23 March, 2010

Nai Subh - Sweat Equity

Continuing with what the author calls Recognitions prerequisite to corrective action, in this issue he highlights the importance of hard, honest work.

The material for this series is largely derived from the author’s Urdu audio presentation, KHITAB, available from SPRAT.
On the golden coin of prosperity are embossed two valuable words: WORK HARD.

Don’t Muslims work hard? Don’t a lot of us slog, rather too badly, often? Yes, and no. But right now let’s read the other side of this coin. There it says “Work Smart”. Working really hard and working truly smart more often than not fetch the desired result.

In the long run, if a community fails, it may be safely said that either it is not working hard enough or smart enough - or both. A significant number of us, Muslims, we dare say, do so.
The Jain Community

To drive home the point let us compare ourselves with the Jains. I live in Gujarat, home to a sizeable number of Jains. Here is an extract from Wikipedia on Jains:

The moral and intellectual influence of the Jain communities gives them a social importance greater than would result from their mere numbers. They are not only among the most important businessmen and industrialists of India, many of the prominent authors, justices, administrators and politicians have been Jain.
How many Jains are there, anyway? The votaries of unchecked population will do well to recognize that quality, not quantity, determines power and prosperity today. Jains constitute less than 0.5% of India’s population - and a little less than 1% of Gujarat’s population. In the US no more than 130,000 Jains live. But they command the lion’s share of wealth and influence everywhere. Some of India’s prominent media and financial houses are owned by Jains. The largest selling newspaper of Gujarat is run by Jains. Jain visibility is far higher than that of Muslims that number about twenty times as many.

Why? Why are Jains so successful? According to this encyclopedia, the Jains have the highest literacy rate: 94.1% compared with national average of 65.38%. They have the highest female literacy rate: 90.6% compared with national average of 54.16%. It is believed that the Jains also enjoy the highest per capita income in India.

Muslim liberals often lament that Islamic injunctions, such as on interest, obstruct our growth and prosperity. One, wonders, then, how Jains, following one of the oldest religions, and observing far more severe and unfashionable restrictions [strict vegetarianism, antiquated ahimsa, severe fasting, dress code, even not eating after dark etc] still manage to prosper.

The answer seems to lie, besides their stress on education, in their hard work and organization. Jains keep longer hours, take far fewer holidays and spend much less vis-?-vis Muslims. Jains are also called the Indian Jews.

One might say, well, Jains don’t suffer Hindu discrimination because of religious similarities. Actually there is every reason for Hindus to do so – and they do share an acrimonious history. Ponder that Muslims, Christians and Jews – all mid-Eastern – ought to be close friends, too, but aren’t. It is Jain productivity, Sir/Madam, that stands them in good stead.

No Free Lunch

There is no free lunch, goes a popular saying in the US, implying that there is a cost to everything: prosperity, peace, progress..

It is our observation that an ordinary Muslim wastes much more time on petty pleasures, on idling, gossiping and on other non-productive activities. Barring exceptions our work is shoddy and lacks quality. Our legendary craftsmanship now remains just that: a legend. It is an insufferable pain to launch progressive, large-sized, high-investment ventures in Muslim localities. Harsh? Please explain our institutional inadequacies, otherwise? 15 crore Indian Muslims – larger than several European nations – ought to be self-supporting, self-reliant despite all discrimination.

It is common knowledge that, given a level playing field, those that remain poor are those that use their resources less optimally. Contrary to popular perception many impoverished people waste more time while the rich remain busy multiplying their wealth.

Shab Wardi / Mohalla-giri
Picture a typical Muslim locality, late into the night: hordes of men hanging around for hours in the bazar at eating joints or ketlis and their women squatting at their door-fronts gossiping. If only this time was spent in libraries or watching community educational TV. Implausible? Others have done this. It is happening in several Panchayats. A culture of learning – so vital to our amelioration – costs so less, and yet seems so remote. If only we revolutionized our time management we could unshackle our poverty in a couple of decades. Alas! One sees very little religious leadership on this front.

Let us avoid a confusion: we are not implying that Muslims work lesser than, say, Hindus. We mean they need to and can work a lot more, but don’t. And that they waste so much, which they can scarcely afford to. Let’s remember that Jews, historically no great friends of the Christians, acquired their present status through sheer hard work. The Pakistani satirist, Col Mohammed Khan, in his “Bajang Amad” recalls how, merely by watching their activities, some 70 years ago, he could tell the Palestinians from the Jews – and visualized their futures.

Muslim Literature

This lack of industry often reflects in our literature. The rigor of scholarship is certainly not its hallmark. In particular our religious and history books often border on fiction and heresy. Even the narratives of some ahadith miss out the lineage by a couple of centuries.

Great Literature is characterized by realism and unflinching commitment to truth. It ennobles, elevates, inspires and builds the character of a community. Intellectual capital lays the foundation of community’s progress. Unfortunately our literature largely romanticizes past and glorifies trivia, with little concern for the present and harsh realities. Check out just the titles in an Urdu book shop to know what we are grappling with.

Even our so-called authoritative books often appear shallow / ill-researched, more emotional than informative – throwing up more heat than light – often as a result of laziness and dishonesty. Some are straightaway plagiarized or translated without even an acknowledgement.

Scholastic Checklist

Here is a checklist to sift impacting literature from the ordinary one:

* Does the author quote precise data – names, numbers, dates, graphs, charts, pictures, maps etc.?
* Is the citation sufficient [author, title, publisher, edition, page numbers?]
* Does he offer valid – and sufficient – arguments to justify his conclusion?
* Is the language precise or vague – employing hyperbole, emotive appeal, intimidation?

Embarrassing Literature

Consider these examples of our unscholarly scholarship:

* “As the famous western scholar, James, observes in his celebrated work..” [followed, obviously by some approving quote]. Deafening silence on James who? Famous how? Which work? Celebrated by whom? And what about those other less salutary observations made by “James” elsewhere?
* “Today West stands on the threshold of destruction”. May be, but on what objective parameters is this serious subjective judgment being made?
* Or, after citing three or four scientific facts, “…thus modern science firmly establishes that..” followed by endorsement of some antiquated, controversial injunctions. Does “modern science” comprise only of those three or four facts? And whether these facts yield only the conclusion the author has drawn?

Then there is the tendency to exploit other’s honesty to our unfair advantage, mention half truths or truths taken selectively. For instance, quoting western media expose on their leader’s hypocrisies and conspiracies, we paint the entire West as dishonest and conspiratorial. But what about the media that exposed these? That our censored media only extols our Emirs and Kings is no surprise. The Israeli President and the British PM are being questioned by their police for bribe or sex scandal today. Positivism enhances our respect for their democracy and negativism paints their leadership corrupt and sexist.
Sometimes we also jump to drastic, far-fetched conclusions: Examples: Citing suicides by borrowers concluding that “interest is evidently destructive” [what about cash credit for heavy industries generating employment or housing loans sheltering the middle class?] or describing promiscuity and exhibitionism to glorify purdah [what about women’s educational and economic impoverishment?] or citing collapse of Enron to beat MNCs en bloc [ignoring the magnificent charity of Microsoft, Carnegie, IBMs, Ford, Infosys] or quoting pollution data to challenge industrialization itself. Indeed, a celebrated scholar had actually condemned the railway blaming its smoke and whistle! [Citation withheld out of respect]

Original, painstaking work is scarce. While hordes of titles adorn our bookshops on Urdu poetry and assorted poets, we are yet to find an alphabetized compendium of radeef and quafiya. How and when will we match an Oxford Dictionary, a Britannica or Encarta Encyclopaedia?

Our prejudice often shows in our contempt for “other” scholars, including those that we cite approvingly. Readers would remember seeing such passages as: “shuhrai aafaq maghribi mufakkir James khud kehta hai...” and elsewhere “Allama XYZ farmate hain”. Contrast kahta with farmate! Not even fraternal courtesy for the “world famous” James!

Quality Standards

How one wishes such authors knew that good literature is the product of true, honest hard work, often of decades. A typical one-hour National Geographic documentary, for instance, takes years of painstaking research. Drug MNCs sometimes take decades to produce a quality vaccine. The cost of a computer chip prototype may shame a small country’s budget. The European research spending alone exceeds global Muslim educational budget.

World-class products must pass very rigid quality and consistency standards, such as those of ISO or FCC. Our shoddy productivity probably explains why Muslims are virtually absent from the scene of international standards in scholarship, authoring, publishing, engineering, electronics and generally in technology and services at large.

Let’s realize that it takes, besides laborious work, the investment of well-equipped libraries, laboratories and technology to produce international quality books and products. Miracles don’t work here.

Why – or how – are the Westerners able to produce such quality? We believe the stress on quality [a measure of honesty] and creativity [innovation], and the rewards flowing from this – through patents, copyrights etc – encourage them to do so. That this requires an order of rule of law and democratic values is obvious.

The important recognition that we sought to stress here is that hard work, smart work and honest work in all spheres of life are necessary to change our lot. Does this route sound very painful and long? Realistically, this remains the shortest, the surest one.


Author Request: SPRAT wishes to document leading Indian Muslim brands and will thank for your list.


? Is it true that the human nerve can communicate with the computer?

£ Yes. For instance, recently a team led by Dr Mark Humayun of California has prepared a device that transmits eye-lens images to the brain enabling blind people to “see”

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