ASURU MASHWARA: HEARING VS. LISTENING
We all want a caring and loving society. In whatever way we behave, inside we all want peace.
But why are we that way of not showing caring and loving kindness to others?
This is in the basic make up or our human psyche. Or should we say how we were nurtured. Allah sent us to this world without all this anger and hatred and jealousy, and resentment. But he put the potential for it in us but gave us the power to discern. This world is thus the test of how we use the arrogance of our strength in sublime ways. How we, even with the awareness of our strength, learn to be humble and caring.
So for us to chart a kind future, we need to harness these feelings. They are like wild horses that need to be tamed. When tamed it become the vehicle for our peace of mind.
The Quran’s first revelation is about learning. “Iqraa” (meaning “read”). When the Prophet responded to Jibreel AS, that he could not read, and was then instructed at least three times, and when the response was still the same, the Angel Jibreel AS continued with the rest of the revelation. “Iqraa bismi rabbikallladhee khalaq, khalaqal insaana min alag…… …………” Many of us know this surah but we may not fathom the significance of this first revealed word even though we may know the literal meaning of the word. We need to know that this word is about learning and reading and being aware and through this awareness we become the capable vicegerent that we promised to Allah SWA that we would be on this earth. The word thus implies the responsibility and trust that we human beings must embody in ourselves to shoulder this trusted role of administrative assistant to implement the instructions of Allah SWA in this Dhunya.
There are four ways to learn; hearing, reading, seeing, and experiencing (doing)
Unfortunately, the most frequent way we learned was from hearing what went around us -- from hearing the sounds that filled our day. From the time we were children, we were told most everything; how do talk, how to dress, how to behave, and even how to learn. And so hearing is the sense we used most in the process of our learning. When we learnt to read our knowledge increased and when we had the opportunity to observe, our senses become alert and we became ever more curious and we learned more.
How did we make sense of what we heard? After all, we do have a role as the recipient of that information to make it sensible to ourselves. And that is the task of listening.
Listening and hearing are indeed different. Hearing is an auditory experience. Anyone with a working ear can hear, but this is not enough for listening. This listening requires us to use our brain to make sense of what we hear. This requires us to be more engaged in the process of listening to what the other person is saying with the desire to listen. To be inquisitive enough to want to have something gained from what the other person is saying. When we listen thus, we get familiar with many points of view other than our own. Each is a learning moment. This way the repertoire of our auditory experience expands exponentially and our awareness increases. Then we begin to reflect on these and ask ourselves the questions of how right these are against our own perceptions and against what we attempt then to find out from other varying points of views. This is the process of getting intelligent and this kept up long enough and sustained over time will give us wisdom. This is the capacity that makes us the adjustable and accepting people we want to be for making a society loving and caring and sharing.
Schools are also supposed to nurture these qualities, and families too should encourage this exercise of listening and inquiry (of asking questions) and reflecting so that our thinking is progressing from one platform or rung to the next on the ladder of wisdom. If we don’t, we stagnate on the bottom rungs and continue to be those who just behave as if they knew everything when they even know that they don’t know (but some don’t even know that they don’t know) often times, the fear of shame they might receive or have to bear from others of their not knowing is couched by the arrogant show they portray to hide the denial.
Those who are stuck in this denial of unawareness will often not want to move from that platform because the awareness of this weakness in us never dawned on us. We didn’t have an opportunity to know because we do not allow another to tell us anything; we seem to want to always do the talking. So it’s a vicious cycle of atrophy of the mind. Especially when we get to be important in society, occupy high position of public office, or accumulate wealth (which often is not necessarily a function of intellect or intelligence), this trait of arrogance becomes ever more pervasive. The resulting pumped up ego will never allow any such social humiliation to happen.
But for society to progress on the human path, we need to be able to let go of that arrogance, for that mental state will lay the foundation for later success. That respect one sought will materialize, even though the joy of it maybe of a different kind. It will not be ego based, but will form the basis of a more compassionate personality. The struggle always is with our inability to let go.
The Shaithaan plays a very big role in this lack of desire to let go or to listen to others. He said to Allah when asked to prostrate to Adam, that he was better than Adam, so why should he prostrate to someone made of clay while he was made of fire; that he was better than Adam.
Sadly this arrogance of Iblees is in us too in varying degrees for he has been working on us for ages. The pledge of Shaithaan to lead the children of Adam astray from the path of Allah is still valid and in full swing so to say. Be it the 21st century, the Shaithaan’s ploys are current, and tuned to the changing tide of every such century.
It is he that puts in us the arrogance of not wanting to listen to anyone else as if to say “I am better than you, so why do I need to listen to you?” But to allay Shaithans prodding, we need to be aware of this sworn enemy of man, and that he will only show the glitter of this world so that he can keep us from the straight path that Allah SWA had laid out for us.
But Allah SWA also says that Shaithaan can only lead astray those of His creation that does not follow The Path. And so we have the chance to move away from the attraction Shaithaan or Iblees puts up for us. It takes courage and to know that the Aakhirah is better than this Dhunya. Only a staunch acceptance and a deep belief (Eman) will take us to this path. Otherwise, Shaithaan’s adverts are so much more graphic and powerful as we live our life in this school we call Dhunya. We even forget that he is our sworn enemy.
As such the evils that we do, the stealing, the killing, the hatred, jealousy and resentment we harbor, or the life style changes that we are so attracted to such as over-eating that takes us to diabetes and heart disease, trashy behavior that leads us to harming ourselves and society, smoking that will land us into cancer and into lifelong infirmity, drinking that will drive us to early death by liver and kidney diseases are all the results of following the deceptive traps Iblees lays out for us. But we foolishly relent and follow the pied piper.
That is why in so many places, the holy Quran instructs that the advice and instructions in it having meaning really to those who are of good intellect, to those who would reflect rationally, and to those who are ready to engage in the thinking and understanding the lessons in it.
So my friends, let’s attempt to listen to what wisdom others might have even in the utterances of those who might seem lesser than us, who have not got a university degree like us or don’t occupy high social status of have smaller bank accounts than us. Everyone has a morsel of wisdom to share, which when received with sincerity of humbleness can help us become a wee bit better than we were. All this adds up like small change in our pockets to large amounts in time even without us being aware this is happening.
The dichotomy of Allah’s ways and Shaithaan’s way are very overt, in the following way:
Shaithaan’s influence is to hone the bad traits that lie in waiting in us such as selfishness, competition, jealousy and hate. These allow Shaithaan to account for his success over man.
The other side is that of Allah’s calling, the expansion of the spiritual side in us. This happens when we follow the way Allah SWA has ordained for us. That results in humbleness, patience, sharing, cooperation, and love.
Which side are we on? When the day of reckoning comes, there can be no going back. In Allah’s infinite compassion and grace, He has given us chances galore to pay penance and the opportunity of forgiveness whenever we ask for that forgiveness. He has reminded us this in the holy Quran over and over again. Yes, it is a book for those who are willing to be reminded and for those who will reflect on its wisdom.