Of late we have been having an interesting and involved discussion on the subject of medical ethics in India, especially in so-called corporate hospitals involving also doctors in both private practice and government service. Interesting and involved because everyone is an interested party; at some time having been the recipients of the tender mercies of doctors and our hospital system. What I have been left with at the end of it all is the distinctly alarming feeling that the entire concept of medical ethics seems to be Greek and Latin to most doctors – or at least that is how they seem to act. So I thought it would be a useful exercise to put this down on paper, the way I see it so that we can take it on from there.
There are five players in this game – the game of medical care in India. They are:
3. Pharmaceutical company – represented by its salesmen
4. Individual doctors – independent & employees of corporate hospitals
It is symbolic that the name given to the sufferer of a disease is ‘patient’. Perhaps it is a reminder to him of what he needs to be above all else – patient in the face of not only suffering which would be a trial enough, but even more patient in the face of open exploitation by those who he trusts, needs desperately and looks up to as his saviors. The problem is that of a lack of sync in perception. Those who he looks to as his saviors see him as their victim or prey to be used and abused until he can give no more. Exploitation by anyone is bad. But exploitation by those who are trusted is blasphemous and evil. Exploitation by doctors, hospitals and medical service providers falls squarely in that category. Let those who indulge in it fear the Day when they will meet their Creator and have to answer Him for what they did. It doesn’t matter whether you believe this or not. It will happen just the same. Just as not believing in cholesterol will not save you from a heart attack; not believing in AllahY and the Day of Judgment will not save you from it. If you don’t believe me, just wait a bit.
So what is evil about the system as it exists?
What is evil is simply the issue of breach of trust. The trust between the doctor and his patient. There are many relationships in our lives which are based on trust. Parent/child, teacher/student, husband/wife, employer/employee, lawyer/client and others. However it can perhaps be argued that the most intimate of these is that of doctor/patient, where the doctor has access to such intimate personal details of the patient that almost none of the above relations have.
A relationship that is based on trust is unique in that between the two parties there are no barriers, defenses or filters. So any hostile act goes straight to the heart without any hope of being either diverted or combatted. Add to this the complexity that in the doctor/patient relationship the trust is completely one-sided. The doctor knows everything about the patient and can learn whatever he wants simply by asking while the patient may not even know the doctor’s full name, let alone anything more about him. After all in which of these relationships can one simply order the other to drop his pants with the full assurance that his order will be obeyed without question?
Therefore when that relationship is abused the crime is compounded in it heinousness because it amounts to predatory behavior. Given that the medical profession is perhaps the only one where those who graduate as doctors actually take an oath to keep the patient as their first and only concern and to practice their profession with honor and with the sole aim of helping the patient in his hour of need; when those doctors instead start to treat the patient as prey and instead of helping him, proceed to abuse the trust to loot him; the crime becomes worse than that of highway robbery.
The situation as it exists today is as follows:
1. Most Corporate hospitals give doctors commercial targets that they are supposed to achieve every month. If they don’t do it, whatever be the reason, they are penalized directly or indirectly.
2. In order to achieve these targets doctors have only one way; prescribe unnecessary investigations, treatments, hospitalization, surgical procedures, ICU care and expensive medication when cheaper alternatives may be available.
3. Diagnostic centers give doctors commissions which are a percentage of the billing they do for patients that those doctors send to them. This has been made such a fine art that even if a doctor doesn’t send patients to a particular diagnostic center, once a few patients come to them from that doctor, they automatically send a payment to that doctor.
4. And pharmaceutical companies give doctors bribes (they call them incentives or commissions) in the form of cash and kind – holidays, eating out, gifts etc.
The person who eventually pays for all these is of course the patient as he is the only one in this racket who pays. All others collect at his expense. The patient pays directly in terms of needlessly high cost of treatment because all the incentives to doctors are passed on to him. Or indirectly through cost of medical insurance for the same reason.
The questions I want to ask the readers who are doctors are:
1. Did you take all the pains to study medicine, qualify in tough exams and work all hours and take an oath at the end of it; to alleviate suffering or to inflict it?
2. How is it that you don’t feel insulted when you are given commercial targets and when you are offered incentives and commissions?
3. Are you a doctor or are you a you-know-what (let me know if you need me to explain what that is)?
Let me tell you what Rasoolullahr said about commissions andincentives:
1. Abdullah bin `Amrynarrated that Rasoolullahr said: “The curse of AllahY is upon the one who offers a bribe and the one who takes it.”
(Ahmad, Ibn Majah and authenticated by Al-Albani)
2. Abu Sa`id Al-Khudriynarrated that Rasoolullahr said: “Whosoever amongst you sees an evil, let him change it with his hands; and if he is not able, then with his tongue; and if he is not able, then let him hate it in his heart, and that is the weakest of faith.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)
3. Abu Humaid As-sa’idiyreported that Rasoolullahrsaid: “Gifts offered to public servants are ill-gotten gains (ghulul).” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)
4. Buraidah ibn Al-Husaibynarrated that Rasoolullahrsaid: “When we appoint someone to a (public) post and provide him with an allowance, anything he takes beyond that is an ill-gotten gain.” (Abu Dawud and authenticated by Al-Albani)
5. Khaulah bint `Amir (RA) reported that Rasoolulahr said: “Some men abuse AllahY‘s Property (that is, public money and funds). They will go to Hell on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari)
It is clear from all of the above – if you need proof for what your heart should have told you without any of this – that having anyone other than the patient as your primary client whose welfare must supercede every other consideration amounts to breach of trust of the worst kind. Taking all commissions, prescribing unnecessary treatments, making money from the patient beyond a reasonable fee, amounts to ill-gotten gains which attracts the punishment of AllahY.
I didn’t want to make this too long and so I recorded a video about this in which I have told my own story of how I was exploited and how my father was exploited by big name corporate hospitals. Sadly my story is not unique. Stories like mine and far worse abound and every day we hear a new story of gross medical malpractice which is aided and abetted by destroying all evidence of it, doctors lying about it and ensuring that no legal action can be taken against the perpetrators – hospitals and doctors. It is a racket of organized crime – to put it simply and directly.
But in all this such doctors and their colluders forget that what they try to hide is very visible from One who watches and to Whom they are all answerable.
So ask yourself these questions:
1. How would you like to be in the care of a doctor exactly like yourself?
2. How would you like to be the victim of a doctor working to meet a commercial target who exploits you by prescribing treatment you don’t need and inflicting suffering on you so that he can generate bills for surgical procedures, investigations and treatments which are useless or may even be harmful?
3. How would you like to be in the care of a doctor for whom you were the first and most important priority?
4. How would you like to be in the care of a doctor who was interested only in your welfare, ensuring that you received the best care, in the most compassionate way at the lowest possible cost?
5. How you would like to be in the dua of all those you help through their pain and sickness?
6. How would you like to cursed by all those you victimized, deceived, exploited and abused?
Finally I say to those of you who still want to take commissions and work to meet commercial targets, ‘See you on the Day of Judgment before the Throne of my Rabb.’
Remember my dear friends what your Creator, AllahY said:
أَلَمْ يَعْلَمْ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ يَرَى
Alaq 96: 14 Doesn’t he know that Allah is watching?
The biggest challenge of parenting is to accept that we are facing a world that is very different from the one we grew up in. This is true irrespective of which country you live in with the additional complexity of a rapid destruction of walls between cultures. The truth is that your solutions don’t work today and your children know this better than anyone else. Yet you still have the challenge to inspire, support and teach them. Your challenge is to prepare them for a world that you know nothing about. This can be seen as positive or negative depending on your point of view but one thing is certain and that is, it will not leave you untouched.
The major Global Changes that we face are:
Thanks mainly to the internet and to global TV channels we are in an information overload phase. We don’t suffer from lack of information but from a surfeit of it – easily available at the click of a mouse. What is missing is the ability to discern, to sift, to pick the nuggets. What is missing is the ability to know what to do with what we read or see. What is missing is the ability to connect the dots to complete the picture. What is missing is the ability to recognize the reality and to put things in perspective so that we can differentiate between real information and propaganda. What is missing is the ability to respond positively and powerfully to ensure that the dissenting voice is also heard in the cacophony of the dominant discourse.
Easy information exchange has also lowered and in many cases wiped out the entry barriers into technologies and business areas. This opens new opportunities for entrepreneurs provided they know how to use them. It is a challenge for parents to guide their children in ways that enable them not only to make sense of what they see and read but to actually leverage it for themselves and others.
The information exchange also has a darker side with every evil that happens in the world getting instant limelight. The conscious self is bombarded daily with images which at one time would have sent us into depression but which leave us untouched and unmoved today. This desensitization of the heart, the deadening of compassion, making the horrific mundane is the result of constant exposure to cruelty, oppression and bloodshed. Like the nurse in the operating theatre or the butcher in the abattoir, the sight of another’s suffering leaves us untouched. The Salaf used to be very concerned with exposing oneself to things that harden the heart. Imam Al-Ghazali used to say that one should not mention death while eating because if the heart is not deadened then you will not be able to eat. And if you are able to eat then it will become evident to everyone that your heart is dead. I don’t think we bother with such niceties anymore because the condition of our hearts is apparently not of any consequence to us. The challenge that parents have is to guide children such that their hearts don’t harden and show them how they can help those in need. Hidden in this is also the real danger of radicalization of youth and their falling into the trap of those who seek to recruit them for cannon fodder. It is our challenge to help them to retain perspective, show them how they can positively contribute and stay away from all extremist positions. But to do all that we need to check what state our own hearts are in for only the seeing can guide the blind.
The second challenge we face is that of technology. Like rain, it is a part of our lives. You either get wet or you learn to use an umbrella. The smart phone, the computer, social networking and the ever present Google. Google maps automatically gives me driving directions to the masjid on Fridays whether or not I ask for them. It tells me if a flight that I am booked on is late or not. It even tells me when I need to leave for the airport, even when I have not asked for this information or informed it about my present location. It knows without being told. So how difficult is it to believe that Allahﷻ
, who created the creator of Google and his brain, also knows?
Technology takes away the drudgery and monotony. It adds value and makes life easy. But at the same time it increases distraction, creates a false sense of satisfaction and speed. People feel satisfied with posting likes on Facebook and making favorites on Twitter as if they actually accomplished something. They forget that a million likes don’t put a piece of bread into the mouth of the starving child or save it from the bullet of a sniper. Instant gratification – the most dominant sign of an immature intellect – is one of the legacies of technology, albeit unintentional. We forget that if you want results you have to work very hard at the right things; not merely click a mouse or tap a touch screen. This results in unjustified frustration and the millennial personality is born. People who are literally disinterested in the future. What can you hope for with respect to creating a legacy from those whose main interest is the next sensation?
We have a mentality that always seeks more and more excitement. Steve Irvin (Crocodile Hunter) is a good example of this and its unwitting result – taking closer and closer chances with dangerous animals until one day the inevitable happened. But the result is that today if you want to make an animal encounter show, until you can put your head into a lion’s mouth and obviously come out alive, the producers won’t even look at you. And the value of doing so? Well, when you measure everything in terms of TRP ratings, that is perfectly clear, isn’t it?
Speed of response that technology enables is both a competitive advantage and a threat. Our own response to events has to be hugely faster than our parents’ needed to be because every event is instantly global news. The repercussions of the thoughtless word are also serious and in some cases severe. But what remains constant is that artificial intelligence is not the same as natural and technology doesn’t replace wisdom. We still need the human intellect to interpret the event and color the picture to see the whole scene.
As I mentioned, the influence of other cultures is so invasive and powerful that merely trying to guard against it by prohibiting TV is futile. Children are exposed to other cultures all through their day. What needs to be done is to demonstrate to them the value of our culture in such a way as to enable them to take pride in it, while still respecting other cultures. This is essential because the usual approach of running down everything else creates walls and doesn’t promote cross cultural understanding. How to learn without becoming judgmental while retaining our own sense of right and wrong? This is a complex issue and something that needs to be learnt before one can teach it. The most critical part of this is to retain an open mind while being clear about the boundaries of Islam. One must be confident without becoming bigoted. This is critical to presenting Islam also because you can’t present an alternate perspective without understanding and respecting the perspective of your partner.
The modern world has also created myriad new career options which bring with them new dilemmas & questions. In short your life history doesn’t work anymore. Our challenge is to prepare them for a world that we know nothing about. But you signed up for that job when you had a child.
Just to give you a small peek at what I mean please consider the following:
The top 10 – in demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004. In the year 2000, Google (founded 1998 but public in 2004), Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006), YouTube (2005) and Whatsapp (2009) didn’t exist. We all lived in a world without the things we consider critical to survival today. And for the most part we lived happily. These things apart from their nuisance value do have some positive uses, create jobs and hugely influence our perception the world, our social behavior, our buying preferences, who we look up to and who we look down on. Today it is thanks only to Facebook and YouTube that a lot of modern scholars have more popularity than Imam Ahmed and Imam Abu Hanifa had in their days. It is not the depth of their knowledge but our slavery to these technologies that has colored our perception such that the first thing people ask is, ‘How many videos does he have on YouTube?’ As if that is one of the questions of the Day of Judgment.
These technologies and the gadgets they come in, take up huge amounts of our time and create anxiety, stress and anguish over pointless things. They rule our hearts and minds if we allow them to. And they make some very smart people insane amounts of money at our expense. How are we going to explain the dangers of all this to our children when we are ourselves the victims of these technologies? The solution is not discarding them. That would be like pretending it was not raining when it was. You would only get wet. Also as I mentioned there are positive aspects to them which we can and must use. The key is to be able to differentiate and use, not become the used and manipulated. Our challenge is to prepare children for challenges that don’t exist yet using technologies that haven’t been invented. The reality is that today’s solution is often tomorrow’s problem. If you need a reminder, think of plastics. There are many here who remember a plastic free world and the delight with which we welcomed plastics when they came into our lives. As they say, the rest is history.
The total amount of technical information is doubling every two years. This means that for a student in a 4 year course, what he learnt in Year – 1 is already outdated in Year – 3. So what is the use of our traditional teaching – both what we teach and how we do it needs to change. Frankly it doesn’t need to change; it needs a decent burial and a new system needs to be born. Finland, which is famous for its educational system has decided to stop teaching subjects completely and teach application instead. I had proposed that in 2002 in my vision statement for the SBA. Without understanding application we have the pathetic situation of our children going to school for 15 years and coming out completely innocent of anything remotely useful. Their minds are filled with disconnected pieces of information that’s perhaps individually useful but because they never learnt the relationships or how to use that information in real life, they lose all interest in the subject itself. In the real world they are completely incapable of survival itself, let alone being able to influence, guide, command or even earn a decent living. Fifteen years of schooling only puts them on the threshold of another decade perhaps of studying to qualify to stand in the line for a job.
What never ceases to amaze me is how the insanity of it doesn’t strike anyone and we still continue to donate serious amounts of money to the system that does nothing for us. Those who send their children to big name schools with high fees, ask your child what he or she learned that can help them to survive one week on their own and you will know what your money bought for you. Ask if your money bought you good manners, compassion, the ability to have an intelligent conversation, write a decent letter or cook a decent meal; let alone Taqwa, Ta’alluq Ma’Allah, respect for the Sunnah, confidence in Islam or in their own culture. What it probably did buy you is recalcitrant attitudes, arrogance, embracing the worst values of the West instead of the best, enslavement to gadgets and brands and a burning desire to go to Europe or America to study immediately after graduating from school but at your expense and not on their own merit. An entitlement mentality that is the cancer which is at the root of all degeneration and family disputes, especially in business families. Most sadly it probably also bought an attitude of looking down on others including in many cases, their own parents who pay their bills. And to think of it, none of this was promised in the prospectus when you put your child in the school, was it? Talk about the Aha! Experience and getting value for your money!
So what to do? Solution: Win the RACE. What race? RACE is my acronym for what you need to do to deal with the challenge of raising children you can be proud of. RACE stands for Read, Anticipate, Create and Execute.
Reading has become a redundancy and this is the root cause of most of our problems. Not reading disconnects us from our own history, our culture, religion and from Allahﷻ
. Reading enables us to know what is happening, to put it in perspective and to anticipate problems and opportunities – two names for the same thing. So ask yourself how many books you read every month. Ignorance is not bliss. It is ugly and shameful. So start reading. Read and encourage your children to read. Read and analyze and discuss and debate. See what questions they ask. The questions are much more important than answers. Let powerful questions arise in the mind and answer them yourself or find others who can answer them. Cultivate the company of those who read and who have intelligent conversations – not Gheeba (backbiting and slander) disguised as social talk. Cultivate the company of scholars of all kinds of knowledge. Go to them and take your children with you. Don’t worry if your children tell you that they can’t understand anything that is being said. That is a sign of the result of the kind of upbringing you gave them and what they failed to learn in school. Consider it a sign of sickness. That is why you took them there, to stretch their minds and to expose them to the expanse of knowledge. What you hear today and don’t understand gets stored in the memory and comes to your aid years later at unexpected moments. You need to change your habits and your social life. If your social life consists of attending random weddings and re-eating biryani then none of what I have said will be possible. You have to do first what you want your children to do. Make no mistake. To give you must first have.
Learn to read the signs both in your children and in the environment and prepare for them by being proactive. Combative and harsh attitudes usually get negative results. You need to be able to reason and convince, not force. To reason and convince you need to have knowledge and be convinced yourself. Brings us back to reading. Another great resource is the company of wise people. Wisdom begins with Taqwa so people who disobey Allahﷻ
by definition can’t be wise, though they may have some skills or some specific knowledge. Seek the company of the Muttaqoon who obey Allahﷻ
and follow the Sunnah of His Messengerﷺ
Monitor your conversations. Monitor your company. Who do you meet with your children? Who are your children exposed to? What are they likely to learn from them? Make sure you keep the right company and expose your children to the right company. Most children today spend time with their own age groups. The question is, what can a fifteen year old teach another fifteen year old? Children need the company of wise and knowledgeable elders to learn life skills. This is how mammals learn – from elders. Sohbat say Sahaba banay. The Sahaba learnt from the Sohabt (companionship) of the Prophetﷺ
. Our children are starved of the Sohbat of wise elders and the tragedy is that most are not even aware of what they are losing.
Now that you have an idea of the challenges ahead and you have anticipated how some of them are likely to touch you and your children, create solutions. Teach tools because your answers don’t work anymore. Teach tools because they are timeless and can be applied to all kinds of problems. Among the most important tools are:
How to connect to Allahﷻ
Managing money – earn/not spend
Take ownership – no excuses
Social graces and manners
Humility – No arrogance
Finally execute, implement, because only results can be banked, as the saying goes. You must create a schedule to impart these skills and knowledge to your children. Parenting is a contact sport. You can’t outsource it, no matter how competent the care taker. And remember that children listen with their eyes. If you don’t wake up for Fajr it is no good telling your child to pray Tahajjud. If you don’t read, the child will not read. And if he reads because his teacher inspires him to do so, soon he will know more than you and that is shameful. Remember you signed up to raise your children the day you decided to have them. Whatever you did until now, it is time to take stock and ask yourself what you need to change. It is eye opening if you ask your children what they learned from you. I began this series of lectures by asking you how many of you had one of their parents as their role model and you know the pathetic result. Ask if you want your children to think the same? If not, the time to change is now.
It is simply not enough to feed, clothe and gadgetize your children and then leave them to their own devices except to refill their bellies or accounts. You have to get serious with their upbringing.
For the children an even more critical message: Remember that one of the seven who Allahﷻ promised the shade of His Arsh on the day when there will be no shade except His, is the youth who grew up in obedience to Him. So this is a very critical time in your life. This is the power of the multiplier. During this stage every action of yours has a far higher reward than the reward of older people doing the same thing. Everything you do that is obedience of Allahﷻ and the Sunnah of His Messengerﷺ and every temptation you reject because it is against the order of Allahﷻ or the Sunnah of His Messengerﷺwill take you closer to Allahﷻ, make your dua more accepted and be a witness for you on the Day of Judgement. This period of grace will end when you grow older. So focus on making the best of this time and don’t lose this period of grace to please some loser who is your friend.
The effect of friends, both positive and negative can’t be overemphasized. It is huge.
I constantly hear the lament after a final exam, ‘I only got so many marks.’ My question is, ‘’Why? Did they run out of stock?’ Their answer is, ‘Friends. My friends who I gave more time to than to my studies.’
I say to you, ‘Wake up! Convert your friend to your way of being or delete him from your list. You can’t afford losers as friends, no matter how cool they look. So get serious. We only live once. Let us live it right.’
My morning began with three emails: One a quote from my great benefactor and teacher, Ml. Sayyid Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (May Allah be pleased with him), the other the column of my friend David Bullard about Twitter and Facebook and the third the news (how predictable) that Narendra Modi has been able to sign up a record number of MOU’s for an astronomical sum of promised investment into Gujarat with everyone who is anyone in Indian industry, cheering him as they signed on his dotted line. I have pasted the two emails below. Modi is all over the papers and my computer doesn’t like his face so I will leave you to look at it in your own time.
Why these three things together?
Because the message is the same – it is money which makes the world go around.
And so what kind of world is it that is going around where the only consideration is ‘dollar value, net worth and bottom line’? Where human values, morals, ethics, compassion, consideration and kindness are all signs of weakness.
Modi is one face of it – a man who engineered the slaughter of 2000 innocent men, women and children and in case you didn’t get the message, announced it from the rooftops and as a result, got elected with thumping majorities in three subsequent elections. A man who the people of his state, Gujarat and most of India look up to as their ‘savior’ because he can attract the high and mighty (from our epitomes of honesty and integrity, who talk values and travel economy class on planes to our wheelers and dealers who do it openly and without apology, who institutionalized corruption in this country and forged the Corporate – Politician – Civil Servant nexus and everyone else in between) to sign on his dotted line and promises of billions in investment. Nobody more materialistic than the normal, garden variety Indian and so you promise money and you can have my body and my soul in the same shrink wrapped package.
Another face of it is the news today that when they tried to unclog a blocked sewage drain in the women’s hostel of the English & Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, they discovered what was blocking it – a few days old fetus (read: baby).
Another face of it is the scene I saw when I was having my annual lunch with my friend Anil Sood at the Westin hotel in Hyderabad two days ago – two young men and two young women attired in a green colored uniform pulling a steel roller on the lawn. Why do you need four people (gender equality to boot) to drag a roller when a John Deer or Massey Ferguson mini-roller would do it better, faster and cheaper? Because it is actually cheaper to use four people in India and who cares about faster and better anyway? So what are we seeing in the ‘Shining India’ that is being touted to us?
5% or less of a population of 1.2 billion working in the service industry (ITES, IT, Call Centers) creating a bubble of apparent prosperity – propped up by easy credit and complete freedom from any sort of value, chasing a fantasy created and peddled by Bollywood – easy money, easier women, all for a song.
What does that mean in plain language?
The vast number of ‘jobs’ being created for those who are not computer mechanics and keyboard jockeys are symbolically like the one I mentioned above – people dragging the dead-weight of their lives behind them – jobs in gardening and cleaning in 5-star hotels, security for shiny steel and glass offices, labor to build those offices and the elevated highways connecting them to shiny airports and the like. Where did such people work before we started ‘Shining’? For one thing they didn’t exist – the effect of the population explosion. For another they used to work in the fields on farms. Some of them sold farm produce in cities – small retail. Still others worked in manufacturing companies – which actually make things – not just answer phone calls in bad English with worse manners.
Today manufacturing is what China does. Small retail is what the likes of Reliance and ITC and others grabbed and created humongous retail chains on the model of Wal-Mart, in the process wiping out the livelihood of millions of poor people who had no other means of earning a living and no other skill. Farms are where our politicians go to gather votes on the basis of unsustainable promises, where micro finance companies go to offer loans at astronomical interest rates and where the desperate farmers eventually commit suicide. What about the labor who construct those beautiful offices (if you call something of steel and glass beautiful, that is) and elevated highways and shiny airports that less than 1% of the population will ever use? Well, after the office is up and well before inauguration, lo and behold, they don’t exist. They are made to disappear. They vanish without trace as if they never existed in the first place. Maybe the building is a current version of the Indian rope trick – it arose out of the earth when someone played the flute.
In closing let me narrate a story – that the engineer in charge told me at a major hydroelectric generation plant in Tamilnadu in the beautiful Anamallai Hills more than 20 years ago. This project was designed to pump water from a lower reservoir during off peak times into a reservoir on the hilltop and then during peak times this water is sent down steep penstock tunnels onto turbines to generate electricity. The project engineer was taking me around and we were walking in the main tunnel off which the penstock tunnels fell away at an angle of 30° or less – onto the turbines.
The man cautioned me and said, ‘Sir please don’t go too close to the edge. If you slip, we will not even be able to get your body up.’ (laugh). I noticed of course the complete absence of guard rails or holding nets or any form of safety when there were hundreds of workers working on this site. Their gear? Rubber slippers, beedi in the mouth and an attitude of fatalism. So I asked him, ‘Don’t you have accidents? What happens if one of these workers slips and falls?’ He said, (laugh again – this time albeit a little embarrassed), ‘We take attendance in the evening.’
That O! People, is the nature of the world that money makes go around. They take attendance in the evening. Your call.
The lifestyles of the Ulama have to be distinguished from the awaam (general masses)
Hadhrat Moulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (rahmatullahi alaih) once mentioned:
“Our lives have to be distinguished from the awaam. Onlookers should be able to fully understand that these people are not seekers of the world, and wealth and riches are not their goal in life. Our work should be only for the sake of Allah Ta`ala as was the way of our aslaaf (pious predecessors). As long as a marked difference does not appear in the Akhlaaq (manners,attitude) of our Ulama fraternity and they do not instill within themselves the quality of serving others, they will not be able to influence others nor will they be respected. They will not be able to implant within the minds of others the respect and honour for Deen. Respect for Ulama will never be created by reporting the size of the madrasahs they run and the large number of students studying under them. Rather, the honor for Ulama is created by the way they portray themselves. When the awaam notice that these Ulama consider it taboo to lay their hands on that which they (awaam) will sacrifice their lives for (i.e. material possessions etc.), nor do they show any concern for them, they will eventually say to themselves, “We thought that riches were the ultimate in life but, in the eyes of the Ulama riches hold no weight.” (Tuhfat-ul-A’immah, p. 77)
Before I begin on the three fundamental principles that make winners, let me state one thing: In life, only winners are rewarded. So the first requirement of winning is to be passionate about winning. To realize that a real win is one that is gained fairly, with integrity and without harming anyone. Only that is a win.
There are three fundamental drivers of all winners:
1. Drive for excellence
3. Desire to leave a legacy
Drive for excellence emerges from the winner’s self-concept. A winner defines himself by his output. Her contribution is her signature. Winners are contribution oriented, not entitlement oriented. They constantly seek to give and to give more and better each time. Naturally this gives them profit, fame, honor and popularity but that is not why they do it. They do it because of who they are. Not because of what others say about them. I recall a carpenter who was making a table and asked me for 7 grades of sandpaper. When I complained about the time it would take, he said to me, ‘It is your choice. This is how I work. I want whoever sees your table to ask you, ‘Wow! Who made this?’ Not, ‘Who the hell made this?’ He was working for his own satisfaction. That this would result in a satisfied customer was incidental. He would have worked that way even if he had no customer to sell to. The table he made for me was of teak wood, polished to a mirror finish. A delight to see.
Compassion comes from a sense of connectedness that winners have. They realize that they are not alone in the world and that they became what they became because of what others did for them, without thinking of a return. Compassion is not merely to be concerned about the difficulties of others but to be concerned enough to put our money and effort where our mouth is. Compassion is what defines us as human beings. Animals don’t have compassion. A wildebeest herd stands and watches one of its members being eaten by lions and do nothing to help the one that was taken. It is peculiarly and essentially human to be concerned for the welfare of others. Winners are concerned and they act. Today our major problems that threaten the world are because of a lack of concern, a lack of compassion for others. We are singularly focused on growth at any cost. Growth for the sake of growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell. Predatory growth results in environmental destruction, impoverishment of people for the enrichment of a few and increase in unrest and insecurity.
Legacy: Finally winners who have lived all their lives trying to create an impact on their environment don’t want to disappear beneath the waves without a trace. They like to leave a legacy of goodness that continues after they are gone. So they build organizations, systems and processes so that their work will continue. They spend time, energy and resources to train others, to teach them what they know, to share their life’s hard earned experience so that others don’t have to go through the same hardships to learn. Winners leave their mark on the hearts and in the lives of all those they touch. They don’t do this to be remembered but they are remembered because of what they did. For the world remembers us not for what we had but for what we did and how that helped them. The legacy of the winner is in the smiles of those who they helped.
We have reached a stage in our development (if I dare to call it that) as human beings where our world seems to run on hatred, not love. I think we all know the many reasons for this and how the flames are fanned. I remind myself and you that all fire burns and the result is always ash. It doesn’t matter why the fire was set. If it was set, it will burn everything that lies in its path and turn it to ash. Is this what we want with our lives? Ashes? If not, I have a solution and here it is.
“If you always do what you always did you’ll always get what you always got.
If you want to get what you never had, you have to do what you never did.”
Many times we find ourselves stuck in a negative cycle, especially with respect to certain people; parents, spouses, parents in law, friends; where with great regularity we find ourselves miserable, angry or otherwise in pain. Every time this happens we tell ourselves, ‘Never again. I will never let that happen again.’ But lo and behold we find that the next time around, in the same entirely predictable way we are enacting the same script all over again.
I don’t know how many of you have seen the play, ‘The Mousetrap’; the longest running play in London. It has been running for several decades. Naturally many of the original actors have retired. Some have died. Many new actors have come into the roles. But you know something; very strangely, the ending is always the same. Now isn’t that strange??
‘Ha!! Ha!!’ you laugh. ‘How can you call it strange?’ you ask. ‘After all the script is the same. So how can the ending be different?’
‘Ha!! Ha!! Indeed’, I say to you. ‘Apply the same logic to your life Sir. Remind yourself that if you want a different ending, changing actors is no use. You must change the script. See?’
Cut to your real life’s negative cycles – many people change actors. They get divorces, marry again, change jobs, change friends, cut off relations with parents (they can’t change those can they?) and so on. And a couple of years into the new relationship they find that the same problems have resurfaced. And they are surprised. I always tell them to go and watch ‘The Mousetrap’. Not perhaps for the usual reason but to drive home the point that the problem is not with the actors but with the script.
So, what can you do?
Well here’s my solution.
I call it my 3 – step solution:
- Stop dead in your tracks
- Take back the control into your own hands
- Then do the opposite of what you normally do
Stop dead in your tracks
Remember that until you are in the cycle, it will move in the same direction it always did. So, get off. Stop in your tracks. Break the cycle. How? Tape your mouth. Say nothing. Leave the room. Pretend you are having a heart attack. Go to the toilet. Knock over the water – do anything but don’t say that thing which is on the tip of your tongue. DO NOT REACT.
Take back the control into your own hands
DO NOT REACT: Remember that when you are reacting you are merely demonstrating that you are a puppet on a string. You are moving in whichever direction the puppet master pulls the string. So, break the string. Let him pull it whichever way he wants to. Since it is not connected to you, it will not affect you. Remind yourself that NOBODY CAN MAKE YOU FEEL ANYTHING. People do whatever they want to. YOU DECIDE HOW TO REACT. Stop reacting. Instead RESPOND. What is the difference?
Responding is what you consciously choose to do. Reacting is what someone else makes you do. So instead of reacting, respond. What does that entail? Well, for one thing, it requires that you stop (refer to step 1 above) and think about what is happening. Then it requires that you think of what the best way is, to deal with it. Not what is the ‘natural way’ or the ‘instinctive way’ but ‘the best way’
Remember that what is instinctive or natural is not always what is best. Emotional maturity is to act deliberately and consciously. To do what may not be natural but is wise, useful and productive. To do that, you have to ask yourself another question, ‘What is the result that I want from this interaction?’ Then do that which will get you that result. Not what you are dying to do to score some cheap point. So, stopping in your tracks is essential. Remember, anger is natural. Controlling it is not.
Then do the opposite of what you normally do
There is a famous story of President Harry Truman (I think it is about him. Forgive me please if I’ve got the wrong president) who was locked in an argument with someone. It got to a point that when he was about to say something, the other man said, ‘Don’t even bother. I know exactly what you will do.’ Harry Truman stood up, did a summersault on the carpet of the Oval Office and said, ‘I bet you didn’t think I’d do that?’ That broke the cycle.
Do the opposite. Suddenly hug your mother in law and kiss her. Maybe she will have a heart attack and your problem will be solved. Or even better she will see the error of her ways. Do the opposite of what you normally do. A good way is to be especially nice to those who are nasty to us. Be good to them. Serve them. Be especially thoughtful. And do it sincerely. That is important. Insincerity always shows up and causes more problems. Acting can’t be sustained. Be sincere. And be consistent. Don’t be nice only once. Be nice always. Not because of them but because of you. Make being nice your brand.
The Prophet Muhammadﷺ said, ‘I guarantee a palace in the middle of Paradise to the person who has the right but gives up his right for his brother.’ He said that because that is tough to do. Do the opposite. What is the best ‘opposite’ for you to do? Well, it is your life, see? So, think about it for yourself. One rule though – it must be the best that you can do. Not simply something to score points against the other person.
Because remember the fundamental rule? When life presents a problem for us to solve, if we solve it, we go ahead. If we don’t, the same problem will come back to us again and again until we solve it. Complaining changes nothing. The problem must be solved to show that we learnt our lesson. After all there is a reason for the problem to come in the first place, see? Nothing is without purpose. We need to graduate from one class to the next. Until we are in the same class, no matter how many schools we change, it is still the same class, same exams, same books, same lessons; until we pass the exam. Only then will we be permitted to move to a higher class. The sooner we demonstrate that we learnt our lesson, the sooner will be our graduation.
In conclusion, remember it is not about changing actors but about changing the script. You are the director. It is your play. But you are not the audience. So, you must act.