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On Avoiding Hunger Revolts (PART I)
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The Allam Conversion: Challenges and Opportunities
The Usury Battle
A Very Special Message
The Timing of the Fasting Month of Ramadan: The Introductory Article
Fatwas Part Seventy-One
“Appointment with Education”
“Appointment with Education”

“Appointment with Education”

          I have known Hala Gabra, an activist who specialises in helping refugees and asylum seekers, since March or thereabouts. She invited me to come to learn English in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (SCVA); a course she co-ordinates. I welcomed the idea very much, as a young person who is passionate about science, keen to observe new and innovative ideas in education – especially so when it comes to university.


          Hala helps people who want to go and learn at the SCVA, coordinating with them by telephone to arrange their transport and make sure they are where they need to be. In order for me to attend, she had to make all of this happen before Tuesday, when my appointment at the SCVA took place, from exactly two o'clock in afternoon until five.


          I prepared myself before the day like a lover due to meet his girlfriend, in the best place in my view: a university, seat of science, founded on the progress of peoples and prosperity of civilisations.


Universities create their countries’ intellectual reputations, particularly in developed countries, whose institutions are particularly prestigious and which have proved their superiority across different fields of knowledge via rigorous discourse and the pursuit of intellectual freedom.


The purpose of higher education, in many countries, is as a yardstick to measure the nation's progress in terms of civilisation. Trailblazers for invention and discovery, universities are the means by which ideas become concrete and eventually benefit civilisation in a tangible way: the development of the human by control of the means of development ours civilizations. Universities, then, are my place of worship: they are my mosque, my church, my temple. My prayers there address the true origins of God: science, not ignorance.


          Upon arriving at UEA, the lecturers welcome us with great interest, and lead us to a lecture theatre, where everyone sits down. Each of us introduces him- or herself and explains which languages they speak, and the lecturer notes everything on a whiteboard. The blank white board is soon filled with details of many languages ​​and cultures.


Humans are social beings, and contact with others is one of the most important bases of human life. The acquisition of knowledge, experience and culture only occurs by contact with one another and interaction between communities. This principle is advocated by civil and religions structures alike.


          The Lord of all beings decided that we are all equal brothers and sisters, the issue of but one father and one mother despite our differences; and the Lord has made us differ in colours and languages in order to learn about each other, not to fight and destroy each other. The interface of cultures is what drives us onwards, towards the horizons of the mind, and affirms our humility.

          ‘Some of us rank themselves above others,’ teaches the Qur’an, ‘based on colour, wealth, power and social class, but the true classification that God uses is one’s righteousness.’ The most honoured in the eyes of the Lord are those who are most righteous. Righteousness is the true belief in the uniqueness of the creator; and also a consistency in doing good deeds that benefit society. To ensure that no one claims that they are more righteous than others and uses this as a means of making money and power, the Lord confirms in this verse that He is the only one who will decide who are those righteous according to their deeds and beliefs. This will only happen on the Day of Judgment, but until that day comes, let’s live in tolerance and love.


          After introducing ourselves, we start our course in drawing and painting, two of the most important and prominent arts of all; and two of the fine arts. Drawing and painting are major components of the Seven Arts, too, which also comprise sculpture, music, dance, poetry (literature), and film. Drawing and painting are an important graphical tool and can be used to depict the different ideas that roam the human mind and the world of dreams. Paintings make a huge impact on the observer but also open up the possibility of a sense of visual interaction.


          Paintings may depict important events contemporaneous with the painter’s life: they may depict victorious naval battles, complete with the very likeness of the ships - but also can go beyond to hint at determination, failure, betrayal, abandonment: not merely the historical facts but a sense of human experience. Painting is the embodiment of beauty, able as it is to express beautiful in a way that is itself beautiful. Creativity stimulates the brain and helps the mind to become beautiful, too.


          We start work painting in a modern way which is innovative - something I have never come across in my country. The education system in Egypt is traditional; too old to keep pace with the times. During the session, I feel the spirit of a child previously deprived with in me begin to stir: I take his hand, angry and sad for him because of the terrible state of education in his country, and tell him to emerge, like a baby from a mother; to emerge into the light and enjoy life. Taking a pen and paper, this child inside of me draws a big tree in a large field where a hundred birds sing, instead of the sound of guns, tanks and the sounds of wars. Draw an orphan child in the arms of his parents; bread in the hands of the hungry; a big house for the homeless; a safe house for those who have fled their home countries.


          I tell the child within me, draw a hand to wipe away the tears of the poor and the homeless. Draw, my child, and don’t be afraid of the teacher who might punish you, the police who might arrest you or the threats of those who might make fatwa against you. Dream, I tell him, and if you look behind you, you will see good people smiling at you, encouraging you: maybe one day your dreams may be a reality.


Close your eyes my child, I tell him, and leave our cruel and painful world to the darkness of space. Spread your wings and fly, and fill your world with justice, love and peace. Then, open your eyes and thank God that you are not blind.


After that, we climb the stairs and emerge in a museum, full of religious objects and monuments to draw. I take my child’s hand and say to him, choose anything you like to draw. He chooses a Red Sueki Globular Jar, a stoneware pot from the Nara period in Japan (710 - 794 AD). During the drawing my child asks me, is this a good choice, and I say, yes, a very good choice. He asks: Why did someone make this pot? I replied, maybe to store water in: the human genius behind this designed this pot with a high degree of precision. My child remarks, all this for water? I smile at him and replay yes, and I’ll tell you why. My child begs me to tell him: he is raring to know. I tell him: it is human nature to love water as it is the reason for our existence. It is the basis of life, and unique to this planet. The characteristics of water properties are different to all other liquids: colourless, without smell or taste - but it unlocks the taste in so much else.


Water is sweeter in the mouths of the thirsty. In ancient religions and civilisations, water was an object of worship. Water forms 65% of the content of the human body, and 80% of the brain. There are micro-organisms which can exist without air, but to date we have yet to discover any that can do so without water. Unlike other liquids, which follow gravity downwards, water can travel against gravity. Take the palm tree, for instance, which is 40 metres high yet allows water to flow upwards to nourish its upper branches. In their frozen state, liquids become heavier - but not water, which instead becomes lighter. Water molecules are stronger than those of steel because they are linked together more tightly. Water on the earth is recycled time and again via the process of evaporation and precipitation: my Ancient Egyptian ancestor might have washed with the same water with which I now wash myself.


My child laughs and says yes, may be, and I say to him, you’re looking at the pot just as a pot, but to the people that made this, it was so much more: an offering to their god, and an object which demonstrated the value of water. The person who made this pot is long dead, invisible as far as our lives are concerned, but the pot endures. This is really the meaning of life: what you add to the sum total of human experience.


Let us my child to think about this wonderful fate: the pot is now at the University of East Anglia, an artistic masterpiece several centuries old, and its maker now dust. This man was well aware of the value of science and work, believed in science and translation of ideas into action I am also aware that the real value of rights is not money, but what is given to life from birth to death. I say to my child, there is sure to be a place for you among people with your knowledge yet no money; and I know that the world is transient and every human being will die inevitably, so be keen to do good and safe science and work and let the hatred and greed from your heart, you are to learn what will happen to you tomorrow. My child says to me: We should aim to do somethings valuable in this life, you have a right.

          I say to my child, let's see something else. We stop in front of a ceremonial dagger (Dagger with bird head pommel; Musk-ox horn, leather, abalone, shell, copper; North America, Northwest Coast, Tingit People; late C19th). I ask him what he thinks of this knife capped with an owl’s head. Terrified, he replies, no, no, I don’t like owls and knives. I ask him why not, and he tells me, because they are a symbol of evil and doom.


I smile and say to him, no my child, your information is wrong: the owl is a bird of prey, active mainly at night. The owl has often been associated by many as something ominous, and by others with wisdom; and remained a major focus in many myths and legends over the centuries. Bird images in India signify their status as objects of worship; and in Europe they have been portrayed as a symbol of stubbornness, while others saw them as a symbol of composure.


The owl uses its strong sense of hearing and two large eyes for good night vision in its hunt for mice, rabbits and other small animals. Its silent wings allow it to easily capture and kill its prey thanks to its smooth feathers, which mean that its flight is hardly heard. The owl has an advantage in the world of birds, in that its powerful night vision seeks out rodents and insects, and thus earns it the respect of the farmer and wider human environment alike. The owl is the only bird which can look behind itself, managing to cover an angle of up to 270 degrees: among creatures of the night, this a feature that is not matched even by cats. Owls exist in most parts of the world. They resemble hawks, with large strong feet, square beaks and long, sharp claws. They spend the day sleeping in caves or felled trees.


My child says to me, this is very good information about owls, but the owl is a killer. It kills rats and rabbits in order to eat them: it is a killer!!

          I tell my child, God created everything. He created a blight for everything: cotton as well as the cotton pest, plants and grasshoppers, teeth and decay, eyes and cataracts, the nose and the flu, hair and baldness, fruits and mould, and iron and rust. God created a large number of enemies for humans, like moths, fleas, cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes, lice, microbes and viruses, besides the devil and evil spirits. God said that he did this deliberately. As he said in Qur’an, ‘Verily we have created human into tools and struggle,’ which tells us that God intended to do this and has done so according to a plan he has laid down. God does not want this life to be peaceful or eternal, but a place of anxiety and disturbance to keep people aware of the fact that our place on earth is but temporary. So, life is full of all kinds of disturbing things that’ll make humans’ lives restless. God wants to see how humans will stand the test of this restless life. Everything is tested by its opposite. God has planned this struggle in life for the good of it. The struggle between people is good for life in general. It is important for human sustainability, as strong and powerful people are busy defying one another, and thus they’re heedless of the weak. This is mentioned by God: ‘Had the God not repelled one people by means of another, there would have been destroyed monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques in which the name of God is much mentioned.’ This means that had tyrants not been busy fighting one another, they would’ve been harming people who pray in mosques and try to earn their living peacefully and honestly.


My child nods his head, and I say again, this struggle among people and among contradictory things is planned by God. He made this plan in order to strike a balance, and created everything for a purpose other than killing one another. He didn’t create fleas in order for them to be killed by man, but created a struggle among his creatures to guarantee life to all of them. What’s the reason behind competition and struggle? It’s a sort of a balance which I call the fertile peaceful struggle. It’s a dynamic peace between all the contradictory creatures. This has been taking place ever since Adam was created. Now we know why God made strong people and tyrants fight: to guarantee weak people a chance to live. When God created some people strong and others weak, he didn’t want the strong to kill the weak. There must be a balance.


Owls eats rats, I say to my child. However, rats multiply rapidly. An owl may eat fifty thousand rats, yet another fifty thousand rats are born. God meant owls to drive rats away from fields and go elsewhere, and has created competition and reconciliation between creatures, in order for life to continue for everybody. God wants all his creatures to live. So, what this struggle really intends is to create a fertile peace, as well as a useful competition. Thus, weak creatures are provided with chances of life and made equal to those who are endowed with strength.


Everything has its opposite. This is what philosophy calls the dialectic. For example, electrons and protons in atom, matter and anti-matter and gravity and centrifugal forces, and so on.


There’s a big difference between the Islamic concepts of dialectic and the Arab rulers, governments of the Third World, Marxist socialist thought, capitalism, fascism and the concept of dialectic materialism. The Islamic analysis of this struggle is that God meant for all these contradicting philosophies to survive, and did not mean for any of them to cause the other to perish. God wants to grant life a dynamic balance under which all parties live through competition. This makes life develop. The perspective of the Arab rulers and governments of the Third World was completely different: they concluded from life’s ongoing conflict that the process of development requires that one class destroys the other completely. Bureaucracy with all its disadvantages has ruined communism altogether. Besides, the means of production was owned by the government. So, in order for the system to preserve its power, it would use force: suppression, jails and murders. Bashar El Assad killed more than five million people and hospitalised many others. Twenty-two million people left Syria because he wants to remain in government. Hosni Mubarak in Egypt; Gaddafi in Libya; Zin al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia; Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen; Saddam Hussain in Iraq; the Arab rulers of Saudi Arabia; and now Abdel Fatah El Sisi in Egypt.


          My child asks me: Who are applying these concepts in our world? I reply to him: The advanced and civilised countries of the West (England, France and Germany, for example) which apply these Islamic concepts according to their true meaning. Imam Mohammad Abdu (1849 - 1905) was one of the innovators of the modern era. He said nearly a hundred years ago, ‘I went to the West Country and found Islam without Muslims and lived in the country's east and found Muslims without Islam,’ but the imam was living in a liberal and civilised era in which differing opinions were respected, and did not live in the era of Wahhabism; backward Islamic terrorists that do not belong to Islam or abide by its principles. I would say after a hundred years after Imam Mohammed Abdu that I have lived in the country's east and did not find Muslims and Islam, but now live in the West and found both Muslims and Islam.


I say to my child, the world is now witnessing the defeat of a faulty philosophy. Let me get back to the Islamic view of the same subject. This whole thing emerged from the dialectic philosophy. God says that He has not created this struggle between creatures, but has created life to go on: actually, God meant struggle as a way to reach reconciliation and coexistence. All creatures must live. God made the strong fight so that the weak may live. Balance is what God wants - not a static balance but a dynamic one, which leads to constant development, as it’s based on competition between parties.


What has started this subject of the dialectic philosophy? Think it has nothing to do with owls? Well, it has, I say to him. As God created falcons and pigeons, leopards and deer, hoopoes and worms and frogs and insects, God created owls and rats. These two creatures personify the dialectic philosophy I am referring to. When God created owls and rats, His intention was not that owls finish off all the rats, but that they keep the rats away from the fields. What proves this is that God has given rats the ability to multiply more than owls can. Thus, rats are not extinct when man interfered in this natural order by killing owls, but fields have become endangered because of the death of the owls. My child, let’s bow in front of this owl: it is better than the humans and terrorism who killed the people to stay alone in this world. My child says you are right, let’s do it.       


          I tell my child: Let’s go another place in museum, He replays: ok, let’s go, I stop for collared jar with foot, Greece, Cyclades, Early Cycladic I( c.3200- 2800 BC) Marble , Acquired 1976 , My child says: Why do you like this? I answer: yes, He ask me: why do you like and choose this symbol and its colour? I answer him: This colour is happiness and sadness for me because its reminds me about ancient Egyptians and the them civilizations which the oldest civilization in the world and dazzled the world until this time, this colour like the colour of ancient Museums, Temples, Pharonic tombs, monuments and pyramids which is a great puzzle in this time. When I read the history of Pharonic proud of my country but I am sad now about my country, and system of my country. My child asks me: Why? I reply to him: because my country which had a big civilizations become the country of third world because the authority of Army and Religions which have destroyed my country and extinguished the candle of civilization , My becoming suffer from ignorance and backwardness and moral degradation due to the invasion of Wahhabi terrorist redneck , redneck military rule . I ask my child: do you remember the pyramids when you visited it’s with me four years ago? He answers me: yes I remember, you remembered when I told you and I repeat to you again  that the pyramids was built by Science not by Religions , yes they believed many Gods , but they were believed Science and technology and they built a big civilizations by Science. The age of pyramids may be 7000BC, but its remains with us until this time, and many Religions and people were consumed and finished to declare that the survival of the Science and technology which help any societies go forward, the ancient Egyptian people believed in science and translated this belief into creating a big civilization. We do not know the Religions of the workers who built the pyramids but we know the minds and hands which full of science built its. So I say and repeat to you my child, make the science is the symbol of your life.


          Then my child and I, we went to another things Sculpture, when my child sees this he laughs and says: this is course of education or is this playing and joking?, I say: no, this is course of education by arts (Sculpture), comes with me and lets us built big farm with many trees, and many people: Muslims, Christian, Jews, Buddhist and non-religious work together with love, peace, respect, justice and tolerance, and let us my child to plant for them many trees to give shade, build channels of water to drink, many birds to sing to them, and one bread share with them and the smiles not leave their lips. And let us my child build for them big hall to protect them against Terrorism, Extremists and The enemies of humanity.


          My child says we should to fight against Terrorism, Extremists and The enemies of humanity with rockets and bombs, I tell him, no, no my child, the war with terrorism, rockets and bombs are not a solution, On the contrary, they increase problems and create more wars and fighting, My child asks me: Ok, What is the solution? I reply: Peaceful intellectual war against extremists and terrorism are the best solutions. My child asks again: How can we used this war? I reply: Europe has suffered during World War One and World War Two from racial discrimination, nationalism and some countries looked forward to independence. And because of this racist war, millions of victims died and many countries destroyed completely, When the European belief of freedom and human rights. All of this change because change behaviour, aims, ideas and strategy rather than wars and weapons. Thinkers and creators should fight against terrorism with peaceful thought, awareness and the principles of human rights and the governments and states should support them. The war with terrorism will producing more terror and destruction. This is not a solution at all.


          I smile to my child and I tell him the time of course is finish now, he tells me: I have not felt the time, good times  usually finished early, I smile to him, but I see my child sad, and I ask: What is the matter, Why are you sad? He answers that I have not money to come to the course every week, I have not enough money to buy to transport, paper for drawing, pens, brushes and food. I smile to him and take him in my hug and I tell him, do not worry my child, this course is free for all people; transport, paper of drawing, pens and food. My child shouted and says: ooh, great news, I will coming and make to me appointment every Tuesday with the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia in Norwich every week to learn English, I love the science… I love the science. This the last what my child says.


Thank you so much for all the lecturers who organised this Course English in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Thank you for their smiles, hospitality and generosity.

Many Thanks to the university administration of university of East Anglia in Norwich. 


Best Regards,

Salah Elnagar




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