Monday, December 1, 2008

Believe Me

Truth be told. Honestly speaking. To be very honest. This is the truth and nothing but the truth.

Each one of us has encountered these phrases innumerable times. They serve as prologues to forthcoming statements. That they are said and heard so much, is an indication that we do not trust each other to be always telling the truth. Or in the very least, that we are so weary of being smothered with propaganda, exaggeration and lies, that we need that extra nudge to believe. Naturally, cynicism - the art of casting doubts on the intentions of the other - is a by-product we are all suffering from today.

It all starts with a few innocent lies, which one thinks, can do no harm. And due to the lack of snubbing it at the point of inception, it spreads, making it impossible to pull the plug. It is a cancer, I believe, which has infected you, me and them.

On a very personal level, we lie to ourselves when we blame others for our short-comings. If we fail to balance our professional and personal lives, we blame our spouses for not understanding, rather than trying to better the balance. Or if we see him/her trying their utter best, we frustrate ourselves all the same. If our children become too temperamental, we scold them viciously, not ready to accept that we ourselves set the wrong precedent when they were impressionable tiny tots. When financial hardship rears its ugly head, we refuse to share the pain with anyone because of our huge egos, and instead, become the terminator with misdirected anger.

As social beings, we would rather make up an excuse for not being able to attend an important function we were invited to. Why do we find it so hard to say that we were in a bad mood at the time, or that we forgot, or simply didn't feel like it. And why do we have this urge to always compliment another person on how they look or what they're wearing, even when we silently process shock over their choice of shoes. If the truth is too hurtful, why can't we simply refrain from saying anything.

Professionally, we are constantly bombarded with unethical advertisements. Unethical not just because a woman's body is used to sell everything from clothing to car tyres; but unethical also because they are misleading. When prices are quoted, there are always hidden charges. When they do claim that there are no hidden charges, there is always another catch. Maybe the deals are time-specific, maybe something else. When we look for jobs, we garnish our resumes to sell a mechanic as an engineer, or an assignment as a research project.

Political lies are unknown to nobody. Nixon rewards the American people with the Watergate, and Blair conveniently sells WMDs in Iraq to his countrymen.

So deep-rooted is dishonesty in all of us, that we do not even care to spare the spiritualities of others. Believers of one religion will look upon the believers of another in a holier-than-thou attitude. Atheists will claim superiority of reason and enlightenment, blaming the prostrating many of cruelty, inhumanity, superstition and uselessness.

But of course, not everything is as simple as black and white. Some tricky situations call for "creativity". In fact, it might even be dangerous to speak the truth in times of war and captivity. I leave you hence, with a beatiful anecdote from the life of Propher Muhammad (may God's blessings be upon him).

He was migrating from the city of Mecca to Medina, following the persecution of the Meccan leaders. With him was one companion, Abu Bakr (may God's blessings be upon him). The enemies sent out men in search for Muhammad. One of these men met with the Prophet and his companion while they still hadn't reached their destination. He asked Abu Bakr who his friend was. This was a time of war, but the servant of God chose not to lie even at this point. He replied, "He is the one who shows me the way!"

Quite beautifully, Abu Bakr answered with the truth, for Muhammad was his religious and spiritual guide. In the deserts of Arabia, however, his statement was construed - as it was hoped - as literally showing the way.

So yes, there is a path of truth and honesty, whatever the circumstances be. It is ours if we choose to tread it.

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

19 comments:

Shambo said...

Are you willing to consider the atheist point of view with an open mind and with "honesty"? How many times have you tried to "honestly" consider their arguments? How much time have you spent on considering ideologies, religious or non-religious, differnet from yours?
If it's dangerous to speak the truth in times of war and captivity, it can also be dangerous to speak the truth in times of trying financial conditions.

Anas Imtiaz said...

I never hesitate to tell anyone when his/her shoes look awful :D

But on a serious note, atleast in advertisement business, we have made lying part of curriculum. How beautifully they lie is worth appreciating.

Saadia said...

Shambo, wile this post isn't meant to incite a fierce debate on atheism, let me assure you that my religious views have kept evolving over time. There was one point in my life, when I asked myself, 'is there a God'? The world without a God never makes sense to me.

Also, I've kept my mind open towards religions I've come across, but yes, I admit that most of us - if not all - never look into other religions thoroughly enough to claim that we've found the truth. Hence, all the reason why none of us should adopt a holier-than-thou attitude!

Anas, I haven't bought only one new shoe in the last 2 years. I should take care not to hover around you - ever!

Anonymous said...

You are painfully right. I agree to you in all that you have written above. WE are conveniently settling for a way of life that is based on lies. *everyone is doing it* Thats what makes us forget that it still doesnt become right. My mother used to say that to me when I wanted to do something "everyone was doing"
Its funny how right your parents are.
Good Job Saadia. Keep it up :)
Madiha Saail

mansoor said...

well written. while my dilemma lies in a different plane, i do understand what you're saying.

as for the debate on atheism, i think it's too naive to just think whatever you've been taught to be the end all, without understanding it and contrasting it with other's. the main contention i make here is not the validity of what's taught, (i believe the quran to hold valuable knowledge) but the fact that one would accept it without thinking. when you do that, you loose context and without context, words and sentences, even if they are from the quran, take on a whole new meaning, which unfortunately we're sufferin from the effects of.

anyway, thanks for pointing me here and for commenting on my blog.

Saadia said...

Like I said, Mansoor, my religious views have evolved over time, and I hope - for the sake of my intellectual and spiritual pursuits - that they keep evolving in one way or the other. Taqlid (blind acquiescence) has plagued our people too badly.

Thank you, Madiha, for the Sunday visit. ;-)

Id it is said...

Ones religious leanings are a matter of personal preference and should remain so for social well being. However, religion and religious affiliations are becoming serious political issues to contend with to the extent that public debates get hosted to discuss them. My religion if any is a personal choice and it should be respected as such as long as I don't impose it on another. The aforesaid is merely an opinion and may well be disregarded if it offends, hehe

Saadia said...

Religion, like all other views a person holds, is personal. But I also don't see anything wrong about publically discussing religion. Discussions are healthy, if they are carried out with the right spirit. And they certainly don't imply imposition of any sort.

Saadia said...

Unless of course, they are conducted carelessly!

Id it is said...

Choices are presumably well thought out, and if they are personal choices then a public discussion of those choices would be a blatant offensive, wouldn't you agree?

Id it is said...

Views can be different and could therefore be open to public debates, but religion is not a view it is a conscious personal choice,(unless you happen to be Hindu where you are born into the religion and renouncing it is not an option) and should be regarded duly.

Saadia said...

If circumstances, habits, mindsets and exposures change, why can't the choices we make, change with them. Its not like people who discussion religion are attempting you change your affiliations or worldviews.

Also, why is the discussion of religious ideologies immediately construed as a breach of privacy; while the discussion of anything but is welcomed with open arms. How is it that Dawkins can ruthlessly promote his ideologies and Rushdie can slam a religion, and that is okay. And why can't we just discussion religion to understand either the other, or the other's points of views. It helps us understand people better.

Not all religious discussions seek to convince the other or compete with the other. Freudian theories and Kantian philosophies are choices. So are Capitalism and Marxism. All these are fondly debated. Even the clothes we buy for ourselves are very personal choices. But we actually ask for feedback. We discuss marriage proposals with friends. When marriages don't work, we ponder further options all the same. Why is it that religion alone brings out the insecurities in people.

Saadia said...

How do you draw the line between views and personal choices? One religion, in itself, holds so many different points of view. No?

Daanish said...

Interesting topic,people are talking and have open mind,nice to watch from unchartered territory until put to test!

human being said...

very well written... i enjoyed reading every word of it...
but Saadia, where do you think the root lies? why people lie? why they don't have the self confidence to present the truth? (in case of polititians, they know what they are doing... their lies are not because of the lack of self confidence or courage)
think this beautiful discussion remains on the surface... to heal, we should dig down to find the roots to the disease...
any how... you are a very good writer...

Kadri said...

If someone tells me "trust me" I immediately start to wonder why I should trust them and why it's so important for them to make sure that I trust them. Most liars and cons I've been in touch with has verbally tried to convince people that they are trustworthy and/or honest. Trust is earned, honesty is proven, there is no need to tell people what they should think about what you have to say.

I love the anecdote since it has so much wisdom in it. It's also how I try to do things when I'm cornered, telling the truth without telling it all. My friend has a new jacket, it's monstrously ugly in my eyes, still I can comment on the jacket without hurting her feelings or lying. People claim that they have to lie so that they don't hurt other persons, they are wrong, they do on the other hand have to think about what they are saying and pick their words carefully if it's a touchy situation.

As for religion, there are bad apples in all camps not matter what religion or not (atheism) that you belong to and people like to label the whole group after those few. It's so easy to not stop and think about the complexity that's within human nature and people in general are lazy. Why bother to waste energy on thinking when stereotypes works so well?

People in this day and time is so well informed, so educated and still so stupid at times. One would have thought that we all would know better, still we don't.

clincher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Id it is said...

Alas, choices cannot be retraced; you can build upon or move away from them but they cannot be recalled and that is perhaps the basic difference between a choice and a view. Regardless of whether a choice is personal or otherwise, having made it there is no going back, except of course to regret it or learn from it. However, a view is dynamic and evolving by definition; it grows as we speak, and in fact its growth is often contingent on the choices we make.

Saadia said...

My concern, Id, is: how often do we see a born Pakistani defending India against his/her own country, and how often do we a born Jew defending Judaism, as the right religion. Most of us accept what we are born into. Hence, I personally do not see our religious affiliation etc. to be conscious "choices". But I also accept that these are human limitations, and I respect that. But there are viewpoints within the framework of our religions that keep and IMHO, should continue altering with time, as we keep growing. Religious debate, to me, is not a matter of right and wrong, but a way to open up to possibilities outside of dogma. I say this especially going by the attitude my own fellow Muslims have adopted over the years: My parents did this or that, said this or that, about Islam, so that's the way it is!