Friday, September 16, 2005

The ways of our ancestors/ the ancestors of our ways

This is one of the many posts in a "series" that I am going to make. If it ends or starts abruptly, look for the thread. It rolls on like a Qissa Chahaar Dervesh.


A close friend or form of Fear is the Fear of Change. It is the most blatant but surprisingly prevalent form of human stupidity. In the Quran and other Scriptures, it is referred to as “the way of the ancestors.” To a casual reader it appears to be a story of people who asked wood & clay dolls (idols) to supervise their lives – and their descendents just followed the practice. This is a reductionist view, and I hope that with the now widespread interest in Islam and religion/spirituality in general, people have seen deeper already.

This isn’t merely a story of bowing to the dolls humans carved with their own hands. It is about people’s stubborn misbeliefs. What the ancestors did was their own deed. There is no balance carried down. The tragedy or the lesson of this oft-repeated notion in the Quran isn’t about doll-worship*** either. It is about how people – when they can see something sensible with their own eyes – still refuse to believe in it. Still refuse to change. It is not just following the ways of our ancestors, but the ancestors of our own ways. Ever heard that the old is the enemy of the new?****

The infinite wisdom of the Creator knew just that. Thank God, I was going to get yet another body at 21. Think about it! Another body! The construct of our being remains the same, and all the components change. Ever wonder what holds a person together when parts of our bodies are falling apart and replacing all the time and in seven years we get a new physical being? What remains the same then? Our minds. Our hearts. Our souls.

*** "Idol" is a much wider term than “doll,” which is more suitable in this context. Idol is more psychological. Dolls mean a lot to those who worship to them, but it’s easier in the case of a physical idol (doll) to step back and see the uselessness of it. Intangible idols are much tougher cookies. (And I am not "politically correct" - which is a phrase serving the prime example of the distortion of fairness through coercive language.)

**** It might be a surprise that I have gained deeper insight into this matter from business literature, specifically the writings of Tom Peters. His book Re-Imagine! is about destroying the old ways to always, persistently create new methods. I do not have a complete round-up on Tom’s philosophy, and I may not agree with him 100%, yet on deeper level I agree with his basic notion: stop living the ways of the past and create your own today! And TOMorrow :).



  1. Very true! I've been thinking along the same lines.

    This psychological inertia, as I call it, is one of the major reasons why the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular are intellectually backward. Anything new is seen at as a threat.

    What do you say?

  2. It seems to be more of a global problem. Every nation has its own flavor. But it's a shame that Muslims are a part of the malaise.

    The issue is also this: modern knowledge, as it is, is based on premised that are un-Islamic. At least, there is no bridge between the current practice and what would be a more Islamic model. E.G. the Adam Smith-influenced economic model is not Islamic, because it doesn't account for charity, resource preservation, humanity WITHIN the model. The result is an economy that i driven by fear or greed.

    Muslim have to design original knowledge. THAT will be entrepreneurial. The first step, however, will be to gain knowledge as it is. Then use the Islamic insights to develop a uniquely Islamic body of knowledge.

    The environmentalists did something similar when they factored in the environmental externalities into the cost of progress....