dua, raising your hands. Only this time, it was she who had her hands raised and everyone else had theirs down on their laps. So one overenthusiastic sister went over to her and asked her what she meant by this. They forced her out of the mosque and told her never to come back again.
One might ask, which of these blind women was right? What is the correct fiqh of raising your hands during dua in congregation? What is the proof? What is the hadith?
Well, that’s not the point of the stories. The point is, were these women justified in self-asserting their superiority over the other women, all based on a shallow study of facts? Of course they weren’t. That’s not how the true, genuine seekers of knowledge behave. How do true seekers of knowledge behave? Here are some of their hallmarks:
- They seek knowledge with pure intentions for the sake of Allah.
- Before pronouncing an opinion on a subject, they research on it thoroughly.
- Even after they’ve got an opinion, they and respect those who differ from their opinions.
- When two of them voice their opposition in an issue, they act first and foremost as Muslim brothers/sisters and then opponents.
The next time we face a situation of conflict, let us remember the six blind men, and that will in sha Allah help us rise above our blindness.
Tabassum Mosleh is a freelance writer and a student of al-Salam Institute. She likes animals and natural beauty, reading novels and researching interesting topics. She shares her reflections at the blog sections of Understand Quran Academy, IIPH and Ibana. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org