Clowns

Will nobody say something to the scholars, preachers and callers of YouTube, demanding that they abandon their risible antics? Here one clown, preaching his own peculiar wisdom, and here another firing back with a refutation. Here a pair of clowns, jumping up and down with glee. Here another clown reproaching them. So many clowns, expertly clowning, except it is not funny. The circus has come to town, and they perform before all the world, self-absorbed in their own buffoonery, entirely oblivious to the impact on all who witness this churlish spectacle.

It seems to me that most of these presumed scholars and preachers miss the point of the religion entirely. Fixated with incidental beliefs in place of faith, and appearances in place of action, they call their disciples to anathematise each other, to battle daily, arguing over nothing that brings about any positive change in our lives. If our Book calls us to look after widows and orphans, to abolish slavery, to feed the hungry, to forgive debts, to be kind to others, to be fair in trade, to give full measure, to pursue justice, to fight corruption and oppression — none of this is of any interest to the populist preachers of YouTube, who instead devote their lives to haggling over the colour and age of a sacrificial cow.

Perhaps the scholars, preachers and callers of YouTube should ponder on the algorithm’s latest recommendations. Just below the endless refutations of one another, they might notice the restless missionaries pouncing on these videos, seizing on them as yet more ammunition in their armoury. Well, that is inevitable, for none of these men recalled, “To say ‘I do not know’ is half of knowledge.” Who will bring to mind a hadith they once learned: “Whoever seeks knowledge so as to vie with the scholars, or to argue with the foolish, or to attract peoples’ attention, then God shall enter him into Hell”? I don’t think these men realise the harm they are doing — nor do they seem to care.

Those of us called to a practical faith, who consider ourselves mere commoners, called to live by precepts taught to foster a life of wellbeing and safety, find ourselves repulsed by these men who think themselves scholars. We find ourselves, perhaps to our detriment, pondering: “Thank goodness we are not scholarly material!” Fortunately we have met enough self-effacing sages to know that not all men of knowledge are bound by such conceit. Fortunately we have sat in the company of the unknown, ignored by the rabble, to feast off their learning, to be reminded of the One and our purpose in life.

To those distraught by the clownish circus witnessed online, my suggestion is simple: find yourself a humble teacher, who berates their own soul even as they teach what they know. To find them, pray much, give your wealth away to the poor and needy, humble yourself and turn to your Lord with a sincere seeking. May our Lord grant us gentle companions who call us back to His way. And may God protect us from the clowns.

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