Life reflections in this holy month

Linking it

What are the odds of me thinking to quote ‘Reflections of My Life’ by Marmalade, a music band from the 60s, who I just discovered are actually from Glasgow, as part of the introduction of today’s post, and me donning a black The North Face t-shirt with Glasgow printed on it (since this tee is from there)…! Deja vu + ‘coincident’ you may say!

Just like the above, we have been trained in our lives, to make connections between prior knowledge and experiences, with most of the things happening to us. Big or small. Important or mundane. It is that process where we sum up our stance, point or take on things. Whether or not it leads to subsequent action. That summing up is important to achieve a conclusion to things, rather than to over think it endlessly.

Illustration from 19th century

Learners, learned and the ignorant

Our ability to take a point and something we truly believe in and following it up with an action (including a change in mind), pretty much differentiates between those who know VS those who learn. For the essence of learning is that, it is a process that leads to change. Those who are learning, as in actively engaged in the process of learning to acquire knowledge, don’t feel to bad now, as you’re a tier up than those who choose not to learn and engage with the idea of acquiring new or more knowledge.

There are a few known terms referring to this group. But going back to you, the learned you, you are considered having the intelligence, once you are able to apply those knowledge and skills from the process of learning. This may be in the form of a formal learning, or informal learning. Structured, or non-structured learning. Those who have been in, or exposed to structured learning, knows its advantages, and those familiar with learning outside an organised manner, may be familiar the ‘leniency’ one gives to oneself — being all exploratory and self-learn. While this may be dangerous at first sight, well, thinking of those bogus dentists, fake lawyers — well, we are ALL learning informally everyday. Just without guilt or court proceedings as a consequence!

Relevance and resource management

Life — as they say, is a journey, and no certification nor pedigree can ready you for what’s installed for you, for what’s coming or get that perfect life that you so badly want. I think that we were designed along that curvature of becoming more intelligent and wise as we age. You may be a business development manager, or, a CEO, but it doesn’t guarantee your success in say, upbringing your family, or, being able to solve a complex and personal situation.

I just got to know of someone who is unfortunately, having a messy dispute with family members, his paternity proof that he indeed is not the father of his twins, and God knows what else is going on, (please pray for this brother & that he may find light at the end of this mess) — comes across as someone who is excellent in language, articulates well based on social media postings.. but, is not able to grasp or take control of his situation. He seems lost and definitely needs help.

Similarly the assumed best education abroad, generational wealth and respected lineage does not guarantee a loyal and trusting relationship with kin or spouse, or the ability to discern reality from illusion. This assumed lot rely a lot on external facade where unlearned eyes will still accept or would like to replicate in his/her own life; the tangible frills.

So the point I am stating here is that, regardless of your accredited education/training, there is a limit to the application of those knowledge and skills in actual situations. There may be little relevance, as knowledge (depending what knowledge it is) brings different meaning and serves different purposes.

In legal cases where one party decides to take action towards the other, we can assume a team of lawyers and counsel were hired to seek for evidences and testimony to defend their client. They are qualified. The application of legal knowledge in action right there. Winning or losing a case, depends on various factors, but essentially it is up to the lead trial counsel to make it, or break it, with his team. Hence, being good at what you’re doing, given your set of resources, do matter.

The lazy mind

In various life situations, merely listening to motivational talk definitely will not make the cut. Sometimes, a higher overview of things is required, at times microscopic. Unless that problem has been identified, it will be difficult to look for a solution. Past life significance may be relevant if we are able to take wisdom from it, and use it to propel us further. The thing with a lazy generation who is not learned, or read, we wonder if there is hope to develop them and improve their situations. One size fits all is never a good approach when attending to complex societal issue.

The irony is, once that ‘assumption’ is made in the mind of an ignorant, he or she may close his or her door to new knowledge, ‘assuming’ whatever knowledge/resources in hand, is enough. No wonder, it is easy for them to disrespect those with more knowledge and definitely wisdom from them. May undervalue the importance of engaging and learning from people of different background, especially those they ‘look down’ upon. May also be experiencing dilemma, anxiety and constant frustration deeming that some problems are too complex and hard to handle. If Chris Rock quoted ‘Selective Outrage’ in his Netflix special, I would say, this paragraph screams ‘Selective Ignorance’.

A lazy mind brings lazy attitude. The inaction is more lethal in this case, as the lazy mind may depend on extreme moves to achieve an end, overstepping values and belief. A lazy mind may think, there will be time and space to ‘rectify’ things, and may delay a behaviour change. A lazy mind depends on others to lift him/her up, expecting everyone to understand their situation and never the other way round. A lazy mind loves to gain benefit at the expense of others. A lazy mind lacks empathy and is usually quick to judge.

Drawing of the viscera by Ibn Sina, an eminent Muslim physician, philosopher- scientist who lived from 980 to 1037 AD Bukhara, Iran.

Beyond textbooks and classroom wall

Given this limited application of our knowledge and skills, what is then the unlimited part of that equation. Do we seek knowledge and life skills from public figures? Influencers? Famous YouTube speaker, motivator, your TedTalk weekly dose? Preacher? Historians? Documentaries?Letters from Iwo Jima movie? Some reggae exodus inspired lyrics? Yoga meditation? Influential people in your own life– You name it.. ! The sky is the limit.

Again, going back to intelligence, you may very well learn and change based on your ability to translate the input from the various sources above TO action. TO actual change and improvement, given your situation and circumstance. In a way, you have been structuring and forming connections from this unstructured learning form in your headspace and on your way to acquire al-Hikmah (loosely translated as wisdom).

If you have this ability, I pray good on you, and that it will open your heart and mind, to WANT to learn more. Learn those topics near and dear to you, or those which enables you to view this life from a different lens. You may discover along that journey, your inclination and mind may have shifted an inch! If it is for the better, Amen !

That was the shift, as I reflect back in the various aspects of life– from recalling that time I watched rainbows in the sky with my cousins as a little kid, to that time I was blinded with all the glitters of life and constantly being acknowledge, to the frustration of not being able to categorically define what kind of monsters came and went through my life. Finally, it does ease the mind once I was able to look at pass those situations with a new light and make meaning out of them.

This was a product of formal education, the trickle of curiosity and inquiry from that experience, life experiences, belief, and those hours of informal/unstructured learning through various means including from those more wise & intelligent then thyself — the yearn to learn more, for the purpose of clarity and change.

Attended the Konvensyen Bidadari in 2017. Photo was taken during a talk session by my friend, Shazly Khan. Check out the quote on the wide screen.

Intelligence can’t be bought

The thing is, with those intelligent people out there (in the general sense), it is tricky to find them, unless you are able to find and engage with them ie through their shared knowledge, spoken, acted or written. Those intelligent stock breed is a force you do not want to ignore, as we can assume that they are well-learned, well-read and well-educated. Not forgetting those who has more experience than you and have swallowed more harsh turbulence than you would have thought. Similarly those in the religious world, who are familiar with discussing the nuances of life, given their knowledge and authority in their faith, based on various taxonomies, and rich and deep of understanding of life, stories of the past, and reminders from God, based on a systematic discourse of faith-based knowledge.

Hence, Islam, as an example of faith, is not just about religious obligations, with confined and restricted parameters. Rather, Islam reaches beyond that, and without sufficient effort, we barely scratch the surface of truly learning. In fact, it is highly encouraged by the religion for its followers to seek knowledge.

Seeking knowledge is unlimited, and should be a life pursuit. There are many texts out there, treasured and untouched — which is such a shame to us all. Books, manuscripts and kitabs — how can we even appreciate and apply something we do not know, nor want to be aware of. Likewise for academic writing, research publications or even discussions by professionals in their various fields; nowadays in YouTube uploads.

Reading: Not just a mere hobby but definitely time invested for a better future.

For Muslims, the Qur’an, Hadith, kitabs by the ulama’ and writers explaining and breaking them down, are essential resources for life in general. Majority Muslim these days, do not take it upon them to study and learn these texts further. Rather cherry pick whatever suits their need and priority.

As a Muslim, this is a shame. Effort to revive the thirst of knowledge for the sake of Allah has to take place! It will be a shame if we took knowledge based only for the desired use of it, while sidelining other knowledge which would help us prepare ourselves to deal with earthly problems, in this interim world and for the infinite akhirah.

My urge to my readers and friends, liven up the spirit of knowledge, and wanting to acquire them. Especially for you, and those near and dear to you. The purposeful knowledge is indeed like the salt in water.. The more you have it, the more you can stay afloat in that water. The more saline that water gets, the more buoyancy that you can gain, and the lesser your risk to sink.

Do not be content with the ignorance within us when we are the one who is sinking.


Just me on a blessed Ramadhan morning,


26 March 2023, Kuala Lumpur


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