Witness the growing chasm between the learned and the commoner. With puffed up pride the former addresses the latter thus: “I am, I am, I am.”
“I spent years studying to reach this point,” says the learned sage to the vast rabble spread out before him. And: “I sat at the feet of the greatest scholars of our time.”
“I learnt Arabic, myself.”
“I set out upon the hard road to learn, while you just opened Google.”
“I have a Master’s degree, and I have published more books than you have read in your lifetime.”
“I have mastered five languages.”
“I demand your respect.”
Admittedly, the laity fares no better, but we expect more of the learned, whose years of training we presume must have inculcated them with spiritual insight, infusing them with ancient wisdom and divine humility.
Alas, pride is everywhere on full display. The learned teacher waves his ijazahs before the masses. The imam becomes sheikh ul-Islam. The public speaker references his vast followings. The mufti clothes himself in his library of gold embossed books. The expert in fiqh becomes the preeminent scholar of our age. The spiritual guide demands that he, alone, be obeyed.
It is sometimes said that the jealousy of the scholar is worse than the jealousy of the wife of the polygynous husband. On appearances, this could be true. Everywhere, on full display, we encounter, “I am, I am, I am.”
Leaders of men are full of rancour for our foolishness. The savant condemns us regularly for our unlearned proclamations. The master of his field holds us commoners in contempt, for our disrespect for their years of dedicated study, perseverance and hard work against all the odds and in the face of so much hardship and pain. “I am, I am, I am.”
We defer to their wisdom and learning. We stand in awe of their profound expertise. We admit that we would never have been able to do all that. Yes, indeed, they are the learned and wise, and we the unlearned and foolish. I do not say that sarcastically.
But for all their scholarship, erudite and true, it appears that they have missed the greatest lessons of all: the treatment of pride, arrogance and self-importance. “Allah, Allah, Allah.”
If only we could remove our inner conceit — learned and commoner alike — we would certainly take off and ascend to great heights, where there would be no need to constantly remind others how great we are. For none is truly great, except Allah.