Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Dangers of Narrow-Mindedness
Ahmad as-Sowayyan
Editor-in-chief, Al-Bayan Magazine
AlJumuah, RabiÂ’ul Awwal 1421
Narrow-mindedness is defined as lacking tolerance or not having the mental faculty to see beyond the superficial and recognize the underlying truth. Currently, this tendency appears to be widespread in all segments of Muslim communities.
The primary reason for this deplorable condition is ignorance, the inability to recognize this deficiency and to take corrective action. This situation is further aggravated if the ignorant person considers himself to be the epitome of wisdom, and if, he is in a leadership or a highly visible position, he can cause unnecessary harm to a family, a community or a an entire nation.
Absence of insight can also result in narrow-mindedness by having a negative effect on oneÂ’s thought processes. Insight is a rare virtue, and quite different from ignorance. A person who lacks insight may possess some knowledge, but derives no benefit from it due to a lack of analytical skills while someone with insight assesses his or her knowledge of a situation and then selects and uses its relevant parts. Through insight, they are able4 to see what others may not. Ibnul Qayyim, the famous Islamic scholar and author, said: "One person may read a text and learn one or two lessons from it, while another may learn one or two hundred."
A rigidly traditional individualÂ’s perceptivity, like that of a captive frog in a deep well, is able to function only within narrow parameters. He does not realize that there are boundless vistas of knowledge beyond the scope of the well, therefore, his mental and intellectual evolution remains stunted. He is unable to take advantage of the knowledge available beyond his limited horizon.
Blind imitation creates another obstacle to oneÂ’s intellectual growth. The two world wars of the past century are the perfect examples of this disability that can allow ruthless political or religious leaders to manipulate the minds of people who are unable to form their own objective view.
Some individuals habitually look at things from one angle and accept them as actual facts without thinking that there may be a different side to the issue, or that reality may actually be quite different from appearance. In the following verse, Allah points out that the appearance of the hypocrites may not be a true indication of their reality: "And when you see them, you like their appearance, but when they speak and you listen to them, they seem worthless" Â… and then He goes on to give this warning: "They are the enemy, so be warned of them. The curse of Allah be upon them, how they are perverted." [63:4]
Furthermore, some people are impressed by quantity at the expense of quality. Referring to the battle of Hunain, Allah says: "On the day of Hunain, your numbers impressed you but did not benefit you." But, "If there be amongst you twenty who show fortitude, they will defeat two hundred." This does not, of course, mean that appearances are to be completely disregarded or that quantity is totally irrelevant. These fundamentals should not be valued in isolation, but should be understood through insight and common sense.
A failure to prioritize or differentiate wrong from right often leads people to lose sight of the broader picture. Often people will focus on the immediate and disregard the potential disastrous effects of an action further down the road. Along with ignorance, narrow-mindedness and, of course, a lack of insight, these gaps usually prove detrimental to that individualÂ’s future.
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