In our society everything is given patronage except learning and research. Praises are showered on worthless ideas, meaningless concepts are applauded and senseless thoughts extolled but, sadly enough, true knowledge is forsaken and condemned. Ignorance is garlanded with an ignorance profound. Scholarly research in religious issues, in particular, is considered high treason and inevitably rewarded with bricks and batons.

In this regard, the greatest malady is Taqlid1. Every opinion which has once been adopted is never thought over again. Every idea which has once been formed is regarded with a sanctity which renders it eternal. Every view which has remained undisputed in the past has become no less than the Word of God. Emotional attachment to traditional concepts and conventional thoughts, however foolish they may be and however much they might distort the truth, has given rise to prejudice and intolerance. Sincere words of criticism are anticipated with fire and fury from these quarters. A person who does so is degraded and disgraced in the society, even if his arguments are based on the Qur’an and Sunnah.

But then, this attitude is not even worth complaining. Irrespective of all consequences, a person should always uphold the voice of his conscience. He should remain steadfast in the cause of truth and face every adverse current of the society with grit and endurance. Any increase in the intensity of opposition should only increase his patience. The more the going gets tough, the tougher he should become---for expending even the last drop of blood in the cause of truth will make this path easier for others to tread. Like a lighthouse all his struggles and sacrifices will gleam as a source of guidance for humanity. He would then redefine the meaning of courage. He would then extend the frontiers of valour. He would then add new dimensions to dare and defiance. In the heavens, the angels will pray for his success and upon the earth success itself would yearn to waylay him.

He should, also, never forget that since the earliest stroke of his intellectual voyage, he has remained the most besought target of traditionalists---the worst enemies of true knowledge. They have always challenged the torrent of his intellectual advancement. In all times of known history they have obstructed his progress, but then, with no avail. Every time that their claws have closed on the champions of truth, a new episode of man's loftiness has been scribed by the historians pen. Ibn Taimiyiah and Ibn Hazm, Abu-Hanifa and Malik, Socrates and Copernicus all have written with their own blood, stories of man’s resolve against oppression and persecution. They did die fighting but with their death the torch of truth shone even more brightly and is held high to this day by the successors of these giants, by no means any less in stature.

These legends, perhaps, have a message for us:

 

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time

(Dr Shehzad Saleem)