At early stages in schools, we are taught that “I shall be a slave to the one who teaches me even a single letter”. The connotations of this phrase might be interpreted in so many different ways. If it is meant that we should treat our teachers with respect and reverence, it would be a good thing because this would fit into a high-class and civilized culture. But if it would be preposterous if is meant to literally denote “slavery to the teacher’s knowledge”. In such a case, the paradigm should be overturned upside down. Slavery to the teacher’s knowledge and similarly to the teachings of all other instructors has been sanctified over centuries of didactic education that managed to enforce it as an untouchable rule.
Students and pupils are prohibited from contradicting or even discussing the information given to them by their teachers even if such information contravene known facts. For example, students nowadays are being told: “Even when there are obvious mistakes, you have to write down in your exam what is written in the text book and leave your own understanding and critical thinking to yourself.”
Such a rigid doctrinaire has held back societies and inhibited their progress for long centuries. Because of such an arbitrary mentality, many great thinkers, scientists and intellectuals were shunned by their contemporary in spite of their glorious achievements. As an example, Avicenna (in Arabic Ibn Sina) (980-1073) was branded as an infidel (Kafir). The plight of the polymath Abu Hanifa al-Nu’man(699-767) is another example. The church has burnt the books of Copernicus (1473-1543) who has changed the world’s outlook of the universe when he proved that the earth is a globe and is not flat. By that time, people were still following without argumentation the 2000-year teachings of Aristotle who believed that the earth was flat.
In more recent times, Picasso (1881-1963) deserted the university because of its routine system. His father, who was a fine arts academic abandoned painting when he saw the genius works of his son, Picasso. And there are many other examples.
The well-known poet Ahmad Shawki says: “Those who dare to venture, nothing would be impossible for them to attain”. Hence, the old aphorism should be corrected to be “I shall be a peer to the one who teaches me”. In other words, disciples should try to be as good as or better than their teachers. Only then, the pace of progress, development and competition would be accelerated. Advancement is a cognizant act.
It is not instinctive or spontaneous. It does not grow out of itself as wild for a. We should therefore try to outdo the mastership of our teachers in order to exact progress. Otherwise, we shall continue to parrot to our students what we learnt without improvement to our students. Rules, basics, routine, systems, discipline, limitations, abidance, conformity, imitation, and replication as well as many other notions and principles might be counterproductive if misunderstood or used improperly.
These principles are meant to help mankind be more innovative to attain further progress and prosperity, only if properly applied.
The example about the earth is a huge lesson to learn from. Another example comes from the pre-Islamic poetry. Pre-Islamic poets left us such a rich and colorful poetry even before grammar rules were laid down. Upon reading “The stable and the varying” (The title of this book can be translated in many different ways. It can be also translated as “the variable and the invariable” or “the Changing and the unchanging”, etc..)from the Arabic literature, we wonder as to what extent we have been left in the dark.
To what extent our religious leaders have tried to keep us ignorant and how much have they tried to scare us away from questioning. They have always maintained that God is so far away. They have been so cunning and guileful, because with such a notion they have proclaimed themselves as the representatives of God on Earth and they consequently can control our mindset and way of thinking. While the truth is the exact opposite.