Knowledge Knows No Bounds

If Pakistan wants to progress in the true sense of the word, it should first learn to endear its intellectuals instead of subjecting them to humiliation and mudslinging.

Knowledge Knows No Bounds

“The most complete gift of God is a life based on knowledge”—Hazrat Ali AS

In simple terms, knowledge is to know something and to become aware of facts. The entire process from ignorance to awareness, especially when it implies verification of facts, is governed by the processes of research and education. Do remember John Locke when he said: “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” In our social setup, we usually take great interest in gossip, scandals and any form of character assassination of our neighbours and celebrities. Our ears prick up at the slightest sound of a juicy story as the germ of curiosity incites us to learn more. We feel proud in being the first to make another person knowledgeable about the information at our disposal. Perhaps that is why the term “breaking news” has been adopted by the electronic media.

According to Hazrat Ali AS, there can be no treasure as precious as knowledge for which one does not need a secure vault for storage because no thief can steal it. Contrary to money, it grows more and more as one distributes it. Compared to the awe that signifies the wealthy, a knowledgeable person draws respect and honour from others. Unlike human beings, knowledge has no face, body, faith, ethnic preferences or whatever prejudices we harbor, yet it has its own peculiar identity, aroma and taste that can only be felt by those who understand its true worth.

Just as the sun’s rays cannot be stopped from clearing the darkness, the light of knowledge cannot be stopped from spreading even if it means crossing man-made borders, eliminating the curse of ignorance and bringing the joy of awareness with a revived reawakening. Those who are engaged in disbursing and making beneficial use of knowledge deserve appreciation, reverence and kudos. Their contributions should be acknowledged, if not rewarded. Countries that honour their scholars, regardless of their origins, have shown unprecedented progress, while those that disregard their academicians, make fun of their achievements or worse still, victimize them at state level can never hope to attain even an iota of enlightenment, let alone make great strides in sciences and development.  

For the intelligentsia, Friedrich Nietzsche had an interesting proposition when he said: “The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends”. Perhaps he was referring to the illuminati that discard artificially created national jurisdictions to shower their knowledge on whosoever seeks to avail them. They are open to anyone who is willing to partake with their know-how and become a source of benefit for the curious ones. As the world today is divided into ‘national’ boundaries, chances are that scientists, educationists, philosophers or any other scholars for some reason (by birth or by choice) could be residing in an enemy country’s territory. For example, a Palestinian in the state of Israel, or say a Ukrainian in what is now territory occupied by Russia, or an Indian Muslim who never opted to migrate to Pakistan. As long as their talents are appreciated and as long as they are able to pursue their research and scholarship comfortably, does it matter who they are or where they are situated?

Developing the argument that the field of knowledge is above all biases of race, caste, creed, colour and ideologies, one can confidently say that those who take on the responsibility of scholarship and choose to team up with others of their type in the quest for learning should be viewed without the spectacles of false prejudices. Why should it matter that someone is white, black, brown or yellow, or is the follower of one or the other ideology, or is from a rich or poor background? If they excel in certain subjects, they should be respected and provided all kinds of incentives to further improve or conduct more research. Full advantage of their know-how should be taken either for the purpose of spreading knowledge or productively availing it.

Countries that understand this idea are progressing to an extent that they have brought about technological revolutions, benefitting their people. They are rubbing shoulders with the mighty in this world and are proving their worth. When our neighbor recently became the fourth in the world to land on the moon after the United States of America, Soviet Union and China, it left everyone flabbergasted. After achieving this success, it quickly adorned the men and women who made this possible with awards and accolades, regardless of their beliefs, thus expressing its appreciation for hard work, labour and competence. Considering the venom being poured out against its minorities, one could think for a moment whether it ought to have bestowed non-Hindus with meritorious awards, yet contributions by all participants was acknowledged.

The West may have done a lot to damage eastern culture in the preceding centuries, but one thing it has taught is appreciation for knowledge and the knowledgeable. The USA in particular, has been ahead in sheltering dissident and persecuted or aspiring academics from other parts of the world because of which it has managed to make great strides in sciences and technology, resulting in its knowledge-based economy flourishing phenomenally. World-renowned personalities such as Albert Einstein (Germany), Nichola Tesla (Serbia), Sergey Brin (Soviet Union), who founded Google, Elon Musk (South Africa), who founded SpaceX and Tesla and is a co-founder of PayPal, Mario Molina (Mexico), a chemist who provided a study for the weakening ozone layer in the atmosphere, Subrahmanyan  Chandrasekhar (India), the famous astrophysicist, Andrew Grove (Hungary), who helped start Intel, Enrico Fermi (Italy), credited for producing the first nuclear reactor, Carl Djerassi (Germany), who introduced contraceptive pills, Amar Bose (India), engineer and founder of Bose, famous for their speakers; were provided facilities and opportunities to pursue their different areas of knowledge. To this day, whether dead or alive, they are cherished and remembered.

If Pakistan wants to progress in the true sense of the word, it should first learn to endear its intellectuals instead of subjecting them to humiliation and mudslinging. Dr. Abdus Salam, the first Pakistan origin Nobel laureate was literally forced to migrate from the country owing to his faith. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan was placed under house arrest on flimsy charges. There is no dearth of academic ingenuity, but its brilliance become dimmed at the hands of those who fail to value these treasures.

The writer is a lawyer and author, and an Adjunct Faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)