Learn Who You Are!

[bit.ly/AZwya] This question of identity, which superficially seems like the simplest of questions, is not only the most important question we all face, but also, for reasons to be explained, the most difficult question. A writeup of the English video lecture is also given below. For an Urdu 7  min video on the same topic, see “Main Kon Hoon?” . This talk covers the first 10 minutes of the longer 90 min Urdu Talk at Iqra University: “How to become Human Beings, instead of Human Resources.”

There are powerful forces which work hard to deny us access to our true identities, and actively deceive us about ourselves. One of these forces is the capitalist economy, which seeks to use up and exploit all planetary resources for the production of wealth. This tendency has become so extreme that it threatens to destroy the entire planet (see speeches by Greta Thunberg on Climate Change). Our modern Western education was designed to turn us into human resources, instead of human beings. This is done by making us believe that we are commodities for sale in the labor market. We are taught to value the price that we will get when we are sold (the money that we make from the careers we pursue). The fact that we are valuable beyond price, the most precious of the creations of God, must be concealed from us, so that we sell our lives cheap, for the benefit of the capitalist machines for the production of wealth.

In fact, Allah T’aala informs us about the value of our lives in the Holy Quran in many different ways. Man has been created in the best of forms, and reduced to the lowest of the low. This means that in us there is potential to rise above the angels, and also the potential to become the worst of the creation. The Holy Quran tells us that if you save one life, it is as if you have save the entire humanity. Our one life is equivalent, in the eyes of God, to the seven billion human lives currently living one the planet. How can this be? We don’t feel our own lives to be that valuable. This is because we have been deceived about our true worth, made to understand that we are cheap, and that our lives are for sale. This has been done so that others can profit from our ignorance and use our precious lives for their own purposes, for making money.

But the question is: HOW can one life be equal to billions of lives? It does not make sense from a mathematical point of view. The answer is that this is true in terms of POTENTIAL. A seed has the potential to grow into a tree, and produce thousands of seeds, which will produce even more trees and even more seeds. Just like that, if we can realize the hidden capabilities which every human being is born with, he/she can rise to a position higher than that of the angels. BUT, if we fail to realize the potential, our lives are worthless, just as a seed which fails to realize its potential and become a tree, is just another nothing.

Because we are extremely precious, there are MANY parties which would like to buy us, and to use us to further their own missions. There are so many ideologies, visions, bright and shining dreams, which appeal to our eyes and hearts, and are designed to deceive us into accepting these missions and selling our lives for their achievement. The only way that these parties can achieve their goals is by misleading us about the purpose and meaning of our lives – by DECEIVING us about our true identities. This is why it is SO DIFFICULT to learn who we are. There are so many groups who wish to buy our lives by selling us fake identities and persuading us to believe in them. So how can we learn the TRUTH about who we are, what we are designed to be, how we can make the most out of our unique and precious lives, the few moments that we have on this planet?

We have to realize that Allah T’aala Himself is ready to buy our lives! He says that he has purchased the lives and properties of the believers in return for Paradise. This is the best use we can make of our lives, to sell ourselves to God, the Creator of the entire universe. Others who seek to buy our lives are all beggars, who have nothing compared to the treasures of the Creator Himself.

It is important to understand that the potential within the seed is only realized in the PROCESS of growth. We CANNOT learn who we are by looking inside our hearts to discover our true identities, because these true identities will be revealed and created as we pursue the path of spiritual growth. This is one of the meanings of the ayat (26:69) that “And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways.” It is in the process of the STRUGGLE to discover the potentials hidden within our souls that Allah T’aala will give us the knowledge and guidance we seek for self-discovery. It was the excitement of this self-discovery which overpowered the seeker Mansour Al-Hallaj and led him to say “I am the Truth”. The journey to discover who we are, and the amazing potentials with which we have been created is the most exciting journey of our lives. We have been taught to aim low, sell ourselves cheap, and never undertake this journey of self-discovery. In order to being this journey, we must UNLEARN all these lies that have warped our understanding of who we are. Below I attach some slides from a talk I presented about all that we must UNLEARN, in order to be able to learn the TRUTH about who we are, the most important question of our lives.

This post summarizes the first 10 minutes of a talk to Iqra University students on learning to become human beings, instead of human resources. For related posts, see:

Reaching Beyond the Stars (shortlink: bit.do/azrbs) We must change our ambitions, strive for great things, if we want to get great results.

Three Mega-Events which Shape our Thoughts: To understand how our identities have been shaped by major forces of history, we must learn about these three events.

Knowledge to Change the World: Schools teach you knowledge required to make money. What kind of knowledge is required to change the world?

The Ways of the Eagles: — bit.do/azwoe — How we learn to be low-flying crows, when we are born to soar like eagles.

How to Motivate and Inspire Students — bit.do/azhims — Talk for teachers on how to inspire students to reach for the best potential they all have within themselves.

Powerpoint slides for the video-lecture of this post are embedded below:

This entry was posted in Islam - Invitation, personal by Asad Zaman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Asad Zaman

BS Math MIT (1974), Ph.D. Econ Stanford (1978)] has taught at leading universities like Columbia, U. Penn., Johns Hopkins and Cal. Tech. Currently he is Vice Chancellor of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. His textbook Statistical Foundations of Econometric Techniques (Academic Press, NY, 1996) is widely used in advanced graduate courses. His research on Islamic economics is widely cited, and has been highly influential in shaping the field. His publications in top ranked journals like Annals of Statistics, Journal of Econometrics, Econometric Theory, Journal of Labor Economics, etc. have more than a thousand citations as per Google Scholar.

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