Semiotics of Hijrah on hypocrisy, stupidity and ignorance – Part 1
“When it is said to them: ‘Believe as the others believe:” They say: “Shall we believe as the fools believe?’ Nay, of a surety they are the fools, but they do not know. (Quran 2: 13)
Brethren, the arrival of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (s.a.w) into Madina in 622 AD, eventuated the reconfiguration of not only his-tory but also the chemistry of historians and indeed the Arabian landscape upon which history was destined to be re-written. The Hijrah, among other impacts, led to the division of humanity into three- the believers, the unbelievers and the occupiers of the station in-between (Hypocrites). The Hijrah functioned, and quite ironically too, in giving voice and yielding space to elements within the Madinite polity whose politics was destined to be defined, structured and fashioned after the destruction of the ‘politics’ that Islam had come to establish in the Arabian peninsula.
These elements were none but the occupiers of the space in-between referenced above. They were the enemy within. Islam emerged in Madinah and with its emergence there emerged its own enemy. Yes. Every civilization needs an enemy to survive and succeed. You need an enemy in order for you to reach the shore of your success in life.
The enemy that emerged in Madina was represented in men who identified with the religion of Islam. They foreshadowed the men of faith of today- the priests in Churches and the Imams in the mosques; at night they are the custodians of the paraphernalia of evil principalities and the confidants of Jezebels in the Cathedral of the devil.
In the mosques, they occupy the front rows; in the shrines they are the bearers of the torch of villainous authorities at night. When they meet with the believers they chorus: “we are indeed brethren in faith” (Q 2: 11); when they repair to the shrines, they tell their fellow-travelers in infamy and spiritual destitution: “we are only making a mockery of them; how could we believe what the fools and the stupid people believe in?…v.13”.
Brethren, in this season of Hijrah, I could not resist the temptation, and a ‘wonderful’ one for that matter, to explore the problematic of foolishness or stupidity more closely. How could the hypocrites use the adjective ‘stupid’ to describe those who genuinely believe in the Almighty? Remember, the Almighty immediately provide a riposte: “Alas! They indeed are the stupid ones but they do not know.”
In other words, one feature of hypocrisy is the utter ignorance of the hypocrite of his status and station. There he goes, the hypocrite. He is a white witch, a wizard or a yoyo. His spells and actions are manipulations and his cauldron is from hell yet she wraps herself up in white and adorns a silver wig. He labels everybody as fools even as he is bogged down in the abyss of stupidity; he tells you the world would be happy without you though he is the scum and the scam holding the world down. Thinking this thought awakened the political not the politician in me; thinking this thought this morning forced me to do a comparison between stupidity of the hypocrites hinted at by the Quran and the stupidity that I behold in our existential and political reality.
Two events in recent times validated this reading. The first is the current recession being experienced in sessions by Nigeria and Nigerians and the second is the on-going campaign for the White House in United States of America. The first, the Nigerian experience, calls attention to the failure of economic-politics, the second, the extremely uncanny drama which unfolds on a daily basis in American politics, demands awareness to the extremely slippery foundations of America’s political economy.
The first reminds us of the indiscretion or should I say inanity of the whole economic principles and policies put in place by the occupiers of governance in our country in the past dispensation, the second is instructive that “nothing is more dangerous than…”in line with Martin Luther King, “conscientious stupidity”.
In other words, in the two events referenced above two human conditions may be implicated: genuine ignorance and conscientious stupidity. But before I explore the grammar of ignorance and stupidity in relation to Nigeria and America, let us ponder the mechanics of the two terms more closely.
Brethren, it is my argument that to be stupid is not the same thing as being ignorant. Whereas ignorance could be a “virtue”, yes, a “virtue”, I am, however, of the strong opinion that stupidity could be a vice and indeed a crime. Whereas one could be ignorant by chance, I am tempted to say that to be stupid could be a matter of choice. Is it not true that everyone born of a woman is born into ignorance? Is it not true that the child who would become a scholar must enter into the world in complete ignorance of the book? Imagine what would happen if we all knew what awaited us consequent upon our emergence into this frightening world from the wombs of our mothers. That ignorance is a ‘virtue’, and what an irony that is, foregrounds our pursuit of the world, of the worldly and of that which is beyond our world!
But brethren whereas a scholar could plead and pride himself or herself on his or her functional ignorance of a particular field based on the simple logic that knowledge is like an ocean and no diver can fathom its depth and width all at a go, hardly is there a subject who can pride himself for his or her stupidity. But I have since learnt that only two entities in nature are infinite. According to Albert Einstein, these are the universe and human stupidity. While Einstein is unsure of the former, he is perfectly sure of the latter; that the difference between stupidity and genius is that the latter has its limit.
Moreover, Quranic exegetes and Arab linguists have taken a more detailed study of the problematic of ignorance and stupidity in relation to spiritual and existential life of human beings on earth. The stupid person could be referred to as al-Ahmaq, while the ignorant person is al-Jahil. To be stupid is to imagine the impossible to be possible; to be ignorant is to lack the ability to discern the possible from the impossible; to be stupid is to take a willful stand against an act of righteousness despite knowledge of same, to be ignorant is to not know that which is righteous and were the contrary to be the case the latter would have done the righteous.
Thus while ignorance is a disease, stupidity could be described as a crime. The stupid person suffers infirmity in thinking; he wagers and stutters in accepting the truth that he knows to be true. Sister, I hold that it is worse for a man to suffer intelligence which makes him stupid; the man who is ignorant because of his lack of knowledge is a step away from becoming knowledgeable.
Knowledge can be taught; I do not know whether intelligence (wisdom) can be paid for. When a man who is averse to logic becomes influential and rich, Arab linguists would refer to such a man as al-Raqi’u. Access to riches is not always a function of ingenuity; the strongest man in the market is usually the bearer of burden for the weak and the rich. (08122465111 for text messages only)